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Posts Tagged ‘Field of Dreams’

“People will come to Iowa, for reasons they can’t even fathom.”
—Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) in Field of Dreams

All eyes in the baseball world were on Iowa on Thursday night for MLB’s Field of Dreams game between the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees. And Iowa did not disappoint.”
—Aaron Marner
Des Moines Register

There are a lot of grand movie entrances. Two that come to mind are Rose (Kate Winslet) and her giant hat in Titanic and the Ringo Kid (John Wayne) twirling his rifle in Stagecoach. But on some list of 100 great film entrances has to be the entrance of the baseball players emerging from a cornfield in Iowa in Field of Dreams.

Last night in Dyersville, Iowa, Kevin Costner got to make his own grand entrance emerging from an Iowa corn field—followed by the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees. As a lifestyle baseball fan, I can’t say that Major League Baseball ever fully recovered from the double black eye of the strike back in the 90s, followed by the MLB steroid scandal.

But they took steps yesterday to add to baseball folklore by having the Yankees and the White Sox play a game near where they shot Field of Dreams movies back in the 1980s. (I think it was the first MLB game ever played in Iowa.) The TV announcers keep talking about a magical vibe the place had.

I’ve visited the Field of Dreams site a couple of times when I lived in Iowa. When I started the Screenwriting from Iowa … and Other Unlikely Places in Ceder Falls, Iowa 13 years ago, the mythology of Field of Dreams (screenplay by writer/director Phil Alden Robinson from a book by W.P. Kinsella) was definitely on my mind. What may get lost in the backstory of Field of Dreams is that Kinsella had an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. A pretty good foundation for Robinson, Costner and the others to build upon.

Screenwriter Diablo Cody (Juno) and Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (A Quiet Place) also graduated from Iowa and it’s been fun all these years to go back to that well from time to time. People may forget that in 2008 just the idea of screenwriting (and filmmaking) from Iowa and other unlikely places was a radical (or tongue in cheek) concept. But fast forward to 2021 in a post-COVID world and you see that it’s no longer so bizarre. Your favorite movie or streaming show is more likely to come from the state of Georgia than Los Angeles.

The cost of living and quality of life in LA is causing more than a few creatives to trade LA for Austin, Texas. Which, of course, has its own established film community. Vancouver has proven to be a film hot spot. Zoom calls have allowed established writers to retreat to states throughout the US. If I wanted to call it a day for this blog and say “my work is done” this would be a good day to do it.

But … I think I have a few more posts in me. And I still have to get on the ball and get my podcast rolling. I don’t know what the future of movies will be—or how many movie theaters will survive these odd times—or if people even will return to the movie going business as we once knew it—but I’m pretty sure people will still want to be entertained as they have throughout the history of civilization.

In recent posts, I’ve been recounting some places I visited on my vacation back in June and July. It’s fitting that my next post will be about going to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY on my birthday. It was a trip I’d been planning since I was 10 years old.

For those of you who missed the game last night, here’s all the drama of the final dream ending (at least for Tim Anderson). Hollywood couldn’t have done it better.

P.S. Whoever came up with that idea to play the game in Iowa last night deserves a nice bonus.

P.P.S. Just realized after I wrote this post the Iowa-connection of two of the movies I referenced. Rose in Titanic (as a 103 woman) lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and John Wayne was born in Winterset, Iowa.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

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“I believe science might offer the answer to the Curse of the Bambino.”
Billy Beane (Brad Pitt)
Moneyball

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Babe Ruth when he played for the Boston Red Sox

My love for traveling is rooted in not traveling much until I was 19-years-old, and following baseball as a kid. Cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Boston were linked in my mind to baseball teams. Over the years I’ve been fortunate to go to baseball games in all of those cities.

On a flight to Boston yesterday, I starting reading the novel Shoeless Joe which the movie  Field of Dreams is based on. It didn’t occur to me until then that two of my top ten sports movies have scenes in Boston’s Fenway Park.

