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February 16, 2019

Movies with obscure Indiana connections

Close Encounters of the Hoosier kind? The typical American family portrayed in Steven Spielberg's 1977 science fiction drama lived in Muncie, Ind., although the scenes involving the family were actually shot Mobile, Ala.

Eric GraysonEven though Close Encounters of the Third Kind was considered a blockbuster after its release in 1977, many Hoosiers may have forgotten its connection to Indiana. No scenes were filmed in the state, but the central characters were described as residents of Muncie.

In a scene played for laughs in Brother from Another Planet (1984), the protagonist, an alien who doesn't speak, encounters wide-eyed tourists from Indiana on a subway in New York City.

Titanic movie poster.The Great Dan Patch (1949), a biopic about the world's greatest racehorse during the 1890s and early 1900s, is set in the Benton County town of Oxford. (Hoosier History Live explored the life of Dan Patch during a show in 2012.) But the movie wasn't filmed in Indiana; that's obvious because of the mountain range visible in scenes of Oxford, which is in a flat region of west central Indiana

In the 1953 version of the film Titanic, a fictional passenger on the doomed ocean liner is a student at Purdue University. Played by Robert Wagner, the character is described as a college tennis star.

A Midsummer Night's Dream movie posterThose are among movies that we will spotlight with our guest, Indianapolis-based film historian and preservationist Eric Grayson. Known across Indiana for his popular screenings of vintage movies ranging from classics to films so rare that Eric owns the only existing copies (including some he salvaged before they were about to be destroyed), he has been described as a "walking encyclopedia" of movie lore.

In addition to talking about movies with obscure links to Indiana, during our show Eric will share insights about actors and directors with Hoosier connections who - unlike the more famous James Dean, Steve McQueen, Carole Lombard and other stars - are seldom discussed today.

The Hoosier Schoolmaster movie poster.

They include Otis Harlan (1865-1940), a comedian and character actor from Martinsville. According to Eric, Harlan was featured in hundreds of silent movies and early talkies, including a film version of A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935). Harlan also provided the voice of the dwarf Happy in Disney's animated Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).

Richmond native Norman Foster (1903-1976), an actor who enjoyed greater success when he became a director, also was involved in Disney projects. Foster was associated with Orson Welles for many decades, serving as the director of the spy thriller Journey into Fear (1943) starring Welles, as well as several Charlie Chan mysteries. As an actor, Foster had a major role in Welles' final movie, The Other Side of the Wind, which began filming in 1970; it was uncompleted when Welles died in 1985 and finally was released in 2018 after being reconstructed by other filmmakers.

Both Foster and Harlan were in the cast of The Hoosier Schoolmaster (1935), a movie based on a 19th-century novel by Indiana author Edward Eggleston. The setting is southern Indiana after the Civil War.

Please note: This show was original scheduled for January 12 but had to be rescheduled due to severe weather.

History Mystery

Bush Stadium in Indianapolis, pictured here in the years between its abandonment in 1997 and its conversion into a condominium complex in 2012. What Hollywood movie, actually set in Chicago, was filmed here? Courtesy

A major Hollywood movie released in 1988 was set in Chicago, but many significant scenes actually were filmed in Indianapolis during the previous year.

The film's plot focuses on one of the most notorious scandals in baseball history. In 1919, Chicago White Sox players accepted bribes to lose the World Series. The movie, which starred John Cusack and Charlie Sheen, follows the unfolding of what became known as the "Black Sox scandal."

Historic Bush Stadium, still the home of the Indianapolis Indians during the 1980s, was the setting for many of the baseball sequences in the movie, standing in for the home field of the 1919 White Sox.

Question: What was the name of the baseball movie filmed at Bush Stadium?

Please do not call in to the show until you hear Nelson pose the question on the air, and please do not try to win if you have won any other prize on WICR during the last two months. You must be willing to give your first name to our engineer, you must answer the question correctly on the air and you must be willing to give your mailing address to our engineer so we can mail the prize pack to you. The prize this week is a dvd of the newly remastered film Little Orphant Annie starring Colleen Moore and restored by Eric Grayson, courtesy of Eric Grayson. Don’t miss this opportunity to win a copy of this cinematic treasure telling the story of a beloved James Whitcomb Riley poem!


An affair to remember...

Join us February 28 for our anniversary soiree!

Hoosier History Live - You're invited to our 11th Anniversary Party!

Legendary Hoosier Bobby Plump, who made the final, winning shot for the small Milan High School basketball team in 1954, will speak. Musical performance by Herron High School Strings and PrairieTown.

You are welcome to come in historic garb, or to dress representing your proud ethnic heritage.

Live History Mystery from the podium by host Nelson Price. Delicious catered cuisine and cash bar provided by Black Plate Catering. This is a complimentary event. However, as we are a small independent production group, we appreciate your visiting the yellow "donate" button on our website or newsletter. Or, if you wish, bring a check made out to Hoosier History Live to the event.

We look forward to seeing you!

Thanks to our sponsors!

