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Midland Committee Chooses Producer For Rescue Movie

April 22, 1988

MIDLAND, Texas (AP) _ A committee settled a feud Friday between two groups competing to take the dramatic story of toddler Jessica McClure’s rescue from an abandoned well to television.

The choice of a Los Angeles-based firm satisfied the two groups of rescuers, civic leaders and Jessica’s parents, ending nearly two months of dissension that had split this West Texas city, officials said.

The two contending groups were municipal workers who participated in the rescue and a group of volunteers.

A five-member panel Mayor Carroll Thomas appointed to settle the spat chose a television movie proposal from Los Angeles-based Interscope Communications Inc. over one from producer Larry Spivey, president of Highland Communications Group Inc.

The selection of Interscope and word from the McClures’ attorney that negotiations will begin between the family and the film company appeared to halt the months-long battle for movie rights to Jessica’s story.

″The Jessica McClure rescue story is the type of story which should be told because it exemplifies the noblest aspects of the human spirit,″ said committee Chairman Wayne Merritt, a Midland banker.

Jessica was 18 months old when she fell into the well in a neighbor’s yard Oct. 14. Rescuers, many of them oilfield workers, dug a shaft through solid rock to save the toddler in a televised 58-hour effort that drew international attention.

Proposals from Interscope and Spivey were among dozens of proposals initially pitched to the McClures and workers involved in the rescue. The flood of offers prompted the formation of two rescuer’s groups after disagreements arose over rights negotiations.

Thomas appointed the committee after both groups agreed to abide by the decision of the panel. ″The effort that was made to reconcile was as as great as the (rescue) effort in October,″ said Merritt.

One group remains committed to a deal with Spivey, but spokesman Bob Hawk said his group endorsed the committee’s decision and will talk to Spivey next week. That group consists of more than 30 volunteers.

Another group, consisting mainly of municipal employees, announced Friday it had disbanded because its purpose, finding a producer, had been served.

″It is hoped that (the disbandment) will permit the successful producer to deal individually with all the people in Midland which the producer deems necessary to portray an accurate and all-encompassing true-life story of Jessica’s rescue,″ said police Cpl. Jim White.

Details remain to be worked out, said committee members.

The Interscope proposal listed John Kander II as co-executive producer with Dick Berg, who will write the script. Interscope has produced such television movies as ″Murder Ordained″ for CBS and such feature films as ″Three Men And A Baby,″ ″Outrageous Fortune″ and ″Revenge of the Nerds.″

Interscope called the story ″an important and positive reflection not only of the strength of the human spirit, even that of a small child, but of the strength of a community when it is banded together at the heart.″

The movie will be sponsored by Campbell Soup Co. and will be shown on ABC, officials said.

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