William Faulkner supposedly once said, “To understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi.”
And when it comes to making movies of Faulkner’s works, it certainly helps to understand Mississippi. That’s why several screen adaptations of his stories have been shot on location in the state, starting with 1949’s “Intruder in the Dust,” shot in Oxford, up to 2014’s “The Sound and the Fury,” shot in Carrollton.
Perhaps the most entertaining screen adaptation of Faulkner is 1969’s “The Reivers,” starring Steve McQueen. It’s based on the 1962 novel by the same name, which earned Faulkner his second Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The novel is one of the author’s more straightforward and accessible works, which translated well to the film adaptation.
“The Reivers” was mostly filmed around Carroll County in 1968, the first film production to ever film in the area. Many scenes were shot in downtown Carrollton, and many of the buildings are still recognizable today. According to Visitgreenwood.com, “As you drive into town on Highway 82, look right and you’ll still see the advertisement that featured in the film, reading ‘Furniture and Coffins’ on the side of the town’s museum today. At one point, it actually was a store that sold both home items and coffins.”
And although Carrollton still looks much the same as it did in the film, the city did have paved streets in 1968. The film crew painted the streets and brought in dirt and sand to create the dirt roads of the film’s turn-of-the-century setting.
There is one major scene that was not filmed in Mississippi. The horse race that figures prominently in the film was shot at Walt Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch in Newhall, Calif.
McQueen played the lead role of Boon Hogganbeck, a character who also appears in other Faulkner works, most notably the short story “The Bear.” His co-star, Rupert Crosse, was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work as the mischievous farm hand Ned. He was the first African-American in history to be nominated for the award.
The film also stars Meridian native actress Diane Ladd in a small role as one of the ladies at the Memphis “boarding house” Boon visits. Also featured are actors Will Geer and Juano Hernandez, who appeared together in the previous made-in-Mississippi Faulkner adaptation “Intruder in the Dust” two decades prior.
The screenplay was adapted by husband-wife team Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr. Ravetch also produced. The duo had previously adapted two Faulkner works, “The Sound and the Fury” (1959), and “Spotted Horses,” made into “The Long, Hot Summer” in 1958. They also penned the screenplay for 1960’s “Home from the Hill,” parts of which were shot in Greenwood and Oxford.
“The Reivers” is rated PG-13 for sexual content, brief nudity, language and thematic elements. It is available on blu-ray, DVD and most major streaming services.