Friday, March 1, 2013

2013 Williamsburg Film Festival

In 1987, a small group of Western movie fans began meeting to watch old cowboy movies on the big screen. From Whip Wilson, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and Johnny Mack Brown... these classic cowboy Westerns have entertained children of all ages... literally. Several of the group had attended Western-cowboy themed film festivals in Charlotte, Knoxville and Asheville over the years. Realizing the importance of preserving the glory of Hollywood celluloid six shooters, they decided to create their own festival. In 1997, the first of what became sixteen annual migrations to historic Virginia was realized with the added charm of Colonial Williamsburg. The initial trial was devoted to honor not only Hollywood's Golden era on the silver screen, but the early days of television.

David Godwin and his WHIP WILSON book.
The first festival was held at the Comfort Inn in Williamsburg in March of 1997. The facility was small and intimate and was a two day event. The hotel was a sell-out and plenty of encouragement was passed around so the group decided to do their second. For the 1998 festival, the event moved to the Holiday Inn and in 1999, the event moved to the Holiday Inn Patriot where the event has remained every year since. The hotel is perfect for the venue which provides enough house for two theaters, a large star interview room and a dealer/memorabilia room. (Full disclosure: I have been an annual attendee every year for more than a decade and find myself signing copies of books I wrote year after year.) Included among the celebrity authors this year are Jim Rosin (author of The Streets of San Francisco), Deborah Painter (author of the great Forrest J. Ackerman book) and Dave Godwin (author of The Films of Whip Wilson) are among the celebrity authors. 

Harry Daniel, screen projectionist
In 2004, the convention began honoring a fan who helped make the festival special with the "Eddie Fan Appreciation Award." 

In 2006, the first Lifetime Achievement Award honoring folks who contributed to the hobby was bestowed. Presently a committee of 16 people are dedicated to making the festival happen year after year and each and every one of those individuals should receive a pat on the back for all the hard work that makes the event run so smoothly and successfully.

For reference, here is a list of all the Hollywood celebrities who have ever attended the Williamsburg Film Festival.

1997 Williamsburg Film Festival - Comfort Inn
Dale Berry
James Best
Peter Boone
Gene Evans
Will Hutchins
Willie Phelps
Ted & Ruth Reinhart

1998 Williamsburg Film Festival - Holiday Inn 1776
James Best
Peter Boone
Conrad Brooks
James Drury
Willie Phelps
Ted & Ruth Reinhart
Dale Robertson
Roberta Shore
Sonny Shroyer
Johnny Western
Peggy Stewart

1999 Williamsburg Film Festival - Holiday Inn Patriot
James Best
Peter Boone
Peter Breck
Ben Cooper
Jan Merlin
John Mitchum
Billie Murphy
Willie Phelps
Paul Picerni
Ted & Ruth Reinhart

2000 Williamsburg Film Festival - Holiday Inn Patriot
Rex Allen, Jr.
Dale Berry
James Best
Peter Boone
Joseph Campanella
Harry Carey, Jr.
Gary Gray
Will Hutchins
Willie Phelps
Mala Powers
Ted & Ruth Reinhart
Gale Storm
Johnny Western

2001 Williamsburg Film Festival - Holiday Inn Patriot
James Best
Peter Boone
Jim Bowman
Jerome Courtland
Beverly Garland
Will Jordan
Ruta Lee
Lucky Bill Parrish
Willie Phelps
Ted & Ruth Reinhart
Marion Shilling
William Smith
Peggy Stewart

2002 Williamsburg Film Festival - Holiday Inn Patriot
Jane Adams
Ben Cooper
The LeGarde Twins
Jimmy Lydon
Donna Martell
Jan Merlin
Ted & Ruth Reinhart
Lucky Bill Parrish
Frankie Thomas

2003 Williamsburg Film Festival - Holiday Inn Patriot
Kathryn Adams
Joseph Campanella
Dick Jones
Ed Kemmer
Jan Merlin
Ann Rutherford
Frankie Thomas
William Schallert
Johnny Western
Ted & Ruth Reinhart
Mike Culver

2004 Williamsburg Film Festival - Holiday Inn Patriot
John Alderson
John Calvert
Joe Canutt
Alex Cord
Kim Darby
Tommy Farrell
Robert Fuller
Kay Linaker
Steve Mitchell
Betsy Palmer
Ann Robinson
William Smith
Ted & Ruth Reinhart
Lucky Bill Parrish

2005 Williamsburg Film Festival - Holiday Inn Patriot
Kathy Garver
Ty Hardin
George Hamilton IV
Anne Jeffreys
Joan Leslie
Denny Miller
Don Stroud
Morgan Woodward
Ted & Ruth Reinhart
Lucky Bill Parrish
The Virginia Rounders 
 
