The Long and
Winding Road

Bob Rector
After 45 years, Bob Rector and Alva McGovern, his star in this video, enjoy a long anticipated reunion as memorialized on FaceBook:

Forty-four years after I made this video, people still want to know who played Alva Sanders' lost love in this film.

Well, he's not heavy, he's my brother - a picture of him is anyway. It was my brother Randy's graduation picture. I grabbed it at the last second and took a quick shot of it, unbeknownst to him, to represent Alva's lost love.

This was my audition film for The Now Explosion and because it was so popular with the audience, launched my career in the business.

After the producer gave me a 45 RPM recording of The Long and Winding Road, I rushed home and played the song over and over again trying to find the heart that The Now Explosion's young audience could identify with. I had already knew where the 'long winding road' I wanted to use was - a winding dirt road in Ben Hill, Ga, not far from where I lived. I had been there many times.

The song, to me, was about the loss of the one true love of your life. You may end up with another that you spend your life with and raise a family, but this one true love will always be in your heart. I think this is especially true for women. I had worked with Alva Sanders (maiden name) on a short experimental film a few months earlier and I knew she would be perfect for the part.

I called Alva and said I was doing a film for the Now Explosion (it was already popular in Atlanta) and I wanted her to be in it and we had to be at this field in Ben Hill before the sun came up and I would pick her up at about 4:30 AM so be ready. She was quiet for a moment then said, “Okay.” I got off the phone fast before she could change her mind.

I had to deliver the film the following afternoon, Friday, so I knew I had to go ahead and shoot everything I could that Thursday evening. These were mostly pickup shots: a patch of flowers outside our apartment, the apartments themselves, the kitchen clock, and the wedding rings (ours). But I needed a photograph of the girl's lost love. I quickly grabbed my little brother's high school graduation picture, stuck it in a frame and shot a few feet of film of it.

Alva and I arrived at the field bordering the long, winding road about a half-hour before sunup on Friday morning. It was chilly and a little misty. Alva was just wearing a thin shirt and bell bottoms and was shivering. The first shot was a dreamy long lens angle of her running out of the rising sun toward the camera in slow motion. I got her and the camera positioned directly in line with the sun and waited. I asked Alva to tie her shirt up leaving her belly bare. Good thing 16mm is not high resolution enough to show goosebumps.

When the sun was far enough above the horizon, I cued Alva and she started running, her long hair flying out beautifully. We got it in one take. We continued working through the shots depending on sun position. The scenes of the road itself we shot last because I needed the sun higher.

Alva didn't just strike a pose and look pretty. We had talked on the drive that morning about what I was trying to accomplish. She listened quietly, asked a few questions. When I started rolling film, especially for the close ups, she was clearly channeling something inside her and it comes across in the footage.

By 10:30 we were finished in the field. We drove back to her house and while I was setting up for the scenes of her at the window, her mother, a very sweet lady, made lunch for us. I had no artificial lights, so the only light was what was coming through the window. That was fine with me. I wanted her to be almost in silhouette.

I was worried whether Alva could shed real tears for the camera and was ready to use artificial ones if needed. No problem. When I started rolling film, the tears came streaming down her cheek, but she didn't over-emote, just stared out the window, the pain and sadness in her eyes overwhelming.

That finished my shots with Alva. I ran downtown to grab the last few pickup shots of lonely people in the big, impersonal city. I was at Cinema Processors, the lab used by The Now Explosion, by 1:30 and by 2:30 Friday afternoon had my processed film in hand and was pulling into Ch. 36 on Briarcliff Road, the Now Explosion studios. Then Genii showed me the way to a film editing room about the size of a closet and I got to work.

The Background: There are so many elements of fate involved in the creation of this film that I sometimes get spooked thinking about it. What if it hadn't been successful? Where would my life have gone?

On a Thursday afternoon in Atlanta in the spring of 1970 I marched brazenly and unannounced into the office of Genii McCauley, producer of The Now Explosion. The day before, I quit my job at Lord & Taylor department store, working in the stock room. I quit because that meant there was no turning back. I decided I was going to make films for The Now Explosion TV show. Or else.

I finally convinced Genii that I was not going to take no for an answer, even though she had already said no about a half-dozen times. When I told her I'd do it for free, she pulled out a 45 RPM record from a stack on her desk and said, “Okay, see what you can do with this.” The record was The Long and Winding Road by the Beatles.

You might ask, how could you miss with a song by the Beatles? This was the Beatles last song and it was one of their best and certainly most poignant. But it was much a curse as a blessing. This was 1970 and when the Beatles stood up, their heads were in the stratosphere. They were the biggest thing that had ever happened to pop music; the most popular group ever. I didn't want to get lost in their shadow. I also knew if I didn't do something special, my career was over before it even got started. It would be back to some menial manual labor job for me.

By 6:00 PM Friday I had been at it since before daybreak) I finished editing the film. Genii brought Bob Whitney and a few of the other staff into the screening room and they all stood there watching my opus, expressionless. After it was over, they were quiet for about ten years, then Whitney grunted and said, “We'll see,” and left the room.

I was devastated. I'd had my shot and blown it. I went home very morose and consoled myself with the fact that it would be run at least once or twice over the weekend.

The shows were done “live” at the time with audience members calling in their requests – just like on top-40 radio. VJs Skinny Bobby Harper and Bob Todd chucked and jived with them while the technicians got the videotape cued. An hour or so into the broadcast I heard Skinny Bobby say, “And here's a new one by the Beatles, The Long and Winding Road.” There it was on TV. My film. I just stood there and watched with my mouth open.

Soon the phone was ringing. Family and friends who knew I'd made the film were calling to say they'd just seen it. My brother called and asked if I had used his picture in a film that was just shown on TV. I said yes and he said, cool.

And then something even more remarkable happened. The Long and Winding Road started running over and over again. It became the most requested film ever on The Now Explosion. The following day Genii called me and told me I had the job and to report to work Monday morning.

So why is this film so special to me? It literally changed my life. It launched a career in films, TV and stage work that has lasted over 40 years. It was the gateway to my dreams; made them a reality. Show business is a tough, cruel world. Most never make it through the front door. Many dreams are shattered. Many people my age look back over their lives and wonder what it would have been like if they had managed to get through that door.

I did get through. The Long Winding Road was my door opener and I will be forever grateful for that opportunity.