Grandpa makes acting debut

PAT FRIDGEN
Elmer Dunbar appears on the big screen in the movie “Greencastle”. The plot is loosely based on his grandson’s life.

The movie "Greencastle" features locations throughout Koran Dunbar's hometown, and the producer also didn't have to look far for actors to help him tell his story. He needed a grandfather in the film and his own was available.

Elmer Dunbar, who won't tell his age but admits he is a senior citizen, starred as a crotchety family member. After the March 31 screening, he pondered, "I don't know if the public thought I was too mean."

The movie loosely reflects part of Koran's past. His character, Poitier Dunning, was raised by foster parents. Koran was raised by Elmer and his wife Ellen since he was six years old. His sister Eve, an executive producer on the film living in New York, was 10 when they moved to Greencastle. Their mother had died, and the family agreed the best place for the two to grow up was the small Pennsylvania town of Greencastle. The elder Dunbars had transferred to the area from New Hampshire in 1987 for a job with a leather tanning company in Mercersburg. That eventually folded, but the couple liked the quiet atmosphere and decided to stay.

Ellen passed away three years ago, but Elmer called her the children's "guardian", most influential in helping them through their struggles. Koran always had big plans.

"He had a dream for today and a hope for tomorrow. That hope materialized when the movie was shown. His dream...he always had a play or movie on his mind. The good Lord was with him."

Koran, 30, and his son Aurelius, 10, have lead roles. As the character Julian, the youngster hangs on a deck rail to the consternation of his father, Poitier. Elmer recalls scolding Koran for the same thing years ago.

His home on Ryan Lane was the setting for several scenes, including Poitier's interest in a one-person sauna. Elmer even sold the unit to his grandson.

The acting bug

Elmer had never acted before and found it an interesting experience. Memorizing lines came naturally, but the quest for perfection was new.

"It's not easy to be in a movie," he said. "The guy from New York (cinematographer Jonathan Austin) wasn't satisfied, and we'd have to do five or six takes."

However, he's open to more gigs.

"I have nothing holding me back," said the retired widower.

He first saw the entire movie along with the crowd of nearly 1,400 people at the Maryland Theatre. "It was superb and outstanding, a breath of fresh air to this area. This is what they needed."

Elmer walked the red carpet in a tuxedo and hat he bought online, swinging a cane. He skipped the after-party.

"I don't drink or smoke so what would I do there?"

Help goes both ways

Elmer tended to the love of his life for a long time. Ellen suffered a stroke in 1993, but with the miracle of prayer at a private hospital, she came out of a long coma and returned home. He took care of her for 16 years.

"Under God's ordinance I followed our marriage vows 'til death do us part'."

He was unable to attend church all those years, but after Ellen's death, Koran invited him to Praying Time Ministries on Railroad Street. That church was also a site in the movie. He has found a warm place in the congregation.

As the credits rolled in the closing moments of the screening, the audience read that the movie was dedicated to Ellen Dunbar.