Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Home on the Range Film Festival

Fans leave 1st showing as others await 2nd showing
As I was doing my research for my manuscript about Isaac B. Werner, I came across Kansas historian and Wichita State University professor Craig Minor's books, particularly his book "West of Wichita."  I immediately became a fan and hoped to arrange an opportunity to meet him.  Sadly, when I reached out to contact him, I learned of his untimely death only two months earlier.  I still regret that  missed opportunity.  In preparing this blog about the new docudrama, "Home on the Range, The Story of America's Iconic Song," I discovered a comment about Craig Minor made by the director of that new film, Ken Spurgeon.  Ken recalled how Craig Minor's encouragement to tell the wonderful stories about the history of Kansas had motivated him to pursue his goals of telling those stories, continuing with the story of "Home on the Range."  I am sad that I never had the opportunity to meet Kansas historian Craig Minor, but Ken's Spurgeon's recollection made me feel that my blogs  about Kansas history, posted weekly since 2011, would have pleased him.  Those of you who follow my blog regularly may remember the January 29, 2015 blog post, "Home on the Range." .

Ken Spurgeon introduces the film
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to meet Ken Spurgeon this past weekend when we traveled to Smith Center to attend the home town premier of Spurgeon's movie "Home on the Range."  His movie about Kansas history, "Road to Valhalla, received the Best Documentary at the Cowboy Hall of Fame on April 18, 2015, as part of the Western Heritage Awards, and I hope his current film is as successful.

Showings were scheduled for Saturday and Sunday in Smith Center, and when both scheduled performances sold out, second showings were quickly scheduled for both days so that all the people who had come to see the movie could be accommodated.

Buck Taylor & Rance Howard
The film tells the story about how Dr. Higley's poem became the lyrics for "Home on the Range" and of the legal investigation that proved Higley's poem and the music written for it were indeed the original version.  Because those details are contained in my blog, "Home on the Range," posted 1-29-2015, I will not repeat that information here.  You may go to the blog archives, click on 2015, then on May to scroll down to read the blog titled "Home on the Range."  

Stone of Clarence Harlan
The film also includes the story of the Harlan brothers and their brother-in-law, Daniel E. Kelley, who wrote and performed the music.  Rance Howard, father of child star and director Ron Howard, plays the part of Clarence Harlan.  It was Clarence Harlan's testimony regarding how and when their band put Dr. Higley's poem to music and performed it at dances from 1878-1885 that established the true originators of "Home on the Range."  While we were in Smith Center we visited the grave site of Clarence Harlan.

Also appearing in "Home on the Range" are Buck Taylor, Mark Mannette, and Michael Martin Murphy, both as an actor and a singer.  You can read more about the film by going to Lone Chimney Films website or Ken Spurgeon's face book page.

Greatgranddaughter with Ken
Among the special performers and other guests was the great-granddaughter of Clarence Harlan, appearing in the photo with director Ken Spurgeon.  Another very special member of the audience Saturday was El Dean Holthus, brought from the hospital (probably against his doctor's orders?) to be seated in the back row to attend the film with which he had so much to do.  I was so sorry I did not get to speak with him, to thank him for his support of my 2015 blog and his invitation to my husband and me to return for a personal tour of the Home on the Range cabin and surrounding grounds.  We did finally get a wonderful tour from Mark McClain  while we were there for the preview, but we will be glad to take a rain check for a personal tour from El Dean when he is once again healthy!  

While we were in Smith Center we stayed at Ingleboro Mansion Bed & Breakfast, a Victorian home, which cetainly put us in the mood for going back in history.

Ingleboro Mansion B&B
It was definitely a special day, and next week's blog will share our visit to Dr. Higley's cabin where much of the movie was filmed.  Be sure to watch for the movie "Home on the Range, The Story of America's Iconic Song" if it appears near you, and perhaps it will appear on a local PBS station in the future.

The film will be shown February 18th at the Brown Grand Theater in Concordia, Ks at 3 p.m. and February 24th at the Murdock Theater in Wichita, Ks at 7 p.m. as part of a scholarship fundraiser.  More showings are currently being scheduled. 

Craig Minor was right--there are countless great stories about Kansas left to tell!


B Pribil said...

Wonderful blog today! I love having local history framed so beautifully!

Lynda Beck Fenwick said...

Too many of us tend to think stories elsewhere are more interesting and exciting than those in our own backyards. Local history is worth exploring, isn't it?!

Sharon Black said...

Thank you for covering the premiere of the movie. I am co-writer and because of the ice storm the previous week, I had to work, and squeeze in the movie. This was a dream come true for me, but kinda got messed up along with the weather. I wish I could have been out in the crowd sensing their excitement to see a movie about their town. Now that one of the stars has passed away, I was so lucky to meet Rance Howard, and that was such a treat. Sharon Black