Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Big Event for Hudson in 1956

Bruce Bohnsack has done all of us local history hacks a great service by making the photographs of Howard Gibson--historic photos he collected and photos he, a professional photographer, took himself--available online. Over the weekend, one of those photographs inspired Bruce Mitchinson to do some research, which he shared with me and agreed to let me share on Gossips

Below is the picture that inspired Mitchinson, taken at the train station on August 1, 1956. According to the label accompanying the photograph, the crowd was waiting for actors and guests to arrive for the world premiere of the film Walk the Proud Land, starring Audie Murphy and Anne Bancroft.
Curious to know why the movie premiered in Hudson, Mitchinson discovered that Walk the Proud Land was about John Philip Clum (1851-1932), who was born and raised on a farm in Claverack, graduated from the Hudson River Institute (Claverack College) and Rutgers College, joined the U.S. Army Signal Corps, and was appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1874 to be an Indian agent for the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation in the Arizona Territory. The movie was about Clum's experiences as an Indian agent, which included outwitting and capturing Chief Geronimo, played in the movie by Jay Silverheels, best known for playing the Lone Ranger's faithful Indian companion, Tonto. The following picture of Clum appeared in the Chatham Courier on July 19, 1956, accompanying an article announcing the world premiere of the film. It shows Clum, at the age of 25, with two Apache scouts.

Notwithstanding Clum's fascinating life (his biographies at AccessGeneaolgy and Wikipedia are recommended reading), my interest was in the event here in Hudson. Turning to my favorite resource,, I found an article that appeared in the Albany Knickerbocker News on the day after the premiere. The article carried a headline that spanned the width of the page and read: "Film Figures, Indians, Bands Enliven Hudson Premiere." What follows are excerpts from the article.
The big news today is of "Clum-bia" County as thousands relaxed and looked back upon the import of Hudson's first world premiere of a motion picture yesterday, "Walk the Proud Land," the story of John Philip Clum of Claverack. . . . 
A day-long series of activities marking the premiere brought cowboys, Indians, movie personalities, public officials, newsreel cameramen by the car and bus load into Hudson, swelling the city of 12,000 into a carnival of excitement.
Weeks of preparation resulted in Hudson being decorated at all points with posters, bunting and banners. The first highlight of the day came at noon as Hudson residents assembled at the railroad station to welcome Carol Morris, recently named Miss Universe. . . . 
A delegation of Indians came 80 miles from Totem Indian Village, north of Cooperstown. Chief John Big Tree, 80, whose profile is part of a composite used to pattern the "Buffalo Nickel," said Mr. Clum is highly regarded by Indians. . . .
A man at the station who was waiting for a train to Syracuse asked, "What is happening?" Apparently he was the only one who didn't know, and when Miss Universe stepped from her train they all felt it was an event worth waiting for.
She was engulfed by a swarm of autograph seekers but finally worked her way with the help of Hudson police to a waiting red convertible which took her in a parade to the center of town. A Hudson housewife was overheard commenting on the new beauty winner: "I was as close to her as I am to you, and she certainly is a sweet girl--so natural looking."
The [Hudson High School] band left the station playing "Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here." When they reached the city square it had changed to "The Saints Go Marching In."
A score or more of cameramen and reporters competed with spectators to watch Miss Universe, Mayor [John L.] Kelly, Clarence W. Miller, Claverack supervisor, and other dignitaries as they hailed the movie and its hero, Mr. Clum. . . . 
After the speeches were over, the group went by motorcade to neighboring Claverack where a monument honoring Mr. Clum was dedicated. Following this, a luncheon was served at the Hudson Fish and Game Club. . . .
After lunch, Indian dancers put on tribal ceremony in which Miss Universe became an honorary Indian. At that point, a new celebrity, Charles Drake, made his appearance. He is featured in the movie in the role of Tom Sweeney, an Army sergeant. . . .
"Walk the Proud Land" stars Audie Murphy, but Mr. Murphy was unable to attend the premiere because he is working on a new movie being filmed in Toyko. . . .
The following picture, showing Mayor Kelly, Miss Universe Carol Morris, and F. J. A. McCarthy, assistant general sales manager for Universal-International, accompanied the article in the Knickerbocker News.

The Knickerbocker News Photo
According to the Knickerbocker News article, the movie had to be shown twice because tickets for the premiere had been sold out for weeks in advance. Walk the Proud Land was shown at the Community Theater, now the abandoned future site of the Marina Abramovic Institute, which, when it was a movie house, seated 1,513.



  1. Fascinating article. Thanks for picking up where I left off to complete, as usual,an interesting account of another historical event in our city. Excellent "Gossips" touch. Thanks again.

  2. Thank you for sharing! I grew up in Claverack. Many movie memories in that building!

  3. Great article. Carol-- does anyone know the current plans for the theater building now that Marina has abandoned her plans. Is it for sale yet? (Hopefully someone can purchase and stabilize before it collapses)