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Screening a success for extras

April 05, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

SHARPSBURG - Artist Andy Warhol might have been pleased had he been sitting in the small movie theater at Antietam National Battlefield on Saturday night.

Eighty or so people, while not getting their 15 minutes of fame, were at least seeing themselves on the silver screen for a few seconds, some even for a few minutes.

Most of those in the audience were extras in "The Day Lincoln Was Shot," a made-for-television movie about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. And most were dressed in exact replicas of the clothes and accouterments as people in Washington, D.C. were dressed in April 1865.

They watched the film with the keen eye of experts looking for slip-ups by the directors and producers in dress, accessories and backgrounds. Their own costumes were flawlessly accurate, including accessories made in the mid-19th century, like a handsome brooch at the throat of a dress worn by Betty Ownsbery of Richmond, Va.

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Not only was Ownsbery an extra in the "The Day Lincoln Was Shot," which will be shown on the Turner Network Television cable network on Sunday, Arpil 12, she also served as a technical adviser for the movie.

"They spelled my name wrong in the credits," Ownsbery said.

She has had walk-on roles in nine TV movies about the Civil War, including the Hallmark Hall of Fame's "Love Letters," which aired in November. The small parts gave her the chance to wear some of the 17 costumes she owns. Ownsbury has written one book about the Civil War and is a co-author of another.

"It's kind of scary to see yourself on television," said Sue Craun of Frederick, Md., another of the extras who attended the screening. "There are millions of people looking at you. You get your few seconds of fame. You can see me in the background in two scenes," she said.

Craun does living history programs around the area at the Antietam and Gettysburg national battlefields and at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. She is also a member of the Frederick Ladies Relief Society, a Civil War historical group of living history interpreters and re-enactors founded 10 years ago by Pat James of Sharpsburg.

The society's emphasis is historical education. The group has participated in programs at Antietam, Gettysburg and Harpers Ferry and helped to promote Ken Burns' PBS television series on the Civil War.

Producers of television films, including "Love Letters" and "The Day Lincoln Was Shot," have signed up James to recruit society members to act as extras to bring historical accuracy to their films.

Following Saturday's screening, the TNT network hosted a reception for the extras, featuring authentic 1860s music and refreshments.

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