people of Fredericksburg
and Gillespie County
were thrilled when they heard that Hollywood was coming to make a
movie in the spring of 1970. Their hill
country home was among the most picturesque places on earth. It
was high time the rest of the world found out about it.
Producer/Director Larry Buchanan chose Gillespie
County for his film, Strawberries Need Rain, because the
German Hill Country looked like Sweden. Buchanan was a fan of iconic
Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman.
Director Buchanan milked the Bergman connection for all it was worth.
Texas Monthly Magazine called Buchanan's film a "sensitive
Bergmanesque drama." Buchanan allegedly talked some Dallas
theater owners into advertising the movie as a Bergman film in hopes
that more people would see it.
Of course most Texans, myself included, didn't share Hollywood's fascination
with Ingmar Bergman. If John Wayne's not in it, I'm not interested.
Larry Buchanan was known for writing, producing and directing low
budget blockbusters such as It's Alive (under the name Larry
Cohen) and Creatures of Destruction. He made many films for
less than $30,000 - far less than the cost of a modern day 30 second
The cast and crew of Strawberries Need Rain arrived in Fredericksburg
on April 4, 1970. The biggest star of the movie was Les Tremayne -
a well-respected English radio and movie actor who previously had
roles in The Fortune Cookie, Girl Happy with Elvis Presley
and Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest.
By the next afternoon the crew had transformed the area behind the
County Courthouse into a movie set. As cameras rolled, Felix Pehl's
Old Time Band played music on the gazebo. Extras included members
of the community theater group and 14 Mormon missionaries who were
passing through town. Even people walking down the street got caught
up in the hoopla.
The crew filmed other scenes at the Pioneer Museum, Vereins Kirche,
Cross Mountain, City Cemetery, Doss
and Lange's Mill. Doss
students and teachers appeared as extras.
Les Tremayne played the grim reaper. Actress Monica Gayle played a
young girl with one day to live.
Trailers described the movie as "a sensitive, sensual film." As for
the plot, let's just say the word "sensual" should have been a red
flag and leave it at that.
Need Rain Movie Poster
Need Rain opened at the Palace
Theater in Fredericksburg
on February 4, 1973. Opening night was a sellout.
The crowd cheered when the movie began, but the excitement faded
Just about everyone agreed it was an awful picture. The script was
sophomoric. The acting was terrible. Once critic said Les Tremayne
looked "tired and embarrassing."
The Fredericksburg Standard pulled no punches. "Strawberries
Need Rain Not Worth Seeing," read the headline. The only good
thing about the movie was the scenery. The actors looked and acted
like they "had been picked up on a street corner."
But it was nude scenes that shocked viewers. Fredericksburg felt
betrayed - hoodwinked by Hollywood.
The Fredericksburg Standard described the "pornographic scenes"
in the R-rated film as some of the "rankest sever seen by many locals."
Opinions from moviegoers ranged from "anger to outrage."
learned a tough lesson. The town would ask a lot more questions
"We have an idea," said an article in the Standard, "that
the next group of movie making folks that come to Fredericksburg
will not receive the same type of cooperation extended the group
that filmed this one."
The film did spark an interesting debate. Many citizens expressed
a belief that nude scenes in movies lead to promiscuous behavior
while others noted that the same folks who complained about nudity
had no objections to horrific depictions of violence and bloodshed
on the big screen.
One young man from Fredericksburg
wrote "I believe it is a sad reflection on the values in our society
when an occasional 'R' rated movie is frowned upon and scandalized
while a host of bloody epics go unannounced at the Saturday matinee."
Something to think about it light of recent events.
| © Michael
March 1, 2018 Column
"Filming of Full Length Movie Underway in City," Fredericksburg
Standard, April 8. 1970.
"Les Tremayne Admirers Recall Radio Programs," Fredericksburg Standard,
April 15, 1970.
"Doss News," Mason County News, April 30, 1970.
"Strawberries Need Rain Not Worth seeing," Fredericksburg Standard,
February 7, 1973.
"Letters to the Editor," Fredericksburg Standard, February 14, 1973.