NBC's Emmy award winning docudrama: Kent State
My involvement in the Kent State movie project began with a call from Kevin Irvine, an independent film maker I had met earlier that summer of 1979. Ironically, the theme of his piece, The Fifth Victim, was an affliction friends and relatives suspected me to be suffering from - obsession with the 1970 tragedy. I disagreed with their assessment, believing instead that the glaring inconsistencies and unanswered questions from various "official explanations" of the shootings simply had not been brought to the attention of the American public. Once these issues were widely publicized, I thought, thousands more would demand that the truth and justice be served.
Clip of the shootings from the movie (3.8MB Quicktime)
So you can imaging how excited I was to talk with Kevin about the "something big on Kent State" he had hinted at during our phone conversation. Over dinner he showed me the October 15 edition of Variety. Banner headlines proclaimed "Kent State, Chicago Seven TV-BOUND." Rapidly scanning the article, I learned that Inter Planetary Productions and Osmond Communications would be shooting the "docudrama" soon, hoping for a May 4, 1980 air date (the tenth anniversary of the incident). My reaction was mixed. I was most excited by the prospect that millions of people could scrutinize the bizarre story of the incident for themselves. Yet, Kevin and I were worried about the inherent limitations of entertainment television programming. Would the tragedy be portrayed in its complex entirety? Too often challenging pieces are abridged for television's mass audience. Producers and network moguls, fearing that viewers won't comprehend a complicated storyline, provide simple answers for difficult problems. Would this be the approach with Kent State? If so, we realized that the sensationalized production would shed no new light on the incident; and perhaps only confirm most of the audience's prejudices.
At home that evening I contemplated the announcement for hours. Finally I phoned Peter Davies, author and noted expert on the Kent State shootings, to discuss the development. Peter's reaction was similar to mine. Neither of us was convinced that commercial television would dare to reveal all that was known about the incident.
I continued calling around the country that night attempting to contact the parents of the slain students. Arthur Krause's abrupt reaction to the news echoed Davies' and my skepticism: "Greg, it will never happen...Once they know what they are dealing with. . Once they know all of the higher-ups that are involved...They'll never touch it." Arthur was also concerned that the project, were it in fact completed, would just regurgitate the myths about Kent which politicians and the media had been propagating throughout the previous decade.
The Schroeders' reaction, on the other hand, was one of support for the project provided, said Florence Schroeder, that the production was handled with "the same care and dedication evident in the Requiem." They were concerned about how Bill would be depicted. Florence asked me "Will Bill be portrayed as he was? Will they show him in ROTC, but questioning our country's involvement in Vietnam?"
I was unable to reach Mrs. Arthur Holstein, mother of Jeff Miller. The Martin Scheuers, like the Schroeders expressed tentative approval of the program idea. Apparently assuming that my phone call came because I was already a part of the production team, martin Scheuer said "We're glad you will be involved in the project. We feel better knowing that you will keep them on track." After hanging up the phone, I resolved to make every effort to get involved in Kent State.
I was surprised that when I phoned Inter Planetary Production, Chairman of the Board Max Keller was so accessible. I explained who I was and my interest in speaking with him about the Kent State project. At a subsequent meeting we discussed the nature of the project, my involvement with the Requiem, and the concern that historical integrity be preserved in his film. As we discussed each other's backgrounds and previous interest in the Kent affair, I learned that Max practiced law before becoming a producer. He explained that the 1979 civil case settlement had provided the impetus to film the television movie. I, in turn, told about my study of the shootings. I also showing him my writings on the subject: a Ph.D. dissertation; numerous speeches; and the play, Kent State: A Requiem. Although each of us was yet apprehensive of the other's real concerns, a working relationship developed and I was ultimately asked to serve as the "Historical Consultant" for the project.
Max alleviated some of my initial fears when he reported that Bruce Postman had been dispatched to Ohio to interview eyewitnesses, guardsmen, and others present at the university on May 4, 1970. I felt even more confident of the project when I learned what my assignment was. it would be my job to read and criticize the Gerald Green (Holocaust) script. I was responsible for pointing out any inaccuracies to the author.
One of my concerns persisted, however; the source material for the production. One of the works of the program was in fact a novel about Kent State. Earlier Max had assured me that his primary concern was to make a "fair" movie which stuck to that facts. "Balance" was to be our guide.
Gerald Green's first script dispelled my initial belief that Kent State would be a whitewash of the facts. The storyline addressed all of the historically significant points. Questions regarding the mysterious ROTC fire were adequately explored. Viewers would, I thought, be challenged to form their own conclusions about who actually set the fire; (Ten years after the incident blame for the conflagration was still affixed to no one). Green had also captured the flavor of the divisiveness between the townspeople of Kent and the university community. The author, accurately I thought, also elucidated the roles various politicians played in precipitating the confrontation.
Remembering my initial conversation with Kevin Irvine about the project, I was surprisingly encouraged by this script. Perhaps commercial television could depict the shootings in all their complexity. I immediately called Max and told him that with only a few reservations I enthusiastically supported Green's screenplay. It was my understanding of our agreement from November that a letter indicating this same evaluation would conclude my involvement with the production.
In the spring of 198, the focus of my attention had shifted. I was casting Kent State: A Requiem and preparing for our third national tour with the production. It was not until our opening night, back home in Los Angeles, May 30 at Occidental, that I again encountered anyone connected with the Kent State. Following the performance, Phillip Barry introduced himself as another of the film's Executive Producers (along with Max and Micheline Keller).
Meeting Mr. Barry that night piqued my curiosity about the production. I had learned from friends at NBC that the network was not completely satisfied with the script submitted by Green. According to my NBC informants, network programmers felt the screenplay was too political. Apparently the NBC executives preferred a more human focus and had considered developing a romantic theme between some of the principal characters.
My fear that the television drama would skirt controversial issues was renewed. I called Max to discuss my concerns. He reiterated his commitment that Kent State would present the facts. Max did say, however, that there were suggestions to expand some of the characterizations in an effort to attract audience empathy and identification. Others connected with the production, I later learned, were more adamant that the Allison Krause-Barry Levine relationship be "spiced-up."
Mary Dollarhide, an actress studying at Circle-In-the-Square who had previously played "Allison" in the Requiem, auditioned for the same role in the Inter Planetary-Osmond production. When she later phoned me from New York, Mary explained how eerie the audition had been for her. She was also concerned about the heavy emphasis on Allison's relationship with Barry; Mary felt the Allison character might be muddled because of such "dramatic license."
"I was doing Stock in New Hampshire. I went down to New York for the afternoon and met with a woman from NBC. Then I called Max Keller and woke him up, which was quite a funny thing because I didn't know who he was. It turned out that the day I went was a call-back audition. I recognized Keith Gordon from All That Jazz, and another girl from Joseph and Mary. People were walking around with scripts in their hands, and it seemed much different from a theatrical audition.
"An actor picked up a script and walked over to a girl who was reading for 'Sandy.' He put his hand to her had and said, 'Do you know what happens in the end?' He made gunshot noises and said, 'They get.' It bothered me that they probably don't know that this really happened to people so close to their age ten years ago.
