Sebastiani birthday bash recalls earlier event

(Editor’s note: When the Sebastiani Theatre kicks off its yearlong, 80th anniversary celebration with a spectacular variety show April 19, it may remind old-timers of another Sebastiani celebration that took place on March 22, 1941. It was, as former Index-Tribune managing editor John Lynch wrote years ago, “a day the people of Sonoma Valley never forgot.” What follows is John Lynch’s account of that event. Lynch died in 1999.)

On March 22, 1941, the cast from the just-released movie “The Sea Wolf,” including Edward G. Robinson and John Garfield, came to Sonoma Valley and were entertained in a gala celebration.

Also with the group from Hollywood was a handsome actor named Ronald Reagan, just starting to get roles in films. Little did anyone know that some years later his real-life role would be to serve as California’s governor, and later, President of the United States.

The occasion was the premiere of the movie, based on the popular novel by Jack London, at Sebastiani Theatre. The premiere crowned a full day of parties and picnicking at the London Ranch in Glen Ellen and at the beautiful estate of Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Awl (she was the former Alma Spreckels) in Sobre Vista.

The movie stars steamed into San Francisco Bay on the luxurious ocean liner America from Los Angeles. During the voyage, the stars had witnessed an onboard premiere showing of “The Sea Wolf.” They were met by Charmian London, widow of the late author, and the author’s nephew Irving Shepard, and his wife, Mildred.

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