The magic of Hollywood has been captured in over 30 motion pictures filmed in Waxahachie since 1967.
Artists with the Ellis County Art Association embodied the culture of entertainment with the illustrations four popular movies through the public art project, Hachie Heart. The four films, “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Tender Mercies,” "The Trip to Bountiful," and the most iconic to Waxahachie. “Places in the Heart,” are depicted on a five-foot ceramic heart soon to be placed in front of the Ellis County Courts building.
According to the Waxahachie Convention Visitors Bureau, the town has become a sort of movie capital of Texas.
The first flick to make the big screen took place in 1967 with the filming of “Bonnie and Clyde." Less than two decades later, Waxahachie films earned top recognition in Oscar wins in consecutive years in 1983, 1984 and 1985.
Art association president, Tina Bohlam, tasked four members to portray each film on the Hachie Heart.
“I selected these four artists because they were so individual in their concept and technique, but still there was a common thread that they are all designers in a way,” Bohlam explained.
“BONNIE AND CLYDE”
Leah Lawless-Smith is the art teacher at Ennis High School and has been a member of the association for the past four years. When asked what it was like to work with three different artists, she said, “We all had our own style, and it was challenging.”
The rest of the group agreed.
Lawless-Smith explained her method behind painting the two bandits revolved around famous photos rather than clips from the movie. She also noted the technique that made her section stick out from the rest.
“I use a lot of patterns,” Lawless-Smith pointed out. “I did a lot of research about the use of patterns, and from the Muslim religious world, they don’t have anything that is figurative, and they use patterns because they felt like it was the closest thing to God.”
A document from the Ellis County Museum showed the building where Multitudes is located today — 200 W. Main — was used as the bank robbery scene in the movie.
Waxahachie native Robert Benton scripted the film and later returned to his former hometown to write and direct the Oscar-winning feature “Places in the Heart.” In the 40th Academy Awards, “Bonnie and Clyde” earned 10 nominations, including best picture. Estelle Parsons won best actress in a supporting role, and the film earned best cinematography.
“PLACES IN THE HEART”
For the entire 15 years, Candace Faber has lived in Waxahachie she has been a member of the art association. He spearheaded the selection of movies that comprised the heart and tasked the individuals with each film.
“’Places in the Heart’ stuck in my mind for years and I can recall it,” Faber emphasized.
She made a point to tackle the artistry behind “Places in the Heart,” which has proved to be the most iconic to Waxahachie. The name of the marketing campaign that initiated the Hachie Hearts was derived from the title of this feature film. The marketing tagline is “Waxahachie: A place in your heart, Texas.”
On the heart, Faber depicted a scene from the movie where characters dance at a house party to “Cotton Eye Joe.” Faber noted the yellow church painted is from the movie and is actually the Bethel United Methodist Church on Bethel Road in Waxahachie.
The Ellis County Museum document notated the Rogers Hotel was utilized in the film and was renamed The Farmers & Merchants Bank and is where Sally Field’s character attempted to be issued a loan on her farm. The end of East Marvin Avenue is pictured during the tornado scene, and the Anguiano home located at 1101 E. Marvin was used as a beauty shop. The house was originally located on Brown Street when the movie was shot and later moved to the East Marvin address.
The film earned two Oscars in 1984 where Sally field won best acres in a leading role as Edna Spalding, and the Waxahachie native, Robert Benton, won the best writing. The film also received five more Oscar nominations.
This year marks the 35th anniversary of the film.
Mike Duncan is one of the newest members of the art association and was the only individual who did not see the movie before painting. Instead, he did his homework, studied famous quotes, conducted photo research, read the synopsis and watched clips of “Tender Mercies.”
Duncan has only been around Ellis County for the past two years after he and his wife moved from Denton to Venus two years ago so he could work as the youth pastor at Midlothian Bible Church.
“Honestly, it’s a fun way to connect with the community,” Duncan said. “Moving to an area is always really tricky. For my particular position, being a pastor kind of engulfs your identity… this has been kind of a gasp to get to know the rest of the community.”
He is a fan of movie posters and more specifically ones by Drew Stuzan who created posters for more than 150 films such as “Star Wars,” “The Goonies,” and “Hook.”
With famous inspiration and recent exposure with ink and watercolors, Duncan created his own modern-day movie poster that illustrated the main character Mac Sledge — who is played by Robert Duvall — and the young window he pursued in the film Rosa Lee, who is played by Tess Harper. The son of Harper is included in the profile as well.
In the movie, Mac Sledge is a broken down country artist who attempts to turn his life around through the relationship with the widow and her son.
The movie was filmed principally in Waxahachie and was set in the 1940s after World War II. The museum document listed the Rogers Hotel was featured in the film but did not specify.
The 1983 film earned two Oscars out of five nominations. Robert Duvall won best actor, and Horton Foote won best writing, screenplay written directly for the screen.
“THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL”
Steve Miller was very familiar with the movie he portrayed as he watched it when it came out in 1985 and again as a refresher.
“The movie will mean more the older you get,” Miller said with insight.
The scene Miller illustrated the main character, Carrie Watts, befriending a woman, Thelma, on a train while on their way home. Watts is on her way to her hometown of Bountiful, which is a fictitious town represented by the City of Waxahachie.
The museum document noted Ellis Street was mentioned but was not specific when it was shown.
Geraldine Page won an Oscar for best actress in her role as Watts. Horton Foote was also nominated for his screenplay in the best writing category.
Borders, who grew up in Waxahachie, can still remember the feature films made in town and reported the positive economic impact the business made to Waxahachie.
Borders explained when a project chooses Waxahachie, it brings in a significant amount of revenue as well.
“They are staying in our hotels, eating in our restaurants, purchasing supplies from local merchants, putting local crew to work, and paying location fees to our residents,” she elaborated.
Borders noted a shift in entertainment as less feature-length films utilize Waxahachie, and more television has taken advantage of the small town. There has also been an increase in national commercials as Waxahachie-made commercial ran during the past three Super Bowls.
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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450