Cross Creek (1983)

PG | 120 mins | Biography | 21 September 1983

Director:

Martin Ritt

Writer:

Dalene Young

Producer:

Robert B. Radnitz

Cinematographer:

John Alonzo

Editor:

Sidney Levin

Production Designer:

Walter Scott Herndon

Production Company:

Thorn EMI Films
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HISTORY

Credits include the following statement: "We wish to thank Mr. Norton Baskin for his invaluable assistance during the preparation and production of this film."
       End credits conclude with the following statements: "Cross Creek was shot in its entirety on locations in Cross Creek, Marion and Alashua Counties, Florida, and Long Island, New York"; and "Sequences along the river were filmed at Florida's Silver Springs"; "We thank the people of these communities for their help and their caring."
       On 24 May 1978, DV announced that producer Robert B. Radnitz had acquired the motion picture rights to the 1942 autobiographical book, Cross Creek, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. At that time, Radnitz did not indicate whether the film would be produced theatrically or for television. Almost three years later, the 4 Feb 1981 Var reported that actress Mariette Hartley was selected to portray Rawlings in the film. However, an article in the 29 Oct 1981 DV indicated that Radnitz and director Martin Ritt were still in the process of selecting a female lead, based on the “prototype young Katharine Hepburn role.”        Production was scheduled to begin spring 1983 in the vicinity of Ocala, FL, on a budget of less than $10 million. The location was tentative, due to a boycott by the Directors Guild of America (DGA) of the fifteen states, including FL, that were currently refusing to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that guaranteed equal rights for women. Although Radnitz and Ritt considered the FL location important to the film, they also endorsed the boycott. Five weeks ... More Less

