Johnsonburg native Richard DeLong will bring a unique, yet prominent aspect to locally filmed Prohibition-era movie "Little Chicago": his collection of old-fashioned slot machines.
"We've been searching for a period antique dealer that specializes in gaming," said John Anast of Allegheny Production, a Bradford company that is assisting in the making of "Little Chicago."
As it turns out, help was much closer than it seemed.
Recently featured in a national magazine for his collection, DeLong is lending his 1920s and 1930s slot machines to "Little Chicago" staff to provide an authentic look for the film's speakeasies, where gambling devices often lined the walls.
"I want to create the best speakeasy ever seen in a movie," DeLong said without flinching.
DeLong and his wife, Jenny, may be able to help achieve such a lofty goal. Jenny DeLong has an antique store in Ridgway, which may provide several vintage good for the crew, which will accept no reproductions, only authentic items.
How does DeLong get his hands on such rare pieces of equipment?
"Wherever I can find them," he said.
He has people send him machines from all over the country. Often, they are in very poor shape and need restored.
"A lot of them, they look awful when we get them," DeLong said.
Awful-looking or not, the relics are valuable, coming in at an average of ,1,500 to ,3,000, according to DeLong.
"I sold one a few years ago for ,20,000," he said. "It played country music on it."
DeLong has been collecting slot machines for more than 40 years, a hobby that actually landed him in jail temporarily thanks to a three-plus-year battle with authorities.
"I ran across two slot machines at a lumber camp," DeLong said of his collection's beginning. He bought them, which was legal since he only had plans to collect them, not use them for gambling.
In 1977, a large raid of prostitution and gambling rings led to DeLong wrongly being arraigned and sent to jail, in addition to having his machines confiscated. There, he refused to cooperate with authorities, who were pressing him to reveal names of those who also collected slot machines.
"I was looking at five to 10 years in jail and a ,10,000 fine," DeLong said.
"What I did was research on collecting slot machines."
DeLong took his case to court. There, he said, a judge ruled that DeLong had done nothing wrong and quickly dismissed the case, even chiding the prosecutors for putting DeLong through such embarrassment and expense. Eventually, he was able to get his machines back from state police.
DeLong will get to see his machines put to use sometime in the spring, when "Little Chicago" crew members return to Bradford and Olean, N.Y., to resume filming and hold a second, more specialized audition for locals. Costume fitting also must be tackled before the cameras can roll.
"Weather plays a part in when we're shooting," Anast added. "We want to be rolling in March."
But the most difficult hurdle to pass is getting the major Hollywood stars to sign on, according to Veno. Filming must be completed by June 30.
Producers are trying to keep most of the filming in the area for multiple reasons. The tax hit is softer in Pennsylvania, and it is cheaper and easier to film at an authentic location rather than recreate a "Bradford" in a Hollywood studio, according to Veno. Filming permits are also far more expensive in California.
"We're looking at Smethport or Belmont for a courthouse," Veno said. The site would recreate where infamous gangster Al Ritchie was tried.
A trailer for "Little Chicago" should appear online in a few days, according to an Allegheny Productions crew member. The trailer can be seen at the Web site http://littlechicagothemovie.com">littlechicagothemovie.com.