Traffic heading to LOOK Cinemas on Wednesday, February 19, was a bear. But it was worth it. The cause for stop-and-going it to the luxury cinema was the kick-off party for the John Wayne Film Festival. Before the doors hardly opened, the upstairs reception was elbow-to-elbow in film lovers and Duke’s fans. Leaning against the wall near the theater was Dallas Morning News’s Robert “Big Bob” Wilonsky talking with Steve Stodghill, who along with wife Anne and buddy David Hale Smith had negotiated the moving of the festival from Snyder to Dallas.
Across the way, author Harry Hunsicker was in a blue-denim cowboy shirt chomping down on the vittles. He needed to get his strength ready for Friday’s book-signing party for “The Contractors” at the Stodghills’. . . Olivia and Jeff Kearney came in second place for coming the farthest, making it from Fort Worth to Addison for the party. . . First place for farthest distance went to Wayne son Ethan Wayne, daughters Marisa Wayne and Melinda Wayne-Munoz and granddaughter Anita Swift. . . Newlyweds Kara Peterson and Randall Goss were accepting congrats for their December wedding. . . Gary Cogill stayed long enough to chat movie talk, but had to duck out for the kick-off showing of “The Shootist”. . . Anne Stodghill was passing the popcorn around, while Steve’s mom, Pat Stodghill revealed that Steve’s reputation for being a consummate collector resulted from his dad, Donald, who was also a lawyer and a collector. He had one of the four largest collections of John Wayne memorabilia, and Steve “has some of it now.” Donald also had top-tier comic-book collections and sports collections, like signed baseballs. Of Steve’s having the collector gene, Pat smiled saying, “He comes by it honestly.”
While John Wayne was many people’s idea of the prototype Texan, Ethan explained his father’s connection to the Lone Star state: “He filmed a lot in Texas–‘The Alamo,’ for example. He was working with Republic Pictures, had a multi-picture deal there. Then a dispute developed over funding of ‘The Alamo,’ and [Wayne] left Republic. They went to Texas friends, oilmen and cattlemen, and they put up [some of the] money to make ‘The Alamo.’ ”
When asked whether managing John Wayne Enterprises and serving as director of the John Wayne Cancer Foundation kept him busy, Wayne son Ethan joked, “It’s not like running Ford or GM.” Asked about the original festival that was started in Snyder by Barry Tubb and Leslie Light, Ethan explained, “It turned out to be more than they could handle. Then Steve and Anne stepped up.”
Regarding the move from Snyder to Dallas, Leslie was pleased about the development: “I think it’s great. I think it will be a home run.”
Barry arrived in time for the party after driving up from Austin, where he’s been working on the TV series “Revolution,” in which he has a recurring role.
Barely making it in time for the party was Debra Nelson. Seems the Merrill Lynch VP had gotten her signals mixed up and headed to the Stodghills’ home. She thought something was up when the house was dark and there were no cars in sight.
But eventually the doors to the theater opened for a showing of the Duke’s last movie, “The Shootist.” But before that happened, Stodgie thanked the festival’s top sponsors including LOOK and Tom Stephenson, Heritage Auction, Randall Goss and US Risk, Fish & Richardson, Gina and Scott Ginsburg, Stan Graff and Graff Chevrolet, David Kiger, Bryan Reeder and Reeder Energy and Todd Wagner.
He then reported that so far more than $200K in cash donations and $150K worth of in-kind donations had been made.
Plans call for the following Big John movies to be shown from Thursday, April 24 through Sunday, April 27:
- Big Jake
- In Harm’s Way
- Rio Bravo
- The Alamo
- The Comancheros
- The Green Berets
- The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence
- The Quiet Man
- The Searchers
And if you’re part of the sponsorship crowd, Anne, Steve and David have arranged for even more, like
- Wednesday, April 23 — VIP dinner with the Wayne family
- Thursday, April 24 — The opening night will include a reception, the movie and post-showing party with a special concert by Pat Green
- Friday, April 25 — “Texas Gala and Auction”
- Saturday, April 26 — “Closing Night Party” with Hunter Sullivan and his Big Band
Hmm, interested in one of those sponsorship packages? Better check into them pretty darn soon, pilgrim. They’re going quickly. Proceeds from the film festival will benefit the John Wayne Cancer Foundation.