Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (film)

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Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Produced by Clint Eastwood
Screenplay by John Lee Hancock
Based on Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
by John Berendt
Music by Lennie Niehaus
Cinematography Jack N. Green
Edited by Joel Cox
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • November 21, 1997 (1997-11-21)
Running time
155 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $30 million[2]
Box office $25.1 million[3]

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is a 1997 American crime drama film directed by Clint Eastwood, and an adaptation of the eponymous 1994 non-fiction work by John Berendt, which was based on events that took place in Savannah, Georgia in the 1980s. The film features Kevin Spacey as Jim Williams, a man on trial for murder, and John Cusack as John Kelso, a writer covering the case.


This panoramic tale of Savannah's eccentricities focuses on a murder and the subsequent trial of Jim Williams (Kevin Spacey): self-made man, art collector, antiques dealer, bon vivant, and semi-closeted homosexual. John Kelso (John Cusack), a magazine reporter, finds himself in Savannah amid the beautiful architecture and odd doings to write a feature on one of Williams' famous Christmas parties.

Kelso is intrigued by Williams from the start, but his curiosity is piqued when he meets the violent, young Billy Hanson (Jude Law), Williams' lover. Later that night, Hanson is dead, and Kelso stays on to cover the murder trial. Along the way he encounters the irrepressible Lady Chablis, a transsexual stand-up comedienne; Sonny Seiler, lawyer to Williams, whose famous dog "Uga IV" is the official mascot of the Georgia Bulldogs; a man who keeps flies attached to mini leashes on his lapels and threatens daily to poison the water supply; Serena Dawes, a former silent-film actress; the Married Ladies Card Club; and Minerva, a spiritualist and voodoo practitioner.

Between becoming Williams' friend, cuddling up to a torch singer, meeting every eccentric in Savannah, participating in midnight graveyard rituals, and helping solve the mysteries surrounding Hanson's murder, Kelso has his hands full. The judge and jury later find Williams not guilty, much to the pleasure of Kelso and the witnesses. Williams congratulates Kelso on proving his innocence.

As depicted in the film, Williams suffers a heart attack and dies a week after the trial concludes. As he dies on the floor near where Hanson died from his wounds, Williams sees an apparition of the hustler in death, then momentarily alive. The camera cuts away from the scene, showing both Hanson and Williams dead and only a few feet from each other. Following the funeral and visiting Hanson's grave once more with Minerva, Kelso, Mandy, and the Lady Chablis go off together for a picnic with Uga in Savannah's Forsyth Park.



Several changes were made in adapting the film from the book. Many of the more colorful characters were eliminated or combined into composite characters. The writer, played by Cusack, was based upon Berendt but was given a love interest not featured in the book, played by Eastwood's daughter, Alison. The multiple Williams trials were combined into one on-screen trial. Jim Williams' real life attorney Sonny Seiler appears in the movie in the role of Judge White, the presiding judge of the trial.

Principal photography began in spring 1997 and was shot in Savannah, Georgia.[4] The film featured a cameo by Uga V, the English bulldog live mascot of the University of Georgia, playing his father, Uga IV. The Uga mascots live in Savannah between football games. Advertising for the film became a source of controversy when Warner Bros. used elements of Jack Leigh's famous photograph in its movie posters without his permission.


Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Midnight in the Garden Soundtrack.jpg
Soundtrack album by Various Artists
Released November 18, 1997
Length 58:04
Label Warner Bros.
Producer Ernie Altschuler
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars link

Integral to the film was the soundtrack, which was released in 1997. It is dedicated to the music of Johnny Mercer, a Savannah native. The CD includes versions of songs heard in the film.[citation needed]

No. Title Writer(s) Performer Length
1. "Skylark" Hoagy Carmichael, Johnny Mercer k.d. lang 3:46
2. "Too Marvelous for Words" Richard Whiting, Mercer Joe Williams 3:40
3. "Autumn Leaves" Joseph Kosma, Jacques Prévert, Mercer Paula Cole 7:24
4. "Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear to Tread)" Rube Bloom, Mercer Rosemary Clooney 4:10
5. "Dream" Mercer Brad Mehldau 5:10
6. "Days of Wine and Roses" Henry Mancini, Mercer Cassandra Wilson 4:47
7. "That Old Black Magic" Harold Arlen, Mercer Kevin Spacey 3:33
8. "Come Rain or Come Shine" Arlen, Mercer Alison Eastwood 4:32
9. "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive" Arlen, Mercer Clint Eastwood 3:35
10. "This Time the Dream's on Me" Arlen, Mercer Alison Krauss 3:46
11. "Laura" David Raksin, Mercer Kevin Mahogany 4:49
12. "Midnight Sun" Lionel Hampton, Sonny Burke, Mercer Diana Krall 4:01
13. "I'm an Old Cowhand (From the Rio Grande)" Mercer Joshua Redman 4:59
14. "I Wanna Be Around" Sadie Vimmerstedt, Mercer Tony Bennett 2:10


The film failed to make its budget back, only grossing $25.1 million[3] to an estimated $30 million budget.[2] It also received mixed reviews, with a 'rotten' score of 48% on review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes.[5] Its casting was praised, however, for Spacey's likeness to Williams. Spacey then won the best supporting actor award from the Society of Texas Film Critics.

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