Credits include the following statement: "We wish to thank Mr. Norton Baskin for his invaluable assistance during the preparation and production of this film."
       End credits conclude with the following statements: "Cross Creek was shot in its entirety on locations in Cross Creek, Marion and Alashua Counties, Florida, and Long Island, New York"; and "Sequences along the river were filmed at Florida's Silver Springs"; "We thank the people of these communities for their help and their caring."
       On 24 May 1978, DV announced that producer Robert B. Radnitz had acquired the motion picture rights to the 1942 autobiographical book, Cross Creek, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. At that time, Radnitz did not indicate whether the film would be produced theatrically or for television. Almost three years later, the 4 Feb 1981 Var reported that actress Mariette Hartley was selected to portray Rawlings in the film. However, an article in the 29 Oct 1981 DV indicated that Radnitz and director Martin Ritt were still in the process of selecting a female lead, based on the “prototype young Katharine Hepburn role.”        Production was scheduled to begin spring 1983 in the vicinity of Ocala, FL, on a budget of less than $10 million. The location was tentative, due to a boycott by the Directors Guild of America (DGA) of the fifteen states, including FL, that were currently refusing to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that guaranteed equal rights for women. Although Radnitz and Ritt considered the FL location important to the film, they also endorsed the boycott. Five weeks later, the selection of actress Mary Steenburgen to portray Rawlings was announced in the 2 Dec 1981 DV. Actor Malcolm McDowell, Steenburgen’s husband at the time, was cast as publisher “Max Perkins,” as reported in the 26 Feb 1982 DV.
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, Radnitz commissioned screenwriter Dalene Young to write the script, but because Rawlings’s book did not follow a classic plot pattern, further research was needed on the author “to find a handle for the cinematic narrative.” Radnitz also consulted Norton Baskin, the author’s second husband, who provided a considerable amount of information about his late wife. Upon their initial meeting in 1980, Radnitz was “flabbergasted” by the similarities between the man himself and his depiction in the screenplay. Baskin was equally impressed with the script’s portrayal of Rawlings, noting how accurately it captured her “distinctive speech patterns.” Radnitz stated that the screenplay had been rejected by “every major studio in Hollywood,” except for Thorn EMI, which agreed to finance the film based on the screenplay alone.
       The original Rawlings home in Cross Creek, FL, which had since become a state-owned tourist attraction facing a paved highway, was unsuitable for filming. Radnitz spent three weeks searching central FL for “a lake with an adjacent orange grove,” finding his ideal location with the assistance of A. P. McCloud, a businessman and former acquaintance of Rawlings. Production designer Walter Scott Herndon designed a replica of the author’s “Cracker” dwelling, comprised of three frame buildings connected by porches. He also recreated the Turner family homestead and the village of Island Grove. Filming was interrupted by a record storm that caused severe flooding throughout the region. Though none of the sets were destroyed, the Turner homestead set sustained some damage, and became separated from the mainland by the swelling of the river. Herndon and construction coordinator Richard Reseigne “expanded the porch into platform walkways, widened the decks, and placed the cabin on log stilts.” Because of interior damage to the cabin, both of the film’s party sequences were re-staged as exterior shots, which Ritt considered a marked improvement.
       While photography was in progress, actor Rip Torn lived among the residents of Cross Creek. He found them to be protective of Rawlings’ reputation, but also supportive of the film’s depiction of its subject. Some of the older residents claimed that Steenburgen reminded them of Rawlings when the author first settled in the region.
       News items in the 30 Apr 1982 HR and the 22 Jun 1982 DV, respectively, reported that principal photography began 5 Apr 1982 and was completed in late Jun 1982. The 14 Apr 1983 HR announced Cross Creek as an official U.S. entry at the Cannes Film Festival, where it debuted May 1983. Release was delayed until autumn of that year at the request of Radnitz and Ritt, who wanted public anticipation to “build slowly.” The $8 million film was scheduled for a city-by-city screening campaign designed “to start word-of-mouth,” rather than a broad general release. Radnitz explained in the 26 May 1983 HR that a general release could lead to the film being overlooked by the public. According to publicity materials in AMPAS library files, the picture opened 21 Sep 1983 in New York City, followed by 30 Sep 1983 openings in Los Angeles, CA; Washington, DC; and Toronto, Canada. Openings in San Francisco, CA; Seattle, WA; Denver, CO; and Atlanta, GA; occurred on consecutive Fridays throughout Oct 1983.
       Cross Creek was screened by New Women in Film on 14 Sep 1984 at the Bruno Walter Auditorium in the New York City’s Lincoln Center Library, according to the 12 Sep 1983 HR. A question-and-answer session with Radnitz and Ritt followed the screening.
       The film received mixed reviews. While the 14 Jun 1983 HR praised its accurate portrayal of Rawlings, the 25 May 1983 Var called it a “sanitized vision.” A review in the 30 Sep 1983 LAT, which listed numerous inaccuracies in the screenplay, garnered an angry response from Baskin, who “personally found it true to the spirit” of the source material and to the woman herself.
       Cross Creek was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Rip Torn); Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Alfre Woodard); Best Costume Design; and Best Music (Original Score). The 20 Apr 1984 LAT reported that the day after the awards ceremony, costume designer Joe I. Tompkins was given a “Golden Bird of Burbank” award trophy by his coworkers at the Burbank Studios, in Burbank, CA, as consolation for his loss the previous night. The award consisted of a pair of spike-heeled shoes and a two-foot-long metal spring, topped with a golden bird. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
24 May 1978.
---
Daily Variety
29 Oct 1981
p. 1, 15.
Daily Variety
2 Dec 1981.
---
Daily Variety
26 Feb 1982.
---
Daily Variety
22 Jun 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Apr 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 May 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Apr 1983
p. 1, 5.
Hollywood Reporter
26 May 1983.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Sep 1983.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jun 1983
p. 3, 24.
LAHExam
23 Sep 1983.
---
Los Angeles Times
30 Sep 1983
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
9 Oct 1983.
---
Los Angeles Times
30 Oct 1983.
---
Los Angeles Times
20 Apr 1984.
---
New York Times
21 Sep 1983
p. 19.
Playboy
Sep 1982.
---
Time
26 Sep 1983.
---
Variety
4 Feb 1981.
---
Variety
25 May 1983
p. 19.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Robert Radnitz/Martin Ritt Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
D.G.A. prod intern
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Stillman
Key grip
Gaffer
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Leadman
Prop master
Asst propmaster
Const coord
Paint foreman
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
SOUND
Sd eff ed
Sd ed
Prod mixer
Sd eff mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles by
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Prod coord
Prod office asst
Prod accountant
Asst prod accountant
Scr supv
Unit pub
Transportation coord
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Asst to Mr. Radnitz
Asst to Mr. Ritt
COLOR PERSONNEL
Timer
Col consultant
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book Cross Creek by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (New York, 1942).
DETAILS
Release Date:
21 September 1983
Premiere Information:
Cannes Film Festival: May 1983
New York opening: 21 September 1983
Los Angeles opening: 30 September 1983
Production Date:
5 April--late June 1982
Copyright Claimant:
Thorn EMI Films, Inc.
Copyright Date:
9 December 1983
Copyright Number:
PA198879
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex Camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
120
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

