We Are Marshall Exhibit Opens at Hall of Fame

South Bend, Indiana is a special place for Notre Dame fans and fans of college football in general as the home of the National Football Foundation's College Football Hall of Fame. Now is has special meaning for Marshall fans, as the Hall opened a new "We Are Marshall" exhibit of historic and movie memorabilia on the 36th anniversary of the MU football crash on November 14, 1970.

The Hall of Fame hosted a special showing of the "We Are Marshall" movie to its members, guests from Marshall University, representatives of the "Young" Thundering Herd of 1971, members of the crew and cast of the movie and many Marshall fans living in northwest Indiana and southwest Michigan, as well as a few from Huntington. The exhibit opened tonight, with pictures of all the players and coaches who died on that flight, returning from a game at East Carolina, plus newspapers, programs and other items from the era of the movie, 1970-71. There are also many costumes on loan from Warner Brothers, as well as many items on loan from Marshall University, the Marshall Hall of Fame Cafe' and private individuals (as many of my rings, watches, signs, shirts, caps and jerseys made it into the exhibit-ed. note).

The exhibit will be open at the College Football Hall of Fame through May 15, 2007. To celebrate the opening of the exhibit, there was a first showing of the "We Are Marshall" movie to the assembled crowd, and the movie was met with rave reviews from individuals like Ernie Salvatore, the former executive sports editor of The Herald-Dispatch - who has covered the Herd from the 1940s as a student writer through today, with a weekly column. "Very moving, well done, powerful," said Salvatore of the movie. He only had one negative with the movie. "McG," Salvatore asked the director of the movie who was in attendance with producer Basil Iwanyk and actress Kate Mara, "why am I covering the games in the stands in the movie?" McG and Iwanyk explained there was a certain amount of movie-making to certain aspects of the movie, but the intent was to let the story tell itself.

"We didn't need to Hollywood this story," said McG, who directed the two "Charlies Angels" movies and dozens of music videos and television programs. "We let the story tell itself, then did a few things to make it fit into two hours. It has to appeal to people who don't know the story like everyone in Huntington does." Iwanyk and McG only finished the final cut of the movie three days ago, although there were a couple of miscues they may still fix like the Xavier Muskeeter team being referred to as the "Pirates."

Mara, whose character is a cheerleader composite, is very much a football person. Her grandfather was Wellington Mara, the owner of the New York Giants, and on the other side of the family was Art Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers. "I asked them about the Marshall story, but they didn't know much either," said Mara, who was sporting a Giants Super Bowl pendant on the evening. "But I started crying three pages into the script. It was so important we started filming in Huntington, because we met the real people. It is much harder to portray people who are right there, watching the filming. But they helped us to get it right."

Jack Lengyel, the coach of Marshall from 1971-74 and who is portrayed in the movie by Matthew McConaughey, was a bit put off by the change of the touchdown play against Xavier. Marshall scored on the last play of the game, with no time on the clock, to win the first home game after the crash. "I was a consultant," said Lengyel, "which meant 'Keep this guy away from us.' They would listen politely, then ignore me," said Lengyel with a laugh. The former coach and athletic director at schools like Navy and Temple was very pleased with the final product. "The way they sequences the final play, the scene now that I see it, they did a brilliant job. I saw their motivation and I would like to apologize to McG and Basil. They did a great job with it."

Reggie Oliver was one of two quarterbacks of the 1971 Herd (Dave Walsh, now of The Herald-Dispatch, was the other) was also pleased with the exhibit and the movie. "They did a great job, they did what they told us they were going to do," said Oliver, who played 1971-73, then coached at MU from 1979-83. "They stayed true to the story. The quality is fantastic. I think McG, Basil, the whole crew did a fantastic job. Some of the old stuff in movie, it took me right back to 1971." Oliver was also at the annual fountain ceremony in Huntington (where the Marshall Memorial Fountain is shutoff on every Nov. 14 in honor of those who died) before coming to South Bend, and he believes the movie is continuing the healing process, even 36 years later. "It was great to see some people at the fountain ceremony today, people that had not been back. This was the first time they had come back. Because of the players were from a wide range of places - Alabama, Texas, New Jersey - all over the country, it's going to heal people all over the country. It is a Marshall story, not just a Huntington story. They are going to feel apart of it.

The movie will have its world premiere in Huntington on December 12, both at the historic Keith-Albee Theatre and the new 16 screen Marquee Cinemas in Pullman Square, with a party for all at the Big Sandy Superstores Arena one block away afterwards for all movie goers. The "Green Carpet" will begin at 6 p.m., with "The Dawg, 93.7 FM" being the exclusive "Green Carpet" broadcaster with shows from the area from 7:00 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. There will be a stage set up on Fourth Avenue between 10th Street and the Keith-Albee and Kindred Communication personalities, including the Dawg, WRVC AM and the Herd Insider magazine, will be working the carpet, from the limo dropoff point to the door of the theatre. Tickets will go on sale at the Marquee Cinemas, priced at $25, on Nov. 27, while tickets for the Keith-Albee, priced at $250, $500 and $1,000 each, are available at www.Ticketmaster.com on the web. There will be a special issue of the Herd Insider magazine for the premiere as well. The movie, rated PG-13, will open nationally on December 22.

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