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Dawning of the Light Fantastic
Written September 23, 2013


“You know what?  We ought to make a movie — here — at Oberlin.”

“Be serious.”

Those are the only words that accompany five pictures (reproduced below) on pages 76-77 of the 1965 edition of the Oberlin College yearbook, the Hi-O-Hi.

I discovered the photo spread last week after I received an e-mail from a fellow Oberlin alumnus, Stuart Rubinow ’65, a psychology major from Norwalk, Ohio.  His senior picture is at the right.

Stu sets the record straight about the aforementioned motion picture.  I’ll let him tell the story.

Dear T2,

[Don't even ask how I happened to end up at your website.]

RE: your entry 6/14/12 "Hollywood on the Plum", an elaboration and correction about Fantasticheria...

1)  It was originally to be called The Light Fantastic, but it turned out a Hollywood studio had the rights to that title and wouldn't relinquish them.

2)  The film had nothing to do with the Obie communications department, it was a student undertaking completely independent of the college and only with effort tolerated by it. Here's how it came about:

One night in 1964 a bunch of guys were sitting around after too many beers (your Humble Correspondent was one of them). We realized that in the group was a good writer (my roommate), a director who I think had worked on a couple of commercials, a superb still photographer who knew something about movie cameras, a couple of pretty good actors (Including yHC).

In our beery haze the thought spontaneously emerged "Wouldn't it be cool for us to make a movie?" Unlike other beery thoughts, we didn't let go of this one.

3)  Then the fun began. After Phil wrote the script we had to get permission from Obie to film on campus.

After LONG negotiation they let us film in college buildings, but only when they weren't being used for college purposes.

So our indoor filming schedule was pretty much 9:00pm to 2:00 or 3:00am, with curtains always drawn so no one could tell it was night.

We shot in Finney Chapel, and the Student Union, and Dascomb, and Tappan Square, and Severance, and King etc etc.

For one scene we needed to have eight motorcycles roar through the lobby of the (pre-Mudd) library — you can't imagine what we went through with the college librarian to get that approval.

4)  Mark, through contacts, got a professional Arriflex camera and blimp to use for virtually no money. It's like the Ferrari of movie cameras, and he'd never driven one before, but he figured it out.

5)  As it became clear that we were actually going to do this, the campus sort of got caught up in movie fever.

I don't remember how we raised the funds to make it, but a number of faculty and administration sneaked us money under the table, all saying "If you tell ANYONE about this I'll kill you."

6)  The premiere was in Hall Auditorium at midnight. Our plan was for a Hollywood send-up with the cast arriving in a hearse, getting out onto a red carpet, all of us blowing kisses to the crowd and signing autographs...I no longer remember if that actually happened. But the crowds went wild.

And that, as Paul Harvey would say, is the rest of the story.

Except for this bit of trivia:  Stu notes that he and I, as freshmen four years apart, both had our dwellings in the third-floor center section of the freshman dormitory Burton Hall!

His tale parallels in many ways the story of the start of WOBC that I related in my article Behind Grey Gables.  A few Oberlin enthusiasts realize it would be cool to do something, decide to actually go for it, beg and borrow equipment and money, and negotiate with a reluctant college administration for permission (although individual faculty and administration members share their enthusiasm).  Eventually the whole campus catches the fever.  We're going to have our very own radio station, I mean motion picture!

Here’s to ambitious ideas.



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