Actress Patty Duke takes a break during the filming of the movie “You’ll Like My Mother” at French River near Duluth in early March 1972. Chatting with her is Jim Bishop, a public relations representative for Universal Studios-Bing Crosby Productions, producers of the film. The Duluth Transit Authority mini-bus in the background is being used in the film. Shooting continues despite inclement weather; the principal reason the company is in Duluth is to take advantage of the snow which figures in the plot of the film. (News-Tribune file photo)
At this time 40 years ago, Duluth was getting a dose of Hollywood fame as actress Patty Duke was in town, along with other actors and a full film crew, to shoot the movie “You’ll Like My Mother.” The thriller was filmed mostly at Glensheen (then the Congdon mansion), with the rest shot along the North Shore, as seen above.
Here’s an article that ran in March 1972 about locals who took part in the filming:
16 Duluthians enjoy movie experiences
By Keith Thomsen of the News-Tribune staff
“Lights! Camera! Action!”
Sixteen Duluthians, most of them actors from the Duluth Playhouse, found it hard to believe those words when they heard them. But there, right in front of them, was a real Hollywood movie dude, complete with a clapboard with the “take” number on it, just like.. well, just like you see in the movies. And they were on it!
These lucky Duluthians were all chosen to be stand-ins or extras in the film, “You’ll Like My Mother,” starring Patty Duke. Parts of the movie were shot at the Congdon Estate, a French River store, and various locations along the North Shore during the past two months.
Those who were chosen to be stand-ins did literally that; they stood in the places of the real actors while cameras were focused and lights were adjusted for the next scene to be filmed.
One of them, Miss Elizabeth Petrovic, 1914 E. 1st St., explained the qualifications of a stand-in. She said it was important that a stand-in have approximately the same height, complexion, and hair color as the actor he or she was substituting for. The stand-in walked through the actions the real actor was supposed to do in the scene while lighting men checked and adjusted the lights to make sure the film would be properly exposed when the real filming commenced.
Mrs. Peggy Stocco, 2603 E. 6th St., who stood in for Patty Duke, said this process often took and hour or more. She was never bored, but she was very impressed by all the time-consuming work and painstaking care that goes into preparing a scene in a movie even before the star appears. She estimated that she put in 200 hours as a stand-in while the film crew was in Duluth.
Most of the Duluthians in the movie were extras in a scene involving a passenger bus stopping at a country store. In the movie, there is a blizzard in progress as Miss Duke gets off the bus on her way to visit her dead husband’s mother.
The extras from Duluth played passengers on that bus. They were dressed like ordinary people and were supposed to look like typical passengers.
For example, Miss Madeline McGee, 109 N. 8th Ave. E, said she and Mrs. Myrtle Marshall, 4321 McCullough St., played “two old biddies” who stare disapprovingly at a pregnant hippie girl.
Mrs. Marshall laughed as she described herself as an old biddy and said she didn’t mind that casting at all. “I was just thrilled pink to be in the movies!”
The extras on the bus sequence didn’t have the glamorous roles that people associate with Hollywood movies, however. Their acting careers consisted of getting on and off a bus out at French River in a blizzard.
Mrs. Burnice Webb, 3710 E. 4th St., described very graphically what it was like to be an extra in a blizzard.
“The wind was blowing so hard. And it was cold! We ran through the scene three times in the morning and thought we had getting on and off a bus down perfectly. That afternoon the storm got worse. Something would go wrong every time we went through the scene. The store window they were photographing through would fog up or a snowplow that was supposed to go through the scene at a certain time would miss his cue and spoil the whole thing. Then we’d have to wait for snow to pile up so he’d have something to plow.
“By the seventh or eighth ‘take’ I was such a mess! The wind was blowing so hard! And as I was going out to get on that bus one more time, Patty Duke said, ‘Aren’t you glad you had your hair done to be in the movie?’ And I didn’t even look like I had hair by that time!”
Patty Duke (right) and others on a location shoot for the film “You’ll Like My Mother” near Duluth in March 1972. This picture carries no more caption info; do you know who the other people are? If so, please post a comment. (News-Tribune file photo)
Bill Francis of Oliver, another extra in the sequence, said some of the takes would be going perfectly and then some old farmer would drive into the store where they were shooting, just like nothing was happening there, in spite of all the policemen, technicians, actors, buses, trucks, lights, etc. sitting around. The whole movie would have to stop until he bought his ring of baloney or something and left.
It took almost 12 hours to get that scene. The extras had to report to the Radisson Duluth Hotel at 7 a.m. that morning and they didn’t get home until 7 or 7:30 that night. Much of their day was spent waiting around in the cold for the next attempt to film the scene.
For this work the extras got the Minnesota minimum wage, $1.25 an hour. Roger Oman, 430 E. 13th St., another extra, said the bus and truck drivers hired to take them out there got paid three times as much as the local actors.
Some of the extras were a little luckier and got speaking roles. The Screen Guild, an actors’ union, has rules to the effect that anyone who says anything in a movie is classified as an actor and is therefore entitled to union scale pay, about $140 per day.
As a result, Jim Glazman, 1811 Vermilion Road, got quite a boost in pay just for saying, “Just stay on the road, you can’t miss it.”
“Actually I wasn’t chosen for that speaking role because of my great speaking ability,” he explained. “I got the part because I’ve got a blue bakery truck.”
