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June 29, 2014

Former Downton Star Dan Stevens Goes Bad


First he lost all that weight. Then he moved to America. Now the man formerly known as Downton Abbey’s Matthew Crawley is brandishing a gun.
But don’t worry, it’s all for his new movie, indie chiller ‘The Guest’, in which Dan plays a soldier who shows up at the door of a family claiming to be friends with their late son, who died in combat.  They welcome him in, but then people start dying. Is he the culprit, or is there something more mysterious going on?
Already receiving good buzz in the States, the film comes from the people behind cult horror movie ‘You’re Next’.It shows just how far Stevens has come from his days on ‘Downton’. This year will also see him starring alongside Liam Neeson in ‘A Walk Among The Tombstones’ and he is currently filming the next ‘Night At The Museum’ sequel with Ben Stiller.
Still, ‘The Guest’ threatens to be the kind of movie which really acts as his breakthrough, showing off his acting range while putting dynamite under the assumption that he is will carry on playing roles similar to Matthew Crawley.
You can decide whether he pulls it off from 5 September.
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June 24, 2014

The Cokeville Miracle




The Cokeville Miracle - More Than A Paragraph


That was about it. I thought that was basically the story. But after spending two days on the set of T.C. Christensen's new film 'The Cokeville Miracle", Oh.....how wrong I was. I had summed up the story in one paragraph. Which is kind of like saying the story of Snow White is: I first heard about the Cokeville Hostages as a young teenage girl.  I remember hearing something about it on the news and then a few times here and there over the years I would hear similar versions of the story at church and even at girls camp. 
 


It was one of the faith building tales I was familiar with although I didn't seem to really know many details.  This was probably due to the fact that I was a 13 year old girl who typically stored information depending on how it concerned or directly impacted my life. It's a teenage thing.  My version was short and simple with not many details. I had it tucked away in my mind in the 'Cool Story' section.   Then last week I got a call that changed things. 

I had been given the opportunity to write about a film that was being made about the Cokeville Hostage incident. As my sister and  I drove the hour from my house to a school in Layton to get a behind-the-scenes look at  T.C. Christensen's ( Ephraim's Rescue, 17 Miracles, Work and the Glory) new film  'The Cokeville Miracle" we went over the story I thought I knew:
Back in the 80's, in a small town in Wyoming, a crazy husband and wife went to a school and took a ton of kids and their teachers hostage.  There was a bomb and it went off but only the bad guys died. There were prayers offered.  A couple of children in the room claimed they saw angels.  Some people called those who survived that fateful day back in 1986 lucky.  Others believe it was a miracle.  Either way, cool story. The End.  
That was about it.  I thought that was basically the story.  But after spending two days on the set of T.C. Christensen's new film 'The Cokeville Miracle",  Oh.....how wrong I was.  I had summed up the story in one paragraph.  Which is kind of like saying the story of  Snow White is:  

Why would anyone leave out the part about Snow living with 7 dwarfs or her ability to talk to animals?  How about the fact that Snow used to live in a castle and although the girl can sing, when talking normally, she sounds like a chipmunk?  What about the evil step mother or the huntsman she sends to find Snow White?  Not even Walt Disney could tell a good story without all the details.  Who can say it was or wasn't a miracle without knowing the whole story?  So I set off to get the facts from the people who were actually there.

That was about it. I thought that was basically the story. But after spending two days on the set of T.C. Christensen's new film 'The Cokeville Miracle", Oh.....how wrong I was. I had summed up the story in one paragraph. Which is kind of like saying the story of Snow White is:
COKEVILLE ANNIVERSARY
The Cokeville School Hostage crisis took place on May 16, 1986 in Cokeville Wyoming.  David Young and his wife Doris entered the school with a bomb and took 136 students and 18 adults hostage for almost three hours. Teachers comforted students as best they could and they prayed together which was an annoyance to David Young. 