"Then I went to read for Phil Barry. I could hear a girl reading a scene where 'Allison' is talking about a nightmlare. I could hear her audition, and I thought it was total insanity. I was concerned that though she was known professionally, she was dead wrong for the part.
"I read my audition scene very internally, with Allison delivering it more to herself than to Barry Levine - thinking it through with him, not at him. I liked the way I read it. Then I glanced down at the table and they had all these photos of the dead students. I flipped them over and said, 'I'd rather not look at those.' They didn't want people who looked like them, from the way they cast the show, but it just grossed me out."
"I had a review of our stage performance at Kent, but I didn't show it to them. I think it was the one time that I should have shoved something in their face."
"One of them said, 'You've been connected with Kent/' I said that I was connected through Gregory Payne. Then he said, 'I don't know him.' I said, 'He's the Historical Consultant on your movie.' Then he said, 'Oh year - I saw the play at Occidental and I saw you.' I told him that he didn't see me. 'You saw Terri Troy.' All in all, though, it was a very pleasant audition."
In early July, Max asked me to look over a revised script. I was quite disturbed by what I read. Historical preciseness had been sacrificed in favor of the emphasis on relationships. Principals were now placed at events they had not attended. Bill Schroeder and Sandy Scheuer were included in a scene depicting the May 1 rally on the commons. In fact, none of the four dead students had been there. Schroeder, Scheuer, Krause and Miller were shown watching the ROTC fire when, in reality, not all four were even on campus. Schroeder had left Kent on Friday night and did not return until late Sunday evening. Even more disconcerting tome, were the rather maudlin portrayals of town and state officials. Had they really been just "bufuddled" victims of the situation that weekend?
In a long conversation with Max, I explained my general concern that the script modifications would erroneously affect viewer's perceptions of the incident. My specific criticisms filled nineteen single-spaced pages, covering everything from inaccurate personal characteristics to entire scenes which were misconceived. For example, the screenplay seemed to strongly suggest that "radicals" had started the ROTC building fire on May 2. In fact, after years of controversy there is still no proof as to who actually set the blaze. I also had problems with the mysterious figure in a plaid shirt who barked instructions to an obedient horde throughout the sequence. But the crowd was not crazed; its mood, actually, had been one of amazement. Why had the authorities permitted the torching?
The breakdown of communications among the various officials at Kent - city, university, and state officers - was another problem the script glossed over. Perhaps what was most lacking was any tone of the divisiveness which so pervaded the nation at that time. Without the full flavor of the social and political climate, the politicians' bombastic harangues and the violent student reactions which so often followed would make no sense. Only against a backdrop of the prevalent suspicion can we understand Major Satrom's decision to call in the National Guard.
It bothered me that all the guardsmen were depicted as young and inexperienced in riot control. Many eighteen-year-olds had joined the Guard to avoid going to Vietnam. I liked showing the irony of college-aged kids pitted against college students - the only difference between the groups of combatants being that one was sanctioned by the government while the other was not - but did not want to imply that it was primarily youthful guardsmen who fired the fatal shots. Evidence from the trials and the FBI Report revealed that a large number of those who turned and fired at the students were older guardsmen who had had several years of riot training. Did they shoot because they panicked? Surely many of these guardsmen had been in situations much worse than that which they faced at Kent, certainly they had had a lot of practice: Governor Rhodes had called out the National Guard forty times during the period from 1968 to 1970 and Ohio's expenditure for the national Guard as more than the combined total for all other states in the union during that two year period.
Not only was it essential to precisely characterize the guardsmen who did the shooting, but also it was imperative to exactly replicate the Guard's march. Most of the guardsmen who actually discharged their weapons ere members of Troop G. Many of the same men had moments earlier kneeled on the practice football field and aimed their rifles at protesters in the Prentice Hall parking lot. As all the soldiers marched back toward the Commons, many from Troop G kept looking back at the parking lot over their right shoulders. The guardsmen ascended Blanket hill near the Pagoda and monetarily disappeared behind the crest of the knoll. Twenty-eight of them then spun around 180 degrees, marched back to the hilltop Pagoda, and fired at students in the parking lot hundreds of yards away. The Guard did not shoot into the larger, group of students on the patio in front of Taylor Hall.
Why did I feel compelled to so closely examine and suggest changes among the intricate details of the revised storyline? My overriding concern was to present an objective rendition of the facts; it would be left to the views to assess blame for the shootings. I also argued that many familiar with the incident, without the script alternatives I recommended, might see our portrayal of the Guard as "biased" in favor of the troops. Given their vast legal and professional experiences, I thought my concerns would be shared by the executive producers. Max, too, said he wanted the film to be accurate, but he reminded me that Kent State was not a documentary. The "dramatic license" to distort actual events, the producers assured me, was needed to provide "balance" that would keep the audience interested. I was beginning to decide that I did not care for such "balance."
In mid-July I met cast member Jeff McCracken who was playing Bill Schroeder. He contacted me after being referred from Mrs. Schroeder. "She said you know the situation and Bill about as well as she does," Jeff told me. (For some reason photos of bill had always intrigued me. I felt particularly identified with him and had, over the years, developed a special affection for the Schroeders.)
During our first conversation, I voiced my concern about historical integrity. Jeff pledged that he too, above all else, wanted the facts to speak for themselves.
Jeff and I also discussed Mrs.. Schroeder's single request; she had asked me to make sure that one historical discrepancy was corrected for the movie. "Bill's pants and shirt matched," Mrs. Schroeder had remarked. It seems that in many of the accounts of what the victims were wearing, Bill had been described as wearing "orange bell bottoms, a denim jacket with a red and dark green striped shirt." "It should be orange bell bottoms with an orange and green striped shirt," Mrs. Schroeder told me, "... He was a conscientious boy."
Dorothy Fox of Inter Planetary called the next day, requesting detailed substantiations of my script criticisms. My critique had been received with skepticism; Director Goldstone and a new writer, Richard Kramer, wanted to know where I got my information. I complied with their request for documentation. However, I suggested to Dorothy that if anyone needed to substantiate sections of the screenplay it should be those who suggested the new, dramatic interpretation of the Kent shootings.
With less than a week before filming was scheduled to begin, it became clear to me that the script was not yet "firm." Some of my suggestions had been adopted in various revisions, but the screenplay no longer resembled the original storyline I had previously endorsed.
My next assignment proved to be a rather tedious task: the preparation of "chronological fact sheets" for the days May 1-4, 1970. These detailed synopses were supposed to aid Kramer's rewrite efforts. I poured over the following several sources to locate whatever information seemed the least bit pertinent: my dissertation, notes for the Requiem, the President's Commission on Campus Unrest, the Justice Department Summary of the FBI Report, The Truth About Kent State, I Was There, Coverup, the Portage County Ohio Grand Jury Report, and countless other articles and books on the subject.
As soon as they were completed, the fact sheets were sent to the Gadsden location. Response from the production team was itself matter-of-fact; Kent State could not possibly contain even half of the material I had outlined. I was reminded that ours was to be a dramatic portrayal of the events, I, in turn, reminded them how strongly I disagreed with that position.
