Former Cambridge resident's car in Eastwood film
Both Joe Talbot and his car were extras in Clint Eastwood’s film “Flags of Our Fathers.”
Talbot, a native of Cambridge, moved to Geneseo recently after living in the Chicago area for a number of years.
His car is, likewise, a Cambridge native. The 1938 Buick Model 46C is a “businessman’s coupe” that?has no backseat, explained Talbot.
The car was purchased brand new in 1938 by Blanche Fleming, who lived down the street from the Talbots.
“She and my grandma Talbot were friends, and I remember they use to take me down to the Quad Cities with them. The car had no backseat, so I’d sit on a camp seat and read comics,” said Talbot.
By 1961, Talbot was fresh out of the Navy and in need of a vehicle. “I was back in Cambridge at the time, and my dad got tired of me always driving his car,” said Talbot.
“He said I needed to buy a car, and told me to go talk to Blanche to see if she was interested in selling,” he added.
With $350 in his pocket, Talbot went to see Fleming, who, as an elderly woman, no longer drove the Buick. Still, Fleming was reluctant to part with the car.
“She didn’t want to sell it. She said a lot of people had asked if she’d sell it, but she just didn’t want to,” recalls Talbot.
“I said, ‘OK,’ and started walking out the front door,” he said. In a matter of moments, Fleming had a change of heart. “She hollered after me and said, ‘You know, you’re right. The car doesn’t do me any good. How much do you want to pay for it. Would $50 be too much?’”
Talbot said, “I couldn’t get my wallet out fast enough.”
Despite being more than 20 years old at the time, the car was “in A1 shape” said Talbot. “Blanche had no children, and she kept the car in the garage.”
Talbot, however, treated the car a bit rougher. “I was 21 and didn’t have a lot of brains, so I used the car as a fishing car. I use to take it and the dog out to Edwards River and I’d fish.”
The dog, said Talbot, would run around and get muddy, and then the pair would hop in the car and drive home.
“The car got a little trashed and started to get rusty,” he said.
Then, for many years, the car sat in storage at Talbot’s parents’ house in Cambridge.
Finally, Talbot decided it was time to bring new life to the vehicle and restore it properly.
Restoration work took more than three years.
“The car was completely stripped,” said Talbot. “It was then painted, we put in a new interior, upholstery, steering wheel, and brand new whitewall tires.”
The finished product was a car fit for the silver screen, so when restoration was finished, Talbot contacted the Illinois Film Office.
“They have a catalog of old cars and different things that people might want to use if they’re shooting a movie or a commercial,” he said.
After adding his car to the list, Talbot, who was living in Chicago at the time, saw a notice in the paper seeking human extras for Eastwood’s World War II movie “Flags of Our Fathers.”
“My son, John, is a big fan of Clint Eastwood, so we decided to take him to the casting call,” said Talbot. On the way to the casting call, held in Chicago, Talbot decided he, too, would put in an application. “I did it as a gag ... I didn’t think they’d ever pick me.”
However, several weeks later, Talbot received a phone call asking him to be in the movie.
“I went down to this place on Jefferson Street and they gave me a haircut and measured me for a suit and a pair of shoes,” he said. “In the meantime, I got another phone call saying Clint Eastwood wanted to use my car.”
Talbot’s Buick was needed for a scene in the movie shot at Soldier Field.
“So we wouldn’t be in the way, we were all sent upstairs at Soldier Field to watch as they were shooting.”
From afar, Talbot twice saw Eastwood, the film’s director, walk over to view the Buick.
“I wish I was down there, so I could have talked to him.”
Later, Talbot himself got called to appear in a crowd scene filmed at Wrigley Field.
“The real people were in the first 10 rows between first base and third base. The rest of the ‘people’ were just dummies,” explained Talbot.
The extras were asked to stand and cheer during a certain point of filming, while the cameras panned over the crowd.
When the film opened in 2006, Talbot and his family made sure to be at the theater on opening day.
As they watched, Talbot said they discovered the car had made the film ... just not Talbot.
“They must have panned past me. I kept looking and looking, but never saw me.”
The car recently had the chance to appear in another movie—Talbot was contacted in regards to having the Buick appear in a Johnny Depp film—but because the family was moving to Geneseo, he declined the offer.
“It’s a real neat looking car, and I’ve enjoyed having it all these years. It’s something I’m really proud of and have had a lot of fun with,” said Talbot.