Don Adair’s childhood visit to movie set of The Alamo was the experience of a lifetime, and left him with a deep and abiding affection for the Alamo and Texas history. Forty-three years later, a second movie about the Alamo was made in Texas, and Don and his twin brother Ron made the trip again. Here are parts One and Two.
By Don Adair
When reports of a new major film on the Alamo was in the works in 2002 by Disney, Ron and I watched for any news about the project. We were excited to hear that it would be filmed in Texas.
In late spring of 2003, my brother thought of the idea of visiting the set. Ron contacted the film’s publicist, Ernie Malek, via e-mail and made the request. He included a photograph of us on the set of Wayne’s Alamo at the age of twelve, and mentioned that I had designed the Texas Sesquicentennial Stamp. Mr. Malek responded positively to our request and said we could visit the set on the 17th of June, just three days after production was concluded.
As an artist, I was anxious to see the set, and its historical accuracy. When we arrived at the Romer Ranch outside of Dripping Springs, we met Mr. Malek in one of the production trailers and he showed us the layout of the set on a table model. The town of San Antonio had been built with geographic precision, with properly named streets in correct location.
He drove us to the set of San Antonio first, and as soon as we stopped, a man knocked on the window of his SUV. It was a production crewman. He said that there were some remaining explosives buried in the ground that needed to be detonated and warned us to roll down the windows to keep the concussion from breaking glass. For the next few minutes, we were treated to some post production fireworks.
The Alamo compound and chapel put us back in the world of 1836. The chapel was meticulously researched and replicated. Mr. Malek mentioned that the production crew had taken pictures of the actual Alamo facade in San Antonio and stone by stone, duplicated it on the movie chapel. The Chapel was an artistic masterpiece. Mr. Malek said it was moved up almost even to the long barracks to aid in photographic options for the film.
On the left, 12-year old brothers, Don and Ron Adair on the abandoned set of John Wayne‘s 1960 movie production of The Alamo in Brackettville, Texas. On the right the brothers (on the left, Don—on the right, Ron) visit the 2003 movie set for director John Lee Hancock‘s version of The Alamo.
All of the cannon were still in place, including the 18 pounder on the west wall. My only regret about the set was that it was not made to last. Weather and the elements have taken a hard toll on the set since our visit. My brother and I felt it was a great privilege to visit the set, particularly right after the film’s production ended.
Doing the Texas stamp and visiting the sets were so special to me. In the one, I was a part of Texas and Philatelic history. In the other, visiting the sets was like being ushered by a time machine, back into a critical moment in our state’s history. The visit to Wayne’s set forever shaped my radical fascination and love for the Alamo story.
Touring the Disney set was so incredible, because as a commercial artist, I was able to appreciate the meticulous attention to detail and accuracy in places. Whether it was visits to the movie sets or a walk through the real Alamo in San Antonio, the feeling has always been the same. I share a reverential awe with other Texans of what it took to give birth to our great state.
Please take the time to visit Don Adair’s website: www.don-adair.com. If you would like to write Don, there is a mail address and an email address on the Contact page at his website.
All photographs for this article were provided by Don Adair.
All links within this article were added by Deborah Hendrick.