Directed by Roy McDonald
Released in 2006
Danielle Fradette as Bitsy
Gregg "Coal" Thomas as Jode
Frances Dee McCrea as the Grandmother
In 1999, more than 40 years after her formal retirement from movies, Frances participated in the filming of a short subject titled Far as the Eye Can See.
The story concerns a young woman deeply troubled by the death of her mother and the threatened loss of her best friend: a horse named Jake, who's owner wants to sell him for slaughter. Bitsy (Danielle Fradette) attempts to hide Jake in safety by driving him to a deserted ranch in a trailer hitched to her decrepit truck. While backing up the truck, Bitsy accidentally jams it against the ranch's water tower and, at that moment, the truck breaks down. It's position against the tower makes it impossible for Bitsy to open the door of Jake's trailer, and he is trapped inside.
Stranded on the barren ranch in the sweltering heat of summer, Bitsy climbs the tower to get water for Jake, and falls from the ladder's height. As she lies unconsious, the scene changes to her home, where her father, Jode (Greg "Coal" Thomas), and grandmother (Frances) stand on the front porch:
GRANDMOTHER: Have you heard from Kessler yet?
JODE: He said Bitsy never showed.
GRANDMOTHER: Where do you suppose she's gone?
JODE: I don't know. A hundred miles in any direction.
GRANDMOTHER: I never dreamed she'd do that. She got up early this morning, went down; the first thing I knew the horse was gone, she was gone, the trailer was gone.
JODE: It's not your fault.
GRANDMOTHER: Well, what I don't understand is why you haven't gone after her.
JODE: She's a big girl. She'd take care of herself.
GRANDMOTHER: And if she's not?
JODE: She has to be.
This scene and a one-line voiceover are the extent of Frances' part in the colmpeted film. Though the original script had called for more, her additional scenes were cut in the final edit. The decision was not a reflection on her performance.1 Said Peter McCrea, "She was in great form, and was a real pro on the set."2 And, for the first time, she was credited as Frances Dee McCrea.
Two more McCreas were involved in the production. Peter McCrea served as the Producer with Writer/Director Roy McDonald, as well as Still Photographer with Donna Wilson. Frances' grandson Mitchell McCrea worked behind the scenes as a wrangler.
Though Far as the Eye Can See went before cameras in October of 1999,3 it was not released until 2006, two years after Frances passed away.
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1 Peter McCrea, e-mail to author, November 8, 2007.
2 Peter McCrea, e-mail to author, May 20, 2008.
Screen capture from Far as the Eye Can See appears with the permission of Peter McCrea.