Golden Thread Twenty-five Years Ago: My Brush With Glory!

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

James N.

Lt. Colonel
Forum Host
Civil War Photo Contest
Annual Winner
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Feb 23, 2013
Messages
12,145
Location
East Texas
cap011.JPG


Exactly twenty-five years ago today when I returned home from my regular job working in the Housewares department at the Dallas Galleria Macy's I found on my answering machine a phone call I had been waiting for and one that would in many ways change my life: "James, how would you like to come to Savannah and teach young blacks how to be Civil War soldiers?" It was from my friend Ray Herbeck, Jr., who I had worked for before and who was to be one of the Associate Producers on a new movie project called Glory. This was the beginning of a three-month Odyssey , Feb. - Apr., 1989, that took me halfway across the continent to many different locations in coastal Georgia where filming took place. This part of my story will be ego-centric, but I thought it would be important to understand how this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity came about.

scan0022.jpg

My friend and movie mentor, Ray Herbeck, Jr., on the set of another film, Legacy, filmed at Nauvoo, Ill., for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints .

By 1989 I was a veteran of over a dozen years reenacting,having begun in a local farb Confederate artillery unit, which underwent many changes becoming in turn an authentic Confederate artillery unit; then a Union artillery unit; and finally a Union infantry company! I therefore had experience in both infantry and artillery, and a growing wardrobe of likely "impressions". Our group began to be used as extras in projects like The Blue and the Gray and North and South, Part II, where I first met Ray Herbeck, a California reenactor who was serving as reenactor coordinator. Meanwhile, through all this I continued working at my job for fifteen years as an instructor in the Federal Job Corps program, working mainly with minority youth, ages 16 - 22. In 1986 I lost that long-time job, and was briefly adrift, but as the saying goes, When one door closes, another opens: when the next opportunity for movie work came along the following summer I was imminently available! This was an IMAX production called Alamo - The Price of Freedom filmed on John Wayne's old set for his The Alamo at Brackettville, Texas. Production lasted for a month, and this time I was working directly for Ray, as both Texan and Mexican, infantry and artillery, "commanding" for the first time my own company of "Mexican" infantry as well as scratch-built artillery crews. I also kept records of other reenactors working on the project for pay purposes and was cast in a small one-line part as one of the Alamo defenders.

Alamo - The Price of Freedom.jpg

Above, as "Moses Rose" with actor Steve Sandor as the terminally ill "Jim Bowie" in a scene that was deleted from the finished film; below, leading my company in the assault on the Alamo.

APOF_012A.JPG


Returned to "normal" life, I looked forward as chairman of my reenactment group to attending the events of the 125th anniversary of the Civil War, and led the Union infantry component of our large organization at events like Corinth and Gettysburg. There I had an amalgamation of Western Federal reenactors from Texas, Arizona, and California, plus a few brand-new Pennsylvania locals, the smallest company in our so-called Third or U.O. Battalion, giving me additional valuable experience as a company commander as seen below.

image-9-jpg.jpg


It was there at Gettysburg that the first scenes were shot for Glory and I inadvertently wound up in one of them! I saw Ray standing amid a group of several others, one of whom turned out to be Glory's director, Ed Zwick, with a large shoulder-mounted Panasonic camera filming from a hilltop. I didn't approach them at the time, but later learned $10,000 had been paid to the Gettysburg organizers, Pat Massengill's Napoleonic Tactics, for rights to film raw footage of the event that was eventually used at the beginning of Glory as a prelude to the Antietam sequence. Only much later after repeated viewings did I finally notice myself among the troops with the Irish Brigade flag of the 28th Mass. marching past:

cap026A.JPG


If you'd like to know more about the 125th Gettysburg, here's a link to a thread about it:
http://civilwartalk.com/threads/with-the-u-o-battalion-at-125th-gettysburg-july-1988.115235/

After I digested Ray's fateful call, I returned it and found out shooting would begin the following week a thousand miles away in Savannah, Georgia! The next day I asked at Macy's about taking a leave of absence, but was told "We don't do that", so I went to the store manager who personally assured me that if I quit to do this, when filming was over he'd hire me back. Of course, I'd be starting all over again, but since I had only been there five months so far that was fine with me! So began my brush with glory - I credit the opportunity to my Job Corps experience teaching minority youth ( which I'd been sure to tell Ray about previously ); reenacting experience with Union and Confederate infantry and artillery; and prior work with Ray on other movie and TV projects. In later posts over the next several weeks I'll talk about my impressions of cast and crew and specifics about filming scenes throughout the movie.
 
