I do indeed remember the filming of Silent Night, Lonely Night in Amherst in 1969 (Looking Back, Winter 2020). I was a senior biology major and was uptown at the corner of the town green and the movie theater. Like many others who had gathered, we were there to see Lloyd Bridges and Shirley Jones be filmed walking through the center of town.
The scene was set, the crowd was hushed, the two were talking seriously and strolling, and the cameras were rolling. Just then a car full of partying students drove through, headed toward UMass, and a fellow on the passenger side leaned way out of his window and shouted, “Hey, Lloyd, it’s me, Dean!”
Lloyd started smiling, unable to control the large grin on his previously serious face, and waved at the scene buster in amazement. Lloyd, Shirley and most of the crowd were cracked up by this interloper. Retake!
As a further note, I believe the facade of Pratt Dorm was used as a stand-in for a mental hospital.
Bill Hall ’68
West Hartford, Conn.
I have this memory of watching Lloyd Bridges drive up in front of Pratt Dormitory (where I lived in 1968–69). They filmed him getting out of a car and going into the building. And I remember joining classmates as we threw snowballs at Lloyd. Not sure if that was during or after the “take,” but I don’t think the snowballs made it into the final movie. And as with other memories of those years, I’m not entirely sure whether it is factual or aspirational. But I think they filmed after a snowfall.
Fred Hoxie ’69
When the producers filmed in Amherst in February 1969, the town never looked more Christmasy. That was because they decorated storefronts in the town center to the high style that only movie makers can afford. And then they got lucky: It snowed.
In addition to Professor Edward Renton Leadbetter, another Amherst professor had a role in the film: Walter, the desk clerk in the movie’s inn (filmed in the Lord Jeffery Inn, of course), was played by Walter Boughton, professor and director of Kirby Theater.
Ken Rosenthal ’60
I have a few memories of Silent Night, Lonely Night.
It was late January 1969. The snow on the ground was old and dirty in the first few days of shooting, but then there was a heavy snowfall. The fresh snow looked much nicer, and the continuity would have been disrupted if they had kept the old footage and mixed those scenes in with scenes shot later, so they refilmed all exterior scenes, staying in town longer than planned.
The movie was set at Christmastime. In those years students came back after Christmas for final exams, and then time off before the second semester started. One of my classmates drove home to California for that break, and then straight through on his return trip to Amherst. He pulled into town all bleary-eyed and saw the Christmas decorations at the end of January. He wasn’t sure whether he had only dreamed about taking his final exams.
One day I watched the filming of a scene very much like the one pictured beside your story. There was a small crowd clustered behind the police barricades placed to keep them off camera. As I approached, I overheard people saying, “Look! Lloyd Bridges! Remember? Sea Hunt!” I found it amusing that residents of a sophisticated college town could be just as awestruck by celebrity as everyone else.
Tom Oxtoby ’71
Then-president Cal Plimpton ’39 hosted a cocktail party for the cast and crew in his home. I was invited, I suppose, because I headed the student drama group. Of the party I recall very little except that I spent most of the time chatting with a fairly unknown (and, according to Google, fourth-billed) Carrie Snodgress, whose voice dripped honey and whose personality was delightfully eccentric. She had just read the book Five Smooth Stones and recommended it to me, and we corresponded for a while. Shortly after this TV movie, she went on to play the eponymous role in the feature film Diary of a Mad Housewife, also starring Richard Benjamin and Frank Langella.
Tangentially, the author of the play on which Silent Night, Lonely Night was based, Robert Anderson, was a true gentleman with whom I chatted annually at the Dramatists Guild members’ reception. I’d admired his work, and, though more than 30 years my senior, he treated me as if I were his peer. It was an object lesson that served me well as a teacher.
Drew Kalter ’70
New York City
I was a 13-year-old living in town when the film was made. It was a big event for the locals, and I remember briefly meeting Lloyd Bridges and Shirley Jones in the lobby of the Lord Jeff. I had her autograph for years, but have no idea of what became of it. As “townies” we greatly enjoyed trying to identify the places once the film came on television.
Peter Freisem ’79
The article about U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (“A Supreme Visit,” College Row, Winter 2020) reminded me of when another U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, came to Amherst. He visited in 1978 to honor his mentor, Charles Hamilton Houston, class of 1915.
Similar to Justice Ginsburg’s visit, there was a certain buzz and air of anticipation on campus for this public address. As I recall, I left Valentine after dinner with several friends and walked into the New Gym, now LeFrak Gymnasium (next to the Cage, where Justice Ginsburg spoke).
The gym was packed with students, faculty and townspeople. Marshall was a large man with a strong voice who spoke reverentially and with great affection about Houston, who was his professor and dean at Howard and also his mentor in arguing civil rights cases when Houston was counsel for the NAACP.
Marshall’s talk consisted of his personal reminiscences of how “Charlie” impacted him and a generation of lawyers involved in changing U.S. civil rights laws. He credited Houston as the architect for Brown v. Board of Education. Although Houston had passed away four years prior to the 1954 Supreme Court decision, almost every member of the legal team for Brown was personally trained by Houston. Marshall was especially humble; he talked little about himself, and instead focused on Houston’s humanity, leadership and service.
It was inspiring to hear a great man pay tribute to his mentor, another great man, who devoted his life to promoting equality and justice. Afterward, as I stepped out into the cold, chilly night, I thought about what a special evening it had been, and indeed, what a special evening it was to be at Amherst.
Paul M. Yen ’78
I am dismayed at the superficiality of the reference to Harold Jay Smith who, otherwise, is worthy of praise and interest (“Following a Shooting Star,” College Row, Winter 2020). Just as Stepin Fetchit was Lincoln Perry’s stage name, we miss the boat by not being radical (back to the root) in our analyses of these people who bridge cultures and make us rethink our stereotypes.
David Dembe ’67
The Winter 2020 issue described Hara Person ’86 as “chief executive of the most important rabbinic organization of Reform Judaism.” It is actually the only such organization. It is one of the most important organizations in all of Judaism. Also in the Winter 2020 issue, the Contest misspelled the name of the Akkadian language.