The Buena Vista Plantation in Gloster, Louisiana: The filming location of “Slaves” (1969)

An amazing visit to this secluded, haunted plantation in West Louisiana.

This is the view of the Big House used on the Slaves movie poster!! The upper level columns are gone, but you can count the lower pillars and the 2 chimneys on the roof to confirm it is the same house.

This area was used for much of the main action, including the large slave crowd scene at the end of Slaves

What a beautiful tree….! Not sure what kind….maybe an oak tree. A classic plantation view here.
The unpaved road up to the plantation.
Converted to a garage, what used to be slave quarters most likely.
This is a private residence now.

Buena Vista c. 1859 Has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places

Bonnie and Clyde, JFK assassination, Audie Murphy – East Texas

Brigitte Bardot as Bonnie for her song “Bonnie and Clyde” with Serge Gainsbourg

I am making a quick road trip around Dallas and East Texas ( The 6th Floor Museum in Dallas is amazing!) I hope to get pictures of the plantation used in “Slaves” soon….keeping my fingers crossed! Also saw a great Audie Murphy museum in Greenville, Texas. Enjoy the pics!

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow Graves (2 different graveyards)

Lee Harvey Oswald’s House and Texas Theatre

JFK Sixth floor museum and “The Grassy Knoll”

Audie Murphy American Cotton Museum, Greenville Texas

More Stephen Boyd Clippings (including Monica Peterson)

It was nice to find another clipping of Stephen Boyd with the beautiful African American actress/ starlet Monica Peterson recently. Monica had first met Stephen on the set of  “The Fall of the Roman Empire”. She also appeared in his BBC biography “The Man Who Never Was” in 2011. I also came across photos of Monica attending the London premiere of “Shalako” with Stephen in December of 1968, and the below new clipping seems to be around the same time, or from a little later, maybe 1970.  I also found a newspaper clipping from 1968 indicating that the pair was out on a date in mid-1968 during the time Stephen was filming “Slaves”.

For more information about Monica Peterson be sure to visit her website which includes some very interesting candid photos over the years with other celebrities at www.monicapeterson.com

TWOSOMES around town:….Monica Peterson, 20th Century Fox’s beautiful Negro starlet, with Stephen Boyd at at Chez Jay.  (June 14, 1968, Evening Herald) 

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Below, Monica and Stephen at the premiere of “Shalako” in London, December 1968

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Stephen Boyd and Monica Peterson on the set of “The Fall of the Roman Empire”, 1964

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50th Anniversary of “Slaves” Premiere in Baltimore, Maryland on May 6, 1969

“Slaves” is one of my all time favorite Stephen Boyd films, and it is incredible to think it has been 50 years since it was released in 1969! During the time is was coming out, “Ben-Hur” had just been re-released for its 10 year anniversary. The movie premiered in a perfect city  – Baltimore – which hung on the edge of both North and South States and had a strong African-American population. Below are some of the pictures and fanfare of the premiere, which Stephen Boyd and Dionne Warwick both attended.

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“Stephen Boyd, Since that Chariot Race” Detroit Free Press Interview, 1969 (50 Years Ago!)

Stephen Boyd Talks about “Slaves” , Civil Rights, Scientology and Cleopatra!

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August 1, 1969, Detroit Free Press by Bruce Vilanch

For a man who made his name getting dragged through the mud, Stephen Boyd is surprisingly clean.

His teeth really sparkle, his eyes shine bright, he appears to have full power in all his four limbs- he’s in great shape.

This will assure the thousands who became concerned when Boyd spent the better part of 15 minutes under the hoofs of eight galloping stallions pulling his chariot to oblivion in “Ben-Hur.”

A sizeable portion of skin and bone was sliced off the Boyd body during that scene, all so Charlton Heston could go on to victory in Rome and and Oscar in California.

Undaunted, Boyd picked up his pieces and headed for Hollywood, and Irish heartthrob-in-a-toga, to star in such treasures as “The Fall of the Roman Empire,” “Caper of the Golden Bulls” and America’s trash classic, “The Oscar.”

He married (a whirlwind union of 23 days), divorced and was quoted as proclaiming “the only difference between Doris Day, Sophia Loren and Brigitte Bardot is their hair styles.”