Field of Dreams came out in 1989 and Moneyball in 2011, and though I’ve watched them both many times over the years I just never aligned them like I did on my flight to Boston. I’ll give an asset to The Rewatchables podcast for putting them on my radar again.

If you don’t know either film, the following scenes will be out of context. But both scenes at Fenway Park play an important role in the stories they are telling.

And as a Fenway Park bonus track—from a non-sports movie—here’s Sean (Robin Williams) talking about his Red Sox memory in Good Will Hunting.

P.S. Aaron Sorkin who co-wrote the screenplay for Moneyball says that he is drawn to stories about key times of transition and Moneyball qualifies. Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane embraced Sabermetrics based on the work of statistician Bill James.  A new way of mining data on ball players to evaluate talent and productivity. It’s credited with helping the Boston Red Sox winning four World Series titles since 2004. “The curse of Bambino” was what some called the effect of the Boston Red Sox trading Babe Ruth to New York Yankee back in the day.

Scott W. Smith 

 

 

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“People will come to Iowa, for reasons they can’t even fathom.”
Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) in Field of Dreams

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Even before I lived in Iowa between 2003 and 2013, I’d made a pilgrimage to the Field of Dreams movie site in Dyersville, Iowa. If it’s on your bucket list of places to visit, then this summer is the ideal time to go.

The first ever MLB game game in Iowa will be played on August 13, 2020. The New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox will play in a field (and a temporary 8,000 seat stadium) adjacent to field where they shot the movie Field of Dreams.  

Today, the Des Moines Register gave a run down of activities that will be happening in August, including a showing of Field of Dreams. 

If you can’t make that game check the website for info on Field of Dream seasonal tours and opportunities to stay the night in the Field of Dreams home.

Back on the 25th anniversary of the movie Bob Costas and Kevin Costner were on hand to try to put into words why that movie continues to touch people.

“They’ll watch the game, and it will be as if they’d dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.”
Terence Mann
Field of Dreams

Has there been a time in Major League Baseball since the steroid era to look forward to a baseball game in a cornfield in Iowa? Last month it was revealed that the Houston Astros were cheating by sign-stealing when they won the World Series in 2017.  Some coaches were fired, some players apologized, and some have called for the Astros to be stripped of their World Series title.

MLB is not as popular as it was back in 1989 and it doesn’t need another scandal. But here we are.  Time will tell what measures MLB will take. In the meantime, I offer the smoothing voice of actor Jame Earl Jones, saying the words of written by screenwriter Phil Alden Robinson), via the character  Terence Mann.

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Page 102 of the “Field of Dreams” screenplay by Phil Alden Robinson

“It’s a crazy speech to watch knowing how many times baseball has let us down over the last 25 years. There was a real innocence about how people loved baseball [back when Field of Dreams was made], and it was the American pastime. . . . In 1989, there was no struggle. People were like; I love baseball, period.”
Bill Simmons
The Rewatchables podcast , April 19, 2019

“This Field of Dreams-style of thinking about baseball peaks with Sosa and McGwire, and then gets completely destroyed when that turns out to be horseshit.”
Chris Ryan (on the home run chase of ’98, followed by the steroids scandal)
The Rewatchables 

“Ultimately, the message about baseball is not about the purity of the game as a creation. It’s about how the game allows you to unlock something in your life.”
Mallory Rubin
The Rewatchables 

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“Baseball means what those of us hold it in our heart need it to mean. It can be a game, a past time, or it can be something by which we measure the seasons of our lives. Or it can be something that serves metaphorically for the battles, the wars, the triumphs, and the tragedies of any form of human conflict.”
Baseball: A Film by Ken BurnsEpisode 9 (Currently available on Amazon Prime)

In other Field of Dreams news, there will be a reading of the script this weekend in Orlando, Florida. Unfortunately, I’ll be out of town and will miss it. But if you’re in Orlando on Sunday (2/23/2020) and would like to see professional actors reading the script, check out their Facebook page. It will also be live streamed on YouTube.