Problems with the rewrite persisted, probably exacerbated by the indirectness of my communication-by-mail with those in Alabama. My opinion was that since time was a constraint, the entire process could be facilitated by meeting with the writer and serving as a resource. Dorothy and Max rejected my suggestion, arguing that ego entanglements of everyone involved would prevent any such relationship from developing comfortably.
At long last the real problem was revealed; many of the production staff members in Alabama had heard that I was a "radical" attempting to twist the "balanced" view they intended for the film. Dorothy responded with a pointed memo meant to allay their fears. She then reached the same conclusion I had arrived at earlier: if someone with the "facts" were not in Gadsen fighting for accuracy, the "dramatic license" forces would shape the production as they saw fit. Several lengthy phone conversations between Dorothy and Micheline in Los Angeles and Max on location in Alabama resulted in an invitation to me to go to Gadsden. Max said they would need me for a couple days. I left during the first week in August. I returned to Southern California on September 25.
On the eve of my trip, I felt both glad and upset about going to Gadsden. I resented being called in at the last minute, particularly since I had been connected with the project since November. Yet, I was convinced that the production would be reaching millions of people and that I had to do all I could to ensure its accuracy. My commitment to the film was sealed as a result of the frequent phone conversations I had with the parents of the slain students and Peter Davies. Remembering previous talks with guardsmen, professors, and the townspeople of Kent, I knew it was imperative that I be in on the rewrite of the revised, dramatized script.
Max instructed me to bring all the Kent State information I had. You can imagine how frantic were those few hours during which I had to select what to take; I sifted through four file cabinets of clippings and research that evening. I had donated some of my materials to the Yale and Kent State Archives. Historian Larry Dowler of Yale was a great help throughout the shoot and Scott Bills, working on his own book on the tragedy, proved to be an invaluable resource at Kent. Several times in the coming weeks they were to cross-check times and dates or in some other way provide important information for me.
With five full suitcases of historical materials and one overnight bag with clothes sufficient for only two days, I departed for Alabama. En route to Birmingham I pondered the "radical" reputation that was preceding me. I, too, saw the situation as radical, but from a different perspective. For a government to follow the course of inaction exhibited by ours in the aftermath of the Kent State shootings was, I hoped, a radical departure from the norm.
Only slowly had the shroud of mystery surrounding the 1970 tragedy lifted. The generally hostile attitude of the Nixon Administration toward student demonstrators was exposed along with the calculated moves that were used to downplay and sometimes thwart investigations of the Kent State shootings. Among the shocking revelations: Information disclosed by a National Archivist and a reporter about the Pentagon's "Garden Plot" to destroy the anti-war movement; the President's Commission finding that responsibility for the ROTC fire at Kent State, one of the events which led to the shootings, could not be determined; that although President Nixon directed J. Edgar Hoover to "find information" which would support the Guard's self defense argument, the FBI Report concluded that explanation was "fabricated subsequent to the event;" and finally the secret, "eyes only" memo from John Ehrlichman to Attorney General John Mitchell in November, 1970, which reported that President Nixon had "decided" there was to be no federal grand jury convened in this case.
I believed very strongly that this broad political context had to be part of any story about Kent, particularly a dramatization. Without it, viewers might not remember the bitter divisiveness-the worst among Americans since the Civil War, according to Governor William Scranton who chaired the President's Commission on Campus Unrest-which caught students, university administrators, politicians, and guardsmen in a confused and ultimately tragic situation.
The two Gadsden landmarks I noticed as the driver approached the Holiday Host Motel, Highway 59 and the Goodyear Rubber Plant, reminded me of Akron, Ohio where they are also important fixtures. The factory in Akron, which employs many Kent residents, is Goodyear's national headquarters and Highway 59 is a main route between Kent and Akron.
Max and Micheline greeted me at the motel and told me I would be staying in a room next to Richard Kramer, the writer-in-residence who had been revising the screenplay throughout the previous two weeks of rehearsal time. I remembered Dorothy reporting that Richard wondered why I had waited so long to send the material in the "fact sheets". Obviously Richard did not know that I was asked to contribute information only recently. A brief talk with Richard revealed that he was primarily relying on Michener's book and the material I had submitted. After several conversation about the development of the script, we established a friendly working relationship that would later help insure that areas of greatest historical importance were given their proper focus.
On my second day in Alabama, I met Karen Danaher and Hamilton Cloud of NBC's movie department. Danaher and Cloud had come from Los Angeles to visit the set and to deliver notes delineating their problems with the screenplay. Over breakfast, we shared our respective concerns regarding the script. To the surprise of everyone, we agreed on virtually every point.
For example, I still was not satisfied with the ROTC building fire scene. Although several researchers, most notably Charles Thomas of the National Archives, suggested that outside agents were responsible for the fire, the script seemed to leave little doubt that the students had caused it. While official investigators found that many students had left the area after the initial attempt to set fire to the building failed, the script had the students remaining in the area, thus insinuating that they eventually started the blaze.
I also strongly objected to the placement of all four principal characters among the crowd. The "dramatic license" forces argued that we needed to show the major players watching the ire in order to build audience empathy for them. I disagreed with this approach for two reasons. First, I thought it was equally dramatic that Bill Schroeder, who had been absent from most of the weekend activities including the ROTC fire, was later to become a victim of its aftermath; second, I was aware of an attitude on the part of some that "if students were in an area where the National Guard were, they were asking for trouble." The troops were present at the Saturday night ROTC fire, but Bill Schroeder was not. I did not want the film to suggest "he had asked for trouble" that night anymore than he did on Monday when he was gunned down while walking to class.
My arguments did not convince the writer, director, or the producers. But they did concede to the extent that Schroeder and the other three principals were shown observing the conflagration from a distance, so as not to imply that the four had had anything to do with the fire.
The ROTC episode was continually revised after my initial confrontation with Kramer, Goldstone, the Kellers, and Barry. Ultimately, the scene was completely rewritten the weekend before it was filmed.
"ROTC had always been a festering sore in the script," recollected Ellen Barkin, who played one of the chief radicals in Kent State. "The question always was how close the kids were to the ROTC building, and historically it's been said that actually they were not near the building at the time it really blazed out of control. Dramatically we had to have it, so we took a little dramatic license to put the kids there when they actually weren't."
"During the rehearsal I kept saying, 'I think they are a little too close to the building because it's on fire.' I was told that the fire would draw them to the building like moths to the light.
"When the scene was finally filmed the heat was so intense that it melted all the telephone wires. Two of the actors had to walk out of the scene because they would have melted. A production member said, 'What's the matter, haven't you guys ever shot a scene in front of a fire before?'"
To: Max, Phil, Jim, Richard, etc.
August 10, 1980 Conversation with Arthur Krause
Arthur mentioned one myth he would appreciate being addressed in the movie. It has been incorrectly report that Allison put a flower in the rifle of a guardsman's gun on Sunday, May 3, 1970. Such was not the case. Arthur wants this to be done accurately. Barry and Allison were on the Commons Saturday. They noticed a guardsman with a flower in the barrel of his rifle. An officer asked the guardsman if this was proper. The Guardsman removed the flower and the officer walked off. Allison picked up the flower, and replied, "Flowers are better than bullets."
