The Morning News from Wilmington, Delaware on October 5, 1980 · Page 89
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The Morning News from Wilmington, Delaware · Page 89

Wilmington, Delaware
Issue Date:
Sunday, October 5, 1980
Page 89
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During the course of its filming in and around Natchez, Miss., a group of black actors objected to the depiction of slaves in a portion of the script, maintaining that the story reenforced stereotypes and dis-. torted history. This resulted in a number of groups calling on NBC not to broadcast the mini-series. Brandon Tartikoff, NBC Entertainment president, feels the objections came from individuals who hadn't seen the completed production and who took the sequences in question out of context. "I really feel that this is a good dramatic program. It's good entertainment. When all is said and done after the mini-series has been broadcast, I don't think that this concern and protest will continue," Tartikoff says. "Certainly, this network in the past has displayed great sensitivity in dealing with the subject. 'Jesus of Nazareth,' when that was being put on, met with a similar kind of protest movement. Now, that show is rerun every year or two years. It's like a classic." s The "Beulah Land" project began in February 1978, when executive producer David Gerber bought the rights to the Coleman books. "I've always been fascinated by the Civil War period in our history," Gerber says. "I wanted to do a romantic film that would portray the life of a family on a working plantation during this emotional period." After writer Jacques Meunier turned in his script six months later, Gerber, producer Christopher Morgan and art director Edward Carfagno settled on Natchez as the site for the filming. One of the few towns left untouched by Union troops during the Civil War, it retains much of the original downtown architecture from the early 1800s. It also has one of the largest selections in the South of restored antebellum mansions. One of these mansions, the Melrose, a national historical landmark, was chosen to be the Kendricks' BeulahLand. Of the 139 speaking parts in the production, 89 were cast in Hollywood and 50 were filled with local Mississippi and Louisiana actors. Among those cast were people whose regular professions either differed mark- edly from their roles or fitted them like a glove. Tom-mie Stewart, a Jackson State University speech and drama instructor, was cast as a plantation cook. The Rev. Osborne Moyer, an Episcopal priest whose avocation is acting, was signed as the minister who officiates at Miss Warren's wedding. Last December, 91 crew members started filming "Beulah Land," remaining in Natchez until April. A small specialized city was created on vacant land next to Melrose. There were generator trucks, prop trucks, special-effects and wardrobe trailers and dressing-room trailers. Two large tents served as dressing rooms for the mini-series' 7,000 extras. Two sequences that required months of planning and design were the burning of Beulah Land and the evacuation of Atlanta. The burning of the mansion posed a special problem for special-effects director Ken Pepiot. The sequence, which takes a few minutes on screen, required two months of planning. To prevent smoke damage, no fire could be used inside the mansion. After consulting with University of Louisiana chemists, Pepiot came up with a smoke that wouldn't leave a permanent residue on the mansion's exterior. He designed a steel-drum furnace that would sit on the lawn of Melrose with stovepipes attached to funnel the smoke through the rooms and out the windows. Hundreds of extras were used in the evacuation-of-Atlanta sequences. Natchez-Under-The-Hill, the city's oldest section, was set in "flames" by Pepiot's crew, using several old buildings and smoke pots. Explosive charges were set in various sections of the street to simulate cannon fire and stuntmen with trained horses bolted through the crowds with burning wagons. An 1860 steam locomotive was required for the evacuation scenes, and since none could be found, a local carpenter was hired to build one. The $4,000 prop took two weeks to put together out of plywood, plastic and composition board. Only the bell was metal and that came from a local museum. MI A . . y s- w res? mm 0S f, Q Vf. Ilii IB rii . "... m-ZXWXXmZ- L v.:'-' ,....:.:---:v: -WW:-: i5 alio Tr rWlixw- ' fiX ll V- il IsL y' tjkt ..d ImlJlmimmy, ffifflf ! Inim iiiilliiiw ''"!',.l The evacuation of burning Atlanta in 'Beulah Land' Sunday Nmn Jownal WMk oi OcWur S-1 1. 1980-Pagt S

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