In 1982 Stephen King published a simple little novella titled Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. It was part of a collection of stories and was hailed as a masterpiece. The novella was adapted for the big screen as The Shawshank Redemption and was a modest hit. . . at least until awards season rolled around when it received seven Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Picture. and catapulted into the stratosphere of top-watched movies. Many people, myself included, had never heard of the novella until the movie came out, but in the years since it’s release in 1994 Shawshank has achieved nearly cult status.
The plot is a simple one: Young banker (Andy Dufresne played by Tim Robbins) is convicted, perhaps wrongfully so, for the murder of his wife and her lover. He is sentenced to two life sentences at Shawshank State Prison where is goes through the expected adjustment problems as he leaves his privileged status of upper middle class and becomes a prisoner. Thanks to the friendship of an older and wiser inmate (Red played by Morgan Freeman) Andy survives prison and eventually puts his accounting skills to work doing tax returns for the guards and helping the warden (played by Bob Gunton) set up a money laundering scheme in exchange for favorable treatment. Andy eventually “leaves” prison, as does Red, and the movie ends with the two friends eventually meeting up on the outside.
The movie was filmed in Richland County, Ohio, with most of the scenes set at the Ohio State Reformatory, and in an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the movie the Mansfield & Richland County Convention & Visitors Bureau has launched The Shawshank Trail, a driving tour of 12 movie sites. You can drive the whole trail, pick a few favorite sites, or start and stop wherever you’d like, and there’s a mobile app to help you navigate. Here are a few of the stops you can make:
- Historic Ohio State Penitentiary – It was Shawshank in the movie, but for 94 years this castle-like structure was a working prison housing some of the toughest criminals around. You can tour the cells and see the warden’s office, the hole in the wall that Andy dug and the tunnel that he crawled through. You can tour the penitentiary. (Note for movie fans: Other movies filmed here include Air Force One, Tango & Cash, and Harry and Walter Go to New York.)
- Central Park in Downtown Mansfield – After Brooks (played by James Whitmore) is paroled he spends time sitting on the park bench hoping his pet crow will show up. He never does. Today the park is two acres spread with a gazebo, picnic area, fountain, and plenty of room to play.
- Pugh Cabin at Malabar Farm State Park – The is the site of the opening scene of the movie, where Andy is sitting in his car with a gun. It’s actually a park with lovely walking trails, including Doris Duke Woods (named after the tobacco heiress).
- Huntington National Bank – In the movie it was Casco Bank in Portland, but this is the spot where Andy went to claim his assets and close accounts after leaving prison. This is a real working bank.
- Wyandot County Courthouse – Andy was convicted and sentenced in this real life county courthouse. Ask for a tour of the facility if you wish.
In addition to the Shawshank Trail sites, many business and hotels (not featured in the movie) offer menu items, packages, and other specialty items that celebrate the notoriety that the film has brought them. There are also various Shawshank-related tours if you prefer to leave the driving to someone else.
I loved this movie and have it on my all time Top 10 list. My favorite location was probably the warden’s office, most likely because so much happened there. Are you a fan of the movie? What’s your favorite location?
Photo credit: Courtesy of Mansfield & Richland CVB