New Eastwood Movie Features Mollie B, Texas Dancers

The polka world is abuzz about Clint Eastwood’s latest film, The Mule. Why would polka lovers be interested in a movie that features Eastwood as a 90-year-old horticulturist turned drug runner? Polka, of course. For one minute and 40 seconds in the two-hour movie viewers are taken to a very familiar scene – a polka dance at a VFW hall. Not only is it a familiar scene, but a familiar band – Mollie B and Squeezebox. And familiar dancers from Texas, Wisconsin, and several other states.

How did this all come about? First, we have Eastwood’s girlfriend, Christina Sandera, to thank for introducing him to the Mollie B Polka Party on RFD-TV. A full-blood Czech and polka lover, it seems Christina and Clint spend their Saturday nights watching the show.

Second, we have Eastwood’s ability to recognize talent when he sees it causing Warner Brothers producer Tim Moore to reach out to Mollie in April 2018. He told her they were starting production of a new movie, and that the director of the movie had specifically asked him to contact Mollie and book her band for a scene in the movie.

“Oh, and the director is also starring in the movie. Oh, and it’s Clint Eastwood,” Mollie said remembering that phone call.

WRITE A POLKA

Warner Brothers asked Mollie for some original songs. A prolific songwriter as a child, Mollie had only penned a few tunes as an adult for her dad’s band – Jim Busta Band – and Ted Lange’s band – Squeezebox. She followed her songwriting formula of “keep it simple, because that’s what sticks.”

A road trip to a gig in South Dakota proved the perfect setting for writing songs. "I wrote the music out in numbers in my notes on iPhone. The lyrics were also written at that time. And somehow, they stuck. A day later I wrote it out on paper at 5 am while eating breakfast at a hotel before our gig in Arcadia, Iowa," Mollie recalled.

A few days later Ted added the verse (melody, lyrics, and chords) while on a short break from practice in Mollie's parent’s garage. Mollie submitted five songs to Warner Brothers and the studio chose A Day to Say Thank You and It's Party Time, with the former being the song heard in the movie.

While on a European tour with Alfred and Bernice Vrazel, Mollie got another call from the studio. They wanted legit “Mollie B fans” to be the dancers in the scene. “While sitting in the London airport, wheels in my brain started turning and fingers were tapping out texts, emails, and notes on my cell phone to get the casting into action,” Mollie said.

“We were completely surprised by the text we received early in the morning on May 17,” said Valina, who, with her husband, Ross, form the band Das Ist Lustig. The text announced Mollie’s need to recruit some dancers to appear in a movie. Valina and Ross thought, “Hmm, polka music, Squeezebox, veterans, Clint Eastwood.” The couple were on board! “After all, if Mollie’s involved, polka will be respected, not made fun of,” Valina said.

“Within a week, Warner Brothers had received several applications and by the end of May, dancers were receiving confirmation e-mails giving them details about the filming in the Atlanta area. It was exciting to know we get to share this experience with so many ‘Mollie B’ fans and friends.”

CAST THE DANCERS

In June, about 50 dancers arrived in Atlanta driving and flying from Texas, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Georgia, Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, North Dakota, and New York. “They told us to bring two or three outfits that we would normally wear to a polka dance,” said Pat Vrazel, who made the trip from Danbury with husband, Louis.

Filming took place at VFW Post #6330 in Jonesboro, Georgia, just south of Atlanta. The scene is the grand reopening of the VFW that had been damaged by fire. Earl Stone (Eastwood) donates some of the cash he made as a mule to repair the building and throw the polka party. It was a nine-hour day of filming, which is nothing to these veteran polka lovers who put in more hours dancing at festivals.

Each member of the band – Mollie, Ted, Joe Poper, and Dana Lindblad – had his or her own dressing room in trailers next to the VFW. “Make-up and hair were touched up by professionals. Our costumes were chosen and approved by their head costume designer. About two hours after we arrived, the Mollie B fans/ polka dancers started arriving on set and things started feeling like a normal polka dance,” Mollie recalled.

