This week I interviewed Bryan Jennings, son of William Bryan Jennings who played the part of the Sheriff in Manos: The Hands of Fate. "Whatever it is you're not doing, go don't do it somewhere else." I love that line. I find it really interesting that both Bryan and Diane Mahree (Margaret) who I spoke with last week start off by saying, I don't have many stories or memories and then they go on to give me great stories and gold nuggets of information that no one knows yet. This is fun. Guess I'm becoming an investigative journalist, in a manner of speaking. No offense to the real deal of course.
William Bryan Jennings loved theater and the church choir and was a
good singer. I've asked his son Bryan to look for any video of his dad's
other performances to share with you. I do hope we can make that happen. Bryan talked about his dad's many talents and his way of being. He said that the character of the Sheriff was totally William Bryan Jennings and his dad probably ad libbed that classic line. William was someone who was very valuable in working with Hal Warren to get Manos off the ground through his behind the scenes connections and experience. He was an attorney at the time, sold life insurance as a side business and had worked in the DA's office. He probably met Hal Warren through the life insurance business and also from their mutual involvement in community theater at the Festival Theater in El Paso. William knew Judge Coldwell who loaned the use of his ranch back property for the filming of Manos. He also knew Mike Sullivan who was El Paso Sheriff at the time and who loaned the guns and police car. As an attorney, he handled the legal aspects of the project and is listed as a producer on the original contracts.
Bryan had been away at college and was working through the summer of 1966 during the filming so he was not highly aware of what his dad was up to in El Paso at that time but over the years Manos tales would arise at the dinner table and family gatherings from time to time. One Saturday afternoon in 1993, Bryan checked into a motel room on the Oregon Coast in Bandon and turned on the TV. Until that time, Manos was no more than a family story that no one had seen since the premire in 1966. Bryan was away at school and missed the premire so when he turned on the TV, saw the MST guys cracking jokes and then saw he dad step out of a police car to harrass some horny teens, he was stunned. He said he just sat down and watched in amazement. At the same time on the same day, my dad, The Master, Tom Neyman was up the coast a couple hour drive away, napping in his easy chair with the television on when he heard a hauntingly familiar tune, opened his eyes to see himself on the screen. From that moment on, Manos became part of the bigger world and had gone beyond the family tales.
Stick with me while we continue to explore the making of Manos: The Hands of Fate. Next up. The convergence of Stirling Silliphant, Route 66, Hal Warren and Manos... and no worries, more on Diane Mahree as well.