Friday, July 31, 2009

Louisiana Film Museum in works for NOLA

Did you know that Louisiana has been in the motion picture business for more than a century?

To honor the state's production history, a group is aiming to open a Louisiana Film Museum in New Orleans.

What might you learn there? Northwestern Louisiana readers would be curious to discover the following tidbit about the making of "The Horse Soldiers," which I found in The Times' archives: "On Dec. 5, 1958, during filming on a Natchitoches bridge, actor Fred Kennedy fell off a horse, broke his neck and died."

If all goes well, the Louisiana Film Museum will open by Sept. 1 at the Riverwalk Marketplace at One Poydras Place.

I recently received a note from the museum's executive director, Jeffrey Pipes Guice.

Guice wrote: "We have over 250 items (posters, stills, costumes, props) that will be on display from the 400+ movies and television shows that have been filmed in Louisiana since 1908."

The group also aims to build a website that digs a bit deeper. Noted Guice: "We are also in discussions with Redstick Internet to redesign and launch our more comprehensive website at the same time. The new website will include all movies from the past as well as current and future productions. We will also feature a database of actors and sound tracks for each movie."

For more info, log on to

PHOTO: John Wayne in John Ford's "The Horse Soldiers," which was partly filmed in Natchitoches. The movie got a world premiere at The Shreve's Strand Theatre on July 17, 1959 (AP Photo).


For fun, I'm posting a 2004 editorial by James Gardner, former mayor of The Shreve.

Published Aug. 22, 2004, in The Shreveport Times.

The Duke comes to Shreveport

By James Gardner

In early November 1958, my duties as mayor took me to the Shreveport Regional Airport to participate in a welcoming ceremony for a group of Hollywood film people, including John Wayne. The event concluded with me having some unexpected private time with a hung over actor who loved trees.

The occasion was the arrival in Shreveport of the cast for a movie called The Horse Soldiers that was to be filmed near Natchitoches. It was a movie to be based on the Civil War exploits of Col. Benjamin Henry Grierson and his raid with 1,700 Union calvary troopers from La Grange, Tenn., to Baton Rouge in the spring of 1863.

The Horse Soldiers was to feature several notable Hollywood stars, including William Holden, but clearly "the star" was John Wayne. In 1958, he was a vigorous 51 years old and had already achieved fame in such movies as Fort Apache, Red River, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and The Quiet Man. Several thousand area residents were at the airport to catch a glimpse of the famous man on a beautiful late fall afternoon.

When the Hollywood group stepped off the plane they were greeted by a delegation of local officials, including myself, some Shreveport personal friends, Chamber of Commerce representatives and Miss Shreveport. An honor guard of the Dixie Drill Platoon from the Fair Park High School JROTC unit, dressed in Civil War era uniforms, gave the visitors a saber salute.

After the official welcome ceremony was concluded, there was a brief informal visitation on the airport tarmac. There were further plans for the group, but Wayne indicated he desired to go directly to his hotel. I was given the welcome assignment to drive him to the Captain Shreve Hotel, which was located downtown.

At the airport, surrounded by fans, Wayne had been the picture of energy and vitality, but his countenance changed immediately as soon as we were alone in my automobile. As I tried to make conversation, he informed me he had partied virtually all night long and had slept only two hours -- which was the reason he desired to go directly to the hotel. It was a way of telling me that he preferred no conversation, which I only viewed as a challenge.

In 1958, there was no Interstate 20 to provide a fast drive from the airport to downtown. I chose a somewhat out-of-the way route to pass some recent city street improvements and the then-new Confederate Memorial (now LSU Health Sciences Center) and Schumpert hospitals.

We drove over the Linwood overpass and then passed the recently opened City Hall on Texas Avenue. I continually "pointed with pride" but John Wayne said absolutely nothing. Then we turned off Texas Avenue onto Grand Avenue (now named for Elvis Presley), passing the then newly air conditioned Municipal Auditorium.

Suddenly John Wayne was alert and animated but by nothing that I had said or pointed out. It was the Oakland Cemetery that caught his eye.

"Those trees are magnificent," he exclaimed. "They are absolutely beautiful. We have nothing like that in California."

Unfortunately, many of those trees that caught the attention of John Wayne in 1958 have fallen victim to age and storms. But he brought to my attention how easy it is to just accept the beauty around us. Oakland Cemetery had not been on my list of things to brag about.

James Creswell Gardner is a former mayor of Shreveport.

1 comment:

John F. Daniel said...

John Wayne has a star on the walk of fame in Natchitoches..but William Holden doesn't because when they were filming the Horse Soldiers, Holden wouldn't stay at a hotel in Natchitoches, calling it " a rinky dink town ", choosing instead to stay in Shreveport.