Parents, friends and people from town all prayed and comforted each other as they waited outside the school. Some children reported seeing angels in the classroom. Although the bomb did accidentally go off in that small classroom, none of the hostages were killed.  Doris was badly injured so David shot his wife and then himself.  There were children hurt and badly burned but they all survived.  Later bomb experts would say the had no explanation why the bomb didn't do incredible damage.  

Within moments of arriving on the set I was standing in a classroom trying to imagine over 100 kids and teachers packed inside. How could a bomb go off in such a small place but not kill children only an arms length away? So many things had been left out, overlooked or forgotten in the story I thought I knew.  In my mind, when all the blanks are filled in, it is hard to call what happened that day anything but a miracle. With every person I spoke to I became more aware that this film needed to be made by some one brave enough to do it the right way.   That is why I am glad T.C. Christensen, who has directed some of my favorite movies is at the helm.  This true story has been put in very capable hands.
  
I spoke to as many people as possible.  The producer, the gals in charge of makeup, the guy setting up all of the explosives, the crew and all the kids I talked to covered in grey soot - everyone felt lucky and grateful to be part of telling the real Cokeville story.  


After lunch we were quietly ushered into a classroom and seated on tiny little chairs. We listened as four survivors, who are now mothers and fathers themselves, shared their own personal account of what occurred that day.  It was obvious that as children they had shown great faith and here, many years later, I could  feel the strength of that faith fill the room from survivors speaking now as adults.  There was no doubt in their minds that they were more than just lucky that day.  

Kamron Wixom was one of the survivors I was able to meet and speak to over the two days. Kamron talked and shared his feelings with me while he was dressed as a paramedic. He told me all about what he had experienced but what really stuck in my mind was when he talked about 'the magic square' the teachers had made with masking tape on the floor, surrounding the bomb. The children had been told not to cross the square.  But he was a brave and curious young boy who dared to fly his toy airplane into that magic no-fly zone for just a second. Kamron said the look he got from David Young 'the scary man with the bomb' is something he will never forget.  

I got teary eyed many times that day but it was Lori's story the really hit me and left me an emotional wreck.  It's because we are both mothers.   Lori described the scene she had filmed the previous day.  She knelt down with others and prayed. Lori spent hours imagining what it must have been like to have her children taken hostage by a crazy man with a bomb.   A mother who felt so helpless when her child was in danger - that was the role she played.   A mother who could do nothing to help her children but pray.  She was acting out her own mother's story.  When Lori Conger spoke about being able to play a part in the movie of a mother who prays for her children, I felt every tear that ran down her face. Sometimes there is nothing you can do except pray, and this was one of those times.   But, sometimes, prayer is all you need. 
I spent two days asking questions, listening to answers and soaking in the facts, details, determination and faith of the people making the Cokeville story come to life.  Ron Tanner - the executive producer who must have heard the same stories a hundred times and still got tears in his eyes almost as much as I did.  Diane Cahoon - the principal of the school where they were filming, who I found standing alone in the hallway, leaning into the classroom where they had just finished filming the scene where the bomb goes off and the kids escape. We talked for a while but her face said it all.  It's the principal's job to safeguard children.  She couldn't imagine failing.


Assistant Director Bob Conder and I had a couple of great talks about many different things. 

Before I left for the day Bob wondered, "why has no one made a film out of this amazing story before now? It's such an incredible story!"  and I agreed.  It has always been an amazing story but now, because I know the whole story, I too believe miraculous things happened that day.  


The last interview was with T.C. himself.  His list of films and accomplishments is beyond impressive so I hoped to come across as professional as the reporter he talked to earlier. But, of course when I finally shook his hand all of the reporter-ish questions I had planned to ask him instantly left my brain.  Instead, I thanked him for his willingness to make the kind of films that inspire, uplift, give hope and strengthen the faith of others.  I thanked him for adding the details, especially when it involves faith.   He was kind, funny and took the time to speak to me.  A little blogger named June who thought she knew the story of the Cokeville Miracle,  but was wrong.  

