It wasn’t a drama or a mystery but a documentary about the city I was growing up in – AND IT WAS A BIG DEAL!
It was 1960 and the city of Pontiac, Michigan was still flourishing. It was also the bicentennial of the town and the city fathers thought it was time to promote the possibilities of this fine local. They decided to make a film about the perks of living in the area and to share it with the world. The plan was for the chamber of commerce to disperse it too far corners of the globe for the promotion of a solid industrial manufacturing town in the USA.
So they decided to have a contest to find the co-star of the film and it was promoted in the local paper. My Mother found out about this and got both my older sister and I involved and soon we were rehearsing lines about Eli Whitney and his cotton gin. Yes, the audition was to memorize 2 paragraphs about Eli Whitney’s cotton gin invention. As an added touch, my Mother decided my hair should be just a little lighter in color than the mousy brown it was. So she lightened it herself and I came out with more of a bright copper hue. When she added the sponge rollers and curled it with pin curls, I started to acquire somewhere between a Shirley Temple and Orphan Annie look.
After all the auditions I had won the part and I was suddenly on schedule to work on this film.
I was going to be the student who quizzed “Professor” Brace Beemer (the very original Lone Ranger of radio fame) who lived in the area.
So there were gala events about the premier, I was picked up in a limo with flowers at my little very humble falling apart home in the woods, wearing a beautiful light blue lace dress with tons of ruffles (kind of like my own ruby slippers), and whisked away to the finest dinner, press, and premier showing any 10-year-old could imagine. It was also shown at my grade school during an assembly that made me cringe with embarrassment. This put a significant imprint on my childhood as I was always footnoted as(in my mind):
“the one who made a movie”
Years go by and of course, I grew up. In 1988 I was living in LA and after about 5-6 years of tipping my toes into acting classes and doing some serious theatre I decided I really should get a job that pays real money and I found myself with access to free phone calls (well, to me they were free…but someone was paying for it…) to anywhere in the country. So I would often slip in some phone calls to the Michigan Historical society, the Pontiac Libraries, all kinds of places that I would think the movie might be on file somewhere. Nothing. No one knew anything about it. Neither of my parents – who were divorced by now, knew anything either. It was gone and the beautiful blue dress was gone also….like it never had happened.
I would make small attempts to find the movie over the next 10 years but it wasn’t happening and I was convinced that it wasn’t going to show up!
Somewhere around 2005 when the Internet is really starting to connect us all and tons of info is available I starting giving my search another swing. Now I had ALWAYS remembered the name of the Director of the movie; Snuffy McGil!
Who would ever forget the name Snuffy McGil? So I googled his name and “lord have mercy” there he is in Port Huron, MI! There can’t be two Snuffy McGils – so I called him on the phone!
A small frail voice answers the phone “Hello?
“Snuffy I hope you will remember me…I’m Mickey Burns and I made the movie with Brace Beemer about Pontiac, Mi’…
“OF course, I remember you….you knew your lines much better than Brace did!”
“Any chance you know what happened to the film?”
“Why I have a copy of it here in my library…..”
My heart is racing now and I am so happy…I would have flown to Port Huron to pick it up if I needed to do so.
He offered to transfer it to video cassette and he’d charge me $100.00. I would have paid anything to get my hands on it so I was lucky..and he may have missed a chance to make some extra cash.
So the Video ends up in my hands in CA 45 years later, and I had to be alone to watch this for the first time. It was like traveling back in time for me…and extremely profound. I found myself looking at my hands and thinking these are the same hands, I criticized my big forehead that I hadn’t grown into yet and the way my 10-year-old hair was styled but overall I was giddy.
I did have the VC tape transferred to DVD and distributed them to my siblings and my kids and the local Oxford museum (Brace Beemer’s home town) got one! Even Brace’s kids got to see the film with their dad in it.
So you would think that might be the end of the story but no…..one more step….
I found someone in town here, who could take the DVD and transfer it to YOUTUBE. So a few years ago – My movie, made it on to youtube where everyone can see it! My job is done and the movie and I are a SOLID NOW! Pontiac Story of Progress and Promise