13 ways to kill a mockingbird


Most of the cast and crew of 13 ways to kill a mockingbird took a field trip with digital video gear to Monroeville, Alabama, the town that Harper Lee fictionalized into Maycomb and where she still lives.  We did not seek her; she does not grant interviews.  We did, however, attend Heritage Days in and around the courthouse that Universal Pictures copied for the film adaptation of TKM, which was shot in Hollywood.  The real courthouse is no longer the Monroeville courthouse—that’s across one side of the town square in a modern building—but a museum and cultural center, and it is the site of the second act of the annual community theatre production of a dramatic adaptation of TKM.  The first act is performed in back of the courthouse, on an outdoor set—a town within the town—consisting of small versions of the Finch, Miss Maudie, and Radley houses.  We interviewed several of the cast members as well as the director, and we watched a gospel choir and a children’s choir perform in the main room of the courthouse.

When we interviewed Lavord Crooks, the performer who plays Reverend Sykes, he told us that he recalled going to real trials in the courthouse when it was really a courthouse.  This was during Jim Crow, so he sat on the balcony.  Nowadays, during the second act of the show, he returns to that same balcony to perform not himself, but not not himself.

Not and not not Lavord Crooks, or William Walker in the role of Reverend Sykes.  Walker, like so many black performers in classical Hollywood cinema, is uncredited in the film of TKM. 

Now gentlemen, in this country our courts are the great levelers,

and in our courts all men are created equal.

In Monroeville, we tried to take the Monroeville Walking Tour as described in a brochure distributed at the courthouse.  Most of the sites on the walking tour were no longer there:  “former site of . . . .”  Some of them had never been there, quite, but were in the novel or film.  We were having trouble with frame slippage[4].  As a result we got horribly lost and stopped at Mel’s Dairy Dream for refreshment.  Mel’s stands on the former site of the house in which Harper Lee grew up.  Next door, the foundation and chimney of the house where Truman Capote stayed with his aunt are still visible.  There is a large historic marker commemorating Capote’s temporary Monroeville citizenship.  The woman who worked at Mel’s, not twenty feet from the sign, did not know who Truman Capote was, but she did say tour buses sometimes stopped there.


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walking tour


image © Universal Pictures

image © Universal Pictures