Last edited:
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

bensearch

Corporal
Joined
Dec 19, 2013
Messages
286
Location
Pennsylvania
View attachment 29594

Exactly twenty-five years ago today when I returned home from my regular job working in the Housewares departmant at the Dallas Galleria Macy's I found on my answering machine a phone call I had been waiting for and one that would in many ways change my life: "James, how would you like to come to Savannah and teach young blacks how to be Civil War soldiers?" It was from my friend Ray Herbeck, Jr., who I had worked for before and who was to be one of the Associate Producers on a new movie project called Glory. This was the beginning of a three-month Odyssey , Feb. - Apr., 1989, that took me halfway across the continent to many different locations in coastal Georgia where filming took place. This part of my story will be ego-centric, but I thought it would be important to understand how this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity came about.

View attachment 29600
My friend and movie mentor, Ray Herbeck, Jr., on the set of another film, Legacy, filmed at Nauvoo, Ill., for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints .

By 1989 I was a veteran of over a dozen years reenacting,having begun in a local farb Confederate artillery unit, which underwent many changes becoming in turn an authentic Confederate artillery unit; then a Union artillery unit; and finally a Union infantry company! I therefore had experience in both infantry and artillery, and a growing wardrobe of likely "impressions". Our group began to be used as extras in projects like The Blue and the Gray and North and South, Part II, where I first met Ray Herbeck, a California reenactor who was serving as reenactor coordinator. Meanwhile, through all this I continued working at my job for fifteen years as an instructor in the Federal Job Corps program, working mainly with minority youth, ages 16 - 22. In 1986 I lost that long-time job, and was briefly adrift, but as the saying goes, When one door closes, another opens: when the next opportunity for movie work came along the following summer I was imminently available! This was an IMAX production called Alamo - The Price of Freedom filmed on John Wayne's old set for his The Alamo at Brackettville, Texas. Production lasted for a month, and this time I was working directly for Ray, as both Texan and Mexican, infantry and artillery, "commanding" for the first time my own company of "Mexican" infantry as well as scratch-built artillery crews. I also kept records of other reenactors working on the project for pay purposes and was cast in a small one-line part as one of the Alamo defenders.

View attachment 29597
Above, as "Moses Rose" with actor Steve Sandor as the terminally ill "Jim Bowie" in a scene that was deleted from the finished film; below, leading my company in the assault on the Alamo.

View attachment 29599
Returned to "normal" life, I looked forward as chairman of my reenactment group to attending the events of the 125th anniversary of the Civil War, and led the Union infantry component of our large organization at events like Corinth and Gettysburg. There I had an amalgamation of Western Federal reenactors from Texas, Arizona, and California, plus a few brand-new Pennsylvania locals, the smallest company in our so-called Third or U.O. Battalion, giving me additional valuable experience as a company commander. It was there at Gettysburg that the first scenes were shot for Glory and I inadvertantly wound up in one of them! I saw Ray standing amid a group of several others, one of whom turned out to be Glory's director, Ed Zwick, with a large shoulder-mounted Panasonic camera filming from a hilltop. I didn't approach them at the time, but later learned $10,000 had been paid to the Gettysburg organizers, Pat Massengill's Napoleonic Tactics, for rights to film raw footage of the event that was eventually used at the beginning of Glory as a prelude to the Antietam sequence. Only much later after repeated viewings did I finally notice myself among the troops with the Irish Brigade flag of the 28th Mass. marching past:

View attachment 29595

After I digested Ray's fateful call, I returned it and found out shooting would begin the following week a thousand miles away in Savannah, Georgia! The next day I asked at Macy's about taking a leave of absence, but was told "We don't do that", so I went to the store manager who personally assured me that if I quit to do this, when filming was over he'd hire me back. Of course, I'd be starting all over again, but since I had only been there five months so far that was fine with me! So began my brush with glory - I credit the opportunity to my Job Corps experience teaching minority youth ( which I'd been sure to tell Ray about previously ); reenacting experience with Union and Confederate infantry and artillery; and prior work with Ray on other movie and TV projects. In later posts over the next several weeks I'll talk about my impressions of cast and crew and specifics about filming scenes throughout the movie.




fabulous!
 