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Today I wasn’t able to track down old photos from my visit to the Field of Dreams ballpark in Iowa, but I was able to come up with a photo from a video shoot I did at Tinker Field in Orlando shortly before they tore it down. When I was growing up there were no major league baseball teams based in Florida, but we did have spring training. The Minnesota Twins Twins used to hold their spring training games at Tinker Field and that’s where I saw the Cincinnati Reds play every chance I could. When I was a youth I attended to a one-day camp that Pete Rose held on that field, and a few years later went to an open tryout at Tinker for the Pittsburgh Pirates. (Not because I was that good of a player, but I knew it would be a unique experience.)

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The perfectly cracked and faded left field fence at Tinker Field in 2014, shortly before it was removed and the stadium torn down.

When I was 19-years-old, I worked as a sports reporter and photojournalist for the Sanford Evening Herald. Here are some of my favorite baseball shots.

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Tim Raines’ plan in 1981 was to give pro baseball a try, and if it didn’t workout to walk-on to the University of Florida football team. He ended up in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

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My dream at 19 was to work my way up to being a Sports Illustrated photographer. I could of had a 30 year career and not taken a better shot than this one.

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I played baseball from Little League  through high school with and against Bob Parker. He ended up playing college ball at Mississippi St. and in the minor leagues with the Houston Astros organization.

P.S. And since Field of Dreams came out in 1989, I just connected it to the Orlando Magic playing their first game in 1989. I was at that game and go this nice memento. I was in Orlando when the Magic picked up Shaq, then  “Penny” Hardaway, and finally Horace Grant and before you know it they were in the 1995 NBA finals. It was Magical.

If I recall correctly, they were the quickest franchise in NBA history to go from new franchise to the finals.  They got swept by the Houston Rockets, but a championship was in sight. Then Michael Jordan un-retired, Shaq joined the L.A. Lakers, and there was no joy in O-town. (Total titles in 31 years—0.)

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Related posts:
The Moment in the Script That Made an A-list Actor Say Yes to Making a Now Classic Movie 
What’s More American Than Apple Pie?

Scott W. Smith 

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“Dad was a Yankee fan then, so I rooted for Brooklyn. In ’58, the Dodgers moved away, so we had to find other reasons to fight.”
Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner)
Field of Dreams 

If you’ve never watched Field of Dreams (1989) then this post is not a good starting point, because it’s about the end of the modern classic movie. In the late 1980s, Kevin Costner was already a major star—coming off an incredible five year run of movies including The Untouchables, No Way Out, and Bull Durham—when he first read the Field of Dreams screenplay.

As much as he wanted to do Field of Dreams, he was under contract to do Revenge. Plus he didn’t think it wise to follow-up a baseball movie with a baseball movie. But when production start date for Revenge wash pushed back a couple of times he told that films producer, Ray Stark, that he was going to make Field of Dreams. Stark threatened to sue him and Costner called his bluff.

Costner’s star power allowed him to not only avoid getting sued, but he made Field of Dreams, and a few days after that movie wrapped he was on the set of Revenge. But what was it in the Field of Dreams script that made Costner be willing to get sued, and to make back to back baseball movie? It was a single moment at the end of the Phil Alden Robinson screenplay.

Note: Costner played Ray Kinsella and John is his father (the ghost catcher).

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If you listen to the podcast interview Costner did with Tim Ferriss, you’ll learn that Costner and his dad didn’t always see eye to eye. And they didn’t totally patch up their relationship until shortly before his dad died. Here’s how Costner explains the moment of reading the script that made him want to make Field of Dreams. A movie he thought had a chance of being a modern day thematic version of Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. A story of second chances.

