If you were looking for a female version of Frank Wilcox – the De Soto native who had a long career as a character actor in films and television – you could hardly do better than to come up with Morgan Fairchild.
So it makes sense to choose Fairchild, a star on TV shows ranging from prime-time soap operas (“Dallas,” “Flamingo Road,” “Falcon Crest”) to comedies (“Friends”) to science fiction (“Roswell”), as well as dozens of roles in movies, as the special guest for the eighth annual Frank Wilcox Film Festival, to be held March 21 in De Soto.
“It’s always an interesting search to find somebody, and when I saw her background, she’s truly in the image of Frank Wilcox when it comes to picking out roles,” said Jim Thomas, the organizer for the festival, which he started in 2013. “She’s had some steady roles on different TV shows. A lot of people would remember her from ‘Friends.’
“The thing that’s interesting is that she did just a ton of different TV appearances as a character actress, playing a certain role just for one or two episodes. That really drew us to her and then when we talked to her agent and her people, she seems very nice and talked about how she would like to do the Wilcox Festival.
“We’re very intrigued and happy she signed up to do it. And now we’re really excited to have her come to De Soto.”
Wilcox, who died in 1974, was born in De Soto in 1907 and lived there to age 7. He appeared in more than 400 movies and TV shows, often playing judges or doctors.
“(She’s) very Wilcoxian in terms of her background,” Thomas said of Fairchild, who celebrated her 70th birthday this week. “She’s been on just about every show there was – both past shows and current shows. A lot of TV shows that people are familiar with today, she’s made an appearance (on).
“You name it, she’s been on it. That’s really what drew us to her. She’s had a great career.”
There’s an additional connection to Wilcox as well. Fairchild has served on the Screen Actors Guild board of directors; Wilcox served on that board in 1959-1960 at the request of the union’s president at the time, Ronald Reagan.
“We always try to look for as many (Wilcox) connections as possible, but when we saw her body of work, it was undeniable that she’d be a great choice,” Thomas said. “And then the response we got from Morgan has been outstanding. She’s very excited to come and be a part of the festival.”
Thomas said this year’s program will again include “An Evening With” dinner featuring the special guest from 6-9 p.m. Guests will have their pictures taken at the start of the event and Fairchild will autograph the photos at the end. In-between will be a lengthy question-and-answer session on Fairchild’s career.
Tickets for the dinner, which will be held at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 13225 Hwy. E, will be $100. The net proceeds will benefit the Knights’ scholarship programs.
In recent years, the dinner has drawn large crowds and last year’s event raised $3,000 for scholarships awarded to students from St. Rose of Lima Catholic School in De Soto to attend St. Pius X High School in Crystal City.
Previous headliners at the Wilcox Festival have included Donna Douglas (2013), Jerry Mathers (2014), Sandy Duncan (2015), Dawn Wells (2016), Erik Estrada (2017), Loretta Swit (2018) and George Wendt (2019).