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All's Well in 'Madison County,' Says Woman Who Grew Up There

June 05, 1995|ANN CONWAY

R elief --that's what Helen Weaver felt after she saw the Orange County premiere of "The Bridges of Madison County" last week at the Edwards Big Newport Cinemas in Newport Beach.

"Thank goodness it was a nice movie," said Weaver, who attended the benefit showing for Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, along with 1,700 other moviegoers. "People in my old hometown [Winterset] are a little worried that it might make Madison County look bad."

Weaver not only lived in Madison County, Iowa, where the movie--and the book by Robert James Waller--takes place, but was born in the house believed used by the author as a backdrop for the four-day love affair between a disillusioned Iowa housewife (Francesca Johnson) and a charismatic photojournalist (Robert Kincaid). Kincaid comes into Johnson's life while her husband and children are away at a state fair.

The film's producers wanted to feature Weaver's birthplace in the movie, "but decided the kitchen was too small for all of their camera equipment," said Weaver, who lives in Costa Mesa. "I always thought our kitchen was pretty good size for a farmhouse. We had a table in it and a cook-stove, all of that."

Instead, a house in Des Moines was used for the film, starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep. "It doesn't have any connection to the bridge," she said.

Weaver's Madison County house, which was built by her grandfather in 1894, is one mile from the Roseman Bridge--the structure Kincaid (Eastwood) photographed for National Geographic magazine.

She remembers crossing the old covered bridge on her way to church, wading in the cool waters beneath it, even smooching with a couple of her high school beaus in its shadows.

"It's nicknamed 'The Haunted Bridge,' " Weaver said. "Years ago, a fellow escaped from jail, and the posse thought they'd trapped him in the bridge. But, turned out, he was never found."

While Weaver would have gotten a kick out of having the film shot in her old house, which she sold two years ago, other folks in the area were reluctant to allow their homes to be used.

"One man said he wasn't having anybody committing adultery in his house," Weaver said. "Another said that nobody should have written a story like that about Madison County. Here, when a husband takes off for the county fair, the wife goes along with him!"

Mostly, Weaver enjoyed seeing the Roseman Bridge the way it used to be. "In real life, it has been renovated," she said. "For the movie, Warner Bros. took some boards off of it and smeared it with molasses to age it.

"When they were finished, they brought it back to its refurbished state."

Before the premiere, gala guests, most of them gussied up in country-wear, enjoyed an old-fashioned "county fair" in the parking lot next to the theater.

Crossing a tiny bridge covered with Astroturf, they swept under a structure built to simulate the Roseman Bridge and found themselves face to face with about 30 restaurateurs cooking up their specialties.

There was poached salmon and dill sauce from the Ritz, pasta with tomatoes and basil from the Villa Nova and soda bread and Irish stew from Muldoon's. And more.

Among guests at the event, which was staged by Hoag's 552 Club support group, was aspiring actress Kimberly Eastwood, 24, daughter of Clint Eastwood.

"Dad loved working with Meryl Streep," she said. "He told me she was very professional--she would arrive at the set prepared and ready to go. That's what he likes."

Eastwood, who is taking acting classes, dreams of starring in a film someday. Directed by her dad? " That would be great," she said. "If I earned the role."

Also mingling with guests were theater moguls Patti and Jim Edwards III. (Edwards Theaters presented the premiere, along with Warner Bros. and Malpaso Productions.)

Patti Edwards loved the movie and came away feeling that Francesca (Streep) had made the right choice, to stay with her husband.

"It was a very human story about passion and love," she said. "But she did the right thing."

Jim Edwards, event chairman, was proud that Warner Bros. chose one of his family's theaters for the local premiere. "We're grateful. It's one of the movies of the year," he said. "We expect it to be here all summer long."

Event proceeds of $75,000 will go toward the expansion and renovation of Hoag's Emergency Care Unit.


Giffords delight concert-goers: After a knockout performance in Segerstrom Hall on Friday night, Kathie Lee Gifford, accompanied by her husband, Frank Gifford, joined supporters of the Pacific Symphony for a post-performance bash at the Founder's Hall.

On hand to praise the singer/television host/author for her lively show were orchestra founders such as Marcy and Maurice Mulville.

Gifford, sporting her megawatt smile, moved through the crowd with the high-energy style that has become her trademark.

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