Nov 29, 2019
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NEWPORT — The filming of “The Bootlegger,” which chronicles rum runners in the 1920s, is underway at locations around the city and catching attention for its realism.
“In one scene, we were loading a cannon onto the Farallone off King Park and someone called the police,” said Patricia Cahill Taft, a co-producer of the film with husband John Taft.
“The harbormaster also was alerted,” she said.
Since then, the production crew has been notifying local police departments, harbormasters and the Coast Guard of its shooting schedules.
Charlie Travers, the rum runner at the focus of the film, and three crewmen were in a 50-foot speedboat known as the Black Duck on Dec. 30, 1929, just after 2 a.m., when a Coast Guard patrol boat waiting for them between Fort Adams and Fort Wetherill in Jamestown opened fire. A machine gun blast to the pilot house killed the three rum runners with Travers, who was hit in the thumb, which he lost.
The Tafts’ Rumrunner II, which does tours of Newport Harbor, is serving as the Black Duck, and the Farallone, owned by local shipwright John Hoen, has been repurposed as the CG-290, the Coast Guard vessel.
The filming of the Black Duck and CG-290 sea scenes took place last week and are continuing this week in the East Passage, off the Dumplings near Fort Wetherill.
“The on-the-water shots are awesome,” Patricia Taft said.
Patrol boat commander Alexander C. Cornell, the zealous “rum chaser” determined to get the unarmed rum runners at all costs, is being played by Clay Kraski, an actor from Atlanta.
The violent incident caused an uproar at the time, and the Coast Guard conducted an inquiry into Cornell’s actions. That scene was shot in the Jailhouse Inn on Monday. The inquiry actually took place in New London, Connecticut, but the Jailhouse Inn has a real connection to the incident.
After Travers was released from Newport Hospital, where his hand was treated, he was brought to the Jailhouse Inn. Travers is being played by Forest Quaglia, a Massachusetts actor. Jailhouse Inn locations also served as the morgue and a hospital room for the film.