Tuesday, May 8, 2012

John Wayne

If you haven’t yet read my Otto Preminger post, then the following may be somewhat confusing.

In 1969 fortune found me again with the coming of John Wayne and Rock Hudson for the 20th Century Fox filming of "The Undefeated". This was 3 years after my meeting with Director Otto Preminger. After having been turned down twice by the Louisiana State Science Foundation in my effort to get funding for my Louisiana motion picture development project, I was able to get a copy of my proposal into the hands of the man himself, John Wayne, who was so impressed that he called then Governor John McKeithen to persuade him to do whatever was necessary to get my study funded. He said this could generate considerable interest in location filming in Louisiana, a claim which would prove quite prophetic.

Weeks later a small item appeared in the Los Angeles Times. John Wayne had reported his interest in my project along with his efforts to influence Louisiana’s political power base.

The way I found out about the Duke’s call to the governor was rather interesting. I got a call from the governor’s press secretary, Gus Weill, with whom I was well acquainted.  Gus said “Jerry, guess who called the governor”. Well, I managed to contain my excitement and play along with Gus. So I said “Who, Gus?” He said “John Wayne”. I said “No kidding. How did it go?” and he said “Not worth a damn.”  What!! How could this be? I wondered. Gus continued: “The governor is in Michigan wooing the auto industry and wasn’t here to get the call. Camille Gravelle (the Governor’s legal counsel) took the call. McKiethen was really upset that he was not here to talk to the Duke himself, but don’t worry.  He contacted Theo Cangilosi (who was then Chairman of the State Science Foundation) and said FUND THAT PROJECT.” Theo instructed the Foundation’s Executive Director, Dr. Galliano, and funding was forthcoming in 1969 through my employer, GULF SOUTH RESEARCH INSTITUTE.

The project was entitled "Development of the Motion Picture Industry in Louisiana ". It resulted in the formation of the "National Cineposium" and  20 other states incorporated much of the study's findings in their efforts to woo the industry themselves.  It was hailed by The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Box Office, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times.  Hollywood South was the main outgrowth of this project.  

A shameful irony though was that Louisiana was the LAST of those 20 states to form its own Film Commission.

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