“I had a real short intake of breath when I said ‘Dad, can we have a catch?’ I had to remember that moment forever because that’s how I make a decision whether I’m going to do a movie. I said if we can get to that moment, and take that moment where the hair on the back of your neck stands up, and where you begin to weep—and you don’t even know why—that means we’re going to have to do all these scenes that are almost dopey, correctly. They’re dopey, but we didn’t try to wink at it. It was real. That’s what makes that dangerous hard [to make]. It bordered on dopey, to begin with. And then that’s your big ending? ‘Let’s have a catch.’ I get so much credit for this, but Phil Robinson is the guy who wrote [the script]. I never would have done that movie based on a pitch. I did it based on the script. And I knew the script had gold dust on it. I didn’t know obviously that it would become part of the vocabulary. I didn’t know 30 years later it would find its way into the hearts of the people the way it did. But it found its way into my heart, and that’s why I challenged Ray Stark on Revenge and said I’m going to do this movie in the corn.”
Actor Kevin Costner 
Interview on The Bill Simmons Podcast

Field of Dreams was based on the W.P Kinsella book Shoeless Joe. Kinsella earned his B.A. in creative writing from the University of Victoria (at age 39), and an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Link to Field of Dreams screenplay. 

P.S. Dwier Brown plays Costner’s dad in the movie, and wrote the book If You Build It … A Book About Fathers, Fate and Field of Dreams. Costner says Brown’s own life story of overcoming adversity is quite inspirational.

Related post:
Writing Actor Bait 

Scott W. Smith 

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“The setting of [Field of Dreams] is just so inspired, and so perfect. You look at the movie, and the cinematography has aged really well. What’s more American than apple pie? Well, literally, nothing is more American than a cornfield in Iowa, right? And so many times in the movie someone talks about the smell—the smell of the glove by your face, or the feel of the grass on your feet. And that visceral physicality to the thing that allows you to connect with it—that has aged well. There’s almost a nostalgia for it in an era when digitally, we’re just removed from everything.”
Mallory Rubin (Editor-in-Chief, The Ringer)
The Rewatchables, ‘Field of Dreams’ with Bill Simmons, Chris Ryan, and Mallory Rubin

Since the tile of this blog is Screenwriting from Iowa … and Other Unlikely places (and features a cornfield in Iowa photo), I couldn’t pass up on posting the above quote after hearing it on The Rewatchables podcast. I actually didn’t love Field of Dreams when it came out in 1989. But after my dad died September 6, 1995—the same night Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gerhrig’s recordField of Dreams was the first movie I watched. Since then I’ve been a fan.

In 2014,  I shot and produced the micro-doc Tinker Field: A Love Letter, and recalled a baseball memory with my father:

P.S. Tinker Field was named after Joe Tinker who played for the Chicago Cubs, and is perhaps best remembered as part of the double play combination mentioned in the 1910 poem Baseball’s Sad Lexicon by Franklin Pierce Adams :

These are the saddest of possible words:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

Related posts:
Field of Dreams—25th Anniversary
Field of Dreams Turns 20
Dreams for Sale 
‘What could be make on a farm in Iowa for $50K?’—A Quiet Place 
Sam Shepard on a Farm in Iowa 
Burns, Baseball & Character Flaws 
Screenwriting, Baseball, and Underdogs (2.0)

Scott W. Smith

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“Movies aren’t intellectual, they’re emotional. And this one rang a bell…Movies at their best are about moments that you never, ever forget.”
Kevin Costner on Field of Dreams

The above NBC program aired yesterday and was shot last weekend in Dyersville, Iowa. It would be wrong (and maybe un-American) to have a blog title Screenwriting from Iowa and at least not mention the reunion. I don’t know if my production buddy Jon Van Allen took his 4 ton grip truck to Dyersville last weekend, but I think those are his Eco Punch lights in the photo below. (I grabbed these shots from his Facebook page when he was working the reunion for Major League Baseball.)

