With my parents visiting us in Decatur, we headed to Southern Illinois and the city of Chester which would give us a view of the solar eclipse with 100% totality. Chester is located right on the Missouri state border (with the Mississippi River in between). We took a quick two minute drive across the river over the bridge featured in the above photo to say we got to briefly see the Show Me State and then returned to Chester. It was only later that day when my Dad was reading a travel guide about another southern Illinois city, Sparta, that we learned that we had inadvertently visited the setting of one of the most memorable scenes of one of my all-time favorite movies.
The movie In the Heat of the Night is set in the fictional town of Sparta, Mississippi. Because one of the film's co-stars, Sidney Poitier, refused to film in the segregated South, the majority of the scenes were filmed in Sparta, Illinois. In one scene, the police chase a murder suspect through the woods, down the banks of a shoreline, and across some railroad tracks. The suspect makes his way up the side of the bridge and he things he has escaped the police by crossing the river and making it into Arkansas but Rod Steiger's character has been waiting for him on the bridge the whole time.
Here's the film's scene and you can see that it is clearly the bridge in Chester. A future trip to Sparta, IL to track down some of the other locations from the film will certainly happen!
The Bridge Scene From In the Heat of the Night  from Matt Flaten on Vimeo.
In a future post we will also take a look at Chester, Illinois' favorite son E.C. Segar who was the creator of Popeye. The town does a great job memorializing his work with statues all around the town. Here's a preview: