Past Times

Nash County farm goes Hollywood in 1950’s ‘Waves of Green’

Cameraman Robert Tavenier “of Detroit and Hollywood,” shoots a scene for the Handy film on a Nash County farm. Assistant camerman Lee Perrell and director Don Brown are along for the ride.
Cameraman Robert Tavenier “of Detroit and Hollywood,” shoots a scene for the Handy film on a Nash County farm. Assistant camerman Lee Perrell and director Don Brown are along for the ride. Special Collections Research Center, NCSU Libraries

The film industry in North Carolina stretches farther back than many realize. In 1949, Nash County was the location for the production of a Jam Handy film on the success of modern farming methods. The Jam Handy Organization was well-known for its production of training and promotional films. This film would highlight work being done at N.C. State University, including “experiments with radio-active phosphorous, a product of atomic energy, in crop production.” And when the production company came to rural North Carolina, it created as much excitement as any major motion picture, as writer Rudolph Pate described.

A motion picture troupe, complete with a duet of professional actors and a make-up man, created quite a stir in Nash County several days ago.

The troupe was engaged in producing a technicolor film, depicting the far-reaching activities of North Carolina State College and its work toward agricultural diversification in the State.

Nash County scenes were used to show examples of successful farming programs which have resulted from the adoption of scientific farming techniques.

The story of Nash County farming operations and State College’s work with rural people will be flashed on movie screens across the nation early in 1950.

Several North Carolina people and scenes in Nash County and at State College will be used in the picture, which is being produced by the Jam Handy Organization, Inc., of Detroit, Mich., and sponsored by Dearborn Motors.

M. E. (Pug) Hollowell, Nash County’s slow-talking farm agent, said that business dropped off at least 50 per cent in Red Oak while the citizens watched the filming of the picture. But, Pug said, the operation was educational and provided good entertainment, too.

Onlookers could hardly believe their eyes as they watched the performance of Dr. Rudolph G. Liszt of New York, make-up artist for MGM, RKO and Warner Brothers for the East Coast. Dr. Liszt, a descendant of Franz Liszt, the composer, wore a waxed mustache, a poppy in his button hole, and a colorful sports coat with equal aplomb.

The diminutive Liszt, however, created more attention with his work than with his striking appearance. He aged the actor, William Neal, and the actress, Opal Neal, both of New York, from 16 to 65 years of age in a matter of three days. They advanced from youth to old age during the screen story, thus requiring the work of the make-up man.

The story begins as the Neals marry and move into a sharecropper’s cabin. It moves along as they add conveniences to their home and farm and ends as they become landowners and establish their big and comfortable home on a fertile Nash County farm.

The whole production highlights the values of thrift and frugality in living and demonstrates the significance of hard work and education in the free enterprise system. It also depicts the necessity of using modern farming methods and machinery in obtaining maximum yields and in maintaining the soil’s productivity.

As time passes in the screen story, the work of State College in helping the farmers of the State is shown as Bill Neal studies agriculture pamphlets prepared by the college, confers with County Agent Hollowell, visits the D. H. Hill Library at the college for documents and books on agriculture, and enrolls for short courses designed to help him solve technical bottlenecks encountered on his farm.…

Title of the film will be “Waves of Green,” and it will be ready for distribution early in 1950. It will be shown on a national basis to show the activities of the nation’s 52 land-grant colleges and universities.…

Handling the work for the movie was a mammoth undertaking. Chancellor J. W. Harrelson of State College and several of this staff members cooperated in making the preparations.

Weeks and weeks of preparation were required to set up local arrangements and to get the script and locations in shape. Production of the film required five days of work in Nash and Wake counties. The N&O July 10, 1949

Read more stories from local and state history and send us your own stories on the blog Past Times, newsobserver.com/past-times.

Leonard: 919-829-4866 or tleonard@newsobserver.com

See the film

“Waves of Green” can be found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=ep-Q6yZ6J_8/ The young farm couple in Nash County show up about 12 minutes and 45 seconds into the 18-minute film.

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