Friendsofmurphylibrary's Blog

“Wild River” tells of drama, sadness and hope when TVA Dams were built in Appalachia

Posted on: July 27, 2010

 If the Hiwassee, the Apalachia, the Fontana, and all the other TVA dams could talk, what stories would they tell about those days when they were  being built?

Film director Elia Kazan must have wondered the same thing, because in 1960 he made a movie about the construction of the TVA dams and the lives that were changed forever.  To celebrate the film’s fiftieth anniversary, the Murphy Library is having an encore showing of “Wild River” Thursday at 6 p.m.  It stars Montgomery Clift, Lee Remick and Jo Van Fleet.  It runs 110 minutes and is rated PG.

The Great Depression is devastating the poor of the Appalachian Mountains.  To make matters worse, rivers overflow and flood the valleys.  When the government creates the Tennessee Valley Authority to dam the rivers, it thinks this will solve all the problems, stop the flooding, harness power and create jobs.

But some people will lose their homes near the rivers, and all they care for.

TVA agent Chuck Glover (Montgomery Clift) is responsible for preparing an area of the Tennessee River. The dam will turn it into a large lake.  His only problem is Ella Garth (Jo Van Fleet), an 80-year-old who lives on a tiny island in the middle of the river.  She does not want to leave her home and the memories it holds.

Glover understands Garth’s loss, but he has a job to do.  And Garth is not his only problem.  When Glover gives TVA jobs to black workers, the white workers violently object.

The story is the history of our region. And the incredible cinematography that Kazan filmed in East Tennessee will stay with you — so will Jo Van Fleet’s portrayal of Ella Garth.

And if you want to visit local TVA dams for yourself, some of the best guidebooks are the Scenic Circle, Volumes I and II, that Elizabeth Carter wrote for Heritage Partners of Cherokee County.   The Curiosity Book Shoppe often carries them. 

Call the Murphy Library about the film at 837-2417.

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