Jim Thomas hopes to see the return of the Frank Wilcox Film Festival later this year in De Soto.
The festival honors the late character actor, born in De Soto in 1907, who appeared in scores of Hollywood films and television series and Broadway plays from 1930 to 1973, the year before his death.
Thomas, a De Soto businessman, launched the festival as a fundraising event in 2013, featuring a different celebrity host each year. They have included Jerry Mathers from “Leave It to Beaver,” Dawn Wells of “Gilligan’s Island” and George Wendt, who played Norm on the long-running TV sitcom “Cheers.”
Thomas had actress Morgan Fairchild (“Dallas,” “Flamingo Road,” “Falcon Crest”) lined up to host last year’s eighth-annual festival in early March, but it was postponed – and ultimately not rescheduled – when the coronavirus pandemic shut down public gatherings.
Thomas said last week he hopes to revive the festival later this year, perhaps in late summer, when the pandemic is expected to wane with widespread vaccination.
“We’re going to try to make another attempt,” Thomas said. “We’ve talked to Morgan Fairchild. We had her scheduled for last year and she said she was willing to come back after COVID, but that was more than a year ago. We talked to her (again) and she’s still willing to come, but there’s still restrictions in place in terms of her travel and everything else.
“We also (talked to) some other stars and it just appears that nobody will have the go-ahead to travel in time for the festival’s normal date, which is in and around Frank Wilcox’s birthday, March 13. So we’re putting it on hold for now, and we’re going to revisit it probably in late summer and see if we can do it then.”
Thomas added that it’s too early to set a date for the event, even that far into the future, with the wind-down of the pandemic still uncertain.
“We’re just kind of waiting to see how the next couple of months unfold, and then we’ll have a pretty good idea of when we can do it,” he said.
Thomas said interest in the festival, which typically sells out on tickets, remains strong despite the pandemic.
“Everybody’s ready to go,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of folks call and email (me), asking about when we can do it. So the excitement for the event is still there and everyone’s been very understanding about the flexibility of scheduling, so we can do it again.