Valdosta Hollywood Movies and Connections
A look back on some of the memorable movie/hollywood connections to Valdosta.
AS SUMMERS DIE (1986)
The plot centers around a large area of land owned by an old black lady, Elvira Backus. It had been given to her by her one time employer and secret father of her two children, a southern patriarch. Discovering oil on the afore mentioned property, the patriarch’s family tries to regain the land by destroying the deed and denying it ever existed. Coming to Elvira Backus’s aid is attorney Willie Croft. He attempts to get back Elvira’s land and leads the movie to it’s eventual court scene.
Numerous Valdostans auditioned as extras for the movie, which also starred Jamie Lee Curtis and a minor role with Bette Davis. Scenes were shot at the Converse-Dalton House, an Echols County store, the Brooks County Courthouse, Eudora Plantation, and The Crescent.
For three chilly November evenings in ’85, numerous local residents waited for hours in their roles as extras during shooting at The Crescent. There is also a tale whispered here and there that the director originally planned to shoot a love scene in one of The Crescent’s historic bedrooms, but area residents put a stop to this notion and the scene was filmed in another location. (Valdosta Daily Times)
“Gator” starred Burt Reynolds as a moonshiner in this 1976 sequel to “White Lightnin’”. Portions of “Gator” were filmed in Lanier County and featured the late Jimmy Rainwater (credited as Jim Rainwater), prior to his days of being Valdosta’s mayor, and Johnny B. Lastinger (credited as John B. Lastinger), as well as Shroyer and others. “Gator,” by the way, is the name of Reynolds’ moonshining hero of the film. In this movie, Gator is recruited to topple a corrupt political boss, who happens to be his friend. “Gator” marked Reynolds’ directorial debut. And it is considered by many film critics to be an inferior sequel to “White Lightnin’”. (Valdosta Daily Times)
Like a Crow on a June Bug (1973)
In addition to “Gator” being shot here, a film called “Like a Crow on a June Bug” was made in the region.
Though the movie is best remembered locally as “Like a Crow on a June Bug,” it had a couple of name changes. It was also released as “Sixteen” and “The Young Prey.” “Sixteen” is probably the best-known title. No matter the name, the film is largely forgotten.
“Like a Crow on a June Bug” (1973) is the story of a young country girl who is tempted by the big city life. A few local names crop up in the film’s credits, such as Jewell Futch, a former Lowndes County sheriff, playing a used-car salesman.
The film starred a young Richard Thomas before he became famous as John Boy Walton.
It also starred Mercedes McCambridge, who had a prestigious start in her acting career, winning a best supporting actress Oscar for her screen debut in “All the King’s Men” in 1942. Unfortunately, her career never lived up to the promise of that first film. Still, 1973 was a memorable year for her. Not only did she get to play Ma Erdly while being filmed in Valdosta, she provided the demonic voice that cursed and growled from Linda Blair in “The Exorcist.” (Valdosta Daily Times)
Several Valdosta residents did their best walking dead impersonations in the late 2000s when producers for the movie “Zombieland” came to town.
Released in 2009, “Zombieland” starred Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone in an undead comedy/adventure.
It also featured dozens of Valdosta residents portraying zombies at Wild Adventures, which was portrayed as a California theme park in the movie.
Throughout the filming, area residents reported Woody Harrelson sightings throughout town as he visited area restaurants, pubs, and shot hoops.
Valdosta-based filmmakers Roy Kirkland and Doug Sebastian have filmed several movies in the region.
They have written, performed, directed, produced and released the comedy “And There You Are,” the award-winning autobiographical documentary “A Cross Burning in Willacoochee,” the violent thriller “Crazed,” and the comedy “Grandma’s Blessings.”
Filmed in a number of South Georgia settings, “Grandma’s Blessings” opened with a Valdosta premiere at Mathis City Auditorium.
They have also filmed a monster movie called “Battle of the Cursed,” which may be released in episodic form online.
RKDS also produces the Internet variety program, “The Oh Roy Show.”
RKDS has also filmed “Spook Bridge” near Valdosta in 2016. (Valdosta Daily Times)
FRIED GREEN TOMATOES (1991)
Close but no cigar…
Though a few movies have been filmed in or around Valdosta, none of them really mentions Valdosta.
It took a movie that was not filmed here to make Valdosta a vital part of its plot. Valdosta is mentioned several times in “Fried Green Tomatoes,” though the city does not particularly earn a pleasant reputation from this free publicity.
In “Fried Green Tomatoes,” Ruth’s physically abusive husband is from Valdosta.
When Ruth and her child return to her Alabama home, the husband gathers up a bunch of Ku Klux Klansmen from Valdosta in an attempt to steal back the child.
The husband is killed and a fictitious and suspicious Valdosta sheriff comes searching for the missing Valdostan. Instead of finding a body, the Valdosta sheriff unknowingly becomes a cannibal and eats the evidence. Ruth’s dead, fictional husband from Valdosta has been turned into barbecue.
Valdosta’s part in this beloved movie concludes with a murder trial held in front of a fictional and belligerent Valdosta judge, in a fictional Valdosta courthouse that in no way resembles the interior of the historical Lowndes County Courthouse.
So, Valdosta’s big mention in a movie paints the town as being filled with wife-beating, racist, child-stealing, dim-witted cannibals. And to add insult to injury, “Fried Green Tomatoes” remains a popular movie that is often viewed and broadcast a quarter century after its debut and not a frame of it was filmed here.
Demond Wilson was born on October 13, 1946 in Valdosta, Georgia, USA as Grady Demond Wilson. He is an actor, known for Sanford and Son (1972), The New Odd Couple (1982) and Baby, I’m Back (1977). He has been married to Cicely Loise Johnston since May 3, 1974. They have six children.
Sonny Shroyer was born in Valdosta, Georgia, a small city on the Georgia-Florida border. Shroyer, whose given name is Otis Burt Shroyer Jr., grew up steeped in the traditions of the deep South. He worked in the tobacco warehouses pushing tobacco buggies and helped his father in their fruit stand-ice cream parlor business. His prowess in high school football landed him a football scholarship at Florida State University (he later ended up playing football in the movie The Longest Yard (1974) with another FSU football player, Burt Reynolds). However, his football career was cut short by an injury, and Shroyer finished his education at the University of Georgia, where he earned his degree in business.
Information has been taken from Valdosta Daily Times and IMDb.