2006 Williamsburg Film Festival - Holiday Inn Patriot
James Best
Ben Cooper
Beverly Garland
Will Hutchins
Dick Jones
James Lydon
Jan Merlin
Lucky Bill Parrish
Mala Powers
Ted & Ruth Reinhart
William Smith
Peggy Stewart
Frankie Thomas
Johnny Western

2007 Williamsburg Film Festival - Holiday Inn Patriot
Richard Anderson
Audrey Dalton
Margia Dean
Ed Faulkner
James Hampton
David Huddleston
Heather Lowe
Andrew Prine
Neil Summers
Eli Barsi
Ed & Bobbi Beard
Sterling Riggs

2008 Williamsburg Film Festival - Holiday Inn Patriot
Lesley Aletter
Roger Davis
Richard Devon
Richard Herd
Gene Lesser
Lee Meriwether
Don Kay Reynolds
Jacqueline Scott
Gregory Walcott
The LeGarde Twins
Ed & Bobbi Beard
Blue River Bluegrass Band 

2009 Williamsburg Film Festival -- Holiday Inn Patriot
Ed & Bobbi Beard
Joe Canutt
George Hamilton IV
Peggy Stewart
Steve Stevens
Larry Maurice
Steve Kanaly
Dick Jones
Loren Janes
Ron Harper
Jacqueline White

2010 Williamsburg Film Festival -- Holiday Inn Patriot
Lane Bradbury
Jim Byrnes
Ben Cooper
Wright King
Paul Picerni
Laurie Prange
Tom Reese
Jacqueline Scott
Eli Barsi
Richard Lyons
Ed & Bobbi Beard


2011 Williamsburg Film Festival - Holiday Inn Patriot
Ed Faulkner
Anne Jeffreys
Donna Martell
Paul Petersen
Ann Rutherford
H.M. Wynant
Johnny Western
Ed & Bobbi Beard
Blue River Blue Grass Band

Last year's (2012) celebrity guests included (Front) Marlyn Mason, Richard Erdman, Terry Moore, Peggy Stewart. (Second Row) Gary Hudson, Tommy Nolan, John Saxon, Mickey Kuhn, Monty Alexander. (Third Row) Bob Boze Bell, Sterling Riggs, Ed & Bobbi Beard, and R.W. Hampton.

There is a fantastic selection of cowboy westerns screened in the movie room all weekend long. From Johnny Mack Brown to Roy Rogers, Bob Allen and Hoot Gibson, the selections often put other Western Film Festivals to shame with their selections. And somehow there is something romantic about sitting in a dark room with a couple hundred fans of cowboy Westerns watching a movie off a 16mm Kodak print in a dark room late at night, then walking back to your hotel room in your socks after chatting with fans about some of the key scenes that made the movie so special.

Over 60 vendor tables offering movie posters, comic books, DVDs, VHS videos, vintage cowboy toys, books and other retro merchandise. At this year's event, Bobby Copeland plans to introduce a new book about Allan "Rocky" Lane. I enjoy all of his books and have bought one Bobby has ever written.

Small observation: I am not sure if the Chamber of Commerce does much to help promote the Williamsburg Film Festival... at least I haven't seen them do anything but if the city of Williamsburg knew how beneficial an event like this means to them when it involves out-of-state tourism and additional commerce for local hotels, motels and restaurants, they might do a better job. Especially since the event attracts a slew of Hollywood celebrities to the area. Oscar winning actresses, New York Times best-selling authors and national television hosts have all participated in what has become a high mark for the city. But this is not uncommon for events I have attended across the East Coast. It seems events like these are not regarded as propitious and I think the city could avoid high-profile egg on their face if the Chamber of Commerce instructed the news media to help promote the event. Come to think of it, I remember when the Starz Encore Westerns Channel attended the show a few years ago to film events for their national satellite/cable channel. Maybe the local news media (newspapers included) do not believe locals would want to meet movie stars....

William S. Hart
This year's events offer a screening of the silent Western, Hells Hinges, starring William S. Hart. Recently honored on a U.S. Postage Stamp, Hart is remembered for having "imbued all of his characters with honor and integrity," while others consider the actor as the founding father for all cowboy screen heroes to come. Author Deborah Painter will introduce the movie. This is a highlight I look forward to watching. Hell's Hinges tells the story of a minister, Rev. Bob Henley, who comes to a gunfighter-plagued town with his sister, Faith. The owner of the saloon, Silk Miller, and his accomplices sense trouble and hire gunman Blaze Tracy, the most dangerous man around, to run the minister out of town. Rev. Henley is seduced by the dance-hall girl, Dolly, and falls from grace as his sister, Faith, rehabilitates Blaze Tracey, who finds something special in her, and soon Miller and the others have Blaze to deal with. If you never saw this movie, or any William S. Hart movie, I recommend it. Especially with the experience of a dark screening room and a crowd that appreciates this type of art.

Deborah Painter proudly displays her book.
This year's event is March 6 to 9, 2013.

The convention website is www.williamsburgfilmfestival.org.

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