It was a rare, precious afternoon for me. Dixie Dew and I were settled deeply into an easy chair with legs flopped across the ottoman. She snored and I read, enjoying every delicious moment of a wonderful biography on Jackie Kennedy.
Nearby, Tink was doing research for a project when his phone beeped a message. It was from a writer friend of his in Los Angeles who was writing an episode of a television series to set in Marietta, an Atlanta suburb. Because the series will be filmed in Canada, I hope they can find some Georgia pines and big magnolias there.
Tink read the message aloud to me. His friend had just written in the script, “In a tavern, just off I-20, near the Savannah River.”
Now, I consider myself to be fairly smart. I particularly consider myself to be smart about my native state of Georgia, which 10 previous generations of my family have called home. We didn’t help to found the state, but we helped to build it. And we sure as shooting helped to defend it during every war, beginning with the one for independence from England. I know its pig trails, dirt roads, interstates, rivers and tributaries as well as any man who has ever settled down for a spell in the Governor’s Mansion. I have been in each of its 159 counties and had speaking engagements in almost every town of over 3,500 people.
So knowing all that and keeping in mind that I am fairly smart, you would think that I would not have looked at my husband with a frozen, stupid expression. You would think I would have spoken with certainty and clarity, that I wouldn’t have stammered, “Savannah River? Marietta?” You would also think that I, a woman who knows and loves the Peach State, would never have picked up her iPad to Google “Savannah River.”
You would think. But you’d be wrong.
When my mind is right, I know that the Savannah River runs down the Georgia-South Carolina border into Savannah. When my brain finally, a couple of minutes later, gave way to the good common sense that I normally possess, I remembered that I-75, not I-20, runs through Marietta.
This is scary. Someone in Hollywood who has never set foot in the South, let alone the state of Georgia, caused me to doubt what I know so well. Of course, these are the same people who managed to stigmatize the people of the mountains with a movie called “Deliverance” and satirize the dirt poor, Depression-era South in “Tobacco Road.”
Both movies, of course, were set in Georgia.
The problem here, which I realized as soon as I was able to prove to myself that I was right about the Savannah River, is that we television viewers and moviegoers tend to think that Hollywood, with all its money and means, gets its facts straight. It is the credibility, rightly or wrongly, that we give to Hollywood.
When David O. Selznick produced “Gone with the Wind” — another movie about Georgia — he was fanatical about detail down to the authentic petticoats the women wore. He was such a stickler for accuracy that he brought a dialect coach from Atlanta to teach the actors, particularly Vivien Leigh, the exact regional accent. It is probably one of the few Southern-centered movies that we can truly bank on, that we can get lost in the fantasy and believe it is reality.
You would think that with the large production budgets that most movies and television shows have, that — like David O. Selznick — they could afford to hire real experts who actually live in the state and know it. Someone who could say with full confidence, “Actually, it is the Chattahoochee River that runs through Marietta. The Savannah River is a ways away.”
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