Hanging With Hood
What a weekend I had! As a lifelong Gettysburg nerd (or, Gettysnerd) and fan of the movie Gettysburg it was more than surreal that I got to do what I got to do. But, yet again, I've proven to myself that, sometimes, it's as simple as asking.
This story begins in 2011. A filmmaker friend and I had two things in common: the love of filmmaking and the love of Gettysburg. So we decided to make a documentary about the whacky history of tourism since the end of the battle. But films are hard to get off the ground, so we became another casualty on a pile of aspiring filmmakers who have gone before us. However, while we were still thinking it had legs, I contact actor Patrick Gorman through Facebook. Patrick, as my fellow Gettysnerds may know, played General John Bell Hood in Gettysburg and Gods and Generals. I had sent him a friend request and, lo and behold, he accepted. Then, I took the chance and messaged him asking if he would be interested in narrating our film. He was.
But the project died...
Fast forward to April of 2018. Due to the steady growth of followers to our Facebook page, in spite of us not working it, we realized that there was at least an interest in a Facebook page with the name "Addressing Gettysburg". After cutting our teeth on producing other podcasts, Pete and I decided it was time to take the idea I had with my other friend for a film and adapt it to a podcast. And so we did. I even moved from NJ back to Gettysburg for the purpose.
Once I moved here to Gburg, I contacted Patrick again. He remembered me. I asked him if he would let me interview him about the making of the film if he ever found himself in Gettysburg again or, if that wasn't on the horizon, then by phone.
"Funny you should say that," he said. "I'll be back in October for the 25th anniversary of the film. So we can do it then."
That was easy.
I arranged for him to stay in the comfort of my friends' farm on Hospital Rd and offered my services as his chauffeur. That basically made me his assistant for the weekend and what a ball I had. (Gotta give a HUGE thanks to my friends for opening their home
Friday morning, I picked him up for breakfast. We ate at One Lincoln and, while there, actor Brian Mallon (General Hancock) called asking to know what the plan was for that night. Patrick and he talked a bit and then hung up. A few minutes later, I saw Brian walking on the sidewalk. I ran out and called his attention, telling him Patrick was inside. So Brian, his sister and their two friends, came in to join us. But they wanted breakfast and it was lunch time. So they left in search of eggs.
After breakfast, Patrick and I went back to the farm and sat in the sun as he regaled me with stories of old Hollywood, life in the service and life in general. Don't worry, I recorded it all and will release an NPR-styled bonus episode with it (minus the vocal fry so common among the young NPR reporters).
We finally broke for naps and wardrobe changes before the evening. There were two events that we were going to attend: a one-man show starring Stephen Lang at the visitor center followed by a private dinner at the Dobbin House hosted by director Ron Maxwell.
Let me tell you, I never felt so out of place and so welcomed at the name time as I did that night. Here I was--some guy-- sitting at a dinner with four of the actors from one of my life-long favorite movies, the director of said movie and a president's granddaughter and they treated me as if I belonged. Only in Gettysburg, folks.
The conversation flowed like Rum Bellie's Vengeance and the food was, as can be expected at the Dobbin House, delicious. The highlight of the night was when Ron Maxwell took control of the room to reminisce with the cast. He opened with a variation on a game he would play with the audience of the movie screening the following night.
"I'll point to an actor and all the non-actors just blurt out his most famous line from the film," he said.
I pulled my chair in close. I might have to pipe up.
He pointed to Brian Mallon, who played Hancock, first.
"There are times when a corps commander's life doesn't count!" I said calmly. I won that round.
"Ok, Andrew Prine as General Garnett," he said.
There was a silence. I had it on the tip of my tongue. Something about a day... what was the line about a day. Finally, Maxwell point to Prine.
"Go ahead," he said. "What's your line."
Prine spoke in his deep voice.
"'Well, Lo. I'll see you at the top', I said in my best John Wayne," he said. Prine was actually in two John Wayne movies, by the way. Know which ones?
Garnett's line was the only one I missed. Hood clearly has the most quotable lines as was proven that night and the audeince proved the next night at the screening.
It was at this dinner that I invited Brian Mallon and Bo Brinkman (Major Walter Taylor) to join Patrick Gorman the following morning on the podcast. Brinkman accepted the invitation, Mallon had a prior engagement.
My friend's farm on Hospital Rd is beautiful. She has a Summer kitchen with a giant fireplace. That would serve as our "studio" because our normal recording space, GettysBike Tours, was open for business. Plus, there's just something about talking about a movie about a Civil War battle to the smell of a fire. Anyway, Patrick and Bo showed up and the four of us sat and talked about the movie. You'll just have to subscribe to our bonus episodes when they come out to hear the stories they shared.
Nothing makes me feel so old as when I heard that this year marks the 25th anniversary of the release of Gettysburg. It seems like yesterday when I saw it for the first time in my military history class. My teacher, Mr. Foreso, was a reenactor in the film and he paused the VHS on the 2 second shot that shows his face. This was a good thing, for, if he hadn't, we never would have believed he was in the film and it was only because he paused it and showed us that we did believe him.
The Majestic Theater, on Carlisle St, in Gettysburg, was the scene of this screening. Some 800 people showed up. The place was packed. The smell of stale breath hit us in the face as we entered the balcony.
Director Ron Maxwell was the first to speak. He played a game with the audience in which he would say a line and we had to yell out who said it. It was fun. It also showed me that I'm not the only Gettysnerd out there.
After the show, the actors in attendance took the stage for a rousing round of applause before heading out into the lobby to sign autographs for just a couple hundred people.
We left the theater around 1am and I dropped Patrick off at the farm so he can get ready to leave for the airport at 3:30 that morning. As he was about to get out of the car, he handed me a handful of autographed pictures of him as General Hood, taken during production of the film and said, "Here, maybe these can help you promote your podcast." He's a great guy.
There is so much more to share about this fun weekend, which you'll be able to hear in the bonus episodes. I want to thank Patrick Gorman for giving me his time, letting me record our converations and being very open with me and getting me into all of the events of the weekend and, I'm pretty confident when I say this, for being my new buddy. I'd also like to thank Bo Brinkman for accepting my last minute invite and showing up. Bo is a really nice guy and has a great sense of humor. He's directing now and I just finished watching his film Last Man Club on Prime. Check it out!
A special thanks to Ron Maxwell for the dinner. I really haven't been able to digest this past weekend and put it into words, except to say that being a part of that dinner was more than a thrill for me. As a fan and student of filmmaking and the battle of Gettysburg AND the movie Gettysburg, it was an experience I never thought I'd have and I am grateful for it.
Finally, Spoon Lady
***Be sure to join our mailing list to be entered to win a free autographed picture of Patrick Gorman as General Hood. We're working on getting some more from other actors in the film. Once a month we will randomly select an email from our list to be the winner. ***