Arthur called specifically with this request. He believes that anyone who saw this occur would believe the movie was adopting the "novel" rather than the historically accurate approach if the scene is not done as it actually happened.
Hamilton, Karen, and I also concurred on the issue of providing a contextual background of the shootings at Kent State. We agreed that every effort had to be made to ensure fair and empathetic treatment of all who were party to the tragedy.
Will Patton, who like Ellen Barkin portrayed a radical leader, recalls how his initial vision of the character differed from the image the revised script called for:
"When I first came down, I had this image of someone who was going to be able to really get into it. You know, all the way from the gut like a Jerry Rubin-type of guy. The first day I got down they said that they wanted Peter to be a 'good radical.' Because I was so into the other, I thought that they were going to make him some kind of fool, but I managed to keep it from going too far that way.
"Now I think it's a good thing that there is a good radical. There should be a symbol of those who were politically active, who had these very real concerns at the time that would somehow be appealing to the audience."
Miscommunication between the generations-manifested in the refusal to listen and a proclivity to overreact-had to be highlighted. Underscoring that tension were strident statements by local, state, and national politicians which we felt the film should feature.
Residues of the visceral hatred of young people that characterized some segments of our society in the 1970 still linger. Parents of the dead Kent students and even an actress portraying one of the victims yet receive malicious mail. In a letter she received on the set, Jane Fleiss, who portrayed Allison Krause, was the target of some bizarre reactions against the "unclean, foul-smelling kids" who actually "caused" the tragedy.
"To Whom It May Concern-It was a tragic happening at Kent State ten years ago and I think it is a terrible society that won't let it die. Granted, Allison Krause was a young girl from Pittsburgh going to Kent State, but have any of the people making the movie talked to the hospital attendants about what Allison was like when she was brought to the hospital? She was filthy, and seemed not to have had a bath for a long period of time. Her clothes were filthy, and has anyone inquired of the parents how long it had been since they had seen her before the uprising...The jail was filed with people from Kent that actual permeated the halls of the courthouse with the smell or scent of dirty body odors when they had been sitting on the floor after they were released form the jail. They were barefooted, making obscene remarks to the county employees in the building, spitting on the floor, throwing cigarette butts on the floor. Threats were made. I feel it's terrible that we have to be subjected to such trashy viewing on the TV. Thank goodness there are other channels to watch. The pictures of the kids that were killed and wounded had to be the high school ones because Allison was wearing a headband on her unclean hair. No one wanted the young men to go to war. Wouldn't it have been terrible if the whole country acted the way those at K.S.U. did and the sad part of it was so few of the participants were actually enrolled at the school"
"That's the letter. The handwriting is female but there is no name," Jane reports. "There's some more trash ten years later about Allison Krause. Some more inaccuracies about the students. The best thing about it is you can really see that the 60's were not peace-love-hippie-Woodstock time-the 60's were very angry and the culmination of the 60's has this enormous division between adults and young people. What can you say? I used to et upset and cry at things like that about Allison, and now I just feel that these people are ridiculous."
What happened at Kent State typified the divisive 60's; and mere discussion of the incident still induces explosive emotional reactions from some people. Letters to the editor of the local Gadsden Times revealed that some Alabama residents didn't want to be reminded of the tragedy, or at least wanted no part of a movie they thought might glorify the anti-war protesters:
Views of Our Readers
Don't Film 'Kent State' Here
It is with regret that I have read that there have been proposals to use the facilities of Gadsden State Junior College for the filming of certain sequences that may be used in some film relating to the tragedy that occurred at Kent State University in Ohio.
It is hoped that, upon reconsideration, the facilities in our area will not be used in this fashion. The state of Alabama and indeed the entire southeastern part of our country has supported the national defense effort in such exemplary fashion that it is probably that the use of the state's educational facilities for publicizing the Kent State tragedy could be seriously misunderstood and adversely effect the perception now held of the state of Alabama and of our area.
Alabama is proud to be the leading National Guard state in the nation with respect to the percentage of participation and with respect to the loyalty and support of all of our state, county and city governments and institutions and agencies.
We will certainly cooperate with college president Dr. Arthur W. Dennis in any way we can in supporting his fine institution so that a possible misunderstanding might be avoided.
Take It Back to Kent State
I have a question for your readers. How can you sit back and allow NBC to film the Kent State episode in your city when Kent State refused them permission to film it there?
Ohio is not proud of what happened, why should you be? The Vietnam war was most unpopular. However, where are your sons, husbands, boyfriends who were in the military service and went to Vietnam-instead of burning their draft cards, carrying signs, "Hell no, we won't go" or went to Canada. Also, are you reader to forget so soon your Gadsden sons who returned from Vietnam but under the American flag. God forbid!
As an Alabama native, a Gadsden daughter and a taxpayer, I resent the filming of that horrible incident. I do not believe that this can be filmed absolutely accurate, thus it should not be called a documentary. Gadsden State Junior College, I am told, will be the scene of some of the filming. And the taxpayers should remember that this educational facility was built with your tax dollars. I urge all of you to contact your representatives to not allow even one foot of this film to be done on the campus.
If you citizens of Gadsden do allow this to happen in your city, then you're in for a rude awakening in the future. A few years back, Mr. Khrushchev told the United Nations "We (Communism) will bury you without firing one shot." Was he right or wrong? Patrick Henry said, "Give me liberty or give me death." One of those liberties is to speak out on an issue such as this.
By the way, how much money will the city of Gadsden receive from the making of this film? Also, there will be salaries to be paid (by NBC, of course) to the actors, actresses, walk-on, etc. Could you really accept blood money?
Wake up, Gadsden, don't let this be done to your city. Let them go back to Kent State if they can get permission. This is a slap in the face of all Americans. Don't turn the other cheek. I have called my elected officials to stop it. Please help and call yours. By the way, yes, my husband spent a year in Vietnam.
The first time I met director Jim Goldstone was later that second day in Gadsden. I had decided it was of paramount importance that I clear up a few misperceptions upon our introduction. I wanted Jim and Richard Kramer to know that I was in Alabama as an adviser, not a usurper. I also let them know I was sensitive to their time pressures. Kent State, which was beginning rehearsals that day, was scheduled to finish shooting thirty days hence. Jim and Richard were understandably apprehensive that I would delay the production. After all, I was the "historical consultant" who had already pointed out mistakes in the script which would still take time to correct. Although we were later to haggle over several points, it was apparent from that first conversation that Jim, Richard, and I believed very strongly in the project. Our mutual mistrust was beginning to subside.
Over one hundred production staff members, actors, and extras were assembled at Wallace Hall on the Gadsden State Junior College campus for the first reading of the script. Before the meeting I was skeptical of the actor's possible motivations. Thousands of performers were unemployed that summer as a result of the Screen Actors Guild strike. (Dorothy Fox had negotiated an agreement with SAG which allowed Inter Planetary and Osmond Television to film Kent State during the strike.) I feared that many of our cast members might have taken a role only because it was a job, rather than because they were committed to the project. I could not have been more wrong. What I saw in their first readings and what I discerned from subsequent talks with them demonstrated that many of the actors had been deeply scared by the Kent tragedy.
