Halston, the fashion designer, in the 1960s

Halston, the fashion designer, in the 1960s

?Jean Barthet/

Roy Halston Frowick was born in the heart of the Midwest (Des Moines, Iowa) at the height of the Great Depression (1932). That hardly sounds like a proving ground for what he became — a superstar fashion designer who created an empire, who personified the social and sexual revolution of the 20th century.

And now, he's the subject of a film, whose writer-director, Frédéric Tcheng, is coming to Dallas to showcase Halston, his opening-night offering in the 49th USA Film Festival. The festival debuts April 24 and runs through April 28 at the Dallas Angelika.

Joining Tcheng for the Dallas appearance will be Lesley Frowick, Halston's niece. The 105-minute film reexamines the era of 1970s glamour, in which Halston made an impact on fashion, culture and business. His was a world of cashmere and ultra-suede, which defied the standards of the day by elevating his own celebration of minimalism to the level of genius. 

Tcheng relies on rare archival footage and interviews with such luminaries as Liza Minelli and Andy Warhol. Cameras frequently spotted Halston at Studio 54 in New York, where he often hung out with Minelli, Warhol and Bianca Jagger.

Tcheng's film is a story about legacy and pressure — the enormous pressure of business. The bigger the business, the greater the pressure. Halston died at 57, a victim of an AIDS-defining illness called Kaposi's sarcoma.

Left to right: Pat Cleveland, Chris Royer, Halston, Alva Chinn and Karen Bjornson

Left to right: Pat Cleveland, Chris Royer, Halston, Alva Chinn and Karen Bjornson

Dustin Pittman/USA Film Festival 

And yet, when it comes to the USA Film Festival, whose roots date back to the campus of Southern Methodist University in 1970, that's only a sliver of what's happening. The White Crow, directed by Ralph Fiennes about dancer Rudolf Nureyev, will round out the opening night of April 24. 

Festival attendees will be treated to models wearing Halston fashions in the lobby of the Angelika on opening night, and during the post-movie discussion, we may learn more about a Texas rancher named Estelle Marsh Watlington. 

As The New York Times wrote in 1986: "Mrs. Watlington, whose family is blessed with an abundance of oil, gas, cattle and land, is hardly the rustic cowgirl: it was she who recognized the talent of a fellow by the name of Halston and helped bankroll his entry into a greater world." Her 2003 obituary in The Dallas Morning News, which listed her name as Estelle Fariss Marsh, described her as "the sole financial backer of the fashion designer Halston." 

Other personalities we hope to learn more about include Ed Asner (The Mary Tyler Moore ShowLou Grant), who's coming to the festival to discuss a film about him, Ed Asner: On Stage and Off.

Timothy Busfield

Timothy Busfield

REED SAXON/AP

And remember Timothy Busfield from the hit television show, Thirtysomething, which ran from 1987 to 1991? Busfield, who won an Emmy for his performance in Thirtysomething, will appear at the festival to discuss a film he directed, Guest Artist, starring Jeff Daniels. And Edward Zwick, the Oscar-winning co-creator of Thirtysomething, will show up to present Trial by Fire. That one is based on the true story of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was given the death penalty for an arson-related triple homicide in Corsicana in 1991. 

Writer-director Olive Talley — a former staff writer for The Dallas Morning News — will present her documentary All Rise for the Good of the Children, which peers inside the courtroom of a family judge in Tyler, who pioneered an innovative approach to healing and reuniting families trapped in the perils of the child welfare system.

Women's right activist and former Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis will be in attendance to talk about a film in which she appears, director Cheryl Allison's feature debut, Shatter the Silence, which IMDb describes this way: "Texas women and men in the Dallas-Fort Worth area discuss sexual harassment, rape culture, the watershed moment for women and the road ahead."

And for those who favor a more commercial bent to the films they like to see, Siena Miller will star in American Woman, which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival last September. 

UPDATED 4:07 p.m., April 18, 2019: This story has been updated with additional details about the Dallas screening of Halston

UPDATED, 4:50 p.m., April 22, 2019: American Woman, starring Siena Miller, will not be shown at the festival on Wednesday night, April 24, organizers say. They hope to screen it at a later date. 

Details

All films will be screened at the Angelika Film Center & Café at Mockingbird Station, 5321 E. Mockingbird Lane in Dallas. The festival opens with Halston on April 24 and runs through April 29. Tickets are currently available through Ticketmaster. For more information about the films and ticket prices, click hereor visit usafilmfestival.com. 

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