This morning we visited North Carolina, to see the set of ‘Dirty Dancing,’ so what better time to meet Meakin Armstrong, our guide to Film + Travel in the Southern US. His filmic tour of runs all the way from North Carolina to Natchitoches, Louisiana — we’re talking Grade A prime road-trip country. So take a cue from his picks and plan a trip of your own.
Name: Meakin Armstrong
Home base: New York City
Day Job: Freelance writer and editor
MG: Your chapter covers the entire Southeastern US. Did you find anything that really surprised you?
MA: The biggest surprise was that ‘Gone with the Wind’, ‘Star Trek’, and ‘Batman‘ were shot in more of less the same location: the old “Back Forty” studio in Culver City, California. Aunt Pittypat’s house appeared many TV shows. ‘Hogan’s Heroes’ was filmed right on the spot where Tara once stood.
As for an actual location, it’s Natchitoches, Louisiana, a gorgeous town where not much has changed over the years. It’s the real South, the one that still exists under the hard shell of chain stores and condo developments, and fast food joints.
MG: Favorite Southern movie moment?
MA: I’m a little tired of spunky women with big hair hurling clever remarks at each other. I’ll go for this scene: In Terms of Endearment (a movie I didn’t like so much) there’s a moment when the cashier at a supermarket is rude. A leading character says to her, “You must be from New York City.” That line makes me happy. The movie itself didn’t.
MG: What’s one movie you wish more people would watch?
MA: ‘Nashville‘! It’ll break your heart (the strip scene is wrenching) and it’ll take you to places you didn’t know film could. Another movie, ‘Badlands‘, which is flat-out, my favorite film. See the film if you’re going to visit the Badlands of the West. Or just see the damned film. It’s very American, but has a foreign-film feel.
MG: You’ve written that the ’70s were the best decade for American movie making. What do you think of the current state of cinema in the US? What about the rest of the world?
MA: Movies these days for the most part are carnival rides. I like going on those rides, but they sure aren’t what they used to be. Mainly, it’s because of the money it takes to film them.
MG: Describe your movie? Where would it be set? Who would star? What genre would it be?
MA: My movie? Meaning, the movie of my life? Imagine the Moe of the 3 Stooges, directed by Bergman. The star would be some self-pitying type, a new discovery.
MG: If you could live inside any movie, what would it be?
MA: Any Merchant Ivory film—the best sets and clothes and so on.