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Jon Van Allen and Bob Costas

 

P.S. Jon’s based in Iowa and has added to his IMDB credits working on a variety of feature and short films as a grip, gaffer, cameraman and job operator. And if you think Field of Dreams is only thing to come out of Iowa, the Van Allen belts and the NASA Van Allen Probes were named after Jon’s uncle—James Van Allen (1914-2006).

Related posts:
40 Days of Emotions
Field of Dreams Turns 20
J.D. Salinger 1919-2010
Screenwriting, Baseball and Underdogs (2.0)
Tinker Field: A Love Letter

Scott W. Smith

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“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
Andy Defresne in The Shawshank Redemption

In light of quoting Secretariat screenwriter Mike Rich this week (Screenwriting Quote #145Mike Rick & Hobby Screenwriting) it would be hard to look at the list of films he’s written and not see that there is a thread of hope and redemption in all of them.

“It’s very, very hard to get a movie made. Quadruple or quintuple that degree of difficulty when your movie is about endless grim horribleness. If there is no spiritual uplift at the end , the reader is going to heave the script into the fireplace and cackle as it burns. Why should the audience suffer along with the character only for it to have been in vain?…Let the reader end on a note of hope or redemption.”
William M. Akers
Your Screenplay Sucks
page 15

The themes of hope and/or redemption aren’t limited to Disney films or more overtly spiritual films. Here is a short list in a mix of genres and old and new films that I’d put in the category;

The Shawshank Redemption
Casablanca
On the Waterfront
Seabiscuit
Juno

The African Queen
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Toy Story

Jaws
Tender Mercies
Field of Dreams
Erin Brockovich
Rocky

Rain Man
The Natural
Tootsie
Saving Private Ryan
An Officer & a Gentleman
Jerry Maguire
Pieces of April

It’s an easy list to come up with because those are some of my favorite films. It’s also a list shows that themes of hope & redemption are often popular with audiences, the Academy and critics. Sure getting a film made is hard, but what are the odds that your film resonates with audiences, the Academy and critics?(There are reasons universal themes are called universal.)

And on one level every screenwriter hopes the script they are working on will be produced and find an audience and will redeem the time spent working on their craft. (Even the edgy, indie, non-mainstream screenwriter working on the most nihilistic script ever written shares the same desire.) May hope & redemption fill your writing career and your life.

Scott W. Smith

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Ya got trouble, my friend, right here,
I say, trouble right here in River City.
Ya Got Trouble. lyrics from The Music Man

There’s an Iowa kind of special
Chip-on-the-shoulder attitude.
Iowa Stubborn, lyrics from The Music Man

This weekend I went to see the Cedar Falls Community Theatre production of The Music Man. I had watched the movie before but had never seen the play. It was an overall great experience.

The story takes place in fictitious River City, Iowa which was inspired by Mason City, Iowa where the author of The Music Man, Meredith Willson, was raised. The Music Man first opened on Broadway in 1957 and won five Tony Awards and went on to be performed 1,375 times on its first Broadway run. (There have been two revivals of the play on Broadway, 1980 & 2000.) The film premiered in Mason City and today if you go there you can tour Willson’s boyhood home and visit The Music Man Square museum which celebrates Mason City’s musical tradition.

(As a sidenote, Mason City had a part in what Don McLean called “the day the music died.” In 1959, Buddy Holly and three others took off from the Mason City airport and shortly afterwards during a snow storm their plane crashed in a field eight miles away killing all four.)

Willson was actually nominated for two Oscar awards in his career, though neither were for his work on The Music Man, but rather for The Little Foxes (Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture) and the classic Chaplin film, The Great Dictator (Best Music, Original Score.) In 1958, the music from The Music Man beat out West Side Story to win a Grammy  Award (Best Original Cast Album).

