A Star Is Born In Mississippi
By F.J. Wilson
Hattiesburg American 2007
The first movie I remember as a magical venue for escape was “With A Song In My Heart” the Jane Froman story starring Susan Hayward and a young Robert Wagner. The sets were lavish, the costumes sparkled with rhinestones and sequins and a little girl sitting in the dark theater in Wiggins was transported out of South Mississippi into a world she wouldn’t know existed for another 20 years. Hollywood. The real magic kingdom of this country has been the home of America’s film industry for 100 years. Of course once you visit, you wonder where the magic lives? Where are the stars? Hollywood itself is now being renovated from the horrible mess of drugs, run-a ways and prostitution it has been for the last 30 years. It’s once again safe to walk the old boulevard and marvel at the names on the side walk. You can fit your hand to those small fragile ones at the old Chinese Theater and marvel at how small John Wayne’s feet really were. Hollywood is truly the museum of the movies, but since movies no longer require California to exist, we can all be a part of this vibrant industry. The magic gowns that amazed me as a child are not fairy wings, but dresses made of satin, crepe, tulle and sequins; designed by the costume designer, made by the seamstresses, fitted by the costumer and coordinated by the Wardrobe Supervisor. These works of art are as real as any piece of clothing you wear today. The sets are painstakingly made of lumber and nails by “prop makers” and painted by “scenic artists”. The prop master is in charge of hand props for the actors and the make-up and hair people make the actors more beautiful than even they thought possible.
As that little girl sitting in the movie theater I only knew that someday I wanted to be a part of the magic. I reckoned I’d have to become an actress to make my dream come true. I never dreamed there were so many parts to film making; that any one of the parts could bring a life of travel and excitement. But once I did, I began a journey that would find me many years later working on films all over the country and parts of the world. Today, that same little girl would have a chance to audition for the movies within 50 to 100 miles from home. With the new tax incentive the Mississippi Film Commission posts auditions for small films almost weekly all over the state. Our children have another career choice now, they can choose to be in the film industry and not have to travel 2000 miles to do it.
In 2000 I left Los Angeles to move home to Hattiesburg to be with my Mother in her last days. My career was at a point, I no longer had to go to interviews. I’d built a base of producers who called on me when a project came along. I could be called to work anywhere around the country and the prospect of living here and still working in the industry was marvelous to me. Also, the film industry in New Orleans was booming. So with only a few interruptions such as Katrina when the industry moved to Shreveport, it’s kept me busy. Now, if I could just stay in Mississippi to work, that would be fine indeed.
Obviously written before I retired in 2009.