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Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (film)

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is a 1997 American crime drama film directed and produced by Clint Eastwood and starring Kevin Spacey and John Cusack. The screenplay by John Lee Hancock was based on John Berendt's 1994 book of the same name and follows the story of an antiques dealer on trial for the murder of a male prostitute.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Midnightgardengoodevil.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byClint Eastwood
Produced byClint Eastwood
Screenplay byJohn Lee Hancock
Based onMidnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
by John Berendt
Starring
Music byLennie Niehaus
CinematographyJack N. Green
Edited byJoel Cox
Production
company
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • November 21, 1997 (1997-11-21)
Running time
155 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$30 million[2]
Box office$25.1 million[3]

Contents

PlotEdit

 
The Mercer House. The alleged murder of Billy Hanson occurred in Williams' study – the bottom left room in this photograph. The house is now known as the Mercer-Williams House Museum

The panoramic tale of Savannah's eccentricities focuses on a murder and the subsequent trial of Jim Williams (Kevin Spacey), a self-made man, art collector, antiques dealer, bon vivant, and semi-closeted homosexual. John Kelso (John Cusack), a magazine reporter, finds himself in Savannah amid the beautiful architecture and odd doings to write a feature on one of Williams' famous Christmas parties.

Kelso is intrigued by Williams from the start, but his curiosity is piqued when he meets the violent, young Billy Hanson (Jude Law), Williams' lover. Later that night, Hanson is dead, and Kelso stays on to cover the murder trial. Along the way he encounters the irrepressible The Lady Chablis, a transgender stand-up comedienne; Sonny Seiler, lawyer to Williams, whose famous dog, Uga IV, is the official mascot of the Georgia Bulldogs; a man who keeps flies attached to mini leashes on his lapels and threatens daily to poison the water supply; Serena Dawes, a former silent-film actress; the Married Ladies Card Club; and Minerva, a spiritualist and voodoo practitioner.

Between becoming Williams' friend, cuddling up to a torch singer, meeting every eccentric in Savannah, participating in midnight graveyard rituals, and helping solve the mysteries surrounding Hanson's murder, Kelso has his hands full. The judge and jury later find Williams not guilty, much to the pleasure of Kelso and the witnesses. Williams congratulates Kelso on proving his innocence.

As depicted in the film, Williams suffers a heart attack and dies a week after the trial concludes. As he dies on the floor near where Hanson died from his wounds, Williams sees an apparition of the hustler in death, then momentarily alive. The camera cuts away from the scene, showing both Hanson and Williams dead and only a few feet from each other. Following the funeral and visiting Hanson's grave once more with Minerva, Kelso, Mandy and the Lady Chablis go off together for a picnic with Uga.

CastEdit

ProductionEdit

Several changes were made in adapting the film from the book. Many unused characters were eliminated or combined into composite ones. John Kelso was based upon Berendt. The multiple trials were combined into one on-screen trial. Williams' real life attorney, Sonny Seiler, played Judge White, the presiding judge of the trial. Advertising for the film became a source of controversy when Warner Bros. used elements of Jack Leigh's famous photograph in the posters without permission, infringing copyright law.[4]

Clint Eastwood permitted The Lady Chablis to ad-lib some of her lines. He gave her the nickname the "one-take wonder".[5]

Filming locationsEdit

 
The Hugh Comer House, where John Kelso is greeted upon his arrival in Savannah
 
Armstrong House, home of Bouhan Falligant LLP, where Sonny Seiler still practises law
 
This apartment, at 418 East Liberty Street, doubled as the home of The Lady Chablis
 
115 East Jones Street was the venue for Joe Odom's party

Principal photography began in spring 1997 in Savannah, Georgia, where the entire film was shot.[6]

While entertaining the role of being the film's director, Clint Eastwood visited the city the previous year. "I didn't get to know too many people at that time — mostly places — but I did meet some people who knew about the Jim Williams episode. And I met the attorney, Sonny Seiler, who was very, very helpful in making everyone understand what the attitude and atmosphere was in Savannah in the 1980s," he said.[7]

Several scenes were filmed in and around Monterey Square. Jim Williams' Mercer House is located in the southwestern ward of the square, at 429 Bull Street. John Kelso is shown being welcomed by Mrs. Baxter to the Italianate Hugh Comer House at 2 East Taylor Street, on the square's northeastern ward; however, the interior shots were filmed across from 115 East Jones Street, which Joe Odom was looking after for its owner, who was in New York. (Odom's house, constructed by Eliza Jewett in 1847, was at 16 East Jones.)[8] Kelso's six-month rental, shown at the end of the film, is 218 West Jones Street, which is now valued at over $1.2 million.[9]

The scenes at Sonny Seiler's offices were filmed at the Armstrong House, 447 Bull Street, south of Monterey Square and close to the northern edge of Forsyth Park. As of March 2019, Seiler still practises there.

