Starwars/Civil War Connection

(Frank) And we’re back. Happy New Year. (Deb) Happy New Year again. I’m still in recovery. (Frank) So, we’re having a lot of fun today because the holidays kind of carry over for a few days anyway. And you know there were a lot of great movies that came out this year too. Of course, I won’t see ’em until they’re on DVD but…(Deb) Yea, the dollar movie theatre, which by the way is now the two dollar movie theatre. But anyway, that’s, yea I see them on the big screen, but it’s usually the cheap screen because number one, I hate to fight the crowds. I really hate that. And number two, it’s just, I hate to say it, but it’s expensive to go to the movies. And you’ve got your $20 dollar bucket of popcorn and you know…(Frank) But you don’t have to get one. (Deb) Yes, you do Frank. (Frank) Oh, OK. (Deb) Yes, you do. (Frank) You can eat before you go. (Deb) You still gotta get a $20 dollar bag of popcorn, but it’s that smell you know and they blow that across the theatre and all that stuff and yes, I’ve tried doing the, I’ve tried the movie without the popcorn, it’s just not as good, it’s just not as good. (Frank) Of course, one of the big, big movies of course, is Star Wars. And the thing is in ’77 when the first one came about, I was at the radio station in Lawrence and of course, it opened in July and so we bought out the theatre the night before it actually opened and then had a big promotion with a hot air balloon… (Deb) Really? Fun. (Frank) …down in South Park. And we called it the UFO and we threw out pie pans with coupons underneath and the whole thing. (Deb) What fun. (Frank) And the theatre sat 737, and we actually seated 737 people in 14 minutes and of course as they were going in we were saying, “Don’t leave a seat in between. It’s all got, don’t leave a seat.” And the thing is, is that movie it was the first time in a long time, it was kind of like going back to the western movies on Saturday, people were actually cheering for the hero. Yeah! (Deb) Yes, yes. (Frank) And the whole thing. (Deb) That’s exactly right. I remember that in the theatre when I saw it. Yea, people were actually cheering. (Frank) Yea. (Deb) And that’s a phenomenon. It really is. And of course George Lucas expected it to be a flop. Everybody did and it’s just taken on a whole life of its own. And Star Wars has a really bizarre, there’s your bizarre again, bizarre carrying over…yea B-I…carrying over from 2015, it’s got a really bizarre Kansas connection, so I think you’re really going to enjoy this. What do a Civil War novel set on the Kansas/Missouri border and Star Wars have in common? More than you might think. Cinematographer Tom Smith was working on location with the Civil War drama Gods and Generals as visual effects producer. He was mostly unaware of his own family’s background until a phone conversation with a relative spurred his curiosity.Massacre at Baxter Springs chronicles the true-life adventures of Billy Clark, Tom’s great grandfather and an 18-year-old Wisconsin cavalry trooper. Clark is quickly caught in the crossfire between William Quantrill’s notorious guerrillas and James Blunt, an outnumbered Union general who unwittingly leads his cavalry into a deadly ambush. The narrative describing the battle is based on previously unpublished Wisconsin archival material. For Tom, this foray into writing fiction was a real departure from the outer space settings of much of his work in the film industry. Working with George Lucas at Industrial Light and Magic, he had overseen the visual effects for a couple of the Star Trek movies, ET, Indiana Jones, and Poltergeist. He also worked on Star Wars II: The Return of the Jedi. Hailing from Illinois, Smith was a 1960 graduate from the Northwestern University and upon graduation went to Europe to study film in Paris before a three-year stint in the United States Air Force. In 1965, following his service the U.S. Air Force, Smith joined Encyclopaedia Britannica Educational as a writer/director, making educational films. By the time he joined ILM he had already made sixty of these, one of his last ones during that period, Solar System, catching the eye of George Lucas. Tom lives in Hollywood but has visited Kansas many times, researching, speaking to Civil War Roundtables, and attending the 150th anniversary of the Baxter Springs battle. Perhaps we should re-examine our history. Maybe the Force was with General Blunt that day in 1863 when Quantrill attacked and he managed to escape.

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