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When the Circus Came to Town

Circus photos

Elizabeth Montgomery plays a clown in "When theCircus Came to Town," but she confesses, "I have never been a clown person."

The actress said, "Maybe I was scared badly by a clown when I was a child."

Miss Montgomery stars in the two-hour movie with Christopher Plummer, Eileen Brennan and Gretchen Wyler. It will be broadcast by CBS Wednesday night.

Miss Montgomery's character is a Southern spinster who had devoted her life to caring for her elderly father. After his death, she realizes she must change her life and runs off to join a circus, run by Plummer, It's a poor excuse for a circus, but she is admitted to the tightly knit fellowship after an apprenticeship of cleaning up after the elephants.

"It's a terrible, seedy circus," Miss Montgomery said, "but they're loving people. The first thing I do is fill in on the teeterboard team. Then I have to replace a clown.

"Christopher Plummer is the ringmaster, Duke Royal. There is a romance, but not at first. It's one of those things that evolve."

Prior to the filming, she spent several weeks working out with Bob Yerkes and his son, Mark. They train stars to participate in celebrity circuses.

"One of the things I loved was getting physically involved with the circus," she said. "I spent weeks practicing for the stunts. You always know these things are difficult, but you have no idea how hard they really are until you try them. The timing is so important, and you must place enormous trust in other people."

She added, "I'm very pleased that I was allowed to do some of the stunts they planned to use a double for."

The movie was fiimed on location in Savannah, Ca., last summer. The production company obtained a waiver from the Screen Actors Guild and filmed during the strike.

Miss Montgomery recently returned from Greece, where she visited Robert Foxworth during the filming of the TV production "Peter and Paul." Foxworth plays Peter and Anthony Hopkins is Paul.

"Tony's character dies at 55 and Bob goes on to 65 so he has to go through all that aging makeup," she said. "Bob had to shave his head. He let his hair and beard grow, then shaved the center of his head. It was a trauma; you always worry it won't grow back."

She visited her longtime companion in Athens, but when the company moved on to Rhodes she went to London.

"When The Circus Came to Town" was made in association with Miss Montgomery's production company. Her contract with CBS calls for two movies a year.

"If I found a third one we'd all be delighted," she said, "but it's hard to find a good script. I have one more picture coming up this year but I don't know yet what it will be. We're looking at several things."

Miss Montgomery said one of her upcoming films would be a comedy, her first since she did the TV show "Bewitched" in the 1960s. She thought about that a moment, then said: "Maybe we can call 'Circus' a comedy. It's a romantic comedy."

The idea for "When the Circus Came to Town" began with one sentence from Doug Chapin, who had produced Miss Montgomery's last movie, "Belle Starr."

"We went through three scripts, each of which was obviously a heavy effort to make this project work," the actress said. "Each had merits, but none was quite right for me.

"I was becoming very discouraged and we were about ready to drop the project. Then Larry Grusin wrote a screenplay. William Self at CBS didn't even want to send it to me, but Harry Krost, my manager, saw it and told me to read it."

She then sought out Boris Sagal, who had directed her in "A Case of Rape" and "The Awakening Land." He also directed the recent version of "The Diary of Anne Frank" and the upcoming "Masada."

Miss Montgomery said she hopes that she and Foxworth will soon be able to star in a movie together. They met several years ago on "Mrs. Sundance."

If you are interested in owning the unedited version of this film, email me for details. VictorMas@aol.com


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