He walked out of “Cleopatra” and into “Jumbo” (in which he shared billing with an elephant) and “Fantastic Voyage” (in which he plunged lymph gland rapids with Raquel Welch).

He even played the heavy in “Genghis Khan.”

It has not been a dull life for Stephen Boyd.

The new Boyd, minus the blue eyes (they were contact lenses) and the massive shoulders (that was padding), stands over six feet tall and is dashingly handsome, but in a decidedly un-Hollywood, non-glamour-boy way. He is finished with Biblical pictures, gladiator spectacles and other trappings of imperial majesty and, in his latest film, plays an enigmatic, yet evil plantation owner in Mississippi circa 1850.

The picture, “Slaves” and was shot on what in movies they call “a shoestring” (small fortune.) Boyd says no one would back “Slaves” until he signed on as its star. “That helped them raise at least some of the money,” he says.

“No one would back ‘Slaves’ because it is about an explosive situation which is explosive only because no one understands it.”

The picture tries to make a statement all about Now and how voices in the black community clamor alternatively for blood and quiet. Stephen Boyd thinks this is the value of “Slaves.”

“Civil rights 100 years from now should not be discussed. Civil rights of today is what is important. I joined the civil rights movement years ago,” the former British subject, now American citizen says. “I gave my word years ago to help. Now I want to find out if their programs are getting to the people they’re supposed to be getting to.”

“I feel a picture like ‘Slaves,’ which addresses itself to some of America’s current problems, is something of a moral obligation for me. As soon as I have fulfilled some of my moral obligations, I can begin making money doing other things so I can have time to fulfill some more.”

The whole idea of moral obligation and responsibility for one’s fellow man, as well as responsibility to oneself, fills up a great deal of Boyd’s conversation. He speaks of co-workers as if they were close relatives, not just contractual partners.

“I was a guest on one of those New York radio panel shows and they were talking about Judy Garland,” he says, “one fellow, I won’t mention his name its so sickening, was carrying on about how she was a no-talent, a faggot hero. It’s disgusting what some people will say in public.”

In an attempt to find his own  mind amidst such goings-on, Boyd has turned to scientology,  a voguish new faith whose speakers turn up regularly on college campuses to lecture for $2.50 a throw.

“I don’t think anything should be suspect because it costs money,” he says. He calls scientology “a process used to make you capable of learning.”

“Scientology is nothing. It means only what you want it to. It is not a church you go to to pray, but a church that you go to to learn. It is no good unless you apply it. It is the application.”

Basically, scientologists meditate, usually in the presence of a spiritual supervisor, teaching themselves to be open in order to learn. One who has truly opened himself can be elevated to the position of Clear. Stephen Boyd has elevated himself to OC 6, a position beneath that of Clear. It took him nine months.

“Slaves” did not take him quite so long to accomplish, and, hopefully, it will give him equal peace-of-mind. What it certainly will not do is anything big for Stephen Boyd’s career. This he knows and accepts, as he has accepted everything since he walked away from the most expensive movie of all time.

“It was in the original version of ‘Cleopatra,’ the one to be shot in London. I was to play Marc Antony opposite Elizabeth Taylor, with Rouben Mamoulian directing, but Elizabeth got sick and everything stopped.

““I was outside the hospital door that day with Eddie (Miss Taylor’s fourth husband, singer Eddie Fisher) when the doctors came out and told us her had one hour to live. It was one of the saddest, most pathetic moments I can recall. But somehow she pulled through – nothing ever stops her when she wants something.

“Unfortunately, I couldn’t wait around until they decided to shoot. The script was being rewritten, there was a new director, the whole Shaw and Shakespeare concept of a personal drama was being thrown out in favor or spectacle. So I left. They gave my part to a fellow named Richard Burton. They even gave him my costume, and to this day every time he sees me, he says ‘Jesus, you’ve got big feet!”

“He doesn’t even mention my chest,” Stephen Boyd says, with that serene scientologist’s smile.
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Visiting a Southern Plantation 50 Years after the release of “Slaves”

I wanted to share my experiences of visiting two Louisiana plantations recently, especially in lieu of the fact that this year marks 50 years since the release of “Slaves”, the controversial and under appreciated 1969 film about slavery. The film itself was made at the Buena Vista Plantation near Stonewall, LA., about 250 miles north of New Orleans near Shreveport.  I hope to make a trip to that plantation later this year to document it for my blog.

