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Aniston lassoes `Goree'

The actress will produce, and possibly star in, a DreamWorks comedy about a female inmate singing group.

June 16, 2007|Sheigh Crabtree | Special to The Times

Jennifer Aniston may need to brush up on her yodeling, banjo and steel guitar now that she's producing the period country-and-western musical "Goree Girls" for DreamWorks Pictures.

The actress is on board to produce and probably star in the 1940s song-laden comedy about one of the nation's first all-female country acts, a group whose members were also guests of the Texas penal system.

Aniston will be joined by seven other singin' and pickin' actresses cast as part of the Goree All Girl String Band, which is remembered as the Dixie Chicks of its day for the radio performances it put on from a Texas music hall.

Aniston and her producing partner, Kristin Hahn, hired Margaret Nagle (HBO's "Warm Springs") to adapt the screenplay from a Texas Monthly article following Leslie Dixon's ("Hairspray") first draft. DreamWorks, Aniston and Hahn have sent the script out in search of a director, with no scheduled production start date.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday June 19, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 50 words Type of Material: Correction
Aniston's 'Goree': An article in Saturday's Calendar section about Jennifer Aniston's plans to produce "Goree Girls" said that screenwriter Margaret Nagle was brought in to adapt a Texas Monthly article about the all-female country act following a first draft by screenwriter Leslie Dixon. Nagle's adaptation is being written from scratch.

The group of eight female Texas prisoners performed live every Wednesday evening in the early 1940s to an estimated 7 million Americans tuned into WBAP-AM in Fort Worth.

The women -- some of whom were in prison for cattle rustling, robbery and murder -- joined together with the hope of "singing their way out" of Goree State Farm, a few miles south of Huntsville, according to Skip Hollandsworth, who wrote the 8,000-word profile "O Sister, Where Art Thou?" for Texas Monthly in May 2003.

The women were allowed to change out of their prison uniforms (starched white linen dresses) and into light tan shirts, brown western-style skirts, white cowboy boots and, tied around their necks, brown bandannas each week for their public appearances, thanks to the Texas prison system's bid for a little favorable publicity following reports of escapes, beatings and gunfights in their facilities.

Hollandsworth's article is loaded with nostalgic movie hallmarks: The period prison life depicted in "The Green Mile," the comedic camaraderie of women in uniform in "A League of Their Own" and mentions of familiar country-and-western standards such as "Way Out West in Texas" and "Sleepy Rio Grande."

The profile also alludes to the darker realities of prison life for women in the 1940s, such as forced sterilization, hard labor, segregated prisons, solitary confinement and vicious beatings, doled out especially to inmates caught engaging in lesbian sex.

Hollandsworth spent years researching the story and tracking down members of the original Goree All Girl String Band. The women never made a recording and lived in anonymity after prison.

sheigh.crabtree@latimes.com

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