SLIDESHOW PHOTOS ABOVE: COURTESY NANCY CHARLES HARSTE
The evening featured a documentary made by Emily’s daughter, Elena, who used old home movies and narration from family members to reveal all the nitty, gritty details of how the Strand purchase came about.
We learned what it was like running a cinema in a resort town in its hey days, (folks dressed up to walk downtown in the evenings) and the jobs all the grand children had in helping run the busy cinema during the summer (There were two shows a day!).
Another highlight was hearing from Schroon’s beloved Lil Richardson, an extra in the film Marjorie Morningstar, filmed in Scaroon Manor and nearby boys and girls camps in August on 1957.
Lil shared with us what it was like when Hollywood came to Schroon, with stars including Gene Kelly, Natalie Wood, Claire Trevor and Ed Wynn.
“This project (to Save The Strand) is so dear to my heart, it has to succeed, we have to have a stage at the Strand,” Lil told the enthusiastic crowd.
“I’m not going to be here all that long. I danced on that stage when I was six; I pulled a raffle ticket out from a hat for my future mother-in-law, so I’m counting on all of you. We are going to succeed”.
Emily asked Lil about her experience as an extra.
“It was probably one of the most exciting times of my life, probably because of the stars and my relationship with them but also because I worked for seven days. I got $25 a day for six days and on the seventh day I got $50 and I was able to take my family on a vacation. It was a great experience”.
Lil described the experience as “pretty spectacular” for the business it bought to Schroon and because a lot of people said it wouldn’t happen.
“Scaroon Manor was off limits to many people, you wouldn’t just go there very easily, like you’d go to Witherbee’s or Drakes, or the school. There wasn’t an easy entry. So the fact it was going to be there (the film) was very exciting.
Lil got the part when she got a call from Aletha Haley.
“She was the local secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, she told me; ‘Get down to the Community Church, they are signing up extras!’”.
Lil got a chuckle from the crowd when she announced mater of factly: “It was very interesting for me because I didn’t get to be a close friend of Natalie Wood.”
But as for Claire Trevor, she thought the people and locals and extras were special, recalled Lil.
“She’d sit down with us and chat. The cast and film makers really appreciated the beauty of Scaroon Manor. They also used the facilities.
Gene Kelly was a local buyer at the markets because he liked to cook. My favorite was Ed Wynn. There were poker games in the village and he played in them. They felt they were fortunate to be here and we felt fortunate to have them.
And Lil‘s thoughts on Natalie Wood?
“Natalie was a typical 19 year old star. And Robert Wagner – when he came she was excited to be with him. But when Natalie’s mother came she was a typical star’s mother and she watched her make up being done, she watched the lighting, she made sure Natalie got the right type of lighting,
“What I was a little taken aback with was when we were eating, Natalie and Robert were literally making out in in front of us and Claire Trevor and she agreed and felt it was a little rude”.
Another highlight of the evening was the showing of a two and half minute advertising trailer for the long shuttered Frontier Town.
In what would surely be censored in these very politically correct times, the take away from the mini feature was a lot of gun fighting – between adult character actors and little kid cowboy visitors with loaded cap guns.
The film showed just how glorious the grounds were and what a huge deal Frontier Town was with its many attractions. A railroad, stage coach rides, rodeo, and a fully functional working western town. Art Benson’s vision was ahead of his time. When you see it in its glory, it makes it sadder to see it in its present day deteriorated state.
A movie poster auctioned followed.
“What a tremendous night! It was so exciting, especially since we were afraid that we were going to be playing to ourselves,” Emily later told Schroon Laker.
“Now the good part: contributions and the poster sale brought in (drum roll, please...) just under $5,000! ($4897 to be exact). The posters, on their own, brought in about $110.
“Everyone was so happy and encouraging. Our next event will be a letter writing appeal; hopefully, we will be able to reach out to the summer people in that manner”.
Before the evening kicked off, Emily set the record straight over some confusion of how much money the Strand has received in recent grants.
“As many of you know we received a grant from NYSCA New York State Council on the Arts We received the grant because the Strand partnered with the Adirondack Film Society”.
The Strand received $40,000.00 (NOT $70,000 as earlier reported!) towards digital projection equipment. They will now also have the honor of hosting film forums and other events with The Adirondack Film Society at The Strand.
“The total cost for the digital upgrade is $91,000. We need to raise $51,000. Due to the generous donations from the town – and the Adirondack Film Society grant – we are halfway there,” Emily said to huge applause.
“I personally see Schroon Lake as being the cultural gateway to Essex County. This film programming is very exciting. Larry will continue to show first release movies, but when the Adirondack Film Society has a film festival, the Strand will be involved as well. If there’s a film makers’ program sponsored by the society, it will be experienced here in Schroon Lake.
“Larry and Liz are never, ever, giving up. And nor are we.”
To make a fully tax deductible donation, you can donate through ANCA (Adirondack North Country Association) and make the check out to ANCA, but make sure you note “Schroon Lake Strand” in the memo notation of the check. You can leave the check at the Glens Falls Bank, Schroon Lake branch or mail it to:
67 Main Street
Saranac Lake, NY 12983