In 1997, Clint Eastwood brought the beauty -- and eccentricities -- of Savannah, Georgia, to the masses with 'Midnight in the Garden of Good Evil.' The movie was adapted from John Berendt's best-selling novel, which chronicled his experiences covering an ongoing murder trial in the Southern city. The film adaptation stars John Cusack as journalist John Kelso (whom Berendt based on himself) and Kevin Spacey as Jim Williams, a wealthy art dealer on trial for the murder of local hustler Billy Hanson (Jude Law).

Berendt's book was an instant success when it arrived in 1994, spending 216 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and garnering praise from critics worldwide. Sadly, Eastwood's cinematic edition didn't fare nearly as well, garnering mixed reviews that amounted to a 50 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert, for example, lauded the director's intentions, but aptly explained where it fell short. "[In his book,] Berendt paints a portrait of a city so eccentric, so dripping with Southern Gothic weirdness, that it can't survive for long when it's removed from the life-support system of our imagination," he wrote, adding, "[The] film is a determined attempt to be faithful to the book's spirit, but something ineffable is lost just by turning on the camera."

In 1997, Clint Eastwood brought the beauty -- and eccentricities -- of Savannah, Georgia, to the masses with 'Midnight in the Garden of Good Evil.' The movie was adapted from John Berendt's best-selling novel, which chronicled his experiences covering an ongoing murder trial in the Southern city. The film adaptation stars John Cusack as journalist John Kelso (whom Berendt based on himself) and Kevin Spacey as Jim Williams, a wealthy art dealer on trial for the murder of local hustler Billy Hanson (Jude Law).

Berendt's book was an instant success when it arrived in 1994, spending 216 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and garnering praise from critics worldwide. Sadly, Eastwood's cinematic edition didn't fare nearly as well, garnering mixed reviews that amounted to a 50 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert, for example, lauded the director's intentions, but aptly explained where it fell short. "[In his book,] Berendt paints a portrait of a city so eccentric, so dripping with Southern Gothic weirdness, that it can't survive for long when it's removed from the life-support system of our imagination," he wrote, adding, "[The] film is a determined attempt to be faithful to the book's spirit, but something ineffable is lost just by turning on the camera."

Still, the film adaptation of 'Midnight' offers a compelling glimpse of an unusual pocket of Americana -- where a young Jude Law (in coveralls, no less!) further enhances the aesthetics. Bonus: The screenplay was co-written by Berendt and John Lee Hancock, who wrote last years' award-winning tearjerker, 'The Blind Side.'

Clary'sLocation as Character: Despite the box-office let-down, 'Midnight' turned Savannah from a sleepy Southern town into a major tourist attraction nearly overnight. The movie's trailer practically doubles as an ad for the city when Cusack's character says, "This place is fantastic. It's like 'Gone With the Wind' on Mescaline!" While the movie features a wide array of Savannah's sights, the title specifically refers to local lore that the half-hour before midnight is the time for good magic, while the half-hour after is the time for evil. The "garden," meanwhile, is the city's leafy Bonaventure Cemetery, where the story's murder victim is buried and the local root doctor, Minerva (Irma P. Hall), works her spells.

At one point in the film, Jim and John visit the garden for a little late-night convocation, where Minerva wears sunglasses at night and gets going with her local brand of voodoo. She can sense the skepticism of the visiting journo during the ceremony and when he turns to leave, she tells him: "To understand the living, you've got to commune with the dead." The garden, apparently, is also the venue for unwanted advice, and a whole lot of truth-telling.

Historical Significance: Bonaventure Cemetery sits on the old Bonaventure Plantation, which sits on a bluff just east of the city. Claudia Catell Mullryne and her husband, Colonel John Mullryne, established their home on the plantation in 1762. Spreading out over more than 600 acres, the land was never cultivated for crops, but instead the Mullrynes planted Oaks every 15 feet, for a canopy effect (eventually). After changing hands for several generations, in 1846 Josiah Tattnall III sold the land to Peter Wiltberger, who planned to convert the plantation into a pubic cemetery.

These days, Bonaventure is the largest of Savannah's municipal cemeteries, with over 160 acres of land. It's among the city's must-see destinations for tourists eager to get a real-life taste of 'Midnight.' Numerous companies offer guided tours of both the city and Bonaventure -- and some even feature guides who worked as extras in the movie more than a decade ago.

Directions: The cemetery is located at 330 Bonaventure Road, on the east side of Savannah. From points north, take Harry S. Truman Parkway south, exit on Skidaway and head south. Take a left on Bonaventure Rd., which ends at the cemetery.

Visitor Info: Bonaventure is open to the public daily from 8:00AM to 5:00PM.
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