SHOWCASING LOUISIANA: Morganza to mark 50th anniversary of filming of ‘Easy Rider’

SHOWCASING LOUISIANA: Morganza recalls when 'Easy Rider' was filmed in their town 50 years ago

MORGANZA, LA (WAFB) - A movie that is now in the Library of Congress National Film Registry was shot, in part, in Louisiana, but for one small community, that wasn’t always a good thing.

Usually when Hollywood comes to a small town, it creates excitement, but for one small town in Point Coupee Parish, well, it’s been trying to shake Hollywood off itself for nearly 50 years.

“It was just a quaint little town, kinda’ like Mayberry. No one ever got out of line. Everybody loved everybody, so we never thought that anyone was going to hurt us. So we just thought, here they are. They want to do this silly film, we’ll go along with it and then go our happy ways,” said Rose LeBlanc O’Rear.

Rose LeBlanc O'Rear
Rose LeBlanc O'Rear (Source: WAFB)

The film was 1969′s “Easy Rider” starring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and a very young Jack Nicholson.

Mary K. Bergeron was one of the local stars in the café scene at the old Melancon’s Café on Highway 1.

“Well, we really didn’t know what to expect. They just old us to sit in the booth and comment on the people that, on the stars that walked in,” said Bergeron.

O’Rear was also in the scene.

“And they told us to ad-lib. They just said you know to flirt with them,” O’Rear said.

Some of the local men were in the film as well. When the film crew needed someone to play a deputy, Melancon’s Café owner, Ms. Blackie, knew just the person to call: a real Pointe Coupee Parish deputy at the time, Arnold Hess Jr.

Arnold Hess Jr.
Arnold Hess Jr. (Source: WAFB)

“At the beginning, you had no idea what the movie was going to be like, and as time went on, I began to realize it wasn’t my kind of movie, so I took no further part. I said, ‘This doesn’t happen in our area.’ You know, we get a lot of recognition from it, but I wouldn’t care if it was never made and I wouldn’t care if I’d never been part of it,” Hess said.

Now if you’ve ever seen “Easy Rider,” you know it’s the story of three free-wheeling motorcyclists who strike out to find freedom in America, but their stop at Melancon’s Café proved to be deadly for them. The local actors, though, had no idea at the time exactly what kind of film it was going to be, or that their little Village of Morganza would be portrayed as anything but a loving, friendly, welcoming community.

(Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)

“When we saw the movie, the movie really showed Morganza in a bad light, so I think it made a lot of people angry because they misled us. It was like entrapment,” O’Rear said.

But for most, like Morganza Mayor Clarence Wells, time has a way of erasing bad memories.

“Well I think, I think time takes care of all of that, Johnny. I mean, the first couple of years, oh man, I can’t believe y’all did all that in Morganza, ya know. And y’all acted and all that, but as time went on, being part of the community, I mean, it just kinda’ fizzled on out,” Wells said.

In preparation of the hog rally and upcoming 50th anniversary of “Easy Rider,” the Morganza Cultural District created a to scale façade of the old Melancon’s Café and erected it in the exact location where the real one stood. And it was a hit!

“It’s amazing! I mean, you’re talking 50 years later. And they’re driving from Minnesota, Arkansas, Alabama, Oklahoma, Illinois. That’s pretty cool, to come see Morganza, Louisiana where the movie was filmed. The feedback we’re getting is incredible. Said hey man, those people in Morganza rolled out the red carpet: food, drinks, and famous Morganza cake," said Rene Thibodeaux, president of the Morganza Cultural District.

A huge festival to officially commemorate the 50th anniversary of “Easy Rider” will be held in Morganza Sept. 28.

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