Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

From Academic Kids

Missing image
The cover of the 1994 novel, which features the Bird Girl sculpture.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is a book by John Berendt, and a movie, directed by Clint Eastwood based loosely on Berendt's story.

The book is atmospheric and Southern Gothic in tone, depicting eccentric Savannah personalities. The plot is propelled by the investigation of the shooting of hustler Danny Hansford (characterized as "a good time not yet had by all") by his boyfriend, respected art dealer Jim Williams, an event which resulted in four murder trials. The murder took place in Williams's home, originally built by an ancestor of songwriter and Savannah native Johnny Mercer.

Despite sounding fictional, the book's plot is based on real-life events and is classified as nonfiction. The book is among the most popular non-fiction releases of all time and appeared on The New York Times bestseller list for over two years.

The title alludes to "midnight"--the period between the time for good magic and the time for evil magic--in "the garden of good and evil," the Bonaventure Cemetery. The famous bird-girl statue--originally designed both as art and as a birdseed holder--was originally located at Bonaventure. The statue has since been moved to a local museum.

Featured characters include The Lady Chablis, who plays herself in the film. There are noteworthy differences between the book and the film, including censoring much of the gay content and the creation of a non-existent main character (as well as pairing him with another female character).

The movie stars John Cusack, Kevin Spacey, Jack Thompson, Kim Hunter, Dorothy Loudon, and Jude Law in one of his earlier roles. Several smaller roles, such as the party guests and Jerry the hairdresser, were played by the people actually involved in the original real-life story. The judge in the courtroom scenes is in fact Sonny Seiler, Jim Williams' real-life lawyer.


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