I Was There
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The 70mm Newsletter
|Written by: Franz Nangle||Date: 01.06.2009|
|"The Alamo" poster from Yugoslavia. Herbert Born collection.|
November 24, 1990 will be one of those dates that I will never forget. It was on this date that I had the pleasure of attending one of the most exciting film events of the decade. Was it the Oscars? The Festival of Festivals? The Cannes Film Festival in France? No way. How about a rare viewing of the full, uncut, 70mm, 192 minute version of the John Wayne classic “The Alamo”. I don 't want to make this sound too much like a religious experience but I was one of the chosen few who got to see a piece of film history right before my very eyes. Many people including UA thought that there were no more original copies of this great film in existence. At this very moment I'm still amazed that the media hasn’t really caught on to this amazing discovery. (except the CBC who did a segment about it on their evening radio show "Prime Time". I 'm still trying generate some interest to my favourite film magazine Premiere). Now, being invited to a private screening is one thing. But to actually witness the rediscovery of a work of art is another matter.
I had first seen this John Wayne film while watching late night T.V. (this was before the days 'of David Letterman) when I was in my early teens. Back then I was in the habit of staying up late after digesting the late night news. I had no idea that this film was coming on, so it was a very "virgin" experience for me.
What has always impressed me about the film were two things; Lawrence Harvey's excellent portrayal of the egocentric Travis, and the fantastic battle scenes. That was the only time that I had seen film. I had no idea that the film that I had seen on TV was not the complete version.
|More in 70mm reading:|
"The Alamo" lost 70mm version - This letter which started it all
The Finding Of The Lost Alamo
Remember the Alamo?
November 24, 1990: In Retrospect
There are two things which have tormented me for most of my adult life
One Morning In November
An Update On The Long Version
The Reconstruction and Restoration of John Wayne's "The Alamo"
"The Alamo" articles and letters appeared in "The Spirit of the Epic" magazine in June 1990. Reprinted here with permission from Robert Bryden
|Danish Newspaper advert. Editors collection.|
That was until October of 1990. My wife and I paid a timely visit to Bob Bryden and his wife Lynn to catch up on lost time. His place is like a museum to me because of the film memorabilia that Bob collects. While we were there I noticed a copy of a book that Bob had recently purchased called "The John Wayne Scrap Book". The book is a wonderful catalogue on everything dealing with John Wayne and his films. Knowing that "The Alamo" was Bobs favourite movie of all time I zipped over to the section that described the making of “The Alamo”. I read it intently. This is where the excitement and mystery began to unravel. In the book the author claimed that all original prints of the film were destroyed by 1979. Yet, Bob had claimed to have seen the film in Toronto in 1981. Bob just couldn't let this puzzle pass on by. He passionately believed that what he saw was the 192 minute uncut version. So the big question was this; Was Bob crazy? Did he really see an original version the film or was he just in La, la, land? This film crusader was determined to find out the truth. To help him in this endeavour Bob got in contact with Alamo enthusiast Ashley Ward who was willing to rent the Eglinton cinema in Toronto for a private screening in order to find out if this was an original print. This was no simple screening. What was at stake here was Bob's reputation. A few weeks later I received a private invitation to attend the screening. So, on a cool November morning under the cover of darkness everyone who could make it converged on the Eglinton theatre to view a bit of film history. We took our positions and began to watch as film history was being made. Within 5 minutes into the film I heard joys of crying and excitement as the film reel was rolling. Bob had indeed found the only surviving print of "The Alamo" and I WAS THERE.
P.S. What ever became of Lawrence Harvey?
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