Saturday, November 3, 2012

Local tidbits about 40th anniversary of You'll Like My Mother...

Here is the text of the talk I gave this afternoon for a showing of “You’ll Like My Mother” one day short of the movie’s premiere 40 years ago in Duluth. And by the way, the movie stands up to time. It was a darn good movie–well done and kept one's interest after all these years. It really shows off the Glensheen mansion as well and that makes it most interesting for Duluthians and the thousands who have toured this historic mansion.  Jim

Patty Duke–1975
 Hard to believe it’s been 40 years.

Duluth was very excited to have a movie made here with a big star like Patty Duke, and to be filmed at Glensheen.

Glensheen Mansion, Duluth Minnesota
This was before the former Congdon estate on the shore of Lake Superior in Duluth was known as Glensheen. Everybody just called it the Congdon mansion, and few Duluthians had ever been inside. Elisabeth Congdon was still alive. Her murder in the mansion occurred five years after the 1972 movie was made. 

My own main memories include the night in the old Zelda restaurant on Superior Street when, dashing out of the men’s room, I almost ran over petite Patty Duke, who was heading for the women’s room. Avoiding the collision, she gave me a nice smile.

Checking old newspaper clippings of the era, they reported some 16 local extras and stand-ins were hired for the movie, mainly Duluth Playhouse people. Only one was given a line to speak, Jimmy Glazman, co-owner of European Bakery whose blue truck you will see in the movie. Not sure if Glazman’s line is in the movie or on the cutting room floor.

The movie was filmed here because the producers wanted snow, lots of snow. But as I recall that winter, while there was plenty of snow around on the ground, it wouldn’t snow hard while they were here. They had to blow fake snow at the actors for some scenes.

Most of the local extras were on a DTA mini- bus that pulls up outside the Wonderland Resort near French River on the North Shore, a brief scene that took a full day to film.

The movie’s premiere at the still elegant Norshor Theater was a gala evening put on by the Duluth Junior League. Tickets to the first showing were $12.50, with proceeds going to what was then called the Duluth cultural center, which later became the St. Louis County Heritage and Arts Center, better known as the Depot.

The showing was followed by a party in the Hotel Duluth ballroom (now Greysolon Plaza) attended by much of Duluth’s glitterati. They tried to get Patty Duke to come, but she couldn’t make it. The only actor from the movie who was here for the premiere was Rosemary Murphy, who plays the “nasty” mother.

While she was a fairly plain woman in her role, Murphy was quite glamorous in person at the party. She carried her small dog on her arm throughout the evening. The hosts had arranged for a ‘date’ for her to act as an escort and introduce her around. It was Duluth businessman Max Oie, who, I believe, had fairly recently been widowed.

Between the movie showing and the party I ran back to the Duluth News Tribune and wrote a review of the movie. The key line from the review stated, “You’ll Like My Mother” will not eclipse “Psycho” or “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane” as thrillers go, but it’s a taut psychological drama with little love and some violence.”

The movie continued at the Norshor, even for a second showing that evening at regular prices. After the premiere showing, crowds were lined up outside the theater waiting to get in, and I have read it held the record for gross receipts at the Norshor in its run.

Just for the record, I Googled the principal actors to see what they’re up to today.

Patty Duke is 66 now, a grandmother and mental health advocate after coming out as bi-polar many years ago. She still acts, mainly on TV. She has another connection to Duluth: her son, Mackenzie Aston, starred in the movie “Iron Will” filmed in and around Duluth in 1994. Mackenzie Astin was born after his mother starred in “You’ll Like My Mother.”

Rosemary Murphy, the mother in the movie, is now about 84 years old, but continued her career until fairly recently. Her biggest claim to fame in movies was her portrayal of Atticus Finch’s (Gregory Peck) next door neighbor in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,” about 10 years before “You’ll Like My Mother.”

Richard Thomas, who, about the same time he starred in this movie, had begun his lengthy run as John Boy on the popular 1970s TV series “The Waltons.”  Now 61, he has done a lot of acting over the years on TV and also on stage.

Sian Barbara Allen was just starting her acting career when she came here for “You’ll Like My Mother” in 1972. She acted regularly on television after that, but retired in 1990.

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