Fair Marquee Value

I expressed my surprise to a friend a few years ago, that no one had made a movie about the life of Thomas Lovewell back in the 1950’s, when about every third movie released to theaters seemed to be a Western.  Surely they were running out of story ideas.

“Who would have played Tom?” she asked.

I puzzled over that one for a moment.

“Oh.  I’ve got it.  Jimmy Stewart.”

“Um, yeah,” she agreed.  “He’d work.  Lanky and likable.  Too bad he’s gone now.  I can’t think of anybody who’d fit the role these days.”

Since we had that conversation, the idea of casting has popped into my head from time to time, especially as new pictures have surfaced of the Lovewells and Davises in Kansas.  The photographs show that a few family members did bear some resemblance to well-known actors.

Brad Pitt as Thomas Lovewell?  I wouldn’t have thought so a few years ago, even though Thomas was about the same height as Pitt, and was also blond and youthful-looking.  Young Brad might not have worked so well, but as he’s aged, he’s perfected the art of projecting affability mixed with steely resolve.  I’m surprised to say he'd be a good match to play Thomas Lovewell, in my book.

We have no pictures of Orel Jane Lovewell in her prime, only a couple of views of a grim matriarch, the part she had grown into by the age of 70, so I’ve used her granddaughter Rhoda’s sophomore yearbook photo as a stand-in.  Orel Jane had narrow eyes, a longish nose, thin mouth, and a rather manly chin, a catalog of features that might not sound promising, yet she was said to be a strikingly lovely girl.  The description also suits Laura Dern, who, while not a classic beauty, can certainly light up the screen.  She’s also perfect for the part of a girl who could make you happy, the one who won’t break your heart.

For Daniel Davis, a friendly bear of a man who also had to exude the authority of a preacher and a lawman, I’d pick Bruce McGill.  Besides having the necessary prerequisites, Bruce has already immortalized another Daniel, Daniel Simpson Day in “Animal House.”

In the two pictures I have of Daniel Davis's wife Duranda, it’s obvious that she was one frontier gal who liked to get dolled-up on the weekends.  I can see Swoosie Kurtz of “Mike and Molly" as the housewife who dived under a bed as Indians approached her cabin.

There should be a movie about the Lovewells in Kansas, if only so we could watch another man known by his initials, J. K. Simmons, play Prof. J. T. Lovewell, the "Professor Proton" of his day.  Simmons already knows how to make science look interesting in the Farmers Insurance ads.

When a critic described Marguerite Lovewell as “unusually pretty,” I think he meant to convey what we sometimes call “exotic beauty.”  She not only looks nice; she looks like she's not from around here.  I’ve always wanted to see a picture of her mother, Caroline Forbes Barnes Lovewell, but can’t seem to locate one.  I’d like to know what combination of genes enabled the sepulchral Professor Lovewell to produce a daughter the likes of Marguerite, unless she was left on the stoop by gypsies.  Anyway, Mila Kunis gets my nod as the hopeful young operatic soprano.

There.  Now, when I write about the folks on the left, just picture the ones on the right, and we’re in business.  That’s sort of what moviemaking is like, except without the film.       

© Dale Switzer 2023  dale@lovewellhistory.com