The Searchers: Meeting Lana Wood

Hello readers! This is a very special post as on September 15 2016 at the Pickwick Theater in Park Ridge IL. I met Lana Wood at a 60th anniversary screening of The Searchers. My lovely Father escorted me for the night- as he was so generous to take a day off work so I could go! Thanks again, Daddy! (also thanks for the pictures!)

It was surely a night to remember, and I’m so glad to share my experience with all of you!

But before I go any further, I’d like to dedicate this post to the man who introduced me to John Wayne and his movies when I was 9, my late grandfather, Mr. Joseph Kasper. Although he couldn’t accompany me to the screening last night, I just know how thrilled he would have been for me and how excited he would have been to see John Wayne on the big screen. The Duke was my Grandfather’s favorite movie star and he always used to say, “I like John Wayne because he reminds me of me”. I know my Grandfather was with me in spirit last night, and for that I couldn’t be happier.

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Photo by Emily Graziano

The screening of The Searchers took place at the glorious art deco Pickwick Theater in Park Ridge IL. It was built in 1928 and in 1975 was officially declared a historic building. Its name “Pickwick” was chosen by the then Park Ridge Mayor, William Malone, for the character of Samuel Pickwick from Charles Dickens’ novel The Pickwick Papers.

The night kicked of with pre- show at 6:30 with music by Jay Warren. Ms. Lana Wood arrived shortly after signing autographs before and after the screening.

Autographs were $20, however all proceeds were to help homeless dogs and cats at no kill shelters! A generous donation on Ms. Wood’s behalf.

I was lucky enough to get Lana’s autograph before the screening and get a picture with her as well!

When I got to the front there were about ten pictures to choose from (ranging from Searchers stills to Diamonds are Forever Plenty O’Toole candids). I asked the man sitting next to Lana which one would be best and he suggested the picture of Lana and Natalie together, as it was a studio picture taken to promote the movie. Ms. Wood then chimed in exclaiming, “Oh yes this one! Its the two Debbies together!”. With that, I took their advice.

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Photo By Emily Graziano

Lana also graciously signed the inside of my Searchers’ blu-ray sleeve, to which the man beside her said was a “good idea” that I brought it.

I also had the pleasure to tell Lana how wonderful it was for me to meet her and that this was my first time viewing The Searchers. I explained I never had met a celebrity before and I told her how honored I was to meet a real movie star. Ms. Wood was ever so generous saying she was “glad” I came out. I also asked her of how she liked Chicago, with her response being “Oh, I love it!”

But the coolest part was when we took this picture together (which my Dad took for me!) I stood next her her and she exclaimed “Finally! someone I’m taller than!” It felt so surreal- but it was so amazing- I felt like I was dreaming!

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At seven o’clock she began her Q and A session. She talked of her memories of Sean Connery and being the bond girl, John Wayne, her sister Natalie, and of course her recollection of making The Searchers.

She recalled the dust storms and how, when she would take a bath the storms made the water come out orange at first. She talked about Patrick Wayne and how both she and Natalie just “adored” him. Ms Wood furthermore revealed her favorite film of Natalie’s: Splendor in the Grass because Natalie was brave enough to take off her cuff that hid her protruding wrist bone. Lana explained Natalie wanted to “bare it all” for this film.

I myself got to ask Lana a question which was “What was your favorite role of your career?” She happily remarked it was a “lesser known mini series {QB VII} with Anthony Hopkins“. She even “parted ways” with her agent as they believed she was too good for the small role and if she took the role, they didn’t want to represent her. But she said the most important part was the character and in the end she was even nominated for an Emmy.

Lana talked for about 40-ish minutes before the film played, with it starting at about 7:40.

I was just in awe of the movie, especially on the big screen- seeing John Wayne in his signature role in a cinema setting was just too cool. It was certainly something I’ll never forget and all other viewings of The Searchers from here on out will never amount to the glory it was last night.

I hope in the future I will be able to go to more events such as this! It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m just thankful I didn’t pass it up. I’ll always remember the magical evening and I no longer wonder why The Searchers is considered the best, for it 100% is the best of the best.

*All PICTURES EXCEPT OTHERWISE NOTED TAKEN BY TOM GRAZIANO

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9 thoughts on “The Searchers: Meeting Lana Wood

  1. I’m so glad that you were able to come out and I’m absolutely thrilled that you had a memorable experience. Lana is a doll and I’m excited that others were able to enjoy her.

    You are 100% correct, these are once in a lifetime events and I treasure them. They are so special.

    Last night you might have seen a woman dressed as an Indian who was taking pictures and running about both the theater and the lobby – that was me. I saw you but I didn’t realize who you were otherwise I would have said Hi.

    Out of curiosity, did you have to travel far and how did you find out about the event?
    Again, thank you so much for coming out last night. Your grandfather would truly have been happy to see you there. I’m sorry that he wasn’t able to come but you brought his spirit with you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Flapper Dame

      OMG- YES I SAW YOU TOO!!! I would have said HI- maybe next time I should wear a name tag saying my name and alter ego! πŸ˜‰ I live in Tinley Park IL so about an hour- it wasnt bad at all. I found out through two places- TCM had a link on their website and also from another film blog I follow had a link saying “Check this out and meet Lana Wood in person”. WOW- this gives me an excuse to come back and meet you! πŸ˜‰

      Like

  2. Phyl

    So glad you like the Duke. Otherwise we couldn’t be friends… πŸ˜‰

    Seriously though, this is so cool!!!! I would love to see The Searchers on the big screen! And I don’t have any cool autographs. I really want to send letters to all the Classic movie stars still alive and get theirs before it’s too late…

    Liked by 1 person

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