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Jan Parkinson – And the Emmy goes to…..!

When Lakeview Village resident Jan Parkinson was only 16 years old, he wrote a letter to the Johnson County Sun telling the publisher they needed a sportswriter and that he was the guy for the job. He got the job.

Not surprising that after journalism school at KU, Jan landed in another impressive position as a marketing copywriter for Hallmark Hall of Fame productions. A career that placed him on many Hallmark movie sets.

“I traveled interesting places. Met interesting people,” says Jan with a smile. “I can’t imagine having a better job for me than the one I had.”

Jan is sitting in his favorite chair in his living room with an Emmy on the side table. It is one of 80 Emmy’s Hallmark Hall of Fame received since 1951. 41 of those were received over Jan’s 43 years there.

“This one is for a movie called Caroline? with Stephanie Zimbalist. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for that one,” explains Jan. “I went down to Georgia when we were shooting. I referred to it as ‘showing the flag’ because I was there to represent Hallmark. If I had any comments, I’d make them to whomever was appropriate.”

Comments like shooting a 1980’s street scene on a corner with ramped curbs. Ramped curbs didn’t exist until after 1990. Jan mentioned it to the director who mentioned it to the set director who said that no one would notice that.

“And the director replied, ‘Hallmark just did!’” Jan laughs. “You know, people love to pick those things apart. We had a viewer send us pictures from the film Love is Never Silent of a train station with a very small American flag in the shot that had too many stars on it for a WWII film.”

Jan climbed the ranks of Hallmark Hall of Fame for 43 years before retiring. Over four decades he met many famous actors like Stephanie Zimbalist, Marcia Gay Harden, Mare Winningham, James Garner and Glenn Close who starred in Sarah, Plain and Tall right after shooting the film Fatal Attraction.

“That film made her a star,” said Jan. “When a test audience didn’t like the way Fatal Attraction ended, the studio decided to change the ending which got rough and tumble. That’s when Glenn accidentally hit her head against a mirror and was taken to the hospital for X-Rays. A health professional said to her, ‘when’s your baby due?’ She had no idea she was pregnant.”

Hallmark was working on a moved called Stones for Ibarra and Jan says, they wanted somebody like Glenn Close for the female lead. When they got to Glenn’s agent, they found out she actually wanted to do the movie. Due to her pregnancy, they had only two weeks to get her shots on camera with Keith Carradine.

“I went down to Arizona where this was being shot, and we’re sitting at lunch one day and Glenn said, ‘I have a little project I just did for books-on-tape and I think it would be a wonderful movie.’” Jan continues the story. “She said it was about 50 pages and a children’s book, a young adult book, so we said, we’ll take a look at that. She gave us Sarah Plain and Tall.”

The film was shot right outside of Emporia, Kansas. While the cast and crew stayed at a nearby hotel, Glenn stayed in a rental house, though Jan says she didn’t stay for long.

“People were just friendly and so the neighbors would bring her flowers, or cookies and so on. So, she decided to move to the hotel with everyone else.”

Those little pesky chiggers every Midwesterner is well-aware of were out in full force in the tall grass of the prairie which turned into the film set. The bug was new to many people on the crew including Glenn Close.

“Glenn got a dog from a local shelter, and she named it ‘Chigger,” Jan says with a grin.

Jan’s fond memories and behind the scenes stories keep going. Any listener will tell you, they are infectious. Like how they shot the movie Skylark which was about a drought. Only problem was it was during the wettest summer on record in Kansas. Like watching Chris Walken and Glenn Close get into character and how James Woods did his character research. Like how Love is Never Silent almost ended up in the trash can. To hear more of Jan’s stories, click on the video link.

“I was blessed to have that job. I worked for a good company, good people doing the best we could do.”

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