If you go
What: "Route 30, Three!" York premiere
When: Showings are at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, April 11, followed by a Q&A with cast members and filmmaker John Putch
Where: Strand-Capitol Theatre, 50 N. George St., York
Length: 94 minutes
DVDs: The "Route 30" trilogy DVDs will be available for purchase and autographs at the Strand.
More information: Visit www.route30three.com or www.route30trilogy.com .
Ed Gotwalt still remembers walking into the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center as a five-year-old boy to watch his first-ever movie.
He sat in the fourth row on the right side of the theater with his mother as "Dumbo" played on the screen.
"I left that movie theater feeling really happy and glad I saw this," Gotwalt said. "Dumbo was as real to me as you sitting across from me right now."
On Saturday, Gotwalt, now 78, will return to the Strand. But this time he'll be the one on screen.
Gotwalt, known by many locals as Mister Ed, plays himself in the "Route 30" trilogy, set along Route 30 between Gettysburg and Chambersburg. He's known for founding Mister Ed's Elephant Museum and Candy Emporium in Orrtanna, which is home to more than 12,000 elephant figurines, 1,000 different candies, home-made fudge and roasted peanuts.
Gotwalt and his elephant-filled store make several appearances in "Route 30, Three!," the final movie in the trilogy.
The movie, written, directed and produced by Chambersburg native John Putch, centers around the disappearance of the character Rotten Egg and the reveal of Tork's true identity in a James-Bond-meets-"Blazing Saddles" style story.
This isn't the first time Putch and Gotwalt have been involved in the same project. In 1974, they performed in a play together at Totem Pole Playhouse in Fayetteville and have been working together ever since, Putch said.
But Gotwalt never dreamed that 40 years later, they'd be making movies together.
When Putch decided to film the first "Route 30" movie in Southcentral Pennsylvania, he said he knew that Gotwalt and his store would be a great resource.
"He (wanted) me to be the warm, lovable character that Mister Ed is in life," Gotwalt said.
"The more I think about it, this movie is just like what I do, the way I live," he added. "I met all these movie stars and TV stars I've done master of ceremony work, I've been a grand marshal in a parade. All this stuff I've done is part of my life, so what happens in the movie isn't unusual."
In "Route 30, Three!," the audience will see Gotwalt trying to sell a candy G-string to a customer, giving a eulogy at a funeral and looking sad and teary-eyed.
"They're going to see the real Mister Ed," he said.
Since the first "Route 30" movie was made, Gotwalt said people from out of town ask how Putch came up with the Mister Ed character. They don't know he's a real person, and they have a good laugh when they find out, Putch said.
"People call on the phone and ask me, 'Are you real?', and they drive here from far distances to see if there really is a Mister Ed store," Gotwalt said.
In addition to the store, locals might recognize other scenes from the movie, such as Norlo Park in Fayetteville, The Historic Round Barn in Biglerville, Cottage Pub in Chambersburg and Camp Penn in Waynesboro.
While no scenes were filmed in York, Putch said he included some York references that will hopefully get a good laugh from the Strand audience during the movie premiere at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday.
Returning to the Strand for the release of the final movie in the trilogy will be a nostalgic experience for Gotwalt, he said.
"I went to all the movies, so sitting in the Strand-Capitol and watching myself on the screen, it's really cool," Gotwalt said.
But this won't be his last appearance on screen.
Gotwalt said he'll be working on a new movie with Putch this summer that is completely unrelated to the "Route 30" story. And this time, Gotwalt will play a completely different character.
"It's going to be fabulous," Gotwalt said. "I love doing it. I would do it for a living starting right this minute."
ROUTE 30, THREE! - MISTER ED and The Route 30 Trilogy from ROUTE 30 TRILOGY on Vimeo .