Wild River (1960) was the first major Hollywood movie shot in East Tennessee. Starring silver screen heavyweights Montgomery Clift and Lee Remick, the film explored the impact of TVA on the people and the land. The production made an indelible mark on the lives of people of Bradley and Hamilton counties, who served on crews and as extras on the film. Now there’s a documentary on it.
Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound hosts a free screening of Mud on the Stars: Stories from Elia Kazan’s Wild River at Central Cinema, 1205 N Central St., Sunday, July 23, at 4 p.m. Director Allison Inman and author David Swafford will be on hand for an introduction and post-screening Q&A.
In the one-hour documentary, residents of Bradley County celebrate the 50th anniversary of Elia Kazan’s Wild River, the movie that put them not only on the map but also on the big screen. In 1959, Kazan and crew spent months living among the locals, giving movie roles to dozens and revving the local economy. In exchange he got the gritty realism that makes his movies unique.
Tales of the filming of Wild River are legendary in Bradley and Hamilton counties. From the debate about who really owned the movie’s bluetick hound dog to who gave Montgomery Clift his first taste of moonshine, this documentary recounts the making of Wild River from the hometown point of view. The documentary includes cast members like Judy Harris Spurgeon, who played Lee Remick’s 5-year-old daughter, and the late Frances Cheatham, who played the child’s nanny. The late Walter Goode, longtime mayor of Charleston, Tennessee, where most of the movie was shot, talks about being an extra in the film at age 12.
Mud on the Stars also features David Swafford, a second-shift welder whose off-time is spent writing a book about Wild River – in a series of spiral-bound notebooks. Mud on the Stars, named after William Bradford Huie’s novel that the film was partially based upon, was produced by Life Care Media Center and the Cleveland Bradley Chamber of Commerce. The documentary was made primarily for the people of Bradley County to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Wild River. Mud on the Stars was directed by Allison Inman, produced by Barry Schuch and edited by Eric Hullquist.
Also featured will be two short films from Inman, Carthage House of Beauty and Hi Tech Service.
Mary Pom Claiborne is assistant director for marketing, communications and development for Knox County Public Library