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In the meantime, however,  I recently enjoyed a visit to New Orleans and had a great day trip from Grayline Tours which visited two plantation sights. Here’s what I saw.

On the way to Whitney, on “River Road”, we caught a glimpse of the Evergreen Plantation which was used for some scenes in Tarantino’s film “Django Unchained.”

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Whitney Plantation

I was very impressed with the narration and poignant documentary memorials at this site. When you arrive they give you a lanyard with a slave’s name and story on the back. You immediately feel connected to the scenes which are about to unfold. Unlike Buena Vista, Whitney Plantation, which is located on what the locals call “River Road” in the lower part of the state, was a sugar cane plantation. Buena Vista, which is located farther north, was a cotton plantation, as depicted in the movie “Slaves.”

At Whitney the sugar cane was harvested generally between October and January, but it was basically a year round ‘factory’, as our guide described it. The sugar cane was also processed on the plantation in a process called ‘The Jamaica Train”. Sugar cane was soaked, then pounded, then finally granulated into it’s final form. All of the working and cutting and harvesting of the sugar cane was done by slaves. The Whitney includes some of the original slave cabins, which housed anywhere form 14-25 people at a time. The slaves were allowed to raise chickens and grow other vegetables to feed themselves. It was a hard life and dangerous in so many ways – including not only overwork, but injury by all the dangerous tools used to harvest the sugar cane.

Besides some very touching statues of slave children, the Whitney includes some amazing memorial walls listing hundreds of peoples names – usually just first names, because that’s all we know about the people who lived here for generations in slavery. There are also brief stories engraved on these memorials as well of the heart-wrenching existence these people endured.

There is also a special monument to a slave uprising in the area, and also another section for the slave children, documenting some of their memories and also their names. There is also dreadful plantation bell which was rung through the day to keep all the slaves in time with their tasks or meals. People on our tour rang it in passing in memory of one of the slaves. Also at Whitney are some converted jail cells from New Orleans which were equal in size to the slave ‘pens’  which used to be located all around New Orleans, where the slave trade was constantly in motion. New Orleans was the capital of the slave trade. You can step into one of these pens and see the places were cuffs and chains were hooked.

Whitney was used as the location of the Academy Award winning film “12 Years a Slave”.  It also has an  oak tree path in the front of the house. We toured the first and second floor. It was rather modest and small to what you generally thing of a ‘plantation’ house.

My impression of Whitney is that this is a ‘must-see’ for anyone. Just like places like Auschwitz, which is also initially hard to visit, it is a place and an experience which really makes you appreciate and understand the harsh realities of what happened in the context of the time.

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Oak Alley

Onto the next plantation! Now I had seen Oak Alley many years ago, but they have done a better job now of displaying and explaining the slavery side of the plantation. Of course Oak Alley is known for it’s incredible big house, and the 300 year old oak trees which dominate the path towards the Mississippi. This plantation has been seen in many films, including “Interview with a Vampire.” The front of the house brings to mind the ‘moonlight and magnolias’ of the Old South in all its romance.

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However, now the sight does show and document several of the slave stories from this plantation as well. There are several cabins which still stand, and the plaques explain the difference between the ‘house’ slaves and the ‘field hands’, which were the lowest of the slaves. It also tells specific stories of certain slaves, by name, and what happened to them on this plantation. On display are also chains and an especially grotesque-looking collar which would make it impossible for someone to try to escape.

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To read the actual accounts of slavery is really the only way to really understand what went on. Accounts vary from person to person. Many masters were brutal while others were more gentle. Some slaves immediately fled the plantations after the Civil War while others lingered behind or stayed, either because of circumstance (wage labor) or merely considered the plantation and the masters family their own home. So many women were raped or brutalized and so many families were torn asunder. Slavery did damage to not only slave but slave-owner as well as the unlimited power these men (and women) had over others truly turned many of them into sadistic brutes. So many stories to tell.

I highly recommend the below books, as well as Frederick Douglass’ personal narrative.