Filming started at 1 pm with Mollie B and the band performing A Day to Say Thank You and It’s Party Time. “Oh, we had fun,” Mollie said. “We played the two songs multiple times. And we all smiled and laughed. The dancers danced. And, the actors delivered their lines.”

The dinner break featured food catered from California. Mollie and Ted dined with Eastwood. “We had a ‘normal’ conversation about jazz artists, tenor sax players, and music, in general. Clint knows his music. He is a composer and instrumentalist, with music that has made it into his films. Eastwood Studios is the name of the music building at Warner Brothers.”

It was back to “work” after dinner with more dancing. Director Eastwood decided on a slight scene change. “I now was to come down off stage near the end of the song with my saxophone around my neck and microphone in hand to dance with Earl Stone,” Mollie said. This also gave Mollie a speaking part in the movie when she thanks Earl for making the celebration possible.

By the end of the day, the crew had on Mollie B shirts and were enjoying the party. Once the cameras were put away, the party continued.

“It was great! And I heard nothing but wonderful comments from the crew about the day, the shoot, the dancers, the band, and Clint,” Mollie said.

Watching the scene in the movie, you’d never know Mollie performed while battling a sore throat, fever, and aches. She left the after-party early to find an urgent care facility where it was confirmed she had a temperature of 103 degrees and strep throat. Mollie credits God and Tylenol for being able to make it through the day. “I prayed and told God I expected the unexpected.”

Another person battling an ailment was dancer Betty Nemec, who traveled to Atlanta with her husband, Stan, from Belton. A chiropractor treatment for tendonitis in the knee helped before they got on the plane, but the knee began to tighten the day before filming.

“I was blessed to get an appointment with an amazing massage therapist in Morrow [Georgia]. I walked out of the appointment with no pain and very little limp. The next day I danced with Clint Eastwood!”

You can see Betty dancing with Eastwood in the movie. “I was so honored to be chosen to dance with him. What an awesome experience. I followed Mr. Eastwood’s dance moves and added my own flavor,” she said.

AT THE PREMIERE

The premiere of the movie was held Dec. 10 in Los Angeles. Mollie and Ted attended at the invitation of Warner Brothers. They enjoyed watching the movie just seats away from Eastwood, Diane Wiest, the Eastwood family, and several crew members, and attended the post-premiere party.

A few days before the premiere, Toby Keith’s music video Don’t Let the Old Man In was released featuring clips from the movie. Mollie was surprised to see that she, Eastwood, and several dancers, made it into one of those clips in the music video.

Mollie and the dancers described the filming as an experience of a lifetime. "I’ve had people write me who don’t even follow me or polka, but loved the scene. It’s uplifting, and the song totally fits in since Eastwood’s character is giving the VFW money to maintain the VFW Post.”

What’s next for Mollie B? After the Veterans Salute cruise with Jimmy Sturr in January and a gig in Wisconsin in February, Mollie, Ted, and Squeezebox will hit the road for their annual winter tour in California, Arizona, and Texas.

Squeezebox will be performing eight shows in Texas, and Mollie promises you’ll hear A Day to Say Thank You performed.

And when you get Mollie’s autograph at the meet and greet before the show, you’re not just getting the signature of a polka celebrity, you’re getting the signature of a movie star!

A DAY TO SAY THANK YOU

Oh it’s a day to say, “Thank you.” And it’s time to have fun, too. The sky is blue, the grass is green, and the birds are singing, too. Oh my friends, I say, “Thank you.”

It’s not often that we hear a lot of thanks for those who gave, And few remember those who won’t return. It’s our patriotic duty to honor those who serve, And give to you the praise that you deserve.

Oh it’s a day to say, “Thank you.” And it’s time to have fun, too. The sky is blue, the grass is green, and the birds are singing, too. Oh my friends, I say, “Thank you.”

Texas Polka News

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