The Novel & Movie
The Bridges of Madison County
Robert James Waller was a guitar-picker, photographer, ex-business school professor, and author of the best-selling hardcover of all time. In 1992 Warner Books published his first novel, The Bridges of Madison County. The 171-page hardcover novel has been translated into 25 languages and over 12 million copies have been sold worldwide! On the New York Times Best Seller list for 3 years (and number 1 for 38 weeks), it topped Gone with the Wind in 1995 as the best-selling fiction book of all time (in hardcover, no less).
Waller says he writes about "ordinary people, the kind you meet in a checkout line at the hardware store," and about those certain moments in which "the ordinary can take on rather extraordinary qualities." In his spare, straightforward stories, men and women struggle with love, hope, disappointment, responsibility -- everyday issues which touch us all -- all rendered at once both profound and intimate through prose of unaffected, moving simplicity.
Robert Kincaid (Clint Eastwood) has come to Madison County, Iowa, in order to take pictures of the Roseman and Holliwell covered bridges. He is a professional photographer on assignment to National Geographic magazine in the fall of 1965 and he is lost. Pulling his green pickup into the driveway of a well kept farmhouse, he stops to ask directions. Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep) is at home, alone, her husband and two children having departed for four days to the Illinois state fair. She has been married for 15 years and the luxury of time to herself is an unusual break from her daily life, as is the courteous stranger approaching her for information.
These are the opening circumstances for an extraordinary story, adapted to the screen by Richard LaGravenese from Robert James Waller's novel, The Bridges of Madison County. Directed by Clint Eastwood, produced by Eastwood and Kathleen Kennedy, and associate produced by Tom Rooker and Michael Maurer, it is the visual representation of two people coming to terms with their own lives through each other. The film is a narrative about love and choices and consequence.
"The Bridges of Madison County" was made on location in Madison County, Iowa. A reconstructed farm house provided the key set, with additional sequences shot in the towns of Winterset and Adel, along with the actual Roseman and Holliwell covered bridges. Locations were coordinated with the full cooperation of the Iowa Film Commission, Winterset and Adel Chambers of Commerce, and the Madison County Covered Bridge Preservation Society.
Located in the northeast corner of the county, the house had been abandoned for over 35 years and was fully restored for the film. The house was damaged by an arson fire on October 6, 2003 and is no longer open for tours.
In existence since 1876, the Northside is the restaurant in the film where Robert Kincaid stops for coffee and offers Lucy Redfield a stool. You can still take a seat where Clint Eastwood sat—it’s the fourth stool from the front of the restaurant.
M. Young and Co.
This feed store building posed as the “Winterset General Store‘ in the film. The rain sequence near the end of the movie was filmed on this corner. Here you can see part of movie being filmed; because the sun came out and rainbows formed in the artificial “Hollywood rain” most of this sequence had to be re-shot. The structure, built in 1907, was torn down in February 2000.
A closed Conoco station was transformed into a 1965 Texaco station through Hollywood’s magic. It was a popular gift shop for several years. In 2007 the structure was torn down.
Pheasant Run Pub & Grill
This tavern in Winterset was the interior location for The Blue Note Lounge in the movie.
A separate building was used for the exterior of the Blue Note Lounge. It is actually a tractor garage located on the Madison County Fairgrounds in Winterset.
The gracefully arched stone bridge in a park where Francesca and Robert go for their ‘getaway” picnic is actually located right in Winterset's City Park, just south of the Cutler-Donahoe covered bridge.
Pammel Park Middle River Ford
The shallow river crossing where Francesca's grown children discuss her diaries is located in Pammel State Park just southwest of Winterset.