The film successfully captures the winter atmosphere and blustery snowstorms of the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. In 1996 a movie called ”The Spitfire Grill,” was also filmed in Peacham, VT. That movie was about a young woman who leaves prison and moves to Gilead, Maine (which was actually Peacham, VT, including scenes in the iconic Peacham Country Store)
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Ethan Frome starred Liam Neeson and Patricia Arquette
The movie, Ethan Frome, was based on the novel of the same name by Edith Wharton. The movie was set in the bleak, wintry countryside of New England and follows the story of Ethan Frome, a bitter and unhappy man trapped in a loveless marriage to his sickly wife. When a young, vivacious woman named Mattie Silver comes to live with the Fromes, Ethan finds himself drawn to her and begins an ill-fated affair. The film explores the themes of desire, isolation, and the consequences of forbidden love.
The drama centers around a husband and wife (Ethan and Zeena), who need an extra hand around the house due to Zeena’s weakening body and constant illnesses. The young woman who joins them, Zeena’s pour cousin Mattie Silver, is a charming, vibrant person. Mattie and Ethan fall in love, creating a love triangle that eventually ends unhappily for all. Their triangle sets up a tragedy that scandalizes the whole town.
The Filming of Ethan Frome in Peacham, Vermont
Ethan Frome, was filmed on location at Peacham, VT., for seven weeks, with filming wrapping in March 1992. The film was released on March 12, 1993.Though it was filmed in Vermont, the Wharton’s story was based in the fictional Berkshires town of Starkfield, Mass.
The Vermont winter temperatures were often minus-20 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Oh, it was very cold,” Neeson recalled. “It was a hard shoot,” Neeson commented. “Everybody who worked on it wasn’t there for the money, but were there because they loved the story and wanted it to work.”
In the film, George Woodard, who plays a farmhand, recalls that camera equipment wouldn’t work due to the low temperatures. Trailers with heaters were kept nearby so the actors could warm up. The property was sold just before filming, about 10 miles south of Groton.
According to an article in The Morning Call, Neeson was asked about the moral of the story of “Ethan Frome”…
“Don’t cheat on your wife. Don’t go sledding. Don’t show off on a sled,” he joked. “No, you know, I think you follow your heart … We all try to … “
“I was staying in this fantastic little house in the middle of nowhere. There was a little grocery story two miles down the road,” he said. “After my third day I came back from work and there was this cardboard box full of groceries and a note from the store owner saying ‘Thought you might need these, pay me whenever you’re passing or when you get time. ‘ “They were fabulous people. It was a hard shoot, but everybody who worked on it weren’t there for the money but were there because they loved the story and wanted it to work, so it was a wonderful support team.”(courtesy of The Oklahoman)
Vermont locals including David Dellinger, Burt Porter and Rusty DeWees (best known as “the Logger”) also have small parts in the movie.
Update 2015: We had posted some rare YouTube American Playhouse videos here that documented the making of Ethan Frome on location in Peacham, but unfortunately they have been removed due to copyright issues.
Here’s more information:
The Crossroads crew visited the set of “Ethan Frome” in Peacham, Vermont in February of 1992 and spent a day interviewing and filming the cast and crew of the feature film. Cast interviews include Liam Neeson in the lead role as Ethan; Joan Allen as Zeena; and Patricia Arquette as Mattie. Other interviews include: Francis Carlet of Peacham, the horse wrangler for the production; and Bess O’Brien who along with Jay Craven of the Northeast Kingdom-based “Kingdom County Productions,” did the local casting for “Ethan Frome.”