James N.

Lt. Colonel
Forum Host
Civil War Photo Contest
Annual Winner
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Feb 23, 2013
Messages
12,145
Location
East Texas
So did I. And I enjoyed every word. So the risk of losing your regular job paid off wonderfully.
I'll take this opportunity to add that this was a concern, because it all came so fast I didn't have time to give the customary two weeks notice - that day was one of Macy's famous "One Day Sales", and after that, I was gone! I spent the next 2 days getting ready and left home on Sat., Feb. 11, and was expected in Savannah two days later on Monday morning!
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

CheathamHill

First Sergeant
Civil War Photo Contest
Annual Winner
Joined
Oct 4, 2013
Messages
1,174
Nice write up! Look forward to the rest! Please post often and keep using pictures. This is great stuff!
-Cheers
 

James N.

Lt. Colonel
Forum Host
Civil War Photo Contest
Annual Winner
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Feb 23, 2013
Messages
12,145
Location
East Texas
Reenactor Dramatis Personae

scan0016.jpg

Marching with the background company ( Company A ) to the set, 1st Sergeant Bob Johnson, center.

I spent the two days before travel getting ready, including borrowing my mother's new Chevy for the cross-country drive; it had fewer miles on it than mine, and I wanted my own car rather than having to depend on others like had been the case on Alamo... I left at 8 a.m. the morning of Sat., Feb. 11, traveling east on I-20 stopping only to eat in Vicksburg, ending up in Tuscaloosa for the night. I drove all day across Alabama and Georgia on Sunday, before finally arriving in Savannah around 6:30 p.m. where I located the downtown Howard Johnson's where rooms had been reserved for us. Knowing almost nothing about Savannah, I headed for the only restaurant there I'd ever heard of: The Pirate's House, a fascinating, rambling collection of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century buildings on Savannah's riverfront where I relaxed and had a wonderful seafood dinner, the first of many! Monday morning I met with Ray and some of the other reenactors he had recruited for the project; I would like at this time to introduce the principals with whom I was to work for the next three months and explain a little about what it was that we did on the production before getting to the actual filming.

scan0019.jpg


My most constant collaborator is seen with me above wearing his "Phil Sheridan hat", Matthew Murdzak, another longtime Federal reenactor. He can easily be recognized in scenes either wearing this or his voluminous "George Meade hat" with its down-turned brim. Matt and I had unique jobs: we were hired specifically as the two company officers of the background company. If you've noticed, the four main soldier characters are all members of the same company; whenever they appear in a group they tend to be surrounded by the same thirty or so faces. These men were likewise hired "for the long haul" and were in the main serious and dedicated, including two or three retired military living near active U.S. Army post Ft. Stewart. Matt and I were respectively captain and lieutenant of the company for the duration and as such can often be seen at its head whenever the company or entire regiment are in formation; we are often in the background of other scenes as well. Though not a reenactor himself, mention in this regard must be made of Sgt. Robert "Bob" Johnson, seen marching alongside me at top, who had just retired after serving over twenty years in the real U.S. Army and was our company's First Sergeant who did so much to keep the men in line when needed and things going.

scan0002A.JPG
Dale Fetzer at right, advising the young actor at center who's about to have his head blown off at Antietam!

Since although Ray was always around his expanded duties as Executive Producer kept him busy and not always able to focus on US and our problems, the single most important person with whom I dealt on a daily basis was Dale Fetzer, Jr., whose position was also unique. A resident of Delaware and reenactor member of the famous 5th New York Zouaves and associate of the late Brian Pohanka ( who showed up on the set later ), Dale had formed his own company, Historical Impressions, Inc., through which we were paid. To digress, production companies have tremendous work employing eventually thousands of people: just remember how long it now takes movie credits to roll past! To simplify the mountain of paperwork and responsibilities, the hundreds of reenactor extras on Glory did NOT work for the production company; rather Dale served as a sub-contractor arranging the reenactor hordes as needed for the shooting schedule while his lovely wife Linda took care of details like paychecks and IRS and Social Security records, a daunting job in that largely pre-computer world. Dale was always on the set during filming and served as the main advisor to the director regarding all sorts of period military details; if he didn't know the answer he knew who among us did and never sought to monopolize his authority or act the show-off and know-it-all like another Dale who I had the misfortune to work with on a later project!

