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Join us for historical movie, discussion

The Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration will present the 1959 movie based upon Harold Sinclair’s novel about Union horse soldiers in Mississippi during the Civil War on Saturday at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center.

A pre-movie discussion will begin at 3 p.m., and the two-hour movie will start at 4 p.m. Admission is free.

The film boasts an all-star cast that includes John Wayne, William Holden, Constance Towers, Hoot Gibson, Ken Curtis, Denver Pyle and Althea Gibson.

The film is one of a seven-part sequence of monthly screenings titled “Hollywood Comes to Natchez: A Civil War Film Series.”

The series features movies filmed in the Natchez area that relate to the Civil War. The films lead up to the 24th annual Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration, set for Feb. 21-24, with the theme, “Fiction, Fact and Film: The Civil War’s Imprint on Southern Culture.”

Co-sponsoring the film series along with the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration are the Natchez Convention and Visitor Bureau, Copiah-Lincoln Community College and the Natchez National Historical Park.

Up to 2.1 Continuing Educational Units are available for teachers by calling Beth Richard, Copiah-Lincoln Community College, 601-446-1103 or e-mailing her at Beth.Richard@colin.edu. The cost for the CEU program is $10 for the entire film series.

When legendary Hollywood filmmaker John Ford directed this rip-roaring Civil War cavalry tale, he was already famous for such classics as “The Grapes of Wrath,” “The Quiet Man,” “Stagecoach” and “The Searchers.” The story is based upon the events surrounding Colonel Benjamin Grierson’s daring raid through Mississippi in 1863, just before General Ulysses S. Grant launched his successful campaign to capture Vicksburg.

Ford provided authenticity by shooting on location in Mississippi, and the movie includes scenes at Jefferson Military College, which was still an active school at the time of the filming.

To embellish his story, the director enlisted the JMC cadets as extras in the movie and dressed them in 19th-century uniforms.

In one of the movie’s most memorable scenes, the JMC boys bravely launch an attack against John Wayne and his Yankee horse soldiers.

Of course, this part of the film is pure fiction; Jefferson College was not a military school in the 1860s and was probably closed at the time of Grierson’s Raid.

Please note that we will have the discussion before the movie. The discussion will begin at 3 p.m. and the movie will start at 4 p.m.

We hope that this will allow viewers plenty of time to enjoy the “Second Saturday” events downtown.

Historian Clark Burkett and former Jefferson Military College cadet Mike Gemmell will assist Jim Wiggins with the pre-movie discussion.

Getting the back story before the movie will provide viewers with interesting things to look for as they watch the film. Gemmell took part in the movie and will share his first-hand account of the filming action.

One of the movie’s most interesting side stories involves actress and athlete Althea Gibson, who portrays an enslaved servant accompanying the character played by Constance Towers. Gibson was an African American tennis pro who had won numerous championships, including Wimbledon, by the time that she appeared in this movie.

Although Gibson appears in the scenes filmed in Mississippi, she never left Hollywood. Burkett will explain this bit of movie-making sleight-of-hand.

Please join us Saturday as we continue with “Hollywood Comes to Natchez: A Civil War Film Series.”

Information about the film series and the 2013 Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration is available at www.colin.edu/nlcc/film-series, by calling 601-446-1289, or by e-mailing NLCC@colin.edu.


Jim Barnett is the director of the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians.