Special/Signature Issues » 30th Anniversary Issue

Before we were Lincoln.


Anticipation builds for Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" release next month. But residents were especially star-struck in 1983, when Virginia began to actively court the film industry. For seven weeks during that summer, hundreds of Richmonders were extras in a made-for-TV miniseries, "Kennedy," starring Martin Sheen as the president (years before he played another president on "The West Wing") and Blair Brown as Jackie. Actor E.G. Marshall played Joseph Kennedy; John Shea was Bobby Kennedy and Kelsey Grammer played brother-in-law Stephen Smith.

But local celebrities also had parts. As Style reported in November 1983 (the publication was monthly at the time) that Pam Reynolds (arts leader), Ann Carneal (floral designer), Dale Mercer (Richmond socialite and the mother of New York socialite Tinsley Mercer Mortimer), George Bryson (Miller & Rhoads department store executive) and gallery owner Bev Reynolds) were among the extras.

Style reported in June 1984 that Mary Tyler Moore had been cast in "Finnegan, Begin Again" which was filmed here later that summer. Robert Preston and Sam Waterston joined the cast. Viewing the film today provides a startling time capsule of how shabby downtown Richmond looked in the early 1980s, especially East Broad Street, the 17th Street Farmers' Market and the yet to be restored Main Street Station.

In November 1987 Style wrote that actor Sam Waterston and his son "created a stir" when they appeared at Sunday morning services at St. Paul's Episcopal Church downtown. He played Abraham Lincoln in the miniseries "Lincoln," based on a Gore Vidal book, which was filming in Richmond. During the Civil War years, it was Confederate President Jefferson Davis who was worshipping at St. Paul's the same day Richmond was evacuated in 1865. Mary Tyler Moore played Mary Todd Lincoln in the televison series with John Houseman and Ruby Dee in other parts. Richmonders were received acting credits included Bev Appleton, Dick Cheatham, Helen Jervey and Tom Width.

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