In 1928, aspiring writer Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings is determined to develop her craft in the tiny rural hamlet of Cross Creek, Florida, where she has purchased an abandoned orange grove. Her husband, Charles, refuses to leave New York City to join her, and the couple begins divorce proceedings. As Marjorie approaches Cross Creek, her car breaks down in the nearby village of Island Grove, and she asks hotel manager Norton Baskin for assistance. He drives Marjorie to her new home, and along the way, she tells him of her ambition to become an author of gothic romance novels. When he warns that she has little in common with her new neighbors, Marjorie expresses her preference for isolation. Upon arriving at the property, Norton is surprised at Marjorie’s willingness to restore the long-neglected farmhouse, and at her refusal of any further help. The next day, a young African American woman named Geechee asks Marjorie for employment as a housekeeper. Marjorie is reluctant, as she is living on her savings with no assistance from Charles. However, she is unable to argue with Geechee’s desire to work, and her promise to accommodate Marjorie’s need for privacy. Marjorie also receives a visit from neighbor Marsh Turner and his daughter, Ellie, who offer to help with her resettlement, starting with the extermination of a poisonous snake. Ellie returns the next day, accompanied by Flag, her pet deer fawn, and invites Marjorie to a party at the Turner home. The following Saturday, Marjorie attends the Turner’s party, and quickly realizes that she is the only guest, despite Mrs. Turner’s insistence that others are expected. ... +


