Oregon town celebrates brush with Hollywood

TOLEDO, Ore. – It’s been 35 years since scenes from “Sometimes A Great Notion” were filmed in Toledo, but the town still takes pride in its brush with fame.

Paul Newman, Lee Remick and Henry Fonda starred in the film based on Ken Kesey’s novel about an Oregon logging family.

“It’s huge. It’s like our 15 minutes of fame. The whole town was involved in some way. It was a really fun time in Toledo,” said Janna Farrington, 50, who, at age 14, was an extra on the set.

Farrington kept a scrapbook from the time, complete with snapshots of the stars, no on display at the Toledo Centennial History Center along with binders of newspaper clippings and an original script.

Attention has fallen on the film and its Toledo connection as the town celebrates it’s 100th anniversary.

According to a 1970 article from Newport’s News-Times, 130 people came to Lincoln County to work on the film, and an equal number of residents got involved.

“It was an economic boost to the area. They spent a lot of money, and some of it was in a social sense,” said Mayor Sharon Branstiter, 62, who said that stars dined in local restaurants.

Earl Roberts, 86, whose logging business helped the production, recalled Hollywood’s descent on his hometown.

“You know, the long hair really hadn’t spread up here yet. All the cameramen and everybody that worked there had long hair and beards, and that was kind of peculiar,” he said.

Farrington remembers Newman had a rough time during filming.

Already the star and co-producer of the major film, Newman became the director after the original one resigned. A third of the movie already had been shot.

He also broke his ankle while riding a motorcycle for the film, delaying production for weeks.

Though the movie is fondly remembered in Lincoln County, it was not considered a critical success.

“I guess you would call it a box office flop,” Farrington said.

A tile mural built this summer outside City Hall shows scenes from Toledo’s history, including Newman and Fonda being filmed, and “Sometimes a Great Notion” on the marquee of the downtown Ross Theater, which was torn down years ago.

The Toledo Centennial History Center was created as a temporary museum, opening last December. But there’s been an effort to turn it into a permanent museum, Branstiter said.

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