The director of the movie wanted a bakery truck to pull into the store just as the bus was leaving it. But all the bakery trucks in town are painted white, and wouldn’t photograph well in the snow storm. Then the director happened to see Glazman’s bakery truck on the street and inquired about using it. When the director found out he had done some acting at the Playhouse, Glazman got the part.
So, while some stars are discovered because of their handsome faces or charming manners, Glazman got into the movies because he owns a blue truck.
“I get kidded about that an awful lot down at work,” he admitted ruefully.
Despite the long hours and low pay, all the Duluthians who were in the movie enjoyed their experiences immensely.
All of them said they were particularly impressed by the hard work, expense, and painstaking care that the professional moviemakers put into making even the shortest scene in a movie. The Hollywood crew normally worked from 7 in the morning till 6:30 or 7 at night, six days a week. Mary Ann Modeen, 1821 Melrose Ave., a stand-in, estimated that the company had a staff of about 50 people, besides stand-ins and extras.
At the filming of the bus sequence out at French River, the movie studio had its regular crew on the job, and had chartered a number of trucks and buses, a snowplow and a store. After ten hours of work, they had covered a total seven pages of dialogue and had three and a half minutes of film to show for their efforts, said Win Dostal, 628 Spear St., an extra in the scene. Mrs. Webb added that they were all elated that they had gotten so much done that day.
Even in that 3 1/2-minute scene the movie people left nothing to chance. They would film the scene again and again to get it perfect, no matter what it cost them.
When the snowflakes in the blizzard that day proved too small to photograph well, they got out their own artificial snow.
Dostal said the moviemakers had planned so well that they even had two kinds of artificial snow with them, No. 15 and no. 20 vinyl snow. Dostal said nobody has really lived until they’ve stood in a blizzard with “the wind blowing like hell,” being pelted with handfuls of No. 15 vinyl snow.
The extras and stand-ins all said that even though the filmmakers from California were very professional, they were also very friendly. Mrs. Beverly Sturm, 2221 E. 4th St., who was a stand-in, extra, and local extra talent coordinator for the movie, said she had made many friends on the crew and had been invited to visit some of them in Southern California.
Mrs. Sturm said Miss Duke was particularly nice to everyone in the movie. According to Mrs. Sturm, she addressed everyone by their first names and invited them all to a farewell party at the Radisson last week.
Charles Jasper of Oliver, who was a stand-in, was particularly impressed by Miss Duke’s acting ability. “She could be talking and laughing with you one minute and then go and play a rape scene the next and really make you believe it!”
Those of the extras and stand-ins who had acting experience said they thought it was much easier to act in a movie. Jim Neuman, 511 N. 19th Ave. W, who had a speaking role in the movie as a clerk in a store, said he only had to learn a few lines at a time and could concentrate on putting all of his ability into a few words or even into a single emotion. On the stage, he said, an actor has to learn his lines for a whole play and has to pace himself for a whole performance, not just for a few seconds while the cameras are filming.
All Duluthians in the movie said the would definitely go to see “You’ll Like My Mother” when it premieres here early next fall. “I’ll probably see it 10 times,” said Mrs. Sturm. Mrs. Stocco said she “could hardly wait to see it.”
Strangely, only two of the 16 who were in the movie would admit that they had had any hopes of being discovered by Hollywood directors and producers and spirited off to Southern California for a glamorous film career. Most of them pooh-poohed the idea and said they never thought of such a thing.
It should be noted, however, that most of them jumped at the chance to be in the movie. They left children with baby sitters, they took days of their vacation to be in it. Some of them took emergency leave, and French leave, from their jobs in order to be in the movie. One of them even hired someone to take her job temporarily so she could be an extra.
Only Tom Torrison, 1907 Columbus Ave., and Miss McGee admitted they had thought of the possibility of being discovered. “It runs in the back of your mind,” said Torrison. “But basically you know better.”
Miss McGee said, “We can all have our dreams, you know.”
— end —
Actress Patty Duke films a scene for “You’ll Like My Mother” along the North Shore in early March 1972. (News-Tribune file photo)
Patty Duke was hospitalized at St. Luke’s for several days during the weeks-long film shoot in Duluth because of a kidney ailment. Filming started in February and continued into March.
She told the Duluth Herald during her stay here that “Duluth is terrific. … I’m not crazy about being cold, though. The best thing about it is the people here. They are all so friendly.”
The movie was shot in Duluth, the Herald reported, because of a newspaper story about the Congdon mansion. The movie’s producer had friends with relatives in Duluth, and he became aware of the story and the mansion through them – and it was chosen as the set.
“You’ll Like My Mother” opened in Duluth on Nov. 4, 1972, at the Norshor – you can see it on the marquee of the Norshor in this Christmas City of the North parade photo from later that month.
“‘You’ll Like My Mother’ will not eclipse ‘Psycho’ or ‘What Ever Happened to Baby Jane’ as thrillers go, but it’s a taut psychological drama with little love and some violence,” the News-Tribune’s Jim Heffernan wrote in the next day’s paper. “The star performer has to be the Congdon home and carriage house. For so many Duluthians who have admired it from the outside, it will be a treat to follow the color camera through its paneled corridors, carved stairways and beautifully appointed rooms.”
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