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Movies in Beaufort County, SC:
When and Where

by
Dennis Adams
Information Services Coordinator

Part II:
Local Movie Lore


TOPICS:
"Honorable Mention"
Films About Beaufort ...
But Not Filmed Here

... or go to Movies in Beaufort County Part I or Part III

 

BEAUFORT'S HOLLYWOOD VISITORS


Clark Gable

Though no part of Gone with the Wind was ever filmed here in Beaufort (see The Tara Rumor), the actor who played Rhett Butler was a guest Beaufort's Gold Eagle Tavern. Clark Gable (1901-1960) was in good company: click here for a list of other celebrities who signed in at the Gold Eagle.

Dorothy Lamour

Stage, screen and film star Dorothy Lamour told The Beaufort Gazette (September 9, 1965) that her visit to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island was "the proudest day of my life". She joined her husband and younger son to attend son John R. Howard's graduation ceremony from basic training. "When John was born, I said to myself, 'Here is another man for the service of the United States," she said.

After the ceremony, Lamour signed autographs and greeted the Marines. She thanked the Platoon 143 drill instructor, Sgt. Davis, for "doing a tremendous" job in training her son.

Dorothy Lamour (1914-1996, born Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton) was best known for the five "Road" films she made with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in the 1940s: (The Road to Singapore, The Road to Zanzibar, The Road to Morocco, The Road to Utopia, and The Road to Rio).


BEAUFORT "GOES HOLLYWOOD"
Local Residents Meet the Stars!

When production of The Great Santini began in 1979, a wave of excitement stirred Beaufort as never before. Residents saw Robert Duval, Blythe Danner, and other stars walking about town as if Beaufort had become a second Hollywood. "Locals" signed on as extras and learned that most of the time would be spent waiting for a scene to be set up for shooting. When the movie was released at last, Beaufortonians were thrilled to see themselves and their neighbors on the big screen -- at least for a few seconds. Filmmakers can always count on a big turnout when extras are needed in Beaufort, and some retirees and others with flexible schedules have made a "second career" of being filmed in the periphery, along with the area's beautiful scenery.

Interactions with Hollywood celebrities have entered local folklore. Perhaps the best-known story tells of the time that Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump, filmed in 1993) got out of a car when he saw a wedding at a local church and gave the bride a good-luck kiss. A library patron reported having seen Hanks' co-star, Sally Field, shopping in the local K-Mart. Bicyclist Nick Nolte was often spotted riding his bicycle through town during the 1990 filming of The Prince of Tides . These are only a few of the many anecdotes, because a new film production in town is always an adventure for residents and tourists alike.

Of course, there have been times when the residents of Beaufort have had to adjust to exigencies of filmmaking. During the filming of Forces of Nature, for instance, a number of residents of "The Point" complained about the impact of some of the equipment on the the historic, normally placid neighborhood --- including the large fans that blew up hurricane-force winds for the cameras. Some "Point" residents even left town for the duration of the filming.

Much was made of the telephone call that Prince of Tides director Barbra Streisand made to the Marine Corps Air Station when military jets flew over the areas where she was filming. But filmmakers have enjoyed a harmonious relationship with the local military, as far back as François Reichenbach (Les Marines, 1957) and Lewis John Carlino (The Great Santini, 1979). During the fiming of The War in 1993, the command at the Air Station even re-routed their flights so the jets would not fly over the tree used in the film, even though the location sat at the far end of the jet flight line. The Air Station also kept in touch with the filmmakers on a daily basis, informing them when flights were about to begin.

"HONORABLE MENTION"
Films About Beaufort ... But Not Filmed Here.

The D. I.
(1957)
Cast: Jack Webb, Don Dubbins, Lin McCarthy,
Jackie Lougherty, Monica Lewis, Virginia Gregg, Barbara Pepper.
Directed by Jack Webb.

The setting may was Parris Island, SC -- but the scenes were filmed in California. Leonard Maltin's 2002 Movie and Video Guide called The D. I. an "ostensibly realistic account of Marine basic training" that "is today a wonderful exercise in high camp. ... (The) sequence where soldiers search for a 'murdered' sand flea is priceless." Sand fleas, of course, are "no-see-ums," the tiny biting midges that can put a damper on outdoor activities in the Lowcountry (and which make basic training all the rougher for Marine recruits at Parris Island).


Conrack
(Released 1974)
Cast: Jon Voight, Paul Winfield, Madge Sinclair, Hume Cronyn
Directed by Martin Ritt
20th Century Fox

The movie was not filmed in Beaufort, but on the sea islands around Brunswick, Georgia.

Conrack is the film version of Pat Conroy’s The Water is Wide (the title taken from a verse of "Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore", a Beaufort Sea Island spiritual). The book recounted Conroy’s experiences in a one-room school on Daufuskie Island (Beaufort County) in the late 1960s. He accepted the position after a one-year teaching stint at the "mainstream" Beaufort High School. At the Daufuskie School, Conroy found fifth-to-eighth graders from the Sea Island African-American community who had never learned even even the basics of the outside world (the students spoke the Gullah dialect , and the only transportation to and from the island was by boat). His efforts to bring change met with opposition from the veteran black teacher on Daufuskie Island and, eventually, the school board in Beaufort. By the end of the school term, Conroy was forced to leave his teaching job.

In the book and in the film, the name of Daufuskie Island was changed to "Yamacraw Island", and the names of certain individuals were changed as well. Jon Voight portrayed the "Conrack" character (a Gullah pronunciation of "Conroy") in the movie.


Glory
(Released 1989)
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington
Directed by Edward Zwick
TriStar Pictures

Glory was filmed in Georgia, but the story belongs to Beaufort. The 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry disproved the prejudice against black soldiers in the Civil War. Under the command of Robert Gould Shaw, these "colored troops" garrisoned in Beaufort, S. C. (the town and surrounding islands had fallen to Federal troops in November of 1861) showed great valor in the July 18,1863 assault on the Confederate Fort Wagner in Charleston. Despite the heavy losses to the regiment, the troops' performance encouraged the Federal government to recruit many more African-American soldiers. The number of blacks in the Union ranks reached 180,000 -- a force that may have decided the course of the Civil War.

On November 30, 1864, the 54th Regiment fought closer to their home base at the Battle of Honey Hill. Several regiments of Union troops could not defeat the well-placed rebel troops, and were short on ammunition. So the Confederate railroads and other vital communication links between Savannah and Charleston remained intact. The site is in Jasper County (part of Beaufort County at the time of the battle) on U. S. Highway 278, about 1.8 miles east of Grahamville.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
(Released 1997)
Cast: Kevin Spacey, John Cusack, Jack Thompson, The Lady Chablis (as herself), Alison Eastwood, Irma P. Hall
Directed by Clint Eastwood.
The Malpaso Company / Warner Brothers Pictures

Though Savannah is at the heart and soul of the movie (and of the book by John Berendt), Beaufort casts a long shadow in the "garden". The central character, Jim Williams, drives to a cemetery in the Beaufort area to contact the widow of St. Helena Island "root doctor" Stepheney Robinson (better known as "Doctor Buzzard").

 
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