A Star is Born
by Tom Turner

Reprinted from the Winter 1994 Volume XX Number II Club News

My 300D odyssey started in 1985 when I placed an ad in Cars & Parts for a ’55 to ’58 300. By that time, I had already owned several 300s but a Hemi had eluded me. My real desire was to own a ’57 or ’58 convertible but I would have settled for any decent car in that time span. I received the usual phone calls trying to sell me a Saratoga or New Yorker, but I just wasn’t interested. Then came the call I had been waiting for. A man in the Boston area had a ’58 D convertible and wanted to sell. I made the deal over the phone and made plans to fly up to get the car.

As fate would have it, the phone rang just minutes before I was to leave for the airport and it was the owner of the car saying something had come up and we would have to get together at a later date. For a long time, I heard nothing and then one Saturday afternoon he called again to ask if I was still interested in the car. This time we made plans to meet halfway between us in Richmond, Virginia. I hooked up my trailer and bribed my daughter to go along for company and off we went after the elusive “D” convertible.

After I got the car home, I decided to repaint the car, put in the correct upholstery and add a new top – the works. I got the upholstery from Gary Goers and I had the car painted at a local dealership that had a painter who “specialized” in old cars. Not only was the paint job terrible, they also DROVE MY CAR and caused damage to several things. I had the car repaired mechanically and repainted at another shop and then I turned the matter over to a lawyer. After several months, the dealership paid for their shoddy workmanship and the joy ride. As it turned out, I wasn’t the only dissatisfied customer and the dealership went out of business and the people left town with their tails between their legs.

The “D” already had a certain amount “celebrity status” about it when I bought it, as it had once belonged to Richard Carpenter and it had also been the centerfold “retrospect” car in the March 1978 issue of Motor Trend.

After enjoying the car for several years, Eleanor Riehl called me in May of 1993 to tell me that a movie company was interested in my car for an upcoming movie starring Rob Morrow (of “Northern Exposure”) and being directed by Robert Redford. The name of the movie is “The Quiz Show”. Eleanor said I would be getting a phone call in just a few minutes from the movie company. Andy Jugle had told me several years ago about his bad experience with television people and his ’57 convertible (Crime Story), so I was a little apprehensive. But after thinking it over, and a little arm twisting from Susan, I agreed to let them use the car. Part of the deal was that the Chrysler 300 Club International would be listed in the credits as having furnished the car for the movie. Another part of the deal was that Susan and I were to be flown to New York City to watch the shooting and of course we would be able to meet the stars. Susan, like most women I suppose, is quite a Redford fan. So, you can imagine how excited we both were to make the trip.

We were picked up at the airport by a limousine with a driver named “Tex”, of all things. He was quite a fountain of information as we whizzed through the streets of New York City. Mostly he told us where NOT to go, but also pointed out several places of interest and recommended several good restaurants. The hotel was on Park Avenue and was very nice. The studio called almost as soon as we arrived at the hotel and they told us a scene was to be shot in just a few minutes, only a few blocks away. So we grabbed a cab and the next thing we knew we were walking into the side entrance of what appeared to be an old abandoned warehouse. It wasn’t hard to find because there were huge movie trucks everywhere, which we found out later was an everyday sight in New York City. We walked right in and watched a “Quiz Show” scene being shot. Those property managers must really work hard for their money. You will be happy to know that there are crazier people out there than old car enthusiasts. The set for the scene consisted of old television studio equipment, the real stuff, that some nut out there collects. The property manager had to find that stuff, just like he had to find my car. It was amazing to see all of the old equipment laying around the set. Anyway, everyone was very nice. We got the grand tour of the set and we got to see Robert Redford right away. The set was fairly dark for shooting but Susan spotted him the minute he walked in.

The rest of the day was spent sightseeing. In the evening, we had dinner at Keane’s Chop House. This place had been one of my parent’s favorite places to eat in the ‘20s and ‘30s, when they lived in New York. Although I don’t smoke, I wanted to try my dad’s old pipe that is hanging on the ceiling, along with a few thousand others, belonging to people who were regulars, way back then. Unfortunately, there had been a small fire in the office a few years back and all of the old records had been lost, so we never found out which pipe was Daddy’s. Oh well, the food was great anyway!

The next day, we went to the “show room” set on Columbus Circle, right across from Central Park. The set was exactly like a 1958 Chrysler show room and my “D” was the leading car. We met several interesting people on the set, including Robert Redford, Rob Morrow, a world-famous German cinematographer/director whose name I can’t remember and several other actors and extras. Everyone there seemed to be a little afraid of Mr. Redford, probably because he was the director. But he was nice to us and allowed us to watch them shoot the opening scene of the movie, where Rob Morrow looks at the D with a salesman. As I understand it, Rob wants the car very badly, but can’t afford it. The car is later sold to the emcee on “The Quiz Show” and he drives it away while Rob looks on. (I think the guy turns out to be a crook and Rob of course is a good guy.

How they shoot the scenes is quite interesting – and quite tiring. They were shooting a 30 second scene and were there for half a day. They must have shot the same scene 20 times, each from a different angle and each with different lighting. They used a small, portable railroad track for the cameras so they could follow the actors around the car. The smallest things are so time consuming. They had a devil of a time keeping Rob Morrow’s cigar lit and it was a major deal. Redford and the cinematographer watched each shoot through a small monitor that allowed them to see exactly what the cameras saw. It was really amazing.

The next day, we did manage to do a little more sightseeing and Susan finally badgered me into a Broadway play. But another interesting thing happened, too. This was Saturday and the movie company was shooting an outdoor scene. All the streets in New York City were blocked off for about 10 square blocks, even Rockefeller Plaza. For the most part, they wouldn’t even let people walk down the sidewalks. The reason, of course, was that they only wanted the actors on the streets in their period costumes. AND THE STREETS WERE FILLED WITH OLD CARS!!! Susan ended up dragging me away. All and all it had been a fun trip, thanks to a special car.

A couple of months later I received a call from the movie company wanting to use the car again. It seems Mr. Redford wanted more scenes in the show room. This time, only the car got to go, while we stayed home. Anyway, we now have a real celebrity residing in our basement. One that has been owned by a celebrity, featured in a national magazine and on the front page of our morning newspaper and one that has starred in a movie! I wonder how you can tell if a 300 is stuck up?

Thanks to Bill Elder (Wild Man of the North) for preparing this article