Thank heavens for T.C. Christensen making a movie with all the details and facts my version was missing.  So much more than my one paragraph summation of the story that it fills a feature length film.  If what I saw, heard and experienced during those two days on the set is any indication of how "The Cokeville Miracle" movie will turn out, you wont want to miss it. "The Cokeville Miracle" is scheduled to be released early next year and I cannot wait to see the finished product.

Thinking back to Bob's question, I now know exactly why no one has turned the book into a film before.  This inspirational true story was patiently waiting to to be told by the right people.  And trust me, Director T.C. Christensen  and his team are the right people.  


T.C. Christensen - 
obviously super excited to meet Simply June










June 18, 2014

The Real Life Downton Abbey Marriage Scandal

  • -Marriage of officer and stage girl caused scandal during First World War
  • -Roland Winn had to leave Coldstream Guards after marrying 'a commoner'
  • -His bride, Evie Carew, was not recognised at court for years after marriage
  • -Now new details of the union have emerged ahead of radio show on couple
  • -Historians uncover records showing Miss Carew was sister of a miner
  • -Letters Lt Winn sent to his father show him pleading for approval

  • The marriage of aristocratic army officer Rowland George Winn (pictured) and stage-girl Evie Carew sent tremors through British high society

    Britain was the in the depths of war, and in the fields of Flanders, his Army comrades were fighting and all too often dying.
    But for Second Lt the Hon Rowland George Winn it was an affair of the heart which threatened to end his war: the Coldstream Guards officer was forced out of his regiment for marrying a 'chorus girl'.
    The love affair between the future Lord St Oswald and Evie Carew scandalised high society and seemed a timely distraction from the increasing sense of despair in 1915 for a nation which had thought the war would be 'over by Christmas'.
    Now fresh details of the 'scandal' - although Lt Winn would not have seen it that way - have emerged after the full background of Miss Carew were studied for an exhibition on the affair.

    The affair between Lt Winn and Miss Carew was certainly unlikely. 
    Lt Winn had been educated at Eton and Sandhurst before the war was sent into battle in August 1914 aged just 21. 
    The marriage of aristocratic army officer Rowland George Winn and stage-girl Evie Carew (pictured) sent tremors through British high societyHe was given a three-day 'coming of age' party at his family's huge estate before his departure for the front, at which 500 people were entertained for three days.
    He was one of the British Expeditionary Force sent to stop the German invasion of France against overwhelming odds - the British Army in total was a tenth the size of the German one, and was involved in a bloody rearguard action in which eventually it stopped the advance at Mons.
    In November 1914, his family wrongly received the tragic news that he had been killed in action after his name was listed among those of the dead. In fact he was wounded.
    But their grief was caused by a mistake by the War Department, which had wrongly categorised their son's injuries as a death.

  • What exactly happened next is unclear. What is known is that Evie was working as a chorus girl at a theatre, taking part in productions such as Gypsy Love and the Marriage Market.

    She had to work long hours, six days a week for low wages, although there was a glamorous side to the profession - meeting wealthy audience members. 
    It must have been there that they met - and in October 1915 they secretly married at St Saviour's Church in Paddington, west London.
    Shortly before the couple's wedding, members of his regiment had been involved in the Battle of Festubert, in which the British lost more than 16,000 men in an attack on German lines.
    Two months later the union ceased to be a secret, and was front-page news in a series of newspapers. It became known as the affair of the peer and the showgirl.
    Despite reports describing Miss Carew as 'one of the most beautiful and charming chorus girls on the London stage', the union was not received well by Winn's family or his regiment.
    The union caused a scandal in the newspapers of the time, as this cutting from the Daily Mirror shows

    Despite being embroiled in war, the perceived affront to the regiment's association with the royal household was said to make his position untenable.
    As part of the Guards Division, Coldstream Guards officers were felt to be obliged to follow the conventions of the royal household at the time. 
    An aristocrat could not marry a commoner and remain part of the royal social circle; by extension an officer could not serve his Guards commission fully if he had married beneath himself. 
    Amid the growing scandal, the soldier quickly transferred to the 13th Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps, which did not have such strict codes of conduct.
    But he appeared to enjoy his change of path in the military and described his new role in the war effort to his father after he was made Captain in 1916.