Christmas is long past, but here's a Hoosier History Live wish list

After our 2012 show about New Harmony, authors Darryl Jones and Donald Pitzer joined Nelson Price and Donald's wife Connie for lunch at Aesop's Tables. A big thanks to owner Kathy Sarris for many years of hosting these lunches. We miss you!

Hoosier History Live is seeking a restaurant sponsor near UIndy, Fountain Square, or downtown. We like to treat our studio guests to lunch after the Saturday show, and we will offer a complimentary sponsorship in exchange for the opportunity to bring our guests to your restaurant to dine and to chat!

We like prizes for the History Mystery contest, too, ideally items that can be mailed in a standard business envelope. In return we will feature your logo and a link to your organization's home page in our newsletter and on our website, and a mention by Nelson on the air.   

Also, if your business or organization would like to start a listening group during the live show, all you need is a quiet room and a radio, laptop or listening device and someone to facilitate the group. The Irvington Library has maintained a listening group open to the public for about eight years. This is a great opportunity for small busineses, libraries, or senior centers.  

For all of the above, contact producer Molly Head at


Nelson Price, host and historian
Molly Head, producer/project manager, (317) 927-9101
Michael Armbruster, associate producer
Cheryl Lamb, administrative manager
Richard Sullivan, senior tech consultant
Pam Fraizer, graphic designer
Garry Chilluffo, special events consultant

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Please tell our sponsors that you appreciate their support!

Facebook logo links to the Hoosier History Live! page.Twitter logo for Hoosier History Live.Acknowledgments to MonomediaVisit IndyWICR-FMFraizer DesignsHeritage Photo & Research Services, Henri Pensis, Aaron Duvall, Chloe Tyson, and many other individuals and organizations. We are independently produced and are self-supporting through organizational sponsorship and through individual contribution at the yellow button on our newsletter or website. For organizational sponsorship, which includes logos, links, and voiced credits in the show, contact Molly Head at (317) 927-9101 or email her at  Our media reach continues to grow via podcasting and iTunes.

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We'd like to thank the following recent, new and renewal contributors whose donations help make this show possible!

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February 23, 2019 - coming up

Former Indy Mayor Ballard on electric car history and more

Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard poses with a city police car in December of 2013 after signing an executive order requiring the city to purchase either electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles for the city’s non-police fleet. Courtesy

Former Mayor Greg Ballard addresses the University of Indianapolis, where he now serves as a Visiting Fellow of the Institute for Civic Leadership & Mayoral Archives. Courtesy University of IndianapolisFor several decades, each mayor of the Hoosier capital has had a relationship with the University of Indianapolis once his term in office has ended. Greg Ballard, who was elected to two terms as mayor of Indianapolis, is no exception; he currently serves as a Visiting Fellow at UIndy.

Former Mayor Ballard will describe his new role, reflect on his terms as mayor (which followed an unexpected victory in the 2007 election) and talk about historic aspects of one of his major areas of focus - electric cars - when he joins Nelson as studio guest.

Indiana-related aspects of electric car production involve modern history: During the 1990s, crucial components of General Motors' EV1, described as "one of the most technologically advanced" and fuel-efficient vehicles of the 20th Century, were made in two Indiana cities. A Delco Remy plant in Anderson produced the motors. The battery packs were made in Muncie, also at a Delco Remy factory.

The need to shift from oil as the primary transportation fuel is the focus of Less Oil or More Caskets (IU Press), a new book by former Mayor Ballard, who draws on observations from his 23-year career as a U.S. Marine, which included serving in the first Persian Gulf War.

In 2013, while serving as mayor, Greg Ballard was our studio guest to discuss historic connections between the Marines and the Hoosier state. He also shared insights about attending Cathedral High School (where he was a member of the Class of '72) during its final years as an all-male school located in downtown Indy.

Book cover: Less Oil or More Caskets by Gregory A. BallardThis time, former Mayor Ballard, a Republican, will assess his terms in office, including accomplishments and frustrations.

Documents, oral interviews and artifacts of former mayors are housed at UIndy's Institute for Civic Leadership & Mayoral Archives. Several former mayors, including Ballard's predecessor, Bart Peterson, a Democrat, have served on UIndy's board of trustees (Former Mayor Peterson was Nelson's studio guest on a show in 2015).

The history of electric cars stretches much further back than the 1990s production of the EV1. Early electric vehicles - powered by a battery charged by plugging it in - were built circa 1900 at the dawn of auto production.

As Ballard describes in his book, the challenges then involved the limitations of the vehicles; in the early 1900s, electric cars only could travel about 20 miles before requiring a recharge, severely limiting their range compared to gasoline-powered automobiles.

With substantial improvements in battery technology since that time, electric cars have made significant gains in range and efficiency. Less Oil or More Caskets is being promoted as a call to action to shift from gasoline to electricity in transportation, which former Mayor Ballard calls "the last industry dominated by the use of oil."

© 2019 Hoosier History Live. All rights reserved.

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