"It's something that should not be buried," says actor Michael Horton of the May 4, 1970 shootings at Kent State. "It's part of American history, and American history cannot be buried. I don't know if the movie will do anything to keep it from happening again, but I hope that it will at least spark some interest in people's finding out what happened.
Horton, who portrayed a young National Guardsman, Cody, recognizes the feelings expressed by his character as being similar to his own views in 1970.
"Cody's about as 'me'' as any character I've ever played. his emotions on the war and the political situation are close to the way I felt back in 1970 when I was 17 years old. He's what I wanted to be at that time but really wasn't. That's why I identify with him so much.
"Prior to Kent State and Cambodia, I was pretty much apathetic and usually more or less what a 17 year old should be-not really caring about anything other than himself and his surroundings. It got me more politically aware once it happened, and I became more politically active.
"I was more aware of what was going on in Vietnam," he explains. "I became more aware of our domestic situation in government. I just took more of an interest in what was going on around me, rather than just laying back and having a good time in high school."
Michael found that as he learned more about the incident at Kent State, his opinions changed somewhat.
"I'm going out of the project with the attitude that the shooting was one big mistake. There are three villains. The guardsmen who turned and fire are not the villains in this piece. In my opinion they are Governor Rhodes, General Canterbury, and President White.
General Canterbury for his illegal use of dispersing a legal crowd. President White for not being there. Governor Rhodes for his illegal use of martial law."
Horton remains optimistic that the movie, despite covering such a politically controversial topic, will affect the viewers.
"I think it's going to be one of the best projects to come out of television in years. The reason that I'm in this project is because it's very, very unusual to get a chance to do an important piece of work. So I'm thrilled to be a part of it. Anybody would."
As the writer and director worked with the actors during the rehearsal period, I became engaged not only in providing input to Jim, Richard, and the cast, but also in an even more demanding task. In order to obtain the errors and omissions insurance policy for the movie, the entire script had to be substantiated. That is, sources had to be found to document the material included in each scene. The script, which underwent eight revisions through the course of the productions, was 227 pages long and contained 563 scenes. It was obvious to Max that although I had not planned to be involved in such an arduous chore, I was the only one on the set who could possibly prepare a fully annotated script.
Points requiring clarification were sometimes easily cleared up: What type of shoes was Sandy Scheuer wearing at the time of the shooting?
One of the more perplexing issues demanding substantiation, inaction of various police forces at the time of the ROTC building fire, was nearly impossible to explain. Investigations had revealed that neither the Kent State University or Kent City Police Departments responded to the crowd's repeated attempts to burn the building on Saturday night. The President's Commission later criticized the authorities for not moving in to disperse the assemblage prior to the arrival of the National Guard.
Although there had been rumors throughout the day that it would be burned, the campus police made no attempt to protect the ROTC building. Even when students began to gather around the structure, University security officers did nothing to demonstrate a show of force. The crowd, surprised by this conspicuous absence of police, increased in size following a march among the dormitories. Still, the campus police did nothing. The University's chief of police subsequently explained that he did not think his men could handle the crowd and that he was waiting for Highway Patrol reinforcements. When the Ohio state police did arrive in Kent, they went not to the campus but instead to guard the University President's house.
Where were the Kent City Police that night? The official explanation claimed that the local peace officers were too busy protecting the town to come on campus to defend ROTC. Evidence suggests, however, that the city police did not respond, at least in part, because the campus police had not cooperated with the municipal authorities during the Water Street disturbance the night before.
This inaction-which may have precipitated the ROTC fire-demonstrated the rift between those identified with the University, be they students or officials, and the citizens and authorities of the town of Kent. The Saturday night confusion seemed especially important to show, especially given the suggestions of some researchers that outside agent provocateurs might have actually set the ROTC fire. But some of the production staff found this story of police ineptitude simply "unbelievable." I provided several sources to support my description of the event, including Professor Glenn Frank who had been on the Commons at the time. Even though the facts pointed to a tremendous lack of communication and coordination between the various authorities, some in the production company still argued that to depict the scene as such would confound the audience.
I argued that if viewers were confused, then the film was conveying the truth. The key question we should pose to the audience was, "Who was responsible for the chain of events which resulted in the National Guard pitching camp on the campus?" To provide a simple assessment of the Saturday night events would be inaccurate and would seriously damage the credibility of the movie, I maintained. Once again the ROTC fire scene had sparked much controversy between myself and the crew.
For Jeff McCracken, who played Bill Schroeder, presenting the facts unaltered was an extremely important issue; especially when dealing with such highly speculative events as the ROTC fire.
"I don't believe that intent is the same thing as committing the act. Some people in the production firmly believe that everyone at Kent State wanted that ROTC building burned but I don't. Some of the people wanted it burned, but their attempts were futile."
Despite having qualms about the historical accuracy of some scenes, McCracken remains optimistic about the final version of the movie.
"I hope the Schroeders will be satisfied and pleased with their son's representation. I hope they come away from the movie saying that what I promised them, I was able to deliver.
"It's uncanny that I look so much like Bill. It makes it a little more eerie. It was actually very uncomfortable for me to read about him in all of the literature about Kent State, but I think what I have done with Bill has been honest. I think the film has been very truthful in terms of his dilemma, and it sums up not only Bill Schroeder, but a lot of other youth at this time.
"This movie will attempt to bring the Kent State incident to the attention of the public. It will reopen a lot of sore wounds. But when you raise a consciousness you are setting a new way for something else-in other words, maybe another film.
"I would say that this film doesn't raise enough questions. It shows enough facts in terms of the event, but it doesn't show the real shady stuff behind it. That's what I'm disturbed about in terms of the whole project itself."
All the hype associated with making a movie was evident in Gadsden from the first day of rehearsals. Locals turned out in droves to audition with Mary Gaffney, Mitch duPont, and Shirley Crumley of casting, for some of the minor roles. Several townspeople, including Dave Vande Brake, receiving speaking parts. Hundreds more played as extras. Hordes of onlookers outfitted in Alabama hate, meanwhile, gathered to watch as construction crews began work on the replica ROTC building. This tremendous community involvement with the project was sustained throughout the filming.
Tommy Ford, a tall thin Gadsden Chamber of Commerce spokesman and Crimson Tide fan, one day on the set explained what the filming of Kent State meant to his community: "Gadsden is very happy to have the movie here. It's great for the community and great for the economy." Ford, along with Judy Myracle and Jane Sims, served as the producers' liaison with Gadsden answering any questions about the area. "If you think about it, all the extras are going to go home and talk about the move to their friends and it then gets handed down again, so it is advantageous to all parties. Also, the money paid to the extras probably will be spent in the area; so that adds dollars to the Gadsden economy. Of course, many of the extras are going to keep the checks from Inter Planetary and Osmond Communications as souvenirs-especially since they've got the picture of Donny and Marie on them."