    He wrote: 'The Bosch has been dropping bombs round about us, in retaliation for our nightly (and daily) excursions behind his lines with the same purpose – but [we] have dropped considerably more than he (and these much larger than his) and have done him a great deal of damage, I’m pleased to say.'  In fact the change may well have saved his life. He served as a staff officer in the RFC, the predecessor of the RAF, rather than fighting in the trenches as the Guards did. He survived the war - one of a small number who had served continuously from 1914 to 1918.

    It did not, however, end the chill which had affected his social status.

    Because of his new wife's status, the future third Baron St Oswald was not allowed to take her to any official family functions - and for years her name was kept out of all records.

    The affair - which came twenty years before King Edward VIII abdicated so he could marry a commoner - was echoed in a Downton Abbey plot when Lady Sybil married Tom Branson, a 'lowly' driver.

    Little had been known about Evie's life before she met and fell in love with the Lord, with experts speculating that they may have met while she was working at Daly's Theatre in London.

    But research for a new exhibition has unveiled fresh details of the relationship, including that Evie Carew was actually her stage name, and her real name was Nellie Greene.  Researchers studying her family tree have also found she was the daughter of a restaurant manager - making her marriage to a blue-blooded aristocrat all the more remarkable.  The new details have been included in a show about the scandalous marriage at the Winn family's stately home - Nostell Priory in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, run by the National Trust.

    Dr Sarah Burnage, who is leading the project, says as son and heir there was a lot of pressure on Rowland, whose controversial marriage rocked a family already facing mounting debts.
    She said: 'There was a lot of expectation on Rowland George Winn which makes his marriage to a chorus girl seem all the more dramatic and sensational and problematic for the family.
    'We have done some digging here and her real name was not Evie Carew, it was Nellie Greene.

    'We found out that her father was a restaurant manager, her sister married a miner and her brother worked on the stage.
    'We think is her route into acting and working on the stage she was from a very different social class to Rowland Winn.'
    Historians uncovered new information about about the scandalous marriage ahead of a show at the Winn family's stately home, Nostell Priory in West Yorkshire
    Historians uncovered new information about about the scandalous marriage ahead of a show at the Winn family's stately home, Nostell Priory in West Yorkshire
    Commenting on the union, Dr Burnage added: 'It must have been devastating news and such a scandal. His marriage had quite significant consequences.
    For many years Evie, pictured with one of her children, was kept away from official functions
    For many years Evie, pictured with one of her children,
    was kept away from official functions

    'The Coldstream Guards is associated with the Royal household and a rule had been brought in that actresses could not be presented at court.
    'So when he married Evie he was not able to present his wife at official functions. And he was an officer in the Guards so he actually had to resign his commission and instead join the Royal Flying Corps.'
    Letters from Rowland to his father reveal the older man's original doubts at the marriage, causing his son to write letters attempting to persuade him of Evie's 'better qualities'.
    The son describes her as 'anything but the average chorus girl' and says she is 'incredibly charming'.
    Despite that, it appears that Evie was not wholly accepted as her name is not listed among the guests at family functions.  But, despite the shock to his parents, it is believed that they were eventually won over by Evie, who became Lady Winn when her husband inherited his father's title after the war.
    A generation later, the archives reveal that the actress-turned-Lady was immersed in the life of Nostell Priory and the community.

    The couple went on to have two children and archives reveal that the Dowager Lady Oswald - their grandmother - was happy to buy expensive coats for their children, suggesting that the ice had,at least to some degree, melted.

    Lord St Oswald died in 1957 and was succeeded by his son, also Rowland, the fourth Lord St Oswald, while his wife died in 1976.