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Dolley to have her day page 2
PBS' Dolley Madison film, shot partly at Orange's Montpelier, sheds light on pivotal figure

 Many of the scenes for PBS' 'Dolley Madison, America's First Lady' were shot at the Madisons' home, Montpelier, in Orange County.
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Date published: 2/28/2010

By Rob Hedelt


"All this in an era when it was considered pretty close to unseemly for woman to discuss politics openly," she said. "In the press, she was slandered and nearly called a prostitute. But, by and large, she got away with it, within the bounds of femininity."

To make the film, Meyer said, the crew spent five days filming in Virginia, mainly at Montpelier and in Richmond, where the Governor's Mansion and Capitol were used.

Two days were spent at Montpelier, getting what Meyer called excellent cooperation and support to film "a lot of exteriors, including beautiful scenic views of what Dolley would have seen from her windows."

They also shot scenes depicting the Madisons moving in, with slaves hauling trunks and boxes, and the house's beautiful front doors, with mountains visible in the distance.

Other scenes show characters strolling the grounds, an ice house and graveyard views.

Filming inside the house was limited somewhat by the mansion's recent renovation, which left many of the interior walls clean or just painted.

"In Dolley's day, things would have looked a little more worn and lived-in, with more soot from the fireplaces," Meyer said.

Earlier this month, Montpelier hosted a film preview with the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond. Today, Montpelier members and guests will preview film excerpts and hear a discussion of Dolley's life in an event at the site's visitor center.

Meyer noted that tomorrow night's film is a natural progression from earlier films that National Productions had done on the Colonial period and the American Revolution.

"Making those, we singled out individuals that could be movies by themselves," she said of films on Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton.

Dolley, one of the few women on the list, piqued her interest.

Meyer, who has made more than 100 films, is looking forward to films set a little later in time.

"I want to reach the age of photography," she said. "Paintings and portraits are fine, but I'm dying to get to the period where pictures are available of our subjects."

Aside from what she has learned about Dolley Madison, there's one memory of making this film that has nothing to do with history and everything to do with ice cream, which Dolley featured at parties but certainly didn't invent.

"I loved the custard we got at Carl's in Fredericksburg on our scouting visit to Montpelier," Meyer said. "A great discovery."

Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415
Email: rhedelt@freelancestar.com

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