Ford was also instrumental in arranging local radio interviews to promote the movie. "We thought the best thing, initially, would be to host a party for the production company and the actors," remembers Ford. The bash was attended by everybody connected with the film and community leaders from Gadsden, Mayor Steve Means officially welcomed the movie to Gadsden. Producers Micheline and Max Keller, along with Phillip Barry and Mrs. Barry, who flew in from New York for the affair, expressed their thanks for such Southern hospitality. Gadsden Times columnist Rugh Hagedorm attended and featured the festivities in one of ehr weekly stories. "I think it was the first time some of these Yankees had country ham and all the delicacies," remarked Joel Hugley, who worked with Set Director Richard Kent throughout the production. "We're glad you all are here doing themovie," Tommy Ford told me while driving us to the West Gadsden cafe for some "sweet tea," grits and ham. "Kent State is part of history we can all learn something from."
Just as the script required continual revising, so too did the geographical layouts of our shooting sites at the Gadsden and Jacksonville State Univrsity campuses. At Gadsden State, the first landscaping chores entailed filling-in a large ditch adjacent to what served as our "Blanket Hill." After replicas of the "victory bell" and "Taylor Hall sculpture" were constructed, the Gadsden campus simulated the grounds at Kent State quite well.
The most obvious difference between our locations and the actual site at Kent was with the "Prentice-Hall parking lot" and practice football field. From the pagoda atop Blanket Hill at Kent State the parking lot is to on'e left, and the football field (now the gymnasium) is on the right. At Gadsden State, the football field is on the left and the parking lot is to the right. The field at Gadsden State was designed to resembel in detail what the field at Kent State had been like in 1970. It was important to have a chainlink fence at the back of the field to halt the marching guardsmen (as had happened at Kent State). A fence was constructed at Gadsden State, but initially it did not allow enough troop movement. I recommended it be changed to match the fence in photographs of the practice football field at Kent State. To achieve historical accuracy, it was important to show the space available to the troops during their stay on the field prior to their march back toward the ROTC Building and the fatal shots that ensued.
Another headache: The Gadsden campus had to be divided into an"A" side and a "B" side. On the "A" side of the hill was the ROTC building, the Commons, and the Victory Bell. At the top of of the hill was the Pagoda, the focal point due its significance in the shooting incident. The "B" side of the hill included Gadsden's Naylor Hall, representing Kent State's Taylor Hall, and the open spaces sloping downward toward the parking lot and practice football field. Because these two sides, "A" and "B", were located in two different areas of the campus, it was necessary to move th pagod as filming progressed. For example, "Rollake" students are seen walking u "Blanket Hill" and passing the pagoda. Stop action. Move the Pagoda to the B side by Taylor (Naylor) Hall. Begin action. Cameras film students walking past the Pagoda. The result is a scene which simulates moving across the grounds at Kent.
One final problem with the location was not so easy to solve. Some people suggested ocvering it with plywood painted green. Others advocated filling it in with dirt. I wished it had not been there, but it really did not interfere as it was in the background. So I suggested that we simply rename the Coosa River "the Cuyahoga" and explain that the latter had changed its course since 1970.
As I continued my work on the annotated script, I was alarmed by an important deletion in the revisions of the Monday, May 4 scene. The script showed the guardsmen moving out against the General marching with the troops past the Commons, down Blanket Hill, and through the practice football field to the chain link fence, as had actually been the case. Neither did the screenplay depict the Major who had led his men up the other side of Blanket Hill at the oposite end of Taylor Hall, walking unmolested throuh Prentice Hall parking lot to the field after observing the aimless action of the guardsmen located there.
I immediately discussed this with Max, Micheline, and Philip. Initially, they were skeptical that Canterbury and the major had been present during these bizarre maneuvers. Commanding such am ove-marching down to the practice football field and into the chain link fence-was not what any of us would have expected from a general. The producers assumed that the troops movement to the practice football field resulted from a misunderstood order (which had perhaps been garbled during radio transmission from Canterbury at the ROTC building). My response was that indeed the actions of the troops during their march on the practice football field were confusing nd unexplainable; their aimless wandering did not suggest the professionalism one might expect to see demonstrated by soldiers in the presence of a general. (The Presiden's Commission also concluded that the actions of the guard during their march to the practice football field had done nothing but provoke further violence from the crowd.) Nonetheless, photographs I displayed to all parties clearly showed General Canterbury, the only one among the guard wearing a suit, marching with his troops up the hll past the Pagoda and on to the practice football field (where according to various investigations they remained in haphazard formations for approximately ten to fifteen minutes.) The photographs from the President's Commission proved General Canterbury was still with his guardsmen as they marched back up Blanket Hill toward the Commons. John Darnell's haunting picture of the shooting plainly shows a shocked General Canterbury attempting to stop the rifle fire.
It was equally important to portray the guardsmen roving around on the practice football field and the Major walking through the Prentice Hall parking lot on his way to assess the situation on the field. The historical significance is that the Major was unimpeded during this walk through the relatively uncrowded parking lot into which the guardsmen would later fire their guns.
As I outlined the movements of the major and Canterbury and the behavior of the troops in the practice football field, Max, Micheline, Philip, and director Jim Goldstone expressed their bewilderment at such ineptitude. I assured them that my description was factual, not just opinion, and supported my claims with evidence from the Justice Department's FBI Summary and the President's Commission on Campus Unrest. John Filo's photographs also demonstrated that throughout their march, troops were never within close range of rocks being hurled by the students; the investigators subsequent to the shootings revealed that no guardsman had been hit by just rocks prior to the firing. The only support for the guardsmen's argument that they shot in self defense was contained in the Portage County Grand Jury Report (which was directly contradicted by more objective accounts).
One revised scene in which I did not object to taking "dramatic license" was that of depicting the immdiate aftermathc of the shootings. Those guardsmen who fired their weapons would be shown taking off their gas masks. In actuality, the troops did not remove their masks.
The purpose of this quick cut to the guardsmen's faces was to show the audience that most of those who shot were older soldiers. Because of the myth that panicked, neophyte guardsmen had done the shooting, and because of the script's emphasis on the younger troops' emotional turmoil, I was convinced that the audience would come away from the movie believing that what had happened was merely tragic.
The guardsmen at Kent State had just come from patrolling the picket line at a tricker's strike, where they had been shot at. It did not seem unreasonable, therefore, to speculate that younger troops, terrified by their life-threatening experiences at the strike, got scared and angered by "a bunch of hippies" against whom they overreacted. But evidence from the trials show that it was primarily older guardsmen who turned and shot.
Initially the script had contained no "older" guardsmen displaying the anti-student attitudes which prevailed in 1970, according to interviews and letters to the editor among many of the troops at Kent State. Everyone on the production concurred on the importance of having this view expressed, and, John Aquino from New York was selected to play "Luke" the hard line guardsman. The record was clear that a guardsman had deliberately shot a student who was already wounded on the ground. It was not a matter of playing favorites, just a matter of presenting the attitudes and values of the people involved.
