The stars generally come out at night in the Capital Region.
Once in a while, they come out during the day. Movie and television stars have visited Schenectady over the years — sometimes for work, sometimes for publicity.
Bradley Cooper and Ryan Gosling were in town in 2011, when “The Place Beyond the Pines” filmed in the Schenectady area. That was business.
During the 1950s, movie stars made promotional appearances. In 1959, actress Lee Meriwether was in Schenectady for a cup of coffee and an interview. Meriwether, crowned Miss America in 1955, might have been talking about her first movie role — the science-fiction film “4D Man,” which also starred Robert Lansing.
Meriwether would later appear in some of the biggest TV shows of the 1960s, including “The Fugitive,” “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” “The Time Tunnel” and “Star Trek.” She dressed skin-tight as the Catwoman in the 1966 cinematic version of “Batman.” During the 1970s, she was a regular on “Barnaby Jones.”
At 79, Meriwether is still working.
Gene Autry rode into Schenectady on Feb. 7, 1952. The “Singing Cowboy,” who had careers in radio, movies and television — and later as owner of the Los Angeles Angels (later California and Anaheim) baseball team — was in town to see the Boy Scouts. He met the two Scouts who had won the titles of Schenectady and Scotia “Scout mayors for the day.”
Robert Dodge of Sea Scout Ship 26 was the city’s representative. Louis Cady of Explorer Post 21 had won the right to govern the village. Autry died in 1998 at age 91.
Cleo Moore might have liked Schenectady the best. She stayed for three days in April 1955.
Cleo’s latest movie was “Women’s Prison,” a “B” film about shenanigans at a correctional facility for both men and women. Moore played Mae, one of the prisoners. Film historians say she excelled in “bad girl” roles.
Moore made her film debut in 1948 as the lead actress in the Columbia serial “Congo Bill.” She moved into feature films, with titles such as “This Side of the Law,” “Hunt the Man Down” and the highly regarded film-noir piece “On Dangerous Ground.”
On Feb. 15, 1954, Moore made television history. And won television infamy.
Cleo was a guest on Chicago TV host Jack Eigen’s celebrity interview program. The couple talked about kissing “limits” in 1950s-era films, and Eigen proposed a long smooch to test television standards. The TV kiss lasted several minutes.
Eigen’s station, WBKB, received hundreds of calls in protest. Newspapers received many more, and station executives told Eigen to kiss off. The stunt cost him his job.
Spent some time in jail
The Schenectady promotional blitz began on Wednesday, April 18. Moore crashed the Northeastern New York Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association lunch meeting at the old Schenectady Stadium restaurant. She also visited Union College, and met members of the Mountebanks acting troupe. The collegians were preparing for their production of “Othello.”
On Tuesday, April 19, Moore toured Schenectady County Jail — a way to drum up interest for “Women’s Prison.” She posed near a cell with Edna Rogers, then prison matron. Later in the day, Moore visited the State Theater for an hour — the State would begin “Women’s Prison” on Thursday.
An autograph session at Central Market on Eastern Parkway and a Schenectady Blue Jays baseball game were also on Cleo’s schedule. At the game, Cleo and city Mayor Archibald Wemple had a quick dance — possibly at a photographer’s request. Archibald did not seem to mind.
Moore left films during the end of the ’50s. She died on Oct. 25, 1973, in Inglewood, California, at age 48.