On a beautiful evening recently, I went in search of Ingrid Bergman in the heart of Bearden. Among the boutiques, bistros, art stores and railroad tracks, I found her mark in a mini movie walk of fame dating back to a time when Bearden was a popular movie theatre destination and hosted the occasional world premiere.
In April, 1970, Bergman was in town to promote her new film “A Walk in the Spring Rain” co-starring Anthony Quinn, which had been filmed in and around Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains the previous year. Scenes around UT’s Ayres Hall doubled as a bustling northern college campus, which belies the fact that student unrest at UT was at its height during 1969 with protests opposing the Vietnam War. From there, the plot centered on a happily married couple (Bergman and Fritz Weaver) who travel to the hills where Bergman falls in love with an amorous neighbor (Quinn) while her husband solitarily writes a textbook. (Curiously, the uncredited stunt choreographer on the film was Bruce Lee several years before he became a household name, practically inventing the martial art film genre. Lee died suddenly after making “Enter the Dragon” in 1973.)
“A Walk in the Spring Rain” premiered at the Capri Theatre in Bearden followed by a private reception at Cherokee Country Club. Earlier in the day, Bergman had joined Bob Hope and local officials to kick off the 10th annual Dogwood Arts Festival. Along with City Mayor Leonard Rogers, Bergman planted a Dogwood tree on Market Square, although the tree lastly barely three months, possibly being planted in a hole that was too small for it to flourish.
Even in the twilight of her career, Bergman was one of Hollywood’s notable actresses, having starred in “Casablanca” (1942) and “Anastasia” (1956) for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress. In Agatha Christie’s “Murder on The Orient Express” (1974), Bergman’s next major role after “Spring Rain” she also garnered an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Anthony Perkins also starred in the whodunit and he had attended a Knoxville world premiere himself for the “The Fool Killer” a few years earlier at downtown’s Tennessee Theatre in 1965.
The Capri Theatre originally opened in 1946 as the Pike Theater and later added the Capri 70, as a “Twin Theater”. The Capri 70 was so-named because of its 70mm widescreen projection and six-track stereophonic sound. Another movie theater was added close by and known as the beer-driven Tap House Theatre and later still the Terrace Twin Theatre. Now vacant and listed for sale, this building is where the walk of fame is now located although originally it was at the Capri Theatre. The Capri closed in 1992 and sat vacant for a time before re-opening as Bennett Gallery in the late 1990s.
Looking weather-worn, Ingrid Bergman’s slab is accompanied by several well-known actors and
celebrities, namely Cliff Robertson, Tessa Wyatt, Stan Brock, Patricia Neal, and a surprisingly recent, Tippi Hedren, who was here in 1999 for a benefit for Tiger Haven, the big cat sanctuary and rescue facility in nearby Kingston. Hedren’s stone is now badly cracked although you can still make out her name.
Meanwhile, across town, “A Walk in the Spring Rain” and several other locally-related films are featured in a wonderful temporary exhibit, “Lights! Camera! Action!” at the University of Tennessee’s John C. Hodges Library. Make sure you spend some time with the world-class multi-media kiosk; it’s a gem. The exhibit runs through August 1st.
Paul James, Development Director