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The South Never Plays Itself - a history of the Deep South on screen

Cameras on display at Movie World in Oberhausen, Germany
Mahdi Abdulrazak

Since The Birth of a Nation became the first Hollywood blockbuster in 1915, movies have struggled to reckon with the American South—as both a place and an idea, a reality and a romance, a lived experience, and a bitter legacy. Nearly every major American filmmaker, actor, and screenwriter has worked on a film about the South, from Gone with the Wind to 12 Years a Slave, from Deliverance to Forrest Gump. In The South Never Plays Itself: A Film Buff’s Journey Through the South on Screen (2023, UGA Press), author and film critic B. W. Beard explores the history of the Deep South on screen, beginning with silent cinema and ending in the streaming era.

Beard talks with Walter Edgar about what the movies got right, and what stereotypes they created or perpetuate.

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.