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Midlander Cliff Hardwick enjoying the silver screen

Midlander Cliff Hardwick shines in the new indie film Blanche.

Cliff Hardwick has worn quite a few hats over the years. Paperboy, soldier, lawyer, politico, teacher, husband. But when he retired almost five years ago, he never dreamed that his next hat would be the kind favored by cowboys.

Hardwick is one of the stars of the independent film Blanche, which is set to premiere at the Yucca Theatre Thursday, March 21.

“My old friend Sam Pfiester called me up and said, ‘I’m writing a movie, you’re going to be in it,’ ” Hardwick recalled.

And write it, he did. Pfiester, a Ft. Stockton native and former Midlander, is the author of four books. Blanche is his first screenplay. Set in Marfa, it’s the kind of story that can only take place in West Texas. The movie explores just how far – or in this case, how high – a couple of old cowboys will go for the sake of a friend.

In the movie, the lead characters Tommy, Clifford and Carolyn are lifelong friends who have drifted apart over the years. But when Clifford realizes that Tommy is struggling to cope after a death, he knows he has to help him. That’s when Clifford dreams up a bet to help Tommy realize there are second chances in life and love. All Clifford needs for his plan to work is a plane, a chicken named Blanche, and a whole lot of luck!

While the plot is new, the bet is, in fact, a bit of Ft. Stockton lore. According to Hardwick, after the end of World War 2, the townspeople placed bets on whether two chickens would survive being airdropped out of a plane flying at 1,000 feet. One of these jumpmaster chickens floated to the ground unscathed. The other dropped like a fat rock. According to legend, one of the betters bribed the airplane pilot to pluck one of the chickens, ensuring its demise.

“Accurate details of the story are in short supply, but Sam’s daddy told him everybody in town had a bet on the chickens,” Hardwick said.

The cast and crew filmed for two weeks in Marfa and Alpine. Even though he didn’t get his own personal assistant, trailer or makeup artist, Hardwick said the whole process was great. He even supplied his own cowboy hat.

“It was fun making this movie,” Hardwick said. “Other than getting your lines right … the standing around and waiting while they get set up for the next shot is the hardest part. But we would just carry on, talking and having fun.”

Not all first-time actors are as at-ease on the set, but Hardwick said it was due to his great co-stars, Alpine residents Tommy Mangrem and his wife, Carolyn Mangrem.

“Tommy and Carolyn are really sweathearts, even if Tommy is an Aggie!” teased Hardwick. “The script called for Tommy and Clifford to be close friends, and it just felt very natural because I knew what having a close friend was.”

Hardwick met Pfiester when the two were college freshmen at Austin College. They remained friends, sharing a common road that led them to the University of Texas at Austin and eventually Midland/Odessa where Hardwick practiced law and Pfiester worker in oil and gas for Clayton Williams. Pfiester now resides in the Georgetown area but the two friends stay in close contact, sometimes meeting up in Alpine for palavers and shenanigans.

Blanche has already had showings in Austin, Marfa, Alpine and Marathon, where moviegoers lined up to take pictures with Blanche, the gorgeous Buff Orpington chicken Pfiester rented from Z-Bar Ranch.

Hardwick hopes everyone will turn out for the show. “It’s G-rated and just alot of fun,” he promised. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Yucca, 208 N. Colorado St. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the door or online at Proceeds benefit Marfa Public Radio.

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