As interior shooting got underway at Jacksonville State, Max and Micheline, and Phil learned that the production would have to absorb additional costs, since the Alabama National Guard decided not to provide any equipment for the filming. A National Guard official explained that the Pentagon had issued a directive the previous October which prohibited the use of Defense Department equipment for movie making. The theatrical movie Final Countdown, which was released just before I left for Gadsden, had been filmed entirely aboard a U.S. Navy ship, however. In any event, Max and Micheline were forced to purchase all military equipment needed for Kent State: jeeps, scats, trucks, and personnel carriers-over $75,000 worth. At about this tiem the producers also learned that Oio authorities were attemptin to scuttle the Alabama shoot. Pressure to disrupt production was exposed in an Akron Beacon Journalarticle about one of the extras, John Basnett, a former Ohio National Guardsman, now working for Goodyear in Gadsden and serving in the Alabama Guard.
Guardsman at KSU to Act in Film Despite Threat
By Peter Geiger
Beacon Journal staff writer
A former Ohio National Guardsman who was on the Kent State University campus the day four students were shot in 1970 has been threatened with discharge from the Alabama National Guard in which he currently serves if he takes part in a movie about the tragedy now being shot in Alabama.
John Basnet, 35, an Akron native now living in Gadsden, Ala., said he will disregard the orders of his commanding officer and work for the film. He said he hopes his participation will help assure the film's accuracy.
Basnett was a truck driver for the Second Batallion of the 107th Armed Cavalry formerly based in Barberton. His unit arrived on the Kent State campus May 4, 1970, just after the four students were shot by other Ohion National Guardsmen.
"Recently there was an advertisement in the (Gadsden) paper for extras in amovie about the Kent State shootings," Basnett said. "They wanted people with northern accents. I applied and when I told them I'd been an Ohio National Guardsman on the Kent State campus the day of the shootings they hired me."
Basnett was signed up July 25 for a film rol as an Ohio National Guardsman by the Gadsden office of the Alabama State Employment Bureau, which did local hiring for the NBC crew filming the TV documentary-drama. Production is scheduled to start Monday mornign on the campus of Gadsden Junior College.
Kent State University officials last June turned down NBC's request to film the TV program on the Kent State campus.
Last Sunday at his unit's annual summer camp in Camp Shelby, Miss., Basnett was summoned ot the ofice of Col. Eugene S. Burnham of Jacksonville, Ala., the commanding officer of the First Headquarters Batallion, 152nd Armored Division. He was told he'd be discharged from the National Guard is he took part in the filming.
In a phone interview, Col. Burnham told the Beacon Journal, "Most likel, the story the film will portray will not be what actually happened. That film is going to do nothing in the world but run the National Guard into the ground. The fim makers are only interested in money."
Col. Burnham said in threatening to discharge Basnett that he was following the orders of Alabama Adjutant Ge. Henry Cobb of Birmingham. Gen. Cobb was not available for comment.
"General Cobb asked me, 'Are y'all foolin' with that movie?'" Col. Burnham reported. "I told him, 'No, sir.' He said, 'Well, if anybody does, just discharge him.'"
Col. Burnham said he gave Basnett a choice: "He can stay in the Guard or go in the movies." The colonel said he did not know what grounds would be posted for Basnett's discharge, "But it would be an honorable discharge. There's no question in my mind about that."
Both Col. Burnham and Basnett's first sergeant, Paul Stapleton of Gadsden, described the former Akronite's reputation as "good." Stapleton said, "He is a very reasonable person. Frankly, I'm surprised (at the threat of discharge), though I suggested he talk to Colonel Burnham. I didn't know the legal ramifications."
Basnett said he called Sgt. Stapleton to inform him as soon as he got the film assignment. "I wanted to be sure there'd be no problem and I was told there was none," he said.
The Ex-Ohioan, who holds an E-5 Guard rating, has 15 years' service, all but 2 1/2 years in the Ohio National Guard. He said he wants to stay in the Guard for its retirement benefits at the end of 20 years.
"I don't think they're being fair," Basnett said.
Neither Sgt. Stapleton, who said he was "afraid the film will slur the National Guard," nor Col. Burnham has seen a script of the movie. Basnett said he talked to a film crew member who assured him "it shows both sides, the students' and the Guard's."
Basnett added, "I told the colonel I don't want any part of this if it makes the National Guard look bad. I figure my being there will hel keep things straight.
"A woman from NBC asked if I had killed anybody," Basnett reported. "I said I hadn't and she wanted to know my opinion of what happened. I blamed it on outside agitators."
Col. Burnham's version of that exchange was that Basnett had told him he was asked, "How many people did you murder?" The colonel cited the qustion as confirmation of his fear that the film would be anti-Guard.
Basnett went to work for Goodyear in 1965 and was transferred to the firm's Gadsden plant as a tire inspector in early 1978. He transferred his National Guard rank and tenure as well.
Since Jan. 24, he has been on disability leave from his job with contact dermatitis, a severe rash caused by rubber chemicals.
Married, he is the father of a son, Bill, 11, and a daughter, Leslie, 13. Basnett said he could use the money from the film: $25 a day plus $359 per world if he gets a small speaking role. He has not been told what his role will be.
Though he has been told he'll be "dischrged immediately" if he works for the film, Basnett told the Beacon Journal he'll report for work on the set Monday morning.
"I just don't believe they have the right to take away my freedom," Basnett said.
After the Basnett story broke on the wire services, the production temporarily drew national press attention. The Alabama Guard eventually gave Basnett "permission" to work as an extra. The official explanation was that he had misunderstood his conversation with Col. Burnham. Others believed that the Alabama Guard changed its position due to the negative publicity it suffered on the issue. To his surprise, Basnett was earlier greeted with a standind ovation from his fellow workers during a lunch break at the Goodyear Plant after he had decided to continue in the movie.
With the filming of the May 4 shooting scne fast approaching, Dick Shippy, on location getting a story for the Arkron Beacon Journal, mentioned something that had been bothering me also: too much graffiti on the set. Everything was covered with spray-painted slogans. I had never seen many of the messages in the photos of Kent State. It was clearly overdone and I wanted to remove as much of it as possible prior to the shooting.
The response to my suggestions was "no" because it would cost too much ($5000) and there wasn't time to repaint "Taylor Hall." I offered to cover the slogans myself during lunch. Phillip and Max ultimately agreed that there was too much graffiti and assured me that it would be painted over before the Taylor Hall scenes were shot. It was, except more such slogans had been added to the opposite building. I again protested, and after several discussions, these slogans, too, were removed. Nonetheless, spray painted graffiti continued to appear around campus for the rest of the production to a much greater extent than had been the case at Kent State.
Suddenly it was time to film the lethal shooting sequence. The crowd of onlookers
grew. The situation was disconcerting to many and made them uncomfortable.
John Filo had come to Gadsden to reenact shooting of his Pulitzer Prize winning shot of a shocked Mary Vecchio screaming over the body of Jeff Miller. During his stay on the set, John commented on how eerie it was to see the scene re-created. He also told of an interesting occurrence, about which I had not previously known. As John took his photos of Jeff Miller a group of Guardsmen surrounded the body. Several students screamed at them "Murderers" and other names. When one of the guardsmen put his boot under Jeff's shoulder and flipped over his body to inspect the massive head wound, the horrible sight caused the students to rush forward to cover the wound with cloth. A guardsman's gun went off and bullets struck the pavement near Jeff's body. As the soldiers then walked away from the body, one turned around and threw a M-60 practice grenade over the heads of those gathered around Miller's body. It exploded and injured several students as plastic fragments spread throughout the area.
