Tag Archives: ” “Man in the Gray Flannel Suit

You Can Be A Star. Well, Your House Can, Anyway.

Sure, jobs are fleeing Connecticut like fans at a Bengals game. It seems the only work left here is in a hedge fund, consulting or (who knows?) perhaps Nordstrom, when the new Norwalk mall opens (whenever).

But there is one growth industry in the Land of Steady Habits: TV and movies.

Specifically, renting out your house (or organization) for a television or film shoot.

The state Office of Film, TV & Digital Media — part of the Department of Economic and Community Activity — acts as a liaison between production companies, towns, local crews and vendors.

Part of its function is to help find appropriate locations for TV networks, movie studios and commercial producers. In other words: If you need a nice suburban home, bustling city, beach, farm, railroad station or other scene for your show, film or ad, they’ll find it for you.

Scene from a movie recently filmed in Connecticut. No, there was never a “New York and New Orleans” railroad.

Presumably, they can also find a crumbling highway, dilapidated apartment or abandoned corporate headquarters too.

Locally, a variety of sites have told the office they’re eager to be used. Saugatuck Congregational Church, the Saugatuck senior housing complex, Westport Museum for History & Culture (nee Westport Historical Society), Westport Little League and Sherwood Island State Park have all chimed in.

So has Main Street (probably the Downtown Merchants Association) and the Saugatuck River (no clue).

A number of homeowners also offered their houses for filming. Styles range from Colonial and contemporary to shingle cottage and (somewhat immodestly, but hey, it’s the movies) “Perfect New England Home.”

The self-described “Perfect New England home.”

According to a recent New York Times story, compensation ranges from $1,500 to $50,000 for use of a home. At least, those are city prices.

Westport is no stranger to filming. “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit,” “The Swimmer,” “The Stepford Wives” — all were shot, in part, right here.

So was “Manny’s Orphans” — Sean Cunningham’s unforgettable film about a hapless soccer team.

Hey, it was unforgettable to me. I was in it.

I have no idea how much Greens Farms Academy was paid for the use of their facilities.

But whatever Sean paid, it was worth it. We had a food fight of epic proportions right there in their beautiful, staid library.

And if that story doesn’t want to make you offer your home or business to the movies, nothing will.

(Click here for a direct link to the state of Connecticut’s “Locations” page. Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

“Loving” The Academy Awards

Westport has long ties with the Academy Awards. Over the years, dozens of Oscar-winning actors, producers, screenwriters and other industry machers have lived here.

For decades too, movies have been set in Westport. Others were filmed here. We’re familiar with many: “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit,” “Rally Round the Flag, Boys!” and “The Swimmer” are just 3 examples.

In honor of tonight’s film industry gala, indefatigable “06880” reader/researcher Fred Cantor unearthed a lesser-known production that not only explored postwar suburban life, but was also set here.

Loving” — released in 1970 — was based on “Brooks Wilson Ltd.,” a novel by Westporter John McDermott. Clearly, he was writing about his hometown. (The plot includes a successful illustrator, his mistress and alcohol.)

A promotional still from the film "Loving."

A promotional still from the film “Loving.”

The film starred George Segal and Eva Marie Saint (a Westport Country Playhouse regular). Local residents Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward appeared as extras, while Westporter Diana Douglas also had a role.

“Loving” was filmed in part at the Saugatuck train station, Greens Farms Elementary School, Main Street, and a private home on 27 Long Lots Road.

The film’s setting was important enough for it to be featured in an ad campaign. (“It tops ‘Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice,'” the copy read.)

'Loving' ad

It was not exactly a hit.

Seven months after its release, Roger Ebert wrote that “Loving”

received a reasonably warm critical reception and then disappeared all summer into some kind of distributorial limbo, turning up finally this week in neighborhood theaters. Somehow it deserved more attention than that. It’s not an earth-shaking film, but it is an amusing and intelligent comedy of manners, and George Segal is fun to watch.

Sounds interesting.

So if you’re bored tonight with all the fake I-can’t-believe-I-won-oh-thank-you! speeches, click on Netflix.

Download “Loving.”

And enjoy a trip back to Westport’s movie-making past.

The house at 27 Long Lots Road, where scenes from "Loving" were shot.

The house at 27 Long Lots Road, where scenes from “Loving” were shot.

Now Showing…

So Westport is one step closer to a movie theater.

(In the current parking lot behind Tavern on Main, if you missed the news.)

It will probably take a year or two (or three or four) before the first popcorn is popped, but it’s not too early to think about opening night.

