When tinseltown thriller put Hudson on map

HUDSON–The movie “Odds Against Tomorrow”, filmed partly in Hudson in 1959, played again at the Hudson Area Library June 28. The film, which depicts a bank robbery attempt by a racially integrated trio, stars Harry Belafonte, Ed Begley, Robert Ryan, Shelley Winters, Gloria Graham, and Cicely Tyson.

To add to the movie atmosphere, the event included a concession stand, run by library regular Pierre Rice, selling popcorn, malted milk balls, Coca Cola, Dr. Pepper, root beer and other refreshments. Historical researcher John Craig sold tickets.

The well-attended event began with Kelly Drahushuk, a member of the library’s History Room Committee and co-owner of the Spotty Dog Books and Ale in Hudson, explaining that after watching “Odds Against Tomorrow” she proposed to the committee that they show it to the public in Hudson. The project was then directed to local film-maker David McDonald.

Mr. McDonald told the audience he “became aware of the film three years ago,” prepared it for showing with the help of a grant from the state Council on the Arts, and during the preparation “kept running into people” in Hudson with connections to the movie. He called the movie “a metaphor for both racial discrimination and the Cold War” and said those involved making it in 1959 “considered it political.”

The June 28 showing began with a prologue Mr. McDonald had added that mixes black-and-white film snippets inspired by advertising trailers, with scenes of Hudson’s early history and scenes of Hudson today in color. It includes Dennis McEvoy, a lawyer and head of Rogerson’s Hardware, showing a 1959 local newspaper headline about the crowds generated by Mr. Begley’s presence. It also includes an African-American man saying he had waited a long time for a movie where “a black man stands up to a white man.”

The movie is in black-and-white and Hudson is called “Melton.” It provides brief flashes of Hudson’s pre-urban renewal residential/commercial riverfront section and longer scenes from its then-industrial section and its still-surviving commercial area. The area’s buildings are recognizable today though they are occupied by different businesses—with few exceptions. One exception is the crime site; the building still houses a bank, albeit a different bank–Berkshire–today.

The audience included some people for whom the movie was significant. One is John Fiero. He recalled the day in 1959 when he was 11 and he and another boy were walking up State Street. They saw a crowd of people lined up in front of the Armory (now the library building), and decided to find out what was going on. They ended up in the building, where Robert Wise was telling the crowd he was looking for extras to play parts in a movie he was directing with scenes in Hudson. The boys gave their names and phone numbers.

The next night, Mr. Fiero was already asleep when his mother woke him up with the news that he had just gotten a phone call from “Hollywood.” That very night he and his 9-year-old cousin Billy went to the sidewalk, where they played two little boys with squirt guns under Mr. Wise’s direction. They did all their acting work that one night and ended up in the movie. This established them as movie extras.

Since “Odds Against Tomorrow”, Mr. Fiero has acted as an extra in five other films, both Hollywood and independent, the last one in 2013, when he was in his mid-60s. Mr. Fiero has lived in Hudson all his life and held a variety of jobs in the area.

Also in the June 28 audience, a woman was overheard saying she played an extra in a soda shop with one speaking line, and a man wearing a NY Yankees cap was overheard saying he was working in the St. Charles Hotel as a clerk/bellhop when the movie was being made and “all these folks stayed there” who were working on the film.

Mr. McDonald said although his attempt to have Mr. Belafonte at the showing was unsuccessful, it would be great “if any of you can lure him… to Hudson.”

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