This past weekend motion picture industry veteran Bill Rebane and actor/screenwriter Robert Wilhelm III were in town to film the first episode of a new television series called Masters of Valor: Soldiers of Distinction. I joined them for an hour and a half at The Family Restaurant at the Androy Hotel in Superior to learn more about the project and their careers.
According to Wilhelm the show Masters of Valor will feature people from every nation who were part of all wars from the 7 Years War to the present, heroes famous and not famous, men and women, including Soviet female fighter pilots.
Their reason for being in Superior was to shoot a one-hour premiere episode featuring Major Richard Ira Bong at the Bong Museum here. Wilhelm is both the writer and host of the show.
I arrived a little before one as the two men were just finishing lunch at a table near the middle of the room, Wilhelm wearing a leather bomber jacket with an insignia in the middle of the back. They were easy to pick out. Both Rebane, a gritty veteran of life’s hard roads, and Wilhelm were warm and congenial, down to earth and accessible.
After introductions the conversation proceeded over a circuitous route that covered numerous fascinating subjects which could easily have been explored in greater depth. At the center of this story you will find two fascinating men who connected by a singular project.
Bill Rebane’s life story itself should be a book. Born in Latvia, (his mother Latvian, his father Estonian) the story of his family’s escape from the Red Army is an amazing adventure, one that many refugees from Eastern Europe undertook in 1944–45. His family split, settling in two parts of “Free” Germany after the war. This Germany connection would ultimately lead to a significant development in the history of film, the 360-degree motion picture process.
In 1952, Bill Rebane himself came to America at age 15. His path from floor sweeper to radio actor, motion picture industry producer, director and consultant will be detailed in another blog post. As I noted above, his life could easily be a book.
(Two books by Rebane can also be found on Amazon.com, one of them a novel about Roswell.)
I asked how the two came together for Masters of Valor and Wilhelm said they were working on a feature film called The Prussian. (In addition to being an actor, Wilhelm is a screenwriter.)
“I connected with Robert about The Prussian,” Rebane said. “As we brainstormed about a screenplay treatment we opted for Masters of Valor because it would be quicker to complete. It was initially designed to be a stand-alone show. It has now evolved. The aim of our visit here (to Superior’s Ira Bong Museum) is to get this opening episode in the can.”
Masters of Valor is in sync with Wilhelm’s lifelong passion for military history, which led to his 2011 novel of historical fiction called All the Iron Men. The new series will focus on true history rather than a fictional creation.
For those unfamiliar, Major Richard “Ira” Bong was a Medal of Honor recipient in World War II, one of the most decorated American fighter pilots and one of the country’s top flying aces in the war. Other than the restaurant shot of Bill Rebane, the photos on this page were taken during Monday’s shoot at the museum.
Originally published at https://pioneerproductions.blogspot.com.
All photos on this page by the author.