‘Flim-Flam’ director gone, not forgotten

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Woman here remained friends with Kershner

By Ben Carlson

The director who brought Hollywood to Lawrenceburg is gone, but for those here who knew him, he will never be forgotten.


Irvin Kershner, 87, died Saturday at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif., following a lengthy battle with cancer. He will be remembered for directing a host of blockbuster movies, including the Star Wars sequel “The Empire Strikes Back” and the James Bond film “Never Say Never Again.”
But it was his directing of “The Flim-Flam Man” in the 1960s that will forever endear him to residents of Lawrenceburg.
“He had a wonderful heart, was a fantastic photographer and musically inclined,” said Shirley Freeman Tierney of Lawrenceburg, who befriended Kershner while the movie was being shot.
Tierney said she stayed in touch with Kershner through the years and had spoken with him just three weeks ago. She said Kershner always spoke highly of Lawrenceburg.
“He loved Lawrenceburg and he just loved the people here,” she said. “He said they had a lot of heart.”
Tierney, who had a cameo role in the movie that showed her on the courthouse steps, worked in the courthouse at the time and was in charge of calling in “extras” — people shown moving around on the streets — during filming.
“My dad was James Freeman, of Freeman and Mann Furniture,” she said. “Kirsh came here looking around the courthouse, and I knew a lot of people around here,” she said. “We became good friends, and stayed in touch for almost 45 years.”
Tierney said she recalls a great deal about the film being shot here, but one thing that really stands out is just how hard that work can be.
“You work long hours and there is no such thing as punching the clock,” she said. “I knew when they left that it wasn’t a business I wanted to be in. Not that it’s bad, just long and tedious, and that’s the life they live.”
Tierney said one of the most memorable moments she recalls of the filming came toward the end.
“It was the end of October and we got a big snow storm,” she said. “It was supposed to be summer, and there wasn’t supposed to be snow on the ground. They had to get big hoses out and spray them to melt the snow.”
Tierney said plenty of local people appeared in the movie, including her mother, children and grandmother.
As for her cameo, she said it’s something she will never forget.
“I was only in my 20s then,” she said. “When they brought Michael Sarrazin [who played the role of Curley] down the courthouse steps, I was in front of him.
“Kirsh said, ‘She’s too pretty, put some glasses on her.’ Then he said to take them off.”
The film’s cast included a number of well-known actors at the time, and starred George C. Scott.
Scott played the role of Mordecai C. Jones, a con artists who made his living by duping Southern folks out of their money.
Sarrazin played his sidekick, an AWOL soldier on the run from the US Army.
Scenes for the movie were also shot in neighboring communities, but the movie’s most famous scenes included a car chase and what is known as “the courthouse scene,” were among those filmed in Lawrenceburg.
Born Isadore Kershner on April 29, 1923 in Philadelphia, he changed his name to Irvin after serving in the Army Air Foces as an airplane mechanic and flight engineer during World War II, according to a story Monday in The New York Times.
His parents were Jewish immigrants from Ukraine, where his father sold fruits and vegetables from a street cart, the paper reported.
His first experience in making movies came as a documentarian for the United States Information Service in Iran, Greece and Turkey, the paper reported.

Contact Ben Carlson via theandersonnews.com.