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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Frankham Will Geer, old folkie (1902-1978) (22) RE: Will Geer, old folkie 23 Nov 03


Hi Cluin,

It's my honor to share info on Will Geer. His friends called him "Bill". He was hurt very much by the blacklist and pursued his other love (than acting) as a landscape architect working for a sucessful home builder named Garrett Ekbo in California. He was married to Herta Ware (granddaughter of Mother Bloor, a well-known labor organizer). Herta is (was?) a fine actress also. The last part I saw her on was Star Trek playing Captain Picard's mother. Herta sang,wrote songs and played guitar with a sweet soprano voice.

The Geers had Katy, Ellen and Tad. Katy and Ellen are fine actresses and Ellen is the better known. Tad went into construction work.
I've been out of touch with them for many years. Ellen's husband, Peter Alsop has a national rep as a children's performer and songwriter.

It was quite a soap opera when Woody ran off with Aneke in Topanga Canyon. Aneke was married to Dave Marshall, a construction guy who was left when Aneke took off. Will and Herta had divorced when Will went to New York to do Coriolanus on Broadway.

Aneke had met Woody and helped him build on his little piece of
land that he bought from Topanga's realtor, Bob DeWitt. He called it "Pretty Polly Canyon" reminiscent of a Thomas Hart Benton landscape. It was rocky and straight up and down.

When they left, Dave married Herta and they have a talented
daughter who is a fine actress and great singer who plays guitar. Melora.
Melora was named after the character in the Benet play, "John Brown's Body". Melora could have done very well in the folk scene but I think she preferred acting.

Will Geer did sing. He sang in a gruff, resonant voice and really could put a song across. He could regale audiences with singing folk tales. He rendition of "Noah and Jonah and Captain John Smith" was memorable as well as his ditty "One step forward and two steps back. That's the method of the liberal attack." In those days, the "liberal" was considered to be a compromiser to many of the issues of the left wing.

Will was a great humanitarian, a brilliant actor and a generous human being. He was very supportive to me in my singing career. Herta was also. They were people with great heart and Woody owed so much to them. Will did so much for many people in the folk music field aside from Woody. He helped Cisco get started in Hollywood, had many
folksingers and folk song collectors as visitors to his ranch home in Topanga. He supported Pete and the Weavers during the hard old days...which apparently are here again. The more things change...... I practically grew up there. There was a nucleus of folkies in LA that did well under Will and Herta. It was a great experience for me.

Jack Elliott was one. There's a lot missing from his movie.

Josh White. Cisco. Odetta. Derrol Adams. Weavers....other lesser-known but IMHO equally important such as Guy Carawn, Dave Zeitlin, Marcia Berman and Jo Mapes.

Bess Lomax and and Butch Hawes became neighbors in Topanga through Will and Herta. Bess is a powerful influence on American folk music and not mentioned much because she preferred to stay behind the scenes.

Ellie Geer is quite a remarkable talent and is ably carrying on her father and mother's legacy. Theatricum Botanicum is a must visit when you are in LA area.

Hopes that gives you a little picture.

Frank Hamilton


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