In 1974, Connie and Stan Smith of Columbia bought a house in Beaufort to live in while Stan helped develop Fripp Island. Formerly a bed and breakfast with seven bedrooms, they converted three downstairs bedrooms into a den, dining room, and kitchen and used the upstairs bedrooms for themselves and family.
Four years later, while Connie and Stan were still living there, The Great Santini movie was filmed in the house, mostly during the day while Connie and Stan stood watching with the film crew. If the crew needed to film a scene after dark inside, they would cover the house with black plastic and call it night.
Robert Duvall, Blythe Danner, and Michael O’Keefe were some of the actors who starred in the movie, and the crew lived in Beaufort or at Fripp during the filming. Pat Conroy, author of The Great Santini, who lived at Fripp, would often come by to watch the filming with his dad, who was the focus of the movie. The Smiths’ family and friends were able to be extras in the movie. One Smith son was an extra during the basketball scene, and Connie and Stan were the adult chaperones at the prom dance.
Connie and Stan sold Tidalholm in the early 1980s when they moved back to Columbia, but Tidalholm was not done yet. The Big Chill film crew showed up soon after and brought Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, and William Hurt to town. William Hurt often was seen jogging in Beaufort and at Fripp. The Smiths had taken their furniture to Columbia, so the crew decorated the house with new furniture for the movie and afterward sold the furniture at auction.
Both movies featured outstanding actors and performances. In The Great Santini, the Academy Awards nominated Robert Duvall as Best Actor in a Leading Role and Michael O’Keefe as Best Actor in a Supporting Role. In The Big Chill, the Academy Awards nominated Glenn Close as Best Actress in a Supporting Role, and the movie itself was nominated as Best Picture and as Best Screenplay.
Even though Tidalholm was built by Edgar Fripp in 1835 and has an interesting history, around Beaufort, the house generally is called “The Big Chill house.”
Many thanks to Chip Smith and Houston Smith, both of Columbia, and Grant Smith of Brevard, North Carolina, for their memories!