scan0020.jpg


Another more-or-less "constant companion" and great friend was Joseph Covais of Charleston, Ill., at right above with me on set. Joe owned his own company, New Columbia, which was then known as the premier manufacturer of authentic reenactment uniforms and clothing. ( It has since changed hands and continues manufacturing the best available WWII reenactor items under the name At the Front. ) All the principals in Glory were costumed in Joe's beautifully-made uniforms, including Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, and the others. Joe is often seen in backgrounds commanding another company or acting as adjutant, and he, Dale, and I soon formed a triumvirate of sorts whether on set or off, since Linda was there infrequently and Joe's wife was back running the business in Illinois. Dale especially was one of those "live wire" personalities who required companionship and an audience for his frequent sly and amusing comments, so Joe and I remained "busy" keeping company with him.

scan0014.jpg


Another old reenacting friend of mine who I had worked with before on movies was Michael Boyd of Victoria, Texas, seen here working on wardrobe in Glory. ( Ray Herbeck can be seen in profile in the background at right wearing light blue denim. ) In production there are two parts involving what's worn and seen onscreen: costume design and wardrobe: both are nominally headed by the head costume designer, in this case an African-American woman named Francine Jamison-Tanchuck I don't remember ever seeing. Wardrobe specifically involves the day-to-day outfitting of actors and extras; tailoring costumes where necessary; mending, cleaning, and pressing them; etc.; etc. Mike was often seen on set adjusting Matthew Broderick's sash or other items of costume, but worked mainly in and out of the "wardrobe warehouse" located in an old rented downtown Savannah building. When the rented costumes were delivered there before filming began, Mike went through them and found an entire rackfull of ORIGINAL Spanish-American War-vintage five-button sack coats, plus a half-dozen or more original Civil War-surplus cavalry and artillery shell jackets, which he carefully segregated and tried to "hide" and protect! ( At least a few of these wound up getting issued and used anyway. ) Mike was another "live wire" who joined our group after hours and who later went on to receive an Emmy himself for Best Costume Design for the TV miniseries Custer bio Son of the Morning Star.

ray_giron.jpg

One last friend and associate I'd like to pay tribute to is the late Dr. Ray Giron of Kissimmee, Fla., seen here in a more recent photograph. Long known as an educator and promoter of the annual reenactment of the Battle of Olustee, "Doc", as he was affectionately called, was also a veteran of many movies; I worked with him on Alamo..., Glory, and Last of the Mohicans, on all of which he worked in props with his friend Kelly Farrah, in addition to appearing onscreen. He was also a maker of headgear, including Mexican shakos as well as all of Matthew Broderick's kepis. ( There were several! ) Ray passed away fairly recently and is missed by members of his Florida reenacting community, members of whom Dale Fetzer observed during Glory, "They treat him like a God!" And so he was.

Next time, comments regarding some of the cast and crew!
 
Last edited:
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

theoldman

First Sergeant
Joined
Apr 22, 2013
Messages
1,553
Location
upper mid-west
Great story and getting better with each installment. Savannah is one of my favorite cities. I have dined often at the Pirate House and one of their Irish coffee mugs followed me home one night and sits among other similar items in my kitchen today.:smile coffee:
 

James N.

Lt. Colonel
Forum Host
Civil War Photo Contest
Annual Winner
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Feb 23, 2013
Messages
12,145
Location
East Texas
Great story and getting better with each installment. Savannah is one of my favorite cities. I have dined often at the Pirate House and one of their Irish coffee mugs followed me home one night and sits among other similar items in my kitchen today.:smile coffee:
Thanks - this allows me to further digress regarding Savannah and its wonderful restaurants, not a part of the "main" story. I "knew" about The Pirate's House, ( which supposedly figures in R. L. Stevenson's Treasure Island as the place where Brom Bones dies, leaving the treasure map ) not from the novel, but from a photo shoot involving one of my early favorite Playboy Playmates and her sister, two local girls, having lunch there and walking around historic downtown Savannah. There were many other first-rate places I had the pleasure of sampling, one called The Old Pink House, a ca. 1776 fine brick home of that color.
 
