Monday, June 04, 2012

McCoy-Hatfield update: New DVD movie, real history books and a possible makeover for TV

UPDATE: On the strength of the TV ratings and the crashing of the festival website from heavy traffic, the Tug Fork region is hoping to realize a long-hoped-for tourism boom for its annual Hatfields and McCoys Festival this weekend, reports Bruce Justice of the Appalachian News-Express in Pikeville, Ky.

On heels of the news that the History Channel broke advertising-supported cable TV viewership records with its three-part "Hatfields & McCoys" miniseries, comes word from the Kentucky New Era of Hopkinsville that a new movie is coming out tomorrow on DVD about the same family fracas. "Hatfields & McCoys: Bad Blood" was shot in Christian County, in southwestern Kentucky, where there are some low hills but no mountains -- but in the movie things are still not copacetic along the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River. This version stars Christian Slater, Jeff Fahey and Perry King instead of the History Channel's bigger names of Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton as the chief protagonists.

America loves its hillbilly throw-downs, but the History Channel has peddled something less than. Which might explain why it's refreshing to report that there is a book that Appalachian historians seem to agree is the best for factual reportage on the fracas. It's called Feud: Hatfields, McCoys, and Social Change in Appalachia 1860-1900, by Altina Waller. Among other things, it says that most members of the families were not involved in the feud, and at the beginning the ties among the Hatfield feudists were more economic than familial. Also, the second phase of the feud was driven mainly by "elites who were in a scramble to buy up land in advance of outside timber and railroad corporations moving into the area," the heart of the Central Appalachian coalfield, Betsy Taylor of the University of Vermont reports on Appalnet, a list-serve for Appalachian academics. UPDATE, June 13: Waller lays out the basic history of the feud, and her analysis of its causes, on the University of North Carolina Press blog.

A less academic treatment of the feud is a 30-year-old book that is having a big revival online. The electronic version of The Hatfields & The McCoys, by Otis K. Rice, was first printed in 1984 and did only casual business before Memorial Day 2012. (Sadly, Rice did not live to see his success.) Today, his book is topping Amazon's and Barnes & Noble's bestseller lists. (Read more)

In other feud news, actress Charlize Theron is reported to be shopping (that's Hollywood lingo) a series that centers on a modern-day telling of the feuding families. So far, no takers. But she was shopping it before the History Channel numbers came rolling in: 14 million per episode.

2 comments: said...

Hatfields & McCoys Bad Blood was primarily shot around Springfield Ky. There are some BIG hills & hollows there. The town scenes were filmed in Christian County only.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that a film about the Hatfield and McCoy's can't be filmed in the area it actually happened in? Is the real place only good for the real thing but not for Hollywood?