Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Visit to the Williamsburg Film Festival

With its big star lineup and restoration premieres, the TCM Classic Film Festival has become the annual convention for many classic film fans. However, if you prefer a more intimate setting, a smaller crowd, and the chance to chat with the stars, there are better choices! Last year, I attended the Western Film Fair and Nostalgia Convention in Winston-Salem, NC, where I spent an afternoon interviewing Piper Laurie as she signed autographs. Earlier this month, I attended my first Williamsburg Film Festival in the historic Virginia town.

Presented by the Williamsburg Classic Film Guild, the Williamburg Film Festival has been an annual tradition since 1997. Like the Western Film Fair, it was started by fans of old cowboy films. Although the festival's scope has expanded, those passionate Western film buffs still make their presence known. On the day I attended, there was a theater devoted for much of the day to "B" Westerns featuring favorites such as Tex Ritter and Allan Lane. There were also a number of attendees dressed in elaborate Western gear, to include six-shooters danging on their hips.

Despite icy weather, the vendor room
was a popular place.
The festival's format follows the same formula as the Western Film Fair, Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Conventions, and similar events. Movies play in multiple theaters throughout most of the day. Each star participates on an interview panel (usually following a showing of one of their films or a TV series episode) and answers questions from the audience. And there's a banquet on the last evening. However, the highlight for most festival attendees is the "vendor room," where the stars sell personally autographed photos and other memorabilia and vendors offer everything from comic books to collector plates featuring famous stars.

The best-known guests for this year's Williamsburg Film Festival included:

Lana Wood.
Lana Wood. Natalie Wood's sister never achieved major stardom, but remains a favorite among James Bond fans for her appearance as Plenty O'Toole opposite Sean Connery in Diamonds Are Forever. She also played the "Younger Debbie" in The Searchers (Natalie played the older Debbie) and was a regular for two years on the Peyton Place TV series. Lana was one of the reasons I wanted to attend the festival and she kindly agreed to do an interview with me.

Johnny Crawford. The actor who played Chuck Connors' son on The Rifleman is always a popular attraction. He headlines the Johnny Crawford Dance Orchestra these days and will autograph a copy of one of his CDs. He loves to chat with fans, but be prepared to wait in line for awhile if you see him at another nostalgia convention.

Michael McGreevey.
Michael McGreevey. A Disney regular in TV and film during the 1960s and early 1970s, McGreevey is a fine storyteller. He started his career on the TV series Riverboat with Darren McGavin and Burt Reynolds. He eventually became a writer-director and penned episodes of TVs series such as The Waltons and Fame. He recently participated in a documentary about Waltons creator Earl Hamner, which was shown at the festival. Needless to say, he gave a great interview.

Belinda Montgomery and friend.
Belinda Montgomery. One of the busiest actresses on American television in the 1970s and 1980s, Montgomery was a regular in three prime time series: Aaron's Way, Doogie Howser, M.D. (she played Neil Patrick Harris' mother), and Man from Atlantis (with Patrick Duffy). She also appeared intermittently on Miami Vice as Sonny Crockett's first wife (and later ex). On the big screen, Belinda Montgomery co-starred as real-life skier Audra Jo Nickolson in The Other Side of the Mountain (1975) and its sequel.

Sharon Farrell.
Sharon Farrell. A familiar face to film and TV fans for three decades, she starred alongside major stars such as Steve McQueen (The Reivers), James Garner (Marlowe), and Kirk Douglas (A Lovely Way to Die). It seems like she guest-starred in almost every hit TV series that aired in the 1960s and 1970s, from The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (three appearances) to Love, American Style. She also starred in Larry Cohen's cult classic It's Alive.

If you're interested in learning more about the Williamsburg Film Festival, click here.


  1. I really enjoyed hearing about the Williamsburg Film Festival and some of the celebrities that attended this year. You did a great job interviewing Ms. Lana Wood and Mr. Michael McGreevey. It sounds like a fun way to spend a couple of days, plus Williamsburg has a lot to offer historically, too.

  2. Wow – look at you, rubbing shoulders with all these celebs! Sounds like a wonderful time. Thanks for sharing it with us.