Feb 25, 2019
(February 16, 2019) Even though Close Encounters of the Third Kind was considered a blockbuster after its release in 1977, many Hoosiers may have forgotten its connection to Indiana. No scenes were filmed in the state, but the central characters were described as residents of Muncie.
In a scene played for laughs in Brother from Another Planet (1984), the protagonist, an alien who doesn't speak, encounters wide-eyed tourists from Indiana on a subway in New York City.
The Great Dan Patch (1949), a biopic about the world's greatest racehorse during the 1890s and early 1900s, is set in the Benton Countytown of Oxford. (Hoosier History Live explored the life of Dan Patch during a show in 2012.) But the movie wasn't filmed in Indiana; that's obvious because of the mountain range visible in scenes of Oxford, which is in a flat region of west central Indiana
In the 1953 version of the film Titanic, a fictional passenger on the doomed ocean liner is a student at Purdue University. Played by Robert Wagner, the character is described as a college tennis star.
Those are among movies that we spotlight with our guest, Indianapolis-based film historian and preservationist Eric Grayson. Known across Indiana for his popular screenings of vintage movies ranging from classics to films so rare that Eric owns the only existing copies (including some he salvaged before they were about to be destroyed), he has been described as a "walking encyclopedia" of movie lore.
In addition to talking about movies with obscure links to Indiana, during our show Eric shares insights about actors and directors with Hoosier connections who - unlike the more famous James Dean, Steve McQueen, Carole Lombard and other stars - are seldom discussed today.
They include Otis Harlan (1865-1940), a comedian and character actor from Martinsville. According to Eric, Harlan was featured in hundreds of silent movies and early talkies, including a film version of A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935). Harlan also provided the voice of the dwarf Happy in Disney's animated Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).
Richmond native Norman Foster (1903-1976), an actor who enjoyed greater success when he became a director, also was involved in Disney projects. Foster was associated with Orson Welles for many decades, serving as the director of the spy thriller Journey into Fear (1943) starring Welles, as well as several Charlie Chan mysteries. As an actor, Foster had a major role in Welles' final movie, The Other Side of the Wind, which began filming in 1970; it was uncompleted when Welles died in 1985 and finally was released in 2018 after being reconstructed by other filmmakers.
Both Foster and Harlan were in the cast of The Hoosier Schoolmaster (1935), a movie based on a 19th-century novel by Indiana author Edward Eggleston. The setting is southern Indiana after the Civil War.