In 1928, aspiring writer Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings is determined to develop her craft in the tiny rural hamlet of Cross Creek, Florida, where she has purchased an abandoned orange grove. Her husband, Charles, refuses to leave New York City to join her, and the couple begins divorce proceedings. As Marjorie approaches Cross Creek, her car breaks down in the nearby village of Island Grove, and she asks hotel manager Norton Baskin for assistance. He drives Marjorie to her new home, and along the way, she tells him of her ambition to become an author of gothic romance novels. When he warns that she has little in common with her new neighbors, Marjorie expresses her preference for isolation. Upon arriving at the property, Norton is surprised at Marjorie’s willingness to restore the long-neglected farmhouse, and at her refusal of any further help. The next day, a young African American woman named Geechee asks Marjorie for employment as a housekeeper. Marjorie is reluctant, as she is living on her savings with no assistance from Charles. However, she is unable to argue with Geechee’s desire to work, and her promise to accommodate Marjorie’s need for privacy. Marjorie also receives a visit from neighbor Marsh Turner and his daughter, Ellie, who offer to help with her resettlement, starting with the extermination of a poisonous snake. Ellie returns the next day, accompanied by Flag, her pet deer fawn, and invites Marjorie to a party at the Turner home. The following Saturday, Marjorie attends the Turner’s party, and quickly realizes that she is the only guest, despite Mrs. Turner’s insistence that others are expected. As the party draws to a close, Marsh appears, voicing his disapproval as Ellie allows Flag to eat at the table, reminding her that deer belong in the wild. Marsh escorts Marjorie home, and informs her that his wife is gradually losing her mind, which he attributes to their hardscrabble way of life. Along the way, Marsh introduces Marjorie to a young bootlegger named Paul, who will be her new farmhand. Marjorie is slow to respond, and Marsh interprets her silence as an affirmation. Though she is pleased with Geechee and Paul, and fond of the Turner family, Marjorie is troubled by her slow progress as a writer and her diminishing funds. One day, after the Turners’ hogs have eaten Marjorie’s flowers, Marsh promises her ownership of the animals if they ever trespass again. On another occasion, Geechee receives a letter from her imprisoned boyfriend, Leroy, and asks Marjorie to notify the prison superintendent that she can guarantee Leroy a job if he is released. Marjorie discovers that she has yet another employee, Paul’s cousin, Tim, who is constructing an irrigation system. A backwoodsman, Tim is shocked by Marjorie’s willingness to engage in physical labor, and misinterprets her generosity toward his pregnant wife as charity. When Marjorie asks the wife for help with the laundry, the couple leaves the grove, outraged that such a request would be made of a white woman. Marjorie completes her novel and sends it to publisher Max Perkins, accompanied by a letter describing her life in Cross Creek. Although he has already rejected several of Marjorie’s manuscripts, Max believes she has talent and encourages her submissions. Meanwhile, Norton attempts to romance Marjorie, but his success is limited, due to her desire to remain independent. She is crestfallen upon receiving another rejection letter from Max, which describes her novel as trite and derivative. However, she is also encouraged by his praise of her anecdotes about Cross Creek, and works feverishly on a new story. As Marjorie readies for bed, she hears the Turner hogs outside her window and fires her rifle to chase them away. In the morning, when Marsh and Norton inform her that one of the animals was mortally wounded, she reminds Marsh of his promise, making the hog her property. She then invites them to join her that evening for a barbecue. After Marsh leaves, Marjorie tells Norton about her latest work, “Jacob’s Ladder,” inspired by Tim and his wife. She believes it to be a truly original story, but also her last hope of becoming a published writer. Marjorie intensifies her efforts, writing ten to twelve hours per day. The orange grove thrives under Paul’s care, producing a marketable crop. Leroy is released from prison but refuses to do any work, so Marjorie is forced to dismiss him, even though she expects to lose Geechee as well. However, Geechee has no intention of leaving and scolds Marjorie for assuming otherwise. She also advises Marjorie to be more proactive with the people she loves, especially Norton. Later, Marjorie and Norton attend Ellie’s fourteenth birthday party, during which Flag breaks out of his pen and feeds on the family’s crops. Marsh believes Flag to be unfit for both civilization and the wild, and should be destroyed, but he accedes to his daughter’s pleas for mercy. Afterward, Marsh tells Marjorie that, even though Ellie is his favorite, he cannot allow her pet to endanger his crops or those of his neighbors, but he will make a final attempt to reinforce the pen. That night, Norton proposes marriage, but Marjorie is unwilling to make the commitment, even though he is a frequent overnight guest. During a business trip to Florida, Max visits Marjorie, and after reading “Jacob’s Ladder,” he buys the story for $700. Sometime afterward, Flag makes another escape from his pen, and Marsh kills the animal in front of Ellie. She declares her hatred of Marsh, prompting him to go on a drinking binge, during which he vandalizes a pool hall. The sheriff follows Marsh to a secluded area and asks for his gun. Marsh offers to surrender the weapon, but the sheriff shoots him to death. Marjorie attends the funeral and is confronted by Ellie, who blames her meddling for Marsh’s death. Disillusioned, Marjorie considers leaving Cross Creek, but abandons the idea when a cold spell threatens her orange grove. Ellie comes to Marjorie’s aid and apologizes for staying away so long. Later that day, Marjorie surprises Norton by agreeing to marry him. She comes to realize that her life in Cross Creek has brought her enlightenment, as well as fulfillment. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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