The original play The Music Man starred Robert Preston as con man Professor Harold Hill. He won a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical and also starred in the 1962 movie. The local production here starred Gary Kroeger who was a writer/performer on Saturday Night Live between 1982-1985. I agree with the people who saw the play and know Kroeger (who lives here now)— it was a role made for him. Some people even remember when he had the lead in the same play back when he went to high school here. His co-star in the play is Kristin Teig Torres, who can be seen on the demo reel at RiverRun.tv from a project we shot a couple years ago.

And while I’ve been to plays in large theaters in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles there is something special to walking eight blocks from your home to downtown Cedar Falls to have dinner, and then watch a play in a restored 100 year old theatre. It’s nice to sit close enough to see the faces of actors you know who are performing words and songs written by someone who was raised an hour and a half away, knowing that that play has been performed and entertained people all over the world for more than 50 years.

So before the Field of Dreams, The Bridges of Madison Country, and Sleeping with the Enemy there was The Music Man to pave the way for future stories set in the quintessential heartland.

By the way, Nancy Price, who wrote the novel Sleeping with the Enemy, was at the performance Friday night which added a little extra reminder that every once in a while something other than corn comes out of the state of Iowa.

So wherever you live check out the community theater in your area. There’s magic and talent in community theaters all over this country. (I hear even Charlie Sheen is getting into the community theatre spirit by volunteering his time to work with a quaint small town in Colorado.) I think as films become less and less expensive to make you will not only see a growing regional film movement, but one that is the equivalent of community theater. Keep in mind that our local community theater raised $1.2 million to renovate a historic theater a few years ago, so there are people and businesses ready and willing to invest in the local arts community.

Oh, and speaking of The Music Man, remember a little kid named Ronny who played Winthrop Paroo in the 1962 movie? Hard to forget him singing, “O the wells Fargo wagon is a’comin’ down the road, O please let be for me.” He went on to act in a few more productions such as The Andy Griffith Show, American Graffiti and Happy Days. These days that young Oklahoma-born actor  is more well-known as the director Ron Howard.

On Saturday in Chicago he’ll be honored for a Career Achievement Award at the Chicago International Film Festival. And what a career it’s been—Apollo 13, Cocoon, Parenthood,  Splash, Frost/Nixon (Oscar Nomination), and two-Oscars wins for A Beautiful Mind (Best Director, Best Picture).

* The Music Man photo taken by Bill Sikula. More shots at www.facebook.com/osterregent

Scott W. Smith


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“There’s something magical about this place.”
Field of Dreams Visitor

If you’re in the market for a traditional Iowa farmhouse with a white picket fence, 193 acres, a two car garage and one baseball field used in the movie Field of Dreams—you’re in luck. Yesterday, it was announced that the field of dreams is for sale for $5.4 million.

The real estate bust in parts of the country like Las Vegas, Southern California and Arizona is pretty bad. I’ve read that 40% of homeowners in Florida owe more on their homes than they are worth. Foreclosures continue to climb. But Iowa has been spared from much of those problems because they never experienced a bubble in the first place. Growth here is like corn—slow and steady.

I live in Cedar Falls, Iowa about an hour and a half away from the field of dreams so I don’t really know the housing market there, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that $5.4 million is the most well-known and expensive house & property on the market in Dyersville, Iowa.

But while it is listed as a one-of-a kind property, I have to admit the annual 65,000 tourists that are attracted to the field of dreams pales in comparison to Graceland. (And, of course, those visitors do buy t-shirts and artwork which provides a nice income stream to keep your John Deere tractors running.)

Here’s my dream, that some wealthy benefactor (and longtime Screenwriting from Iowa reader) would buy the property and donate the house to serve as the iconic global headquarters for Screenwriting from Iowa. I’m not real interested in maintaining the ball field or farming the land. But I am open to hosting writing and acting workshops with Diablo Cody and Kevin Costner in the machine shed by the corn bib.

(For new readers, the Oscar-winning Juno screenwriter, Diablo Cody, went to college at the University of Iowa. Same school, by the way, that W.P. Kinsella (who wrote the novel that became the movie Field of Dreams) happened to attend. Check out the post The Juno-Iowa Connection. And keep an eye open for a change of address.)

