The Pardon … Filmed Entirely in Louisiana, Don Rivers Review
I was very curious about this movie because of the Louisiana historical references and because the story actually unfolded in 40's era Lake Charles. Judging by the crowd at the theater; others were there to see it for the same reason. The movie has only opened in Lake Charles, Lafayette, Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Shreveport. The movie left me with many answers about the stories history; but many questions about where it was shot.
I knew the movie was about Toni Jo Henry. I knew she and "Arkie" had been hitch hiking and were picked up by a car dealer from Houston who was traveling to Jennings. I knew they had murdered him in rural Calcasieu Parish. They each blamed each other for the shooting and each were executed for the crime. I did not know the prejudice that Toni Jo's lawyers faced during the trial. I doubt a trial conducted like that would stand in today's courts. The courtroom testimony in the movie was taken directly from actual testimony in the real trial.
The movie depicts Toni Jo as a woman brought up in an abusive world who's opinions of others were skewed accordingly. She was abused as a child and as an adult. Her lack of respect for others and their opinions hurt her in court. She refused to play the sympathy card. She did find God though. I wonder though if she had not been arrested if her life would have ever included a walk in faith. The movie starts out depicting her as a impressionable young girl willing to do anything for real love and acceptance.
This quest eventually gets her involved in a world of crime. she enters this world as a way to free her husband from jail and instead ends up in jail herself and eventually becomes the only woman ever electrocuted in the state of Louisiana. The electrocution scene in the movie is one of the most powerful movie endings you'll ever see. You will have to wait till then to see why the movie has the title "The Pardon."
I was looking for scenes that were filmed in Lake Charles. The courthouse used in the film resembled the old courthouse on Ryan Street but I could not tell for sure if that is what was used. It looked like the old courthouse on the east side of the street but certainly much different than it looks today. I now am on a quest to find 1940s era pictures of that courthouse. The cemetery in the movie also looked familiar to me. The shots of the shopping area across from the courthouse were much different than the way the courthouse looks today and maybe different than the way it looked in 1940. The newer courthouse would have been across the street from the old one way before the 1940s. The courthouse used in the movie had no columns and had wooden shutters covering the upstairs windows. It also had oak trees in front of it. I remember there being oak trees in front of that courthouse before the renovations.
The crowd at the movie was older than your usual Saturday afternoon movie crowd. The theater was full and we had to actually ask someone to move over one seat so my wife and I could sit together. After the movie I heard several people say that they had read the book. Certainly there was a local curiosity about a story that unfolded here. We both enjoyed the movie and recommend it.