Not since 1952 has an actor won an Academy Award for a film made in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.
Don’t bet against another one now.
John Flores, the author who has enlarged his book about the first Mexican-American Medal of Honor winner for the U.S. Marine Corps, now has started a screenplay. His chances for success in Hollywood are better than most.
Sergeant Freddy Gonzalez remains a legendary, yet well documented, hero in the Marines. He also has a U.S. Navy warship named after him.
Whoever plays the role of Sgt. Gonzalez in the film (still unnamed) about his life could be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in the near future.
The only actor to win an Academy Award in deep South Texas, so far, was Anthony Quinn, a Hispanic. He played the brother of the title character in “Viva Zapata!” The title role was played by Marlon Brando. It was largely filmed in Roma.
Flores spent 15 years doing research, most from letters he received from Freddy’s friends. Flores interviewed others in person, including athletes, coaches, friends and Marines who knew him well.
His book is available in Valley libraries. A new, enlarged version will be printed soon by The Texas Tech Press, probably with a new title.
The remarkable book could become a national best-seller, if the film becomes a reality. The title is unusual:
“When The River Dreams.” Subtitle is “The Life of Marine Sgt. Freddy Gonzalez. By John W. Flores.”
Freddy’s friends included his coach at Edinburg High, where he played football for the Bobcats. In 1964 Coach Fred Akers was a young novice at the time. He moved on to be an outstanding, winning coach at The University of Texas. Flores interviewed him for the book as well.
“Freddy was not very fast, and not very big,” Akers said, wistfully remembering one of the most remarkable young men he ever coached. “But he tried with every ounce of strength in his body. He gave a hundred percent on every play. His team spirit made everybody play harder.”
Dolia Gonzalez, Freddy’s mother, deserves a role in the film herself. She turned 80 years old — or young — this month when she was invited by the Marines and the Navy to ceremonies making Flores, a former Coast Guardsman, an honorary Marine. They did this on her birthday.
She then returned to Edinburg to continue working at two jobs, at the Echo Hotel as a waitress and a greeter at an HEB store. There should be scenes for Freddy’s mother in the film, whenever it is made. Perhaps it will premier in Edinburg. Wherever, don’t miss it.