Sunday, November 20, 2011
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977)
Science Fiction Week Day 1
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Remembrance of Viewings Past: If memory serves correctly, I’ve seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind four times before. It's unusual in that I seem to like it more on odd numbered viewings. When it first opened, it made a big splash. Made a big impression on me. One of my favorite movies at that time. A couple of years later, Spielberg re-released a special edition version of the movie and I remember leaving the theater saying, “Was it really worth the extras he added? I was a bit disappointed. The next time I saw it was on television during the 80’s. Once again, I got caught up in the story and liked it a great deal. Then I saw it a few years later and found it to be rather slow moving. Well, it’s been over twenty years now since my last viewing, and this is likely the last time I’ll ever watch it. So I’ll give the film a definitive yes or no here.
In the meantime, I have the pleasure of recounting the reminiscences of one of the STARS of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Ms. Wilma Jo Spanyer, who played…I’ll just let her tell you.
My grandfather and grandmother got jobs as extras when they came to Mobile to film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. There was a casting call and they went to it (being retired and all) and soon they were working on it at Brookley Field. My grandfather, who never met a stranger, soon had my dad, and my sister and myself working on the movie, too. Papa made friends with some of the Hollywood folks and the whole family was in on it. I don't know why my mom did not get in on it. She was with us on the set, just not in the movie. It was the coolest experience of my life. We were lowly extras, but getting big checks for kids back in that day and time. My grandfather was one of the people involved in the Mayflower project on the dark side of the moon part of the film, and my dad was one of the guys in jumpsuits there, too. In some of the earlier versions of the film, you can she the little aliens touching him when they came out of the ship. My sister, Boo, and myself were the two little kids in the back of the farmer's truck near the beginning of the movie.
We got to meet everyone - Steven Spielburg, Francois Truffaut, Terri Garr, Roberts Blossom (he played our dad the farmer), Richard Dreyfuss, Melinda Dillon, the camera people, everybody. I would say we met Carey Guffey but he was so little I doubt he would remember it! It was so much fun to be involved in this. It's funny now thinking back, how some of the extras that had like, one line, thought they were so important. Then when you see the finished movie, half of the stuff you did has been cut out, chopped up and it's all rearranged. The most important people there were some of the most humble acting. Francois Truffaut, Richard Dreyfuss, and Roberts Blossom were some of the nicest people you would ever want to meet. They just act like anyone else.
It was exciting to see how movies are made, but it's nothing like you think it will be. Nothing is filmed in order and they waste so much time. One whole entire night they shot close ups of my sister and I with the fans on us, blowing our hair, and none of that is in there. I guess when they are editing it they need a lot of extra stuff for continuity. It really seems like they waste a lot of time and money, though.
All in all, it was a great experience. We had a wonderful summer, made great money, ate some delightful food (they had wonderful caterers) and had an experience that lots of folks will never get. Then when the movie finally came out, my whole class went and cheered when we appeared on the screen. They even put something about us in our school yearbook. It was my fifteen minutes, I guess, and it was a lot of fun. Gave me some good memories. Recently, there has been a documentary about the making of the movie in Mobile in the works, and I hope we will all get to see that one day soon. I would love to see the interviews with all the Mobile people in it.
-Wilma Jo Spanyer
After viewing: The fifth times the charm. I did get caught up in it this time out and will now retire from watching the film while I still have a favorable impression of it.
And I want to give a special thanks to Ms. Spanyer for her recollections.