Last evening I had a pleasant surprise in finding the Robert Duvall movie, Tomorrow, being shown on the Turner Classic Movies channel. I had not seen the movie in years and it proved yet again, to be a dramatic visual treat.
The movie is special to me as it brings back memories of a year from my youth thirty-six years ago, when the movie industry came to the peaceful beautiful rural hills of Itawamba County, Mississippi. I remember the time as if it were yesterday. Everyday quiet life here was interrupted by the excitement of filming and several county locals being cast as extras for the film. This little cinematic treasure was based upon the short story by Mississippi’s own William Faulkner with the screenplay by the master, Horton Foote. Much of the filming was done in the historic Oakland community, northeast of Fulton.
During the months the movie was being filmed in northeastern Mississippi and Itawamba County, I would clip anything related to the movie from the local newspaper and these clippings would be taped into my scrapbook right along with stories about local football games, news items about family members, school pictures and other such items important to a kid in the Itawamba County hills.
Duvall played the role of Jackson Fentry, a hill country cotton farmer who spends the winter as the caretaker of a rural saw mill. The day before Christmas, he finds Sarah Eubanks, a pregnant woman abandoned by her husband, lying on the grounds of the sawmill. The kind-hearted Fentry, a man of few words, takes her in, taking care of her. Eventually he asks her to marry him but she can’t as she is already married. The intense, moving story takes off from there.
I remember after the filming ended, local folks couldn’t wait for the movie to come out. The Southern premier was held at the old Lyric Theater in downtown Tupelo at 7:30 p.m., on Wednesday, May 31. 1972. The theater was packed and when the film credits started rolling, it has been said you could hear a pin drop.
Many have proclaimed this cinematic masterpiece to be the best adaptation of Faulkner to film and is reported as one of Duvall’s favorite roles. I definitely believe the film is a true-to-life adaptation of Faulkner and the black and white cinematography simply adds to the dramatic atmosphere of the movie. Duvall simply nailed the role as he always does, proving he is a master of his craft.
When watching this movie, I simply feel as if I am being transported back to an earlier simpler time to catch a brief sacred glimpse of how my Itawamba County, Mississippi hill country ancestors lived 100 years ago.