In 1965 Jerry Leggio designed the motion picture casting system for the Louisiana State Employment Service (today's Louisiana Workforce Commission). In 1969 he was awarded a State Science Foundation contract to Develop the Motion Picture Industry in Louisiana and In 1975 he led a multi-state committee to form the National Cineposium .
Jerry is the recipient of the 2014 ANNE PRICE LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD in recognition of his pioneering efforts to grow the film industry in Louisiana.
Remember a centerfold blond beauty of
the 50s named Jan Sterling?Remember her
husband, Sam Wanamaker?
In the late 70s New Orleans’ premier casting
director, Wilma Francis, phoned me and
said that Sam Wanamaker wanted to cast me in a James Stacy film entitled “The
Dark Side of Love”.Now deceased, Wilma asked if I and my wife
would be available to join Sam and his wife, Jan Sterling, for dinner at the
Royal Sonesta Hotel.Well, of course I
said yes and Gloria and I joined them there at the appointed date and time.I had not auditioned for this film so I had
no information about the plot or the character requirements.Wilma had shown him an audition tape from a
previous production I had tried out for.
A director is only willing to “wine
and dine” a prospective cast member if indeed the role is fairly
substantial.Wilma was also present at
this dinner meeting.Sam was extremely gracious, introducing us to
his wife, Jan, and taking the time to make Gloria feel comfortable and welcomed.We had wine and ordered the Royal Sonesta signature
He then began describing the
script.He said that this was a story that James Stacy
had for years wanted to bring to the screen.If you don’t remember James Stacy, he was a young, upcoming heart throb
of the 60s.Then tragically in 1973 his
girl friend was killed and he lost his left arm and leg in a motorcycle
accident.Sam Wanamaker,also an actor, was primarily known for his
directing repertoire .... Columbo,Love
Story,The Defenders,The Wild, Wild West,I was a Mail Order Bride, Private
Benjamin,Gunsmoke and many, many
others.Jan Sterling, his wife, was also to appear in
this film.An A-list actress famous for sultryroles in films such as Johnny Belinda,Union Station,The Mating Season,Pony Express,etc,she would be playing my wife
in this film.SAY WHAT!!!I
knew I was younger than she.I would later discover that I was 11 years younger.What
was this all about?Anyway Gloria and I
continued to enjoy the socializing, though, in my case somewhat
uncomfortably.Why would he want a
much younger actor for the role of the husband? I dared
not discuss the age difference for fear that Jan might be insulted or more
likely I’d be the one insulted.Jan
couldn’t have been sweeter or more gracious.At the time she would have been in her mid fifties and looked absolutely
stunning.But still … 11 years age
When dinner ended, both Sam and Jan
said they were looking forward to working with me though I had not yet been
formerly offered the role.I thanked
them for a lovely evening.I thanked Wilma who said she’d let me know
when shooting would start and when I’d be getting a script.
On our drive back home I expressed to
Gloria my concern for playing a husband much younger than his wife.Gloria said “maybe they think you’re closer
to her age.”Thanks a lot, honey.I preferred to think that Sam would be grooming
Jan to be much younger.After all she
was still a beautiful woman.Of course this was all pure speculation.I still didn’t have a script, so all of my
fretting was for naught.I would simply
have to await a script.
But no script ever came.The following day Wilma called and said that
Stacy had vetoed Sam’s casting preference.She said that Stacy had decided to cast “one of his crony friends”.He had selected Richard Venture over me. Of course I was disappointed.I forgot what network the TV film aired on,
but when I watched it (it had been renamed “My Kidnapper, My Love”), I quickly
realized that Venture, in my opinion, was more suited for the role.He was a year older than Jan Sterling and 12
years older than me and delivered a convincing portrayal.So I doubted that he was merely a “crony” of
Stacy.Didn’t really matter.He delivered the character and delivered it
well. Venture is still living today (now
89) though not currently active.His
last film was in 2001.It later occurred to me that Sam himself could
have played the husband.He looked a
lot like Venture and was near his age.Perhaps he had cast himself and perhaps Stacy vetoed that
selection.Who knows?Pure speculation.
My late friend, Brooks Read, had a
small bit part in this film, playing a homeless vagrant…a strange piece of
casting in my opinion, though Brooks did an admirable depiction.