Scott W. Smith

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“My philosophy is that if you do something good, it’s got a shot. If you want to do something that’s down the middle, the line forms on the right.”
T Bone Burnett

In a Los Angeles Times article titled The true saga behind ‘Crazy Heart,’, Randy Lewis writes about the relationship between T Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton who both provided original music on the film Crazy Heart.

Burnett toured with Bob Dylan in the 70s and is a 10-time Grammy winner including his work on the soundtrack for the Coen brothers film, O Brother, Where Art Thou? The L.A. Times article mentions how both Burnett and Bruton spent time on the road as musicians often do. Part of what is said to give authenticity to the singer Jeff Bridges plays in Crazy Heart is the music that Bruton and Burnett bring to the soundtrack. Burnett recounts a memory from life on the road:

“I was in a motel once called, I think, the Blackhawk Inn, somewhere in Iowa, and it turned out it was the motel that Cary Grant had died in. It was like, wait a minute — Cary Grant didn’t die in this motel, there’s no possible way he ever even saw this motel. Nevertheless, apparently that’s what happened. . . .”

That did in fact happen. And that some place is in Davenport, Iowa. The Hotel Blackhawk closed in 2006 after a fire, but I have read that the hotel built in 1915 is currently being restored.  Film legend Cary Grant was far removed from his starring roles in movies like North by Northwest (1959) and Penny Serenade (1941) and Bringing Up Baby (1938) when the 82-year-old died of a heart attack in Davenport on November 29, 1986. (Though technically, according to the Quad City Times, Grant was taken from the hotel and died at St. Luke’s Hospital.)

So with John Wayne & Johnny Carson being born in Iowa and  Cary Grant & Buddy Holly dying in Iowa those are pretty good icons to have as bookends to this interesting state where seemingly nothing happens related to the entertainment industry. Mix that with the enduring love for Field of Dreams, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, screenwriter Diablo Cody going to college in Iowa City, and the fictitious Captain Kirk being from Iowa and you know why I’ve been able to write about this middle-of-nowhere place for the past two years.

Obviously, Grant’s death here left a mark on Burnett. And my guess is that experience had an impact on Crazy Heart or he wouldn’t still be talking about it. If you follow the trajectory of older (or dead) actors, musicians, writers, etc.  you usually find an arc where their popularity peaked at a certain point in time. After that peak is fertile ground to explore. There’s a great line in the movie Tender Mercies where the once popular country & western singer is asked , “Didn’t you used to be Max Sledge?”

Check out T Bone Burnett’s website and see how his creative journey has unfolded over the years. Born in St.. Louis and raised in Texas on his way to working with the likes of B.B. King, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Sam Sheperd, John Mellencamp, Elvis Costello, Tony Bennett as well as on the films Cold Mountain and Walk the Line.

“I always wanted whatever I was doing to be art, so I was always fighting for those records to measure up to a standard of how I felt when I heard The Kinks for the first time or Ray Charles for the first time. From an early age, I knew I wasn’t as good as the other things I was hearing, but I was always trying to get there. David Hidalgo [of Los Lobos] is incredibly talented, and I thought, ‘David Hidalgo can get to that point; he can be as good in his own way as Miles Davis or Ray Charles.’ So what I was willing to do was wait until the record sounded as good to me in its own way as the first time I heard ‘Lonely Avenue’ by Ray Charles. I would try to be true to that feeling — the effect that music had on me.”
T Bone Burnett
Looking Back, Looking Forward
Mix Magazine article by Blair Jackson

I’m fond of mentioning Iowa artist Grant Wood’s call for regionalism in painting. Burnett is as good as anyone touching on the grassroots of music in this country. Below is the Robert Plant & Alison Krauss version of the John Prine song Killing the Blues. Burnett produced the song on the 2009 Grammy winning album of the year, Raising Sand.

Scott W. Smith




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