If Robert Cantwell were nothing more than a gifted writer, his article on the 35-year-old Bobby Jones golf movies (page 76) would never have been written. For this story Cantwell also needed the steely nerve of a James Bond, the determination of a marathon runner and the luck of a—well, an honest man. Cantwell had become interested in the Jones film classics when he read a somewhat garbled mention of them in a London newspaper, but he could not locate a print. Film libraries and cinema experts that he consulted told him it must be a case of mistaken identity. They said no Jones golf film existed and, in all likelihood, none ever had.
Disappointed but undefeated, Cantwell carried on and one day happened to mention his project to Al Wright, our golf writer. Wright stated that not only did the films exist but that as a boy in California he had actually watched them being photographed. Further, he had seen them on the screen and, in his opinion, "They were probably the best instructional movies ever made."
Greatly encouraged, Cantwell wired Jack Tobin, our Los Angeles correspondent, and asked him to double-check Hollywood's film libraries. Tobin reported that he could find nothing. Finally Cantwell went directly to the source. He talked with Bobby Jones himself, and the Grand Slammer came through. He told Cantwell that the only existing set of the films he knew of was resting in an Atlanta bank vault.
Cantwell flew to Atlanta and, with Jones's blessing, descended upon the bank, where, with some trepidation, he took temporary possession of 18 ancient reels of film, which by now seemed at least as irreplaceable as the Dead Sea Scrolls. He spent the day running and rerunning the films, taking notes all the while. When he had finished, it was late in the afternoon and the bank was closed. He thought for a moment and then, realizing we would need still photographs from the films for the article, stuffed the reels into his suitcase and boarded a plane for New York and our photo lab. Weather forced the plane into an interminable holding pattern and Cantwell, head in hand, began to have second thoughts about the wisdom of taking the film to New York. "If I get killed," he thought, "how do I explain this to Bobby Jones?"
September 22, 1968
The plane landed late, and Cantwell sought the safety of his home. Next morning he took the film to our picture editor, George Bloodgood, who was horrified. Said Bloodgood, "I feel just the way I would if you came in here with the last surviving whooping crane that you had borrowed from the zoo for a picture." But the still shots were made and by early afternoon Cantwell was on his way back to Atlanta. By the time he arrived, once again the bank was closed. His calm exterior belying the fear and worry within, Bond—Cantwell. that is—coolly rented a motel room, propped a chair against the door, stuffed the film into the rear of the desk drawers, like whooping crane eggs in a nest, and slept fitfully, if at all.
He returned the 18 reels of film to the bank the next morning, watched them safely consigned to their vault, shook the bank manager's hand and then collapsed into a chair, where a kindly typist loosened his collar and gave him a drink of water. But only Cantwell seemed perturbed by the film's 48-hour absence. No one at the bank commented at all on the extended delay in returning it. That, Cantwell says, is when he fully realized how Atlantans feel about Bobby Jones. "You could probably go into a bank vault and stuff your pockets full of bills and banknotes," he says, "and, while the officials might look a bit distressed, no one would stop you if you had a note from Bobby."