Let’s Go to the Movies decided to host her very first blogathon and the rules weren’t too difficult to follow: one could write about films set in one’s hometown, films made in one’s hometown, famous people in film who were born in your hometown, famous people in film who grew up in your hometown, and famous film folks who now live in your hometown. My hometown has actually been featured in two films and a popular television show, so let’s delve into my hometown, Defiance, Ohio and find out what it’s connections to the entertainment industry are.
In 1996 a family comedy film came to theatres, House Arrest, starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Pollack. It was written by Michael Hitchcock, who was born in Defiance, Ohio but then moved to Western Springs, Illinois as a child. He wrote House Arrest, setting the story in Defiance and named the characters after families he had known in Defiance. I haven’t seen House Arrest but I recognized the surname Beindorf, which is the one of the families in the film’s last name. Beindorf was the last name of the principal at Defiance Junior High School when I was a student there, 1977-1980. (At that time, our Junior High consisted of grades 7-9.) Instead of filming the scenes in Defiance, another Ohio city, Chagrin Falls, in the NE part of the state, was used as a stand-in.
House Arrest is a cute movie, the premise is that four families are suddenly facing the fact that all of their marriages are on the rocks and may end in divorce so the kids of these families somehow get their parents into the basement of the Beindorf family’s home, and lock them in there and tell their parents that they won’t be released until they agree to stop the various divorce proceedings.
Defiance, Ohio’s next brush with Hollywood came in of April of 2001. A book came out, The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio. It was written by Terry Ryan, and it was the true story of how her mother entered many contests sponsored by advertisers in the 1950s and 1960s and won many of those contests. She entered these contests in order to find a way to keep an income coming into the home as she and her husband had 10 children to support and raise, and despite her husband, Kelly’s job, he often drank away much of his paychecks. Many of these contests were jingle writing ones, sponsored by advertisers of popular radio and television shows. Mrs. Ryan, Evelyn, used her brains and her strong writing skills, and often won either money or actual prizes that she could sell for money to keep her family above water. One contest was held by the local grocery store, Chief, and Evelyn had to run through the store in a set amount of time and load up her cart with free groceries-wish grocery stores had contests like that one today! Terry had no idea how her book would be accepted by the readers of America but it did quite well, well enough for screenwriter and director, Jane Anderson, to show interest in turning Terry’s book into a movie.
My mom went to St. Mary’s Catholic School with Terry. She said the Ryan kids were all really good kids, and yes, the town knew their dad had a drinking problem. Their mother, Evelyn, was a nice lady. Needless to say, when Terry’s book came out lots of folks in Defiance bought copies of it to read. When word got out that it was going to be made into a movie, lots of people were hoping it would actually be filmed in Defiance. However, the favorable factor that filming in Canada would be cheaper to the studio won out and the movie was shot in various places in the province of Ontario! Oh how disappointed the citizens of Defiance were, hoping for a movie to be filmed in their beloved town! The stars of The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio are Julianne Moore, as Evelyn Ryan, Woody Harrelson as Kelly Ryan, and Laura Dern as Dortha Schaefer, a friend of Evelyn’s. Terry Ryan and one of her sisters, , Betsy, make cameo appearances in the film. Terry got to see the finished film but sadly passed away in 2007 from cancer.
My hometown, Defiance, Ohio has also appeared on the hit ABC television show, Scandal. My dad is a huge fan of the show and during season 2’s run, he’d tell me how the Defiance, Ohio voters were using illegally rigged touchscreen machines, and the unknowing citizens’ votes gave the election to President Fitgerald Grant! I had to laugh and laugh and laugh about this plot! Out of curiosity, and thanks to our Roku box and Netflix, I began to watch Scandal, season 1 and then the infamous season 2 with it’s Defiance, Ohio storyline. I laughed when I saw the high school(that’s not what our high school looks like!), and the fact that the voting machines were stored in some utility building near a baseball field! I still tease my Dad a bit about this “voting” scandal that highlighted my hometown for a couple of months, on a fictional television show.
My last bit of Hollywood fame for my hometown was that Bob Hope’s son married a local girl there, at the church I grew up attending, to boot! A young woman from Defiance, OH, Judith Richards, went to Wellesley College and after graduation, went to Harvard Law School and earned her law degree. Sometime in the pursuit of her degrees, she met and fell in love with Bob Hope’s son, Anthony. The Hope’s were Catholic and the wedding was held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, in December of 1967. Defiance was all agog as celebrities descended to attend the wedding ceremony: Bing Crosby and his wife, Katherine, Liza Minelli, Toots Shor, and Phyllis Diller, to name a few. Mrs. Crosby even went to one of the downtown’s local drugstores to purchase something and had no cash on her so she wrote a check, which the store proudly displayed for several years!
Settled in the flatlands of NW Ohio, a small city of 16,000 with tinier towns nestled around it, fields of corn or soybeans dotting the area during the Spring and Summer, a General Motors foundry town, Defiance, Ohio has done remarkably well in being tapped for Hollywood mediums of entertainment.