Put Hollywood film legend Elmo Williams and entertainer Lon Goddard together in the same room and you can’t get them to stop talking. And what comes out of their mouth is darned funny, too.
Of course that chemistry is what has helped this unlikely pair present a consistently entertaining and educational series of lecture/film screenings that has left their Brookings audiences smiling.
“It’s like a history book come alive,” Goddard said.
But, as in any movie, it’s time to roll the credits.
After six years and 22 film presentations, Williams, 98, and Goddard, 64, will offer their final presentations today and Sunday (see story below). The movie is the 1952 classic Western “High Noon,” which, appropriately enough, is the same movie that started it all in 2005.
“We’ve come full circle,” Williams said, smiling at his stage partner sitting across from him at Brookings coffee shop. “It’s been a very successful series. Everyone seem to like the shows.”
Williams is quick to give Goddard most of the credit for the long-running series of presentations.
“Lon does all the work, all the promotion. I’m just riding in the sidecar,” he said.
The admiration is mutual.
“People come to see Elmo, the famous film maker,” Goddard said. “He’s a spectacular person, and even more so when you put him on stage. We wouldn’t have a show without him.”
Watching a classic Hollywood film and having the opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes perspective from director/producer Williams is what attracts many audience members, but the pair doesn’t stop there. They provide theatrics, and a lot of one-liners and physical comedy.
“After the first presentation we decided we should do a skit with each screenings,” Goddard said. “It became more elaborate each time. We do it for us and the crowd. It’s fun!”
For example, their final presentation this weekend features musical entertainment and a gunfight skit by a group of local residents. (To say more would spoil it.)
Previous skits involved Goddard being dragged off stage by an 18-foot squid tentacle for “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”; for “Apache Warrior,” Williams struck Goddard with a (rubber) rifle after Goddard’s character refused to die of a gunshot wound.
In that last skit, Williams surprised Goddard by going off-script and shouting “That’s what you get for what you said about my mother!”
How does Goddard convince Williams to dress up in various costumes related to each film?
“I’m a patsy. I just do what I’m told,” Williams said with a mischievous smile. “He asks me to do some ridiculous things, and I do it!”
Keep in mind, this is a man who spent his career behind the camera and in the editing room, and never appeared on screen (well, once, Williams said, but by mistake.)
So just how did these two men, both of whom traveled the world in their respective careers, find each other in Brookings?
As Goddard, a journalist, musician and occasional actor, tells it, the two met in 1993 when he moved to Brookings and interviewed Williams for a local TV show called “Coast Stories.”
Goddard, amazed that a two-time Oscar-winning movie producer lived in “little, ol’ Brookings,” jumped at the chance to interview the Hollywood legend.
The interview produced a half-hour segment and the beginning of what would become a long-standing, laugh-filled, creative relationship.
Williams, who moved with his wife, Lorraine, to Brookings in 1986, is well known for his many community endeavors, including the construction and donation of the Capella by the Sea at Azalea Park. The beautiful building is a memorial to his wife, who tirelessly served the community prior to her death in 2004.
Not too long after the TV interview, Goddard left Brookings, but returned in 2003 and promptly got involved in the local music and theater scenes, and renewed his friendship with Williams.
In 2005, Goddard suggested that Williams do a local screening of “High Noon,” share some behind-the-scenes information, and take questions from the audience.
“It was sold out,” Goddard recalled. “It was very successful and I become subservient to Elmo, doing 21 more presentations.”
Since then, the pair have been going down the long list of Williams’ movies (“Tora! Tora! Tora!,” “Longest Day,” “The Tall Texan”), offering presentations on films several times a year. Each event has been videotaped, Goddard said.
The pair is assisted by technician Mike Moran, who operates sound, lighting and other aspects; Susan Brickly, who works with Moran and assists Williams backstage; Dale Baker, who assists in food and drink services; and Claire Willard, who helps with promotional material, creates and cooks food in the theme of the film, and videotapes each presentation.
“They have a great time. They laugh their heads off, get dressed up and love it,” said Willard. “Lon started this whole thing, but Elmo propelled it more and more.”
Goddard likened the lecture and film presentations to the old “Johnny Carson Show.” He acts as host, interviews Williams, takes questions from the audience, and never shies away from inserting humorous comments or questions of his own. Williams, he said, is always game.
“Elmo’s quick. He always has a good comeback,” Goddard said.
He added, “I’m very lucky to be able to do this. I’m ever so grateful.”
Williams enjoys it as well.
“(Lon) is a funny man. I’m hard of hearing and he’s good at giving me cues and he’s a genius at keeping things going,” he said.
Williams will often write copious notes before going on stage for a presentation, only to toss it all aside and improvise, Goddard said.
“People who came to the first presentation of High Noon in 2005 will hear a bunch of new stuff,” Goddard said.
Both men are amazed that what started as a whim six years ago lasted this long.
“It’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun,” Williams said.
While audience members have been more than willing to pay for the presentations, the pair have not kept one dime for their endeavors, Goddard said.
“Elmo has been very generous, giving the money to the Chetco Pelican Players and to support the Capella,” he said. “It’s a total act of charity on Elmo’s part, and he loves doing it.”
So why bring the series to a close?
“I’m 98 and it’s time to hang it up,” Williams said.
And off into the sunset our heros walk. ...
Fade to black.