Updated: Mar 24, 2020
Alert viewers of the new mini-series I Am the Night can spot a local connection when the main character says goodbye to her boyfriend next to a building that reads Sparks, Nevada. Sparks, not Reno, which means someone knows the region. Indeed, that someone grew up in the area and some of us here remember main character Fauna Hodel from 1990 when she returned to see part of her story filmed as a movie called Pretty Hattie's Baby.
As film commissioner working for the state to facilitate movie projects using Nevada locations and service providers, I helped that project and worked extensively with Fauna. The Pretty Hattie's Baby screenplay focused on Fauna's early years, growing up light skinned in Reno's black community. Much of the story featured Hattie, who makes some surprising revelations to her adopted daughter Fauna. Though a scene towards the end has the teenage Fauna seeking her biological grandfather, he played a minimal role in that original plot.
Part of my job included finding a suitable location to serve as his upscale Los Angeles business, so I picked one in Carson City — the Governor's office. The governor at the time, Bob Miller, made the process easy and used a makeshift desk in the Capital building hallway during filming.
But money troubles squelched the project despite impressive credentials that included a dynamite performance by actress Alfre Woodard as Hattie. For years, Woodard listed it as her best-ever performance. Frustrated but not defeated, Fauna continued efforts to tell her story, one that interweaves actions not covered in the original screenplay. These events included Los Angeles police questioning Fauna's grandfather as a suspect in the infamous Black Dahlia killing, a link Fauna pushed harder when she took her story to new producers.
Fauna called me excitedly three years ago so say Director Patty Jenkins seemed interested and hoped to do it after finishing an action film. Yet in a short time, things changed drastically. At age sixty-six, Fauna lost a battle with cancer. Meanwhile Jenkins's action movie — Wonder Woman — transformed her into a cinematic powerhouse. Bringing along Wonder Woman hunk Chris Pine, Jenkins stuck with Fauna's story. It screens on TNT, with several streaming options available. So while Fauna never saw her baby born, her legacy lives on.
(Below: Left to right--Fauna Hodel, Robin Holabird & Alfre Woodard on the set of Pretty Hattie's Baby in Reno)
This review was originally aired on 2/11/2019.
You can listen to it online at https://www.kunr.org/post/i-am-night#stream/0