Lepanto is "step back in time"

Sunday, November 24, 2002

Main Street of Lepanto took a step back in time last week, as storefronts, sidewalks, cotton gins, automobiles and even pedestrians aged 50 years overnight.

Lepanto Mayor Dale Dunlap has worked diligently with McGee Street Productions to prepare the town to look as it would have looked in 1952, the time in which author John Grisham set his historic novel, "A Painted House."

Storefronts had nostalgic window dressings and new facades

reminiscent of the 1950's. Events were filmed at the Jones Drug Store, the Hardware store, the Co-Op, Mom and Pop Watson's store, the cotton gin, and the Dixie Theater.

"The people in Lepanto have helped out in every way to prepare for the making of "A Painted House," said Mayor Dunlap. "We removed 28 of our antique street lights and stored them at the gin at the end of town. By Monday, after the shooting concluded, we already had half of them back in place."

The Lepanto street, gin and alley scenes were shot on Friday, Nov. 8, and again Monday through Wednesday, Nov. 11-13. Antique cars carefully passed up and down the streets representing busy weekend life on the streets of Black Oak, as families came to town to shop.

Johnny and Asa Boatman, of Caraway, drove their 1951 Ford Continental down the street in several scenes. David Anderson, also of Caraway, displayed his 1950 black Ford car, also. Melton Emery had a truck and farm equipment used in the scenes.

The men with their antique equipment and cars were as proud of their vehicles as the mothers were with their children being used as Extras. It took the perfect mix of people, places, and vehicles to set the scene for the production of the movie.

Rodney Jackson of Caraway was asked to provide the cotton used in the old cotton trailers for the cotton gin scene. The cotton came from Rodney's Lepanto farm, and was piled high in the trailers and brought along Main Street enroute to the gin.

Rodney and his wife, Jennifer, have two children, Chase, a third grader, and Kourtnei, a seventh grader. Chase and Kourtnei are both students at Riverside East Elementary in Caraway.

Over 150 Extras were used in the filming at Lepanto. Many were from Buffalo Island. They arrived early each morning, from 5:30 to 7:30 a.m., and went directly to wardrobe, housed in the Portis Number 2 Gin, on the end of town. They were processed through make-up and hair styling, then waited their turn to be called to the set downtown. The Extra's walked the two or three blocks to the holding tents, just off the main street, where they emerged as needed.

Caterers provided meals and snacks for all the actors and background actors throughout the day. The filming days were long and cold, but no one seemed to mind as this was their chance to be in a movie, if only briefly in the background.

"We are in the restoration mode now," said Mayor Dunlap. "It is

amazing how quick the set was prepared and how quick it came down. We hope to set up a display of photos and memorabilia somewhere in the town for those visitors who come to Lepanto and want to see what went on here during the filming of the movie. This was an exciting

adventure and one we can all take pride in."

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