The courthouse scenes were filmed at the Tomochichi Federal Building and United States Courthouse, on the western side of Wright Square. Dixie's Flowers, the flower shop Mandy works at, is in the northeastern ward of the square, at 6 East State Street.

The residence used as The Lady Chablis' home is 418 East Liberty Street. The Myra Bishop Family Clinic she walks to is at 311 Habersham Street, about 500 feet away.

Kelso has breakfast at Clary's Cafe, at 404 Abercorn Street. Photos of the cast taken during down time from filming are hung by the door to the diner.

The Married Women's Card Club is at 126 East Gaston Street.

Churchill's Pub was located at 9 Drayton Street at the time of filming, but it burned down in a fire six years later.[10]

The Debutante Ball was filmed at the Savannah Inn and Country Club. (It later became Wilmington Island Club but was renamed back to Savannah Inn and Country Club in 2018.)

Bonaventure Cemetery, on the city's eastern edge, is featured on several occasions.

Forsyth Park, the venue for the dog-walking scenes, included the cameo appearance of Uga V, the English bulldog live mascot of the University of Georgia, playing his father, Uga IV. The Uga mascots live in Savannah between football games.

After location filming ended in June 1997, a fundraiser was held at and for Savannah's Lucas Theatre, which was built in 1921. Spacey donated $200,000 in Williams' honor to assist in the $7.6-million renovation of the theatre.[11] "I love Savannah. I had a great time here," said Spacey, an Oscar winner in 1996 for his role in The Usual Suspects. "I plan to visit again. And once this (theater) gets done, I'll bring a play here."[11] It was hoped that the movie's premiere would take place at the Lucas,[11] but it was instead held on November 17 at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California. Its Savannah premiere occurred on November 20 at the Johnny Mercer Theater. It opened nationwide the following day.

SoundtrackEdit

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Soundtrack album by
Various Artists
ReleasedNovember 18, 1997
Length58:04
LabelWarner Bros.
ProducerErnie Altschuler
Soundtrack
Review scores
SourceRating
Allmusic      link

The soundtrack for the film was released in 1997. It is also dedicated to Johnny Mercer. The CD includes versions of songs heard in the film.[12]

No.TitleWriter(s)PerformerLength
1."Skylark"Hoagy Carmichael, Johnny Mercerk.d. lang3:46
2."Too Marvelous for Words"Richard Whiting, MercerJoe Williams3:40
3."Autumn Leaves"Joseph Kosma, Jacques Prévert, MercerPaula Cole7:24
4."Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear to Tread)"Rube Bloom, MercerRosemary Clooney4:10
5."Dream"MercerBrad Mehldau5:10
6."Days of Wine and Roses"Henry Mancini, MercerCassandra Wilson4:47
7."That Old Black Magic"Harold Arlen, MercerKevin Spacey3:33
8."Come Rain or Come Shine"Arlen, MercerAlison Eastwood4:32
9."Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive"Arlen, MercerClint Eastwood3:35
10."This Time the Dream's on Me"Arlen, MercerAlison Krauss3:46
11."Laura"David Raksin, MercerKevin Mahogany4:49
12."Midnight Sun"Lionel Hampton, Sonny Burke, MercerDiana Krall4:01
13."I'm an Old Cowhand (From the Rio Grande)"MercerJoshua Redman4:59
14."I Wanna Be Around"Sadie Vimmerstedt, MercerTony Bennett2:10

ReceptionEdit

The film was a box office failure, grossing $25.1 million[3] to an estimated $30 million budget.[2] It also received mixed reviews, with a score of 49% on review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes, based on 35 reviews with an average rating of 6/10.[13] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 57 out of 100, based on 23 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[14]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL (15)". British Board of Film Classification. January 22, 1998. Retrieved December 11, 2014.
  2. ^ a b Hughes, p.149
  3. ^ a b Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil at Box Office Mojo
  4. ^ Paul Siegel Communication Law in America, p. 213, at Google Books
  5. ^ "De Alba on Chablis" - David-De-Alba.com
  6. ^ Hughes, p.148
  7. ^ "Clint Eastwood chats with Joe Leydon about 'Midnight...'" - YouTube, published February 25, 2010
  8. ^ "JONES STREET, SAVANNAH, GA" - GoSouthSavannah.com
  9. ^ 218 West Jones Street - Realtor.com
  10. ^ "City Talk: The Fitzroy brings eclectic menu to Drayton Street" - Savannah Morning News, May 7, 2018
  11. ^ a b c "'Midnight' filming ends in Savannah" - The Augusta Chronicle, June 16, 1997
  12. ^ Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil – Original Soundtrack at AllMusic.com
  13. ^ Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil at Rotten Tomatoes
  14. ^ Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil at Metacritic

SourcesEdit

External linksEdit