  • When I Was A Slave (from the Slave Narration Collection)
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (“Slaves” is a loose remake of this novel)
  • Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs (one of the more harrowing true life accounts you will ever read)
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I’ll end with a quote from Harriet Jacobs riveting personal account from Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.  Harriet hide in a crawl space above her grandmothers house for 7 years before she made her escape to the North!

THE TRIALS OF GIRLHOOD

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DURING the first years of my service in Dr. Flint’s family, I was accustomed to share some indulgences with the children of my mistress. Though this seemed to me no more than right, I was grateful for it, and tried to merit the kindness by the faithful discharge of my duties. But I now entered on my fifteenth year—a sad epoch in the life of a slave girl. My master began to whisper foul words in my ear. Young as I was, I could not remain ignorant of their import. I tried to treat them with indifference or contempt. The master’s age, my extreme youth, and the fear that his conduct would be reported to my grandmother, made him bear this treatment for many months. He was a crafty man, and resorted to many means to accomplish his purposes.

Sometimes he had stormy, terrific ways, that made his victims tremble; sometimes he assumed a gentleness that he thought must surely subdue. Of the two, I preferred his stormy moods, although they left me trembling. He tried his utmost to corrupt the pure principles my grandmother had instilled. He peopled my young mind with unclean images, such as only a vile monster could think of. I turned from him with disgust and hatred. But he was my master. I was compelled to live under the same roof with him—where I saw a man forty years my senior daily violating the most sacred commandments of nature. He told me I was his property; that I must be subject to his will in all things. My soul revolted against the mean tyranny. But where could I turn for protection?

No matter whether the slave girl be as black as ebony or as fair as her mistress. In either case, there is no shadow of law to protect her from insult, from violence, or even from death; all these are inflicted by fiends who bear the shape of men. The mistress, who ought to protect the helpless victim, has no other feelings towards her but those of jealousy and rage. The degradation, the wrongs, the vices, that grow out of slavery, are more than I can describe. They are greater than you would willingly believe. Surely, if you credited one half the truths that are told you concerning the helpless millions suffering in this cruel bondage, you at the north would not help to tighten the yoke. You surely would refuse to do for the master, on your own soil, the mean and cruel work which trained bloodhounds and the lowest class of whites do for him at the south.

Every where the years bring to all enough of sin and sorrow; but in slavery the very dawn of life is darkened by these shadows. Even the little child, who is accustomed to wait on her mistress and her children, will learn, before she is twelve years old, why it is that her mistress hates such and such a one among the slaves. Perhaps the child’s own mother is among those hated ones. She listens to violent outbreaks of jealous passion, and cannot help understanding what is the cause. She will become prematurely knowing in evil things. Soon she will learn to tremble when she hears her master’s footfall. She will be compelled to realize that she is no longer a child. If God has bestowed beauty upon her, it will prove her greatest curse. That which commands admiration in the white woman only hastens the degradation of the female slave. I know that some are too much brutalized by slavery to feel the humiliation of their position; but many slaves feel it most acutely, and shrink from the memory of it. I cannot tell how much I suffered in the presence of these wrongs, nor how I am still pained by the retrospect.

My master met me at every turn, reminding me that I belonged to him, and swearing by heaven and earth that he would compel me to submit to him. If I went out for a breath of fresh air, after a day of unwearied toil, his footsteps dogged me. If I knelt by my mother’s grave, his dark shadow fell on me even there. The light heart which nature had given me became heavy with sad forebodings. The other slaves in my master’s house noticed the change. Many of them pitied me; but none dared to ask the cause. They had no need to inquire. They knew too well the guilty practices under that roof; and they were aware that to speak of them was an offense that never went unpunished.

*****

A PERILOUS PASSAGE IN THE SLAVE GIRL’S LIFE.

……I have told you that Dr. Flint’s persecutions and his wife’s jealousy had given rise to some gossip in the neighborhood. Among others, it chanced that a white unmarried gentleman had obtained some knowledge of the circumstances in which I was placed. He knew my grandmother, and often spoke to me in the street. He became interested for me, and asked questions about my master, which I answered in part. He expressed a great deal of sympathy, and a wish to aid me. He constantly sought opportunities to see me, and wrote to me frequently. I was a poor slave girl, only fifteen years old.

