Many critically acclaimed movies have used the South as a cultural backdrop, especially the tri-state area of the Carolinas and Georgia. The second-largest studio complex in America, EUE Screen Gems, is located in Wilmington, North Carolina, and Spoleto Festival USA, a world-class event for film and the arts, is held annually in Charleston.
No film to come out of the South is as famous around the world as Gone With the Wind (1939), adapted from Margaret Mitchell's sprawling 1936 epic that introduced Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) and Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) to the world. The film, which tells the story of the Civil War from a white Southern point of view, was awarded 10 Oscars. The story opens in rural Georgia in 1861 and goes through Atlanta's Reconstruction era.
A feature produced by Walt Disney, Song of the South (1946) is based on the Uncle Remis cycle of stories by Joel Chandler Harris. It was Disney's first live-action film but it has never been released on home video in the U.S. because of a fear that it is racially insensitive to African Americans (though hundreds of copies have been smuggled into the U.S. from the U.K.). The film's hit song, "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," won the 1947 Oscar for Best Song.
Other than Gone With the Wind, one of the most famous films to come out of the South is To Kill a Mockingbird, directed by Robert Mulligan and based on the novel by Harper Lee. The 1962 film stars Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, who has been hailed as a great hero in American cinema. Peck won an Oscar for Best Actor for the role.
A landmark drama, Deliverance (1972), set in rural backwoods Georgia, stars Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds. It's the story of four suburban professional men from Atlanta who set out on a highly disturbing weekend canoe and camping trip.
One of the highest-grossing films of the 1970s, Smokey and the Bandit stars Sally Field and Burt Reynolds. It's an action comedy that in its own silly way is a celebration of redneck culture, with Jackie Gleason cast as the potbellied Southern sheriff. This movie is a favorite of any fan who loves a good car chase.
A 1985 drama directed by Steven Spielberg, The Color Purple, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker, tells the story of a young African-American girl named Celie (Whoopi Goldberg). Oprah Winfrey also appears in the movie as Sofia, who delivers the line, "A girl child ain't safe in a family of men." Set in the Deep South in the early 20th century, the film follows Celie -- pregnant at 14 by her father -- through 30 years of a tough life.
Filmed in Atlanta, Driving Miss Daisy (1989) stars Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy. It dramatically tells the heartwarming story of an elderly Southern Jewish lady and her African-American chauffeur. Tandy won an Oscar for her role. At the age of 80, she was the oldest winner and the oldest nominee in history to win in the Best Actress category. The film also won the Oscar for Best Picture of the Year.
Set in Savannah, Forrest Gump (1994) was a huge worldwide commercial success, winning six Oscars, including Best Actor for Tom Hanks. The movie tells the story of a man with an IQ of 75 and his epic journey through life. The film received rave reviews, except for a dissent here and there -- Entertainment Weekly called it "a baby boomer version of Disney's America."
Director Clint Eastwood's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997) is based on John Berendt's spectacular bestseller. The Southern Gothic film depicts fabulously eccentric personalities of Savannah, including drag queen Lady Chablis. The book is based on the actual killing of Danny Hansford, a local hustler, by art dealer Jim Williams, an event that resulted in four murder trials before a final acquittal.
With Savannah as a setting, The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000) was directed by Robert Redford. It stars Will Smith as Bagger Vance and Matt Damon as Rannulph Junuh, the best golfer in the city. Bagger teaches Rannulph the secret of an authentic golf stroke, which turns out to also be the secret to mastering any challenge and finding meaning in life.
Ray (2004) is a biopic that focuses on 30 years of the life of legendary rhythm and blues musician Ray Charles. Born in a small town in Georgia, he went blind at the age of eight. As Ray, Jamie Foxx delivers a tour de force performance, winning the Oscar for Best Actor.
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