Of course, the initial film should be something with a Westport connection.

“Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” — filmed a few yards away, on that side of Main Street?

“The Swimmer” — filmed in swimming pools throughout Westport?

“The Stepford Wives” — filmed here also, inspired by some of our own Westporters?

There must be dozens of other candidates. Click “Comments” to nominate your own.

The Cold War’s Hot Exhibit

The 1950s: McCarthyism. The Cold War. Nike Sites, fallout shelters and elementary school “duck and cover” drills.

Those were the days!

Well, yeah. In many ways they were — especially around here. We had a real-live Main Street, with actual grocery stores, hardware stores, and merchants who knew your name. Kids romped in the woods free from parental worries.

And Westport was growing rapidly. Every day, it seemed, another family moved in. Many were arts-types: novelists, TV writers, playwrights, admen. They were drawn by the town’s reputations as an “artists’ colony” — and as each one arrived, more followed.

Starting this Sunday (January 29), you can revisit those days. The Westport Historical Society presents 2 exhibits looking back on that golden/scary era.

“Next Stop: Westport, The Inspiration for 1950’s TV & Film Writers” takes its title from “A Stop at Willoughby,” one of “Twilight Zone”‘s most memorable episodes. In it, an ad executive on his way home to suburban Westport repeatedly finds himself in a pastoral town called Willoughby — in 1888.

Westport’s role in “The Twilight Zone” was no coincidence. Rod Serling wrote the episode when he lived in Westport.

Fellow residents included novelist Max Shulman, whose Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys! satirized life in a suburban town when the Army selects it for a missile base. (Which actually happened here; the subsequent film led Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward to move to Westport.)

It was quite a time. There were so many creative types, says Linda Gramatky Smith — the daughter of “Little Toot” creator Hardie Gramatky — that there were regular writer-vs.-artist basketball and softball games.

The Historical Society exhibit features all that, and more — like Sloan Wilson’s novel The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, which was set here (the subsequent movie, starring Gregory Peck, was filmed here), and the final year of “I Love Lucy,” when the Ricardos and Mertzes move to town.

Video of a different kind will be shown at the WHS too. “The Cold War in Our Backyard” — a fascinating, chilling (and at times laughable) film compilation by Lisa Seidenberg, including everything from instructions on removing radiation from food to the still-frightening “Twilight Zone” episode on barbarism in a fallout shelter — will play in a continuous loop. (You can also click here to see it.)

Nearby, images and artifacts will recreate the fears that filled that “golden” era.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” Charles Dickens wrote.

He didn’t live in Westport.

But so many other famous writers did. Starting Sunday, the Westport Historical Society shares their stories with the world.

(The exhibit’s opening reception is this Sunday, January 29, 3-5 p.m. Click here for more information, or call 203-222-1424.)

“You’ve Got Hate Mail”

In the 1970s, when “The Stepford Wives” skewered banal suburban life, many people realized that “Stepford” was a not-so-subtle stand-in for Westport.

Heck, much of the movie was filmed here.

Westport life is now the subject of an Off-Broadway play — and there’s no alias.  “You’ve Got Hate Mail” is running on Fridays at the Triad on the Upper West Side.

And we’re a hit.  The comedy — about a Westport couple whose marriage unravels, thanks to the Internet and cell phones — has been extended through the summer.

The show is an updated version of “Love Letters,” A.R. Gurney’s evocative look — through thoughtful, lovely writing — of a 50-year love affair.

The modern world movesmuchmorequickly.  We dash off emails without thinking (or punctuating).  We hit “send” without double-checking the “to” line.

And we read them just as distractedly.

Though co-writer Jane Milmore — who also plays the lead role of “hapless Westport wife Stephanie” — lives in New Jersey, she told the Connecticut Post that she “knows Fairfield County women with husbands who spend the day working in Manhattan.”

Milmore said that many of the characters — and emails — in the play are drawn from real life.

Uh oh.

The Postadds:

Milmore is fascinated by the way many users of the Internet drift into relationships they wouldn’t start up in the “real world” and how they never seem to pause to think through what they are doing online.

Hook-ups can happen in the city faster than ever on office computers or PDAs and yet a tech-savvy wife can investigate what hubby is up to in ways that were denied to commuter wives 20 or 30 years ago.

Twenty or 30 years ago, Westport was defined by “Stepford Wives.”  Before that, it was “The Swimmer”; earlier still, “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.”

I would say something clever in response, but I’m late for a key party.