So much attention from a superior person was, of course, flattering; for human nature is the same in all. I also felt grateful for his sympathy, and encouraged by his kind words. It seemed to me a great thing to have such a friend. By degrees, a more tender feeling crept into my heart. He was an educated and eloquent gentleman; too eloquent, alas, for the poor slave girl who trusted in him. Of course I saw whither all this was tending. I knew the impassable gulf between us; but to be an object of interest to a man who is not married, and who is not her master, is agreeable to the pride and feelings of a slave, if her miserable situation has left her any pride or sentiment. It seems less degrading to give one’s self, than to submit to compulsion. There is something akin to freedom in having a lover who has no control over you, except that which he gains by kindness and attachment. A master may treat you as rudely as he pleases, and you dare not speak; moreover, the wrong does not seem so great with an unmarried man, as with one who has a wife to be made unhappy. There may be sophistry in all this; but the condition of a slave confuses all principles of morality, and, in fact, renders the practice of them impossible….

THE NEW TIE TO LIFE.

…I had not seen Dr. Flint for five days. I had never seen him since I made the avowal to him. He talked of the disgrace I had brought on myself; how I had sinned against my master, and mortified my old grandmother. He intimated that if I had accepted his proposals, he, as a physician, could have saved me from exposure. He even condescended to pity me. Could he have offered wormwood more bitter? He, whose persecutions had been the cause of my sin!

“Linda,” said he, “though you have been criminal towards me, I feel for you, and I can pardon you if you obey my wishes. Tell me whether the fellow you wanted to marry is the father of your child. If you deceive me, you shall feel the fires of hell.”

I did not feel as proud as I had done. My strongest weapon with him was gone. I was lowered in my own estimation, and had resolved to bear his abuse in silence. But when he spoke contemptuously of the lover who had always treated me honorably; when I remembered that but for him I might have been a virtuous, free, and happy wife, I lost my patience. “I have sinned against God and myself,” I replied; “but not against you.”

He clinched his teeth, and muttered, “Curse you!” He came towards me, with ill-suppressed rage, and exclaimed, “You obstinate girl! I could grind your bones to powder! You have thrown yourself away on some worthless rascal. You are weak-minded, and have been easily persuaded by those who don’t care a straw for you. The future will settle accounts between us. You are blinded now; but hereafter you will be convinced that your master was your best friend. My lenity towards you is a proof of it. I might have punished you in many ways. I might have had you whipped till you fell dead under the lash. But I wanted you to live; I would have bettered your condition. Others cannot do it. You are my slave. Your mistress, disgusted by your conduct, forbids you to return to the house; therefore I leave you here for the present; but I shall see you often. I will call tomorrow.”

He came with frowning brows, that showed a dissatisfied state of mind. After asking about my health, he inquired whether my board was paid, and who visited me. He then went on to say that he had neglected his duty; that as a physician there were certain things that he ought to have explained to me. Then followed talk such as would have made the most shameless blush. He ordered me to stand up before him. I obeyed. “I command you,” said he, “to tell me whether the father of your child is white or black.” I hesitated. “Answer me this instant!” he exclaimed. I did answer. He sprang upon me like a wolf, and grabbed my arm as if he would have broken it. “Do you love him?” said he, in a hissing tone.

“I am thankful that I do not despise him,” I replied.

He raised his hand to strike me; but it fell again. I don’t know what arrested the blow. He sat down, with lips tightly compressed. At last he spoke. “I came here,” said he, “to make you a friendly proposition; but your ingratitude chafes me beyond endurance. You turn aside all my good intentions towards you. I don’t know what it is that keeps me from killing you.” Again he rose, as if he had a mind to strike me.

But he resumed. “On one condition I will forgive your insolence and crime. You must henceforth have no communication of any kind with the father of your child. You must not ask any thing from him, or receive any thing from him. I will take care of you and your child. You had better promise this at once, and not wait till you are deserted by him. This is the last act of mercy I shall show towards you.”

I said something about being unwilling to have my child supported by a man who had cursed it and me also. He rejoined, that a woman who had sunk to my level had no right to expect any thing else. He asked, for the last time, would I accept his kindness? I answered that I would not.

“Very well,” said he; “then take the consequences of your wayward course. Never look to me for help. You are my slave, and shall always be my slave. I will never sell you, that you may depend upon.”  ….

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