Thursday, August 13, 2009
Perfect 1946 set
By SUE WATSON
Memphis filmmaker and book author Willy Bearden chose Holly Springs as a location for some scenes for a true story he is committing to a new film, “One Came Home.”
A documentary filmmaker well known for work he has done in Memphis, Tupelo and the Mississippi Delta, Bearden said this film will be released in early 2010 in theaters.
The true story happens to be drawn from his own family and is about Murphy Wright, his mother’s closest sibling, born in 1918 and raised in Leake County around Carthage.
An Army seargent who fought in World War II, Wright was wounded two days after D Day in France (June 8) and sent back to England to recuperate.
“We found family letters of my grandmother’s where he was talking about how afraid he was to go back (to war in Europe),” Bearden said. “On March 24, 1945 he was shot and killed and buried in Holland.”
Murphy Wright’s body was brought back to the States in the late 1950s.
During the 1950s people wrote letters and the American Legion had a spot in the back of its magazine where people could post notes. Bearden said his grandmother poured over that for months and months and then she posted a note asking if any veterans remembered her son.
“A guy in New York City commented and he comes to Mississippi,” Bearden said. “Little did she know she was falling for a scam.”
The film premiers in Memphis and will be shown regionally in the South and hopefully find an audience, Bearden said.
Bearden said he selected Holly Springs to shoot a few scenes of the period piece that is set in 1946. His friends George Poteet Sr. and Frank Swords were instrumental in bringing him to Holly Springs for some scenes. Some antique vehicles pickups will be filmed driving along a gravel road. Other scenes will be shot around Phillips Grocery and the old depot.
“The location looked perfect and we will use their cars, too,” he said.
Bearden grew up in Rolling Fork and studied at Northwest Mississippi Junior College and Memphis State University. He has produced numerous documentaries for Memphis Channel 10 television including pieces on Elmwood Cemetery, Overton Park, Victorian Village and a story of cotton and local garage bands.
Bearden has written three books published by Arcadia: “Overton Park,” “Memphis Blues,” and “Cotton from Southern Fields to the Memphis Market.
Other recent work of Bearden’s includes filming and writing for the Tunica River Park Museum, the Elvis Presley Birthplace Museum in Tupelo, the Cotton Museum in Memphis and a piece for the Memphis Wonders Series, “Masters of Florence.”
Bearden produced the Memphis Legacy Project - a collection of detailed photographs of historic properties in Memphis that is housed at the MecWherter Library on campus. He said he wanted to leave photos of the historic places to the libraries because it was at the libraries that he got his inspiration.
He told Commercial Appeal writer Fredric Koeppel for a January 2008 article that he was introduced to Memphis while driving a delivery truck for a wine and liquor wholesaler when he first arrived in the city.
“I really learned Memphis ... and just started wondering about things and reading local history and was so fascinated about it....” he told Koeppel.
He said people all over the world are fascinated by Memphis and its history and his work of 10 years was to tell the black and white story - the economics of it, the culture of it. He said he is not an historian but a packager.
Bearden’s next big Memphis project is to photograph every intersection in the city.
“See, what really lights my fire about an old photo is the cars, the people, the signs,” Bearden said to Koeppel.
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