IT'S 50s' FEEL APPEALS TO FILMMAKERS,
TURTLE RACERS
LEPANTO, ARK.--- Life here can move as slowly as the 500 competitors in today's 72nd runnig of the Lepanto Terrapin Derby.
Maybe slower. After all, the winning turtle will cover the 60-foot race course downtown in perhaps 15 or 20 minutes.
Ever since word got out last month there's been a run on the Lepanto Library for the three hard-covers, one paperback and one book-on-tape of The Painted House.
"It's checked out as soon as I get it back," librarian Lillie Neal-Smith said.
There's also been a run on City Hall, which has the forms people fill out and submit with a photo of themselves if they want to be one of the extas needed in the movie.  "We have made copies and made copies and made copies," City Clerk Tami Wyatt said of the evershrinking stack.
"I signed me and my two daughters up," said Wilma Pierce, 43, who works at Jones Pharmacy downtown.  The 85 year old pharmacy features a soda fountain that Norman Rockwell could have used as a backdrop.
The filmmakers like it, too, and have been measuring for camera shots there, Pierce said.
The fountain, with nine stools, still has all its old equipment for making treats, but it has not made any for 20 years.
Pharmacist Sam Holcomb, 50, closed the fountain because "we had customers who seemed to get upset when we charged them 40 to 50 cents for a scoop of ice cream."
Grisham based the novel on his childhood in Black Oak, about 20 miles north of here.  Through the eyes of a 7 year-old boy, the book tells the story of a family of cotton growers.
But the old-fashioned appearance of downtown's brick building klining both sides of Greenwood Avenue (Ark. 135) has hardly budged an inch for decades.
And that's the way the moviemakers like it.
Hallmark Hall of Fame will come here for five days early next month to film its adaptation of John Grisham's A Painted Hourse, set in 1952
Lepanto, said Hallmark Hall  of Fame spokesman Russ Patrick, "very much mirrored the feel of the town and look of the town that John Grisham wrote about in Painted House and retains a lovely 1950's atmosphere and physical setting which is integral to our film telling."
Many residents of this farming town (pop.2,133)----about 40 miles northwest of Memphis -- say it's the biggest thing to happen since President Truman draped a Medal of Honor around the neck of hometown boy James R. Hendrix, a hero in the Battle of the Bulge
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