The upcoming sports history book – Saints by the Numbers: The Greatest Players in New Orleans Saints History – features a photo of actor Charlton Heston, leaning into the huddle to call a play during the filming of the movie Number One in New Orleans in 1968.
The 1969 movie Number One was filmed partly in New Orleans, using replica Saints uniforms — complete with the franchise’s iconic gold helmet and fleur-de-lis logos on the sides. It portrayed aging 40-year-old quarterback Ron “Cat” Catlan, played by legendary actor Charlton Heston, who was attempting to fool Father Time and lead his team to another championship after winning the title years earlier.
But a script that had Catlan getting knocked out of a game with a knee injury and trying to make one last comeback came true during filming when Heston fractured a rib when hit by a couple of onrushing defensive linemen. The film, which also starred Jessica Walter and Diana Muldaur, included film from Saints games in 1968 and had Heston wearing jersey No. 17 because he somewhat resembled real-life New Orleans quarterback Billy Kilmer.
To make the movie more realistic, Heston received passing lessons from former USC quarterback Craig Fertig and Kilmer, who, like Cat Catlan, was known to throw a wobbly pass or two during his four-year run with the Saints. In addition to using game film and many Saints players, “Number One” featured nostalgic scenes from old Tulane Stadium and various spots around the city — including the French Quarter, where famed trumpeter Al Hirt was seen playing his horn.
Local filming on the movie wrapped in Dec. 1968 and the Loews State Theater on Canal Street hosted the world premiere on Aug. 21, 1969, with a throng of fans standing outside the old movie house. Then-Saints owner John Mecom Jr., who had a part in the movie, and wife Katsy rode in a parade of convertibles that brought guests from Hollywood and the football world alike to the grand opening.
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