Last edited:
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Custers Luck

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jul 22, 2013
Messages
2,213
View attachment 29594

Exactly twenty-five years ago today when I returned home from my regular job working in the Housewares departmant at the Dallas Galleria Macy's I found on my answering machine a phone call I had been waiting for and one that would in many ways change my life: "James, how would you like to come to Savannah and teach young blacks how to be Civil War soldiers?" It was from my friend Ray Herbeck, Jr., who I had worked for before and who was to be one of the Associate Producers on a new movie project called Glory. This was the beginning of a three-month Odyssey , Feb. - Apr., 1989, that took me halfway across the continent to many different locations in coastal Georgia where filming took place. This part of my story will be ego-centric, but I thought it would be important to understand how this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity came about.

View attachment 29600
My friend and movie mentor, Ray Herbeck, Jr., on the set of another film, Legacy, filmed at Nauvoo, Ill., for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints .

By 1989 I was a veteran of over a dozen years reenacting,having begun in a local farb Confederate artillery unit, which underwent many changes becoming in turn an authentic Confederate artillery unit; then a Union artillery unit; and finally a Union infantry company! I therefore had experience in both infantry and artillery, and a growing wardrobe of likely "impressions". Our group began to be used as extras in projects like The Blue and the Gray and North and South, Part II, where I first met Ray Herbeck, a California reenactor who was serving as reenactor coordinator. Meanwhile, through all this I continued working at my job for fifteen years as an instructor in the Federal Job Corps program, working mainly with minority youth, ages 16 - 22. In 1986 I lost that long-time job, and was briefly adrift, but as the saying goes, When one door closes, another opens: when the next opportunity for movie work came along the following summer I was imminently available! This was an IMAX production called Alamo - The Price of Freedom filmed on John Wayne's old set for his The Alamo at Brackettville, Texas. Production lasted for a month, and this time I was working directly for Ray, as both Texan and Mexican, infantry and artillery, "commanding" for the first time my own company of "Mexican" infantry as well as scratch-built artillery crews. I also kept records of other reenactors working on the project for pay purposes and was cast in a small one-line part as one of the Alamo defenders.

View attachment 29597
Above, as "Moses Rose" with actor Steve Sandor as the terminally ill "Jim Bowie" in a scene that was deleted from the finished film; below, leading my company in the assault on the Alamo.

View attachment 29599
Returned to "normal" life, I looked forward as chairman of my reenactment group to attending the events of the 125th anniversary of the Civil War, and led the Union infantry component of our large organization at events like Corinth and Gettysburg. There I had an amalgamation of Western Federal reenactors from Texas, Arizona, and California, plus a few brand-new Pennsylvania locals, the smallest company in our so-called Third or U.O. Battalion, giving me additional valuable experience as a company commander. It was there at Gettysburg that the first scenes were shot for Glory and I inadvertantly wound up in one of them! I saw Ray standing amid a group of several others, one of whom turned out to be Glory's director, Ed Zwick, with a large shoulder-mounted Panasonic camera filming from a hilltop. I didn't approach them at the time, but later learned $10,000 had been paid to the Gettysburg organizers, Pat Massengill's Napoleonic Tactics, for rights to film raw footage of the event that was eventually used at the beginning of Glory as a prelude to the Antietam sequence. Only much later after repeated viewings did I finally notice myself among the troops with the Irish Brigade flag of the 28th Mass. marching past:

View attachment 29595

After I digested Ray's fateful call, I returned it and found out shooting would begin the following week a thousand miles away in Savannah, Georgia! The next day I asked at Macy's about taking a leave of absence, but was told "We don't do that", so I went to the store manager who personally assured me that if I quit to do this, when filming was over he'd hire me back. Of course, I'd be starting all over again, but since I had only been there five months so far that was fine with me! So began my brush with glory - I credit the opportunity to my Job Corps experience teaching minority youth ( which I'd been sure to tell Ray about previously ); reenacting experience with Union and Confederate infantry and artillery; and prior work with Ray on other movie and TV projects. In later posts over the next several weeks I'll talk about my impressions of cast and crew and specifics about filming scenes throughout the movie.
I"m really enjoying all this and glad your sharing, Can we ask you questions about it as you post?
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top