Who am I to advise the likes of Sam
Wanamaker?Though I truly appreciated his “appreciation”
of my talent, in retrospect I probably would have suggested he consider a more
likely match for the role.Though I love
stage much more than film (except for the money) nothing can be more stressful
or tiring than portraying a character for which you are not suited.In
film I’ve come to accept and expect the stereotypical “jerk” character types I seem
to be best suited for.Though I don’t
enjoy portraying “jerks”, the money says “It’s OK.” And on second thought I probably would NOT
have advised Wanamaker to consider a more likely match than me.After
all, as I stated earlier “Who am I to advise the likes of Sam Wanamaker? “
You’d think that adolescents would love weekends. After all there would be no school and they would be free to engage in whatever teen-sized activities they would choose. But not necessarily!
It was just before noon on a gorgeous autumn Saturday. I was 16 years old and I hated Saturdays. SAY WHAT?!Hated Saturdays? A teen that hated Saturdays? Why would a 16 year old kid hate Saturdays? Mondays, certainly, but Saturdays? Why? Well, I had good reason and so did my brother. On one particular Saturday in 1951 my mother sent me on a grocery store errand on my trusty, single speed, fat-tired bicycle. This errand is not why I hated Saturdays. This errand would result in an “attitude adjustment”. She said we needed a loaf of bread. So, off I pedaled to the Twin Cedars grocery store/filling station which was about a mile away at the corner of Old Hammond hwy and Jefferson Hwy. We loved Twin Cedars. That little store had an old fashioned pot bellied stove and dispensed gas via old fashioned gravity pumps. Over the past 60 years that corner has undergone many commercial transformations. Today it is Café La Madeleine. Anyhow, getting back to my “Saturday problem”, I purchased the loaf of bread and began my bike trek back home. But no sooner had I gone a mere 1000 feet than WHOOPS!! my stomach started grumbling and growling. I had forgotten that 2 hours earlier I had dutifully taken my weekly (Saturday morning) dose of castor oil. Ever had castor oil? If not, consider yourself blessed. Speed-pedaling I frantically raced, trying to determine if I was going to make it home “accident free.” At about mid-route I was beginning to doubt whether I was going to make it. This single speed bike had never been pushed this fast. Go, go, go, get me home, GET ME HOME!!!!GO! GO! Upon my return (so far, so good), I hastily leaped off the bike, charged into the house, and, thank God, safely made it to the bathroom….accident free. Whew! Made it! Outside the door my mother asked “Did you get the bread?” Realizing I did NOT have the bread, I said “Must have dropped it” “WHAT!” “I must have dropped it.” “Then why didn’t you go pick it up?” to which I said “Do you really need me to answer that?” She got it. I was not the only kid in our house who was subjected to the weekly Saturday morning castor oil ritual. My 10 year old brother, Louis, also was. We both HATED Saturdays. Following each dose we would each be given a half of an orange to suck on to help kill the after taste. And yes we both came to hate oranges. But on this particular Saturday, after my “near catastrophe”, I decided to address this subject head-on. I asked my mom “Why is it necessary for Wayne and me (family referred to my brother by his middle name) to take this stuff every week? Did God make a mistake?” She said “What do you mean?” I said “Well, God must have goofed up since we have to have ‘help’ each week.” She said “God didn’t mess up. It’s your grandmother who says you need to take castor oil every week.” “Huh!” “Maw Maw says you need your castor oil each week.” I said “So this is Maw Maw’s deal, not God’s? Why?” “Because she says so.” “That’s the reason? Because she says so?” to which Mom said “Jerry, we don’t question Maw Maw.” I then bravely announced “Well, if that’s the only reason, then I’m going to see if I can survive without it.” She said “You're going to make your grandmother angry.” “Well does she take this stuff also?” She replied “When you're grown up, you won't have to take it anymore.” To which I replied: “Well I'm grown up enough. I'm going to see if I can survive without it.” And then Wayne said “If Jerry stops, then I’m going to stop.” A couple of years after refraining from this ritual Wayne and I slowly regained our taste for oranges. It’s now been over 60 years and we’ve survived so far. But my greatest relief was knowing that God had NOT made a mistake. Oh! and Sundays weren’t much fun either. We had to take a special laxative to get the castor oil out of our systems. Yummy, yummy. We didn’t hate Sunday as much since the Sunday laxative, though bad, wasn’t nearly as bad as Saturday’s. But it did keep us close to home for several hours. Good bye Castor Oil Saturdays!