Filo, very shaken by what he had witnessed, requested that we add such a scene to the script. I had noticed in my research of the incident, taht some of the pictures show Miller lying on his stomach while others, notably the Newsweek photo, show him turned over on his back. Filo's story explained why. I approached Max and Micheline and told them the story John had told to me and other members of the cast. The story was also conveyed to the producers. The decision was that the scene in the movie would not be so depicted because that would not be "balanced." Instead, the movie shows a guardsman who attempts to turn over Miller's body, being stopped by a student. concurrently, another guardsman in the group pulls off his mask and displays his shocked emotion at the grotesque spectacle.
When this scene was shot according to the script rather than as Filo had sugested, many of the actors became apprehensive that Kent State was an attempt to "whitewash" the incident. "Balance" seemed to mean making the situaiton look better for the Guard. I, too, was frustrated that the scene was not being played out as an eyewitness had remembered it.
In the sequencesjust before the shooting scene one inaccuracy particularly bothered me; a flag-waving protestor advances to within a short distance of the troops. But the photographs demonstrate that there was a vast distance between the students and the guardsmen throughout the march. I feared that showing the student so close to the Guard during the march up Blanket Hill would suggest that the students were asking for it.
Granted, students in the film wre not depicted as using the four-letter words which the Portage County Grand Jury Report had indicated wre "not alone" reason for shooitng (thus, implying that they could be very important contributing factors), but the students, in almost every other sense were portrayed accurately. Guardsmen, universiyt officials, and Kent city administrators and officers on the other hand were played more sympathetically. My ojbection was with "dramatic license" which produced overly sentimental portrayals. My goal was to ensure that accurate performances were prevalent among all groups.
Ironically, as we neared the completion of the shoot, confusion on the set was increasing just as it had during the weekend of May 1-4, 1970 at Kent State University. We prepared to film the ROTC building fire scene. One critical issue was the placement of the students; how close to the building would they be located. The argument was resolved when the force of the fire, which raged out of control and destroyed the entire set, drove the cast and crew far back from the locations from which they were to have shot. Three days and several thousand dollars later, the ROTC replica had been rebuilt. Filming resumed with the cast and crew somewhat removed from their previous spots.
Evaluations of the historical accuracy of Kent State which is contingent upon decisions in the editing room, is, of course, the prerogative of others. The project was punctuated with healthy disagreements as to how much dramatic license had to be employed, and at what points, to keep the audience interested. I am satisfied that every effort was made to expose the producers, director, and writer to the facts about what happened at Kent State in 1970. The real test of the film is the type of reaction Kent State generates from its audience.
Memories of '80
Based on Kent State: What Happened and Why
By James A. Michener
The Kent State Coverup
By Joseph Kelner and James Munves
and the MAYDAY: Kent State research of Dr. J. Gregory Payne
"Kent State" a four hour, two part drama on the NBC Television Network
Executive Producers Editor
Philip Barry Ed Biery
Max A. Keller Director of Photography
Micheline Keller Steve Larner
Executive in Charge of Production: Art Director
Bert Gold Tracy Bousman
Writers Set Decorator
Gerald Green Richard Kent
Richard Kramer Costumer
Director Jac McAnelly
Jim Goldstone Production Company
Associate Producer Inter Planetary Productions
Bert Gold and Osmond Communications
Historical Consultant Casting
Dr. J. Gregory Payne Kathy Talbert
Music Mary Colquhoun
Ken Lauber Mary Gaffney
Mitch du Pont
Sandy: Talia Balsam Officers: Gen. Canterbury
Wendy: Margaret Dirolf Pimply Boy: John Kellogg
Carol: Ellen Barkin Greg Stadler Major
Student Photographer: C. Murney Veteran: Michael Smith
Scooter: Steve Beauchamp Stuart Byham Captain
Veteran: Luke Reilly Sgt. Steinkamp: Barry Snider
Diane: Rikke Borge
Field Jacket: Douglas Moon
Paul: Mark Chamberlin
Allison: Jane Fleiss
Sharon: Anne Gillespie
Jeff: Keith Gordon
Gov. Rhodes: Jerome Dempsey
Tom: David Marshall Gov.'s Aide: Kenneth Raskin
Ted: John Getz Gov. Officials: Mayor Satrom
Barry: Charley Lang Sgt. Wilcox: Ernie W. Brown
Jean: Roxanne Hart Plaid Shirt: Richard Reiner
Bill: Jeff McCracken Black Student: David Joseph Taylor
Glenn: Michael Higgins Student Hit by Rock: David Greenfield
Robbie: Peter Miner Mayor Satrom: George Coe
Carl Harnack: Wallace Wilkinson Gardener: James N. Florer
Peter: Will Patton Pr. Warren: Shepperd Strudwick Pete
Merle G. Cain: Mrs. Scheuer
Pres. White: Bill Moses
Radical I: Mark Soper Luke: Marilyn Chris
Radical II: Edwin Abernathy Aide: Ed Crick
John Aquino: Ron Kane Pres.'s Secretary: Mary McEvoy
Buffy: Gretchen West University Professor: James G. Payne
Highway Patrol Major: Richard Kusyk
Spray Paint Girl:Betsy Banks Harper
Glenn: Michael Higgins
Wesley: J. Don Ferguson
Duke: Daniel Aguar Newsman #1: Enlisted Guard
Harlan: Carl Spurlock Newsman #2: Frederick Allen
Sharon: Ann Gillespie Newsman #3: Josh Clark
Cody: Gary Lee Love Newsman #4: Gregory Payne
Chip: Dave Vande Brake Fireman: Lenny Von Dohlen
Michael Horton: Cal Colonel: Harry Howell
Tom: David Marshall Grant Campus Policeman I: Paul Looney
Anthony Weaver Lt. II: Bill Wenger Campus Policeman II: Jerry Rushing
Chris: Merle Conaway Ambulance Attendant: Wallace Merck
Brian Oakes Rick Dickerson Mike Bodine Mark Garner
Dennis Lindsey Hal Glasgow Allen Tuck Phillip Dye
Harold Kofed John Bassnett Paul Joiner James G. Payne
David Dobbs Gary Boggs Chip Carroll Mike Williams
Gary Knight Alan Sutton Tom Norton Keith Dougherty
Pat Kelley Mike Hall James Waddel Danny Summerford
Key Radicals/Students Kent City Administrators/
Julie Gant Newsmen/Governor's Aides
Phillip Wilson David Kelly
Wayne Beasley Tommy Ford
Dale Leonard Steve Means
John Chambless Ken Elkins
Cindy Lucas C. C. Davis
Gilbert Cox Tommy Morgan
David Chambless Keith Grey
Kent City Police
Bennett Whaley, Edmund P. Kaminski, William I. Gorden and D. Ray Heisey, “Docudrama From Different Temporal Perspectives: Reactions to NBC’s ‘Kent State'” Journal of Broadcasting 24, no. 3 (Summer 1983): pp. 285-289.