The Mercer Williams House Museum, as seen in the films “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” and “Glory”.
Mercer Williams House Museum
429 Bull Street
STORY & PHOTOS:
I recently took a trip with my mom to Savannah, GA, and became mildly obsessed with the book/movie/lore of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”. It’s a nonfiction book written by John Berendt, former editor of New York Magazine, based on his experiences in Savannah. The book portrays some of Savannah’s most colorful characters, such as party boy Joe Odom, club performer Lady Chablis, and antique-seller and restorer Jim Williams.
Spoiler alert / Berendt’s story turned down the true crime path when Williams shot Danny Hansford in his first-floor study. Hansford was known as promiscuous and a drug user with a bad temper, but there was always some doubt about whether Williams shot Hansford in self-defense or in cold blood. Hansford was Williams’ lover and they had a tempestuous relationship. Williams was tried four times for murder and eventually acquitted, but later died of a heart attack. Clint Eastwood directed and produced the film version of the book, also titled “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”.
The city of Savannah was used extensively for filming, and the Mercer Williams House was featured prominently. Scenes were shot inside and outside of the impressive home. We first meet Jude Law’s character, Billy Hanson, when he is working on his car outside of Mercer House as John Kelso (John Cusack) passes by.
We then see Mercer House decked out for Jim Williams’ (Kevin Spacey) annual Christmas party:
We also see the exterior surrounded by police cars and investigative vans after the shooting occurs:
After a battle with Williams’ sister, the film’s producers finally managed to secure permission to film inside the house. Scenes for the movie were actually shot in the same house and same room where the shooting took place.
Williams’ sister still lives in the mansion on Bull Street (built by musician Johnny Mercer’s great-grandfather), and you can take a tour of the garden and the first floor. Photography unfortunately isn’t allowed, but it’s still definitely worth the tour. Once I was inside it was so cool that I wasn’t upset about the photo rule anymore. The architecture, decor, and artwork are stunning, plus there’s the added bonus that you’re standing in a movie location (and in a murder site, if you’re into that sort of thing).
The shooting of Billy Hansford in the movie (and of Danny Hansford in real life) took place in Williams’ study, and is also where Williams has a heart attack and dies in the film:
(Side note: I’m obsessed with the blue paint color in that room! Apparently Jim Williams created his own paint colors for his house, so props to him.) I’d highly recommend the Mercer Williams House Museum Tour. The only Mercer House filming location you won’t see on the tour is the upstairs ballroom, which appears in a few scenes from the movie. (Due to fire codes and lack of exits, they can’t take tours up there.)
You can, however, take plenty of photos of the front of the Mercer Williams House, as well as the square and the gorgeous homes surrounding it.
The carriage house around the back on Whitaker Street is where you can buy tickets to the tour as well as some souvenirs (like the book, the movie, or even statues of the Bird Girl who appeared on the cover of the book). If you’d like to make a reservation online, you can do so here.
STORY & PHOTO CREDITS: