Thursday, 6 July 2017

On the Louisiana set of Clint Eastwood's 1971 original 'Beguiled'

I was contacted by an old friend and Eastwood fan today, James Elliott. James pointed me to this fascinating article on the original Beguiled movie from 1971. The story is by Mike Scott of the New Orleans newspaper The Times-Picayune. The piece is accompanied by some wonderful pictures that are ALL new to me. I’m constantly amazed by this sort of material and how it continues to surface.
Thank you James – it’s a wonderful article.

Sofia Coppola’s New Orleans-shot Civil War drama “The Beguiled” pulled down a respectable $3.3 million in its limited release on June 30, and it continues to win praise from critics. But it’s not the first time moviegoers have been beguiled by “The Beguiled.” In fact, Coppola’s adaptation isn’t even the first time the story has been filmed in Louisiana.

Back in 1971, actor Clint Eastwood and Don Siegel teamed up for a version of the film shot at
Ashland-Belle Helene Plantation near Baton Rouge. It would be one of five movies the two would make together. (Coogan’s Bluff in 1968, Two Mules for Sister Sara in 1970, Dirty Harry in 1971 and Escape from Alcatraz in 1979).

Both Siegel and Coppola’s films are built around the same story, about a group of women at an all-girls Southern boarding school who take in a wounded but charming Union soldier, but they’re decidedly different movies. That goes for the style in which they’re shot -- which in Siegel’s film is all jarringly canted camera angles and quick cuts, as opposed to the elegant polish of Coppola’s film -- but it also goes for each film’s very raison d’ĂȘtre.

For her part, Coppola describes her “Beguiled” as a study of the dynamics between the female characters -- who represent several age groups -- and how that dynamic changes with the introduction of a man. Siegel, on the other hand, has been quoted as saying his movie is about “the basic desire of women to castrate men."
Can’t get much different than that.
At any rate, with Coppola’s “The Beguiled” gaining notice -- including at May’s Cannes Film Festival, where the film earned her the award for best director -- we thought the time was right for a look back at the set of Siegel’s “Beguiled,” as seen through the lens of staff photographer V.A. Guidry.

The House
While Coppola’s more recent version of “The Beguiled” was shot largely at Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville, Siegel’s film set up at the Ashland-Belle Helene Plantation in Ascension Parish near Baton Rouge.
Ashland-Belle Helene was built in 1841 by planter Duncan Farrar Kenner, who is of the same family after which the Louisiana city of Kenner is named. Kenner named the house Ashland, borrowing the name of Henry Clay’s estate. It was changed by a later owner to Belle Helene to honor his own daughter.
The Greek Revival building, with its striking colonnades, has been featured in other films including A Band of Angels (1957), The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974), The Long, Hot Summer (1985) and Fletch Lives (1989), in which Chevy Chase's main character inherits the old house. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and was sold in 1992 to Shell Chemical Co., which has set about restoring it.

The women of The Beguiled.
Geraldine Page (right) and the other women of Siegel’s version of The Beguiled are photographed on the Ashland-Belle Helene grounds. In Coppola’s version, Oscar-winning actors Nicole Kidman played the role originated by Page. Also visible in the photo is Mae Mercer, the blues singer and actress who played Hallie, a slave character in Siegel’s film. Coppola drew criticism for her decision to exclude that character from her telling, which some characterised as whitewashing. For her part, though, Coppola said the decision was made out of respect to the plight of American slaves. “I didn’t want to have a slave character in ‘The Beguiled’ because that subject is a very important one, and I didn’t want to brush over it lightly,” she said.

A first for Clint Eastwood
Actor Clint Eastwood and 11-year-old Pamelyn Ferdin are photographed in April 1970 on the set of director Don Siegel's Civil War-era drama The Beguiled at Ashland-Belle Helene Plantation Home near Baton Rouge. While Siegel directed The Beguiled, Eastwood made his directorial debut on the same set, making a 12-minute documentary called "The Beguiled: The Storyteller." Later in 1970, Eastwood would take the reigns of his first feature film, Play Misty for Me, which, like The Beguiled, would arrive in theatres in 1971.

Take five
Crew members line up for lunch on the 1970 set of The Beguiled, a Civil War-set drama starring Clint Eastwood and which was shot at the Ashland-Belle Helene Plantation near Baton Rouge.

Geraldine Page and Don Siegel
The Beguiled' actress Geraldine Page (center), and others go over a scene with director Don Siegel, standing, during film of the Civil War-set drama in 1970 at Ashland-Belle Helene Plantation near Baton Rouge.

The Beguiled actress Geraldine Page goes over a scene with director Don Siegel (center left), and Dialogue Director Scott Hale (right), during production of the film in 1970 at Ashland-Belle
Helene Plantation near Baton Rouge.

Clint Eastwood and Pamelyn Ferdin 
Actor Clint Eastwood (left), stands by as dialogue director Scott Hale goes over lines with 11-year-old actor Pamelyn Ferdin in April 1970 during filming of director Don Siegel's Civil War-era drama The Beguiled at Belle Helene Plantation Home near Baton Rouge.

Below: Advertising flashback
An ad in The Times-Picayune for director Don Siegel's 1971 drama The Beguiled played up the film's Louisiana provenance. (The Times-Picayune archive)

By Mike Scott of The Times-Picayune, the New Orleans newspaper Posted July 05, 2017 Original article here 

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