Welty film to premiere in Natchez during annual Literary and Film Celebration

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 27, 2001

The film version of Eudora Welty’s hilarious yet heart-warming novella, &uot;The Ponder Heart,&uot; will premiere in Natchez Saturday, Feb. 24, at 6 p.m. at the City Auditorium.

&uot;This free program is the highlight of the 12th annual Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration,&uot; said Celebration co-chairman Carolyn Vance Smith of Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

Co-Lin is founder and co-sponsor of the Celebration. Other co-sponsors are the Natchez National Historical Park, Mississippi Department of Archives and History and Alcorn State University. Assisting with the Natchez premiere of &uot;The Ponder Heart&uot; is Mississippi Educational Broadcasting.

&uot;All the best talents in Hollywood collaborated on this exceptional film,&uot; Smith said.

On hand to introduce the 94-minute film will be its executive producer, Marian Rees of ALT Films, Studio City, Calif. One of television’s most honored producers, she has produced 26 films for network and cable television, including many for the prestigious Hallmark Hall of Fame. Also present will be the Welty film’s producer, Earl Hamner, also of Studio City. Hamner is creator, producer and narrator of the long-running television series, &uot;The Waltons,&uot; and is creator of the television drama, &uot;Falcon Crest.&uot;

Gail Gilchriest, screenwriter of &uot;My Dog Skip,&uot; a film based on a book by the same name by Willie Morris, wrote the television script for Welty’s sunny novella.

Stars include Peter MacNicol (&uot;Sophie’s Choice&uot; and &uot;Ally McBeal&uot;) as Uncle Daniel Ponder; JoBeth Williams (&uot;The Big Chill&uot;), as Edna Earle Ponder; Angela Bettis (&uot;Girl, Interrupted&uot;), as Uncle Daniel’s wife, Bonnie Dee Peacock; Lenny Von Dohlen (&uot;Twin Peaks&uot;), as the lawyer DeYancey Clanahan; Jenifer Lewis (&uot;Castaway&uot;) as Uncle Daniel’s housekeeper Narcisa Wingfield; and Brent Spiner (&uot;Star Trek&uot;) as prosecuting attorney Dorris Grabney.

&uot;Mississippi is especially rich in writers, but few writers have captured the sense of any region as perfectly as Miss Welty has captured Mississippi,&uot; Rees said. &uot;The Ponder Heart&uot; was filmed in Mississippi in March 2000 in Canton, Edwards and Raymond. &uot;We were delighted to film this wonderful book here.&uot;

The opportunity for people attending the Celebration &uot;to see a sneak preview of this comic masterpiece is exceptional,&uot; Smith said. The film will air on Public Broadcasting System in the fall as part of ExxonMobil Masterpiece Theatre’s American Collection, she said.

&uot;Professors and teachers might be interested in knowing there is an educational component of the PBS series on the Web at ncteamericancollection.org,&uot; Smith said.

&uot;The Ponder Heart&uot; has been the basis for many versions since it first was published in 1953 in New Yorker magazine.

It appeared in book form in 1954, and in 1956 a dramatic adaptation appeared on Broadway. The current film version is the first of its kind.

Seating at the Natchez premiere is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Information about the event is available by calling Natchez Ticket Office, (601) 446-6345 or 1-800-647-6724.