Filmed in St. Louis: King of the Hill

On June 28th at 9AM, Olin Library will be hosting the 101 birthday celebration and book launch for St. Louis author A.E. Hotchner. The event will include an interview with Hotchner over video streaming, an exhibit and manuscript viewing, book sales and a reception.

Cover of the first edition of A.E Hotchner’s King of the Hill, 1970. Washington University Libraries, A.E. Hotchner Papers.

Hotchner is both a St. Louis native and a Washington University in St. Louis alum. His memoir, King of the Hill recounts a childhood spent in St. Louis during the Great Depression when he lived by himself in a hotel room while his mother was away in a tuberculosis sanatorium and his father was working as a traveling salesman. This memoir was picked up by director Steven Soderbergh, who turned the memoir into a 1993 film of the same name. 

 

Filming in St. Louis

 

An article about Soderberg’s King of the Hill in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. August 15, 1993.

Soderbergh’s King of the Hill was shot almost entirely in St. Louis and the surrounding areas and used around 1,400 locals as extras, over a dozen of which had speaking parts in the film. Much of the film takes place inside a hotel, the set of which was built in Kiel Auditorium, where the Scottrade Center now stands. Exterior shots of the hotel feature the Lister Building at North Taylor Ave and Olive Street, not far from where the hotel Hotchner stayed in as a boy once stood. This hotel, known as the Westgate, was located on the northeast corner of Delmar and Kingshighway before it was demolished in 1984. The map below pinpoints these and other filming locations featured in King of the Hill.

Map of Film Locations for King of the Hill. Click to look through points of interest.

Hotchner was very involved in the making of The King of the Hill and even taught Jesse Bradford, the actor who plays Hotchner as a child, how to shoot marbles in in the yard of New City School where the scenes that take place at Dewey School were filmed. In an article for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about the film, Hotchner recounts how he lied about his address to get into a better school, and the lengths he would go to to hide this lie. He confesses, “People would let me off somewhere and then wait as I walked up to a house and rang the bell. Some stranger would come to the door, and I would say hi and wave at the people in the car, and they’d drive off and then I had to deal with this guy who thought I was selling something.” For the film premiere, Hotchner participated in a benefit that donated part of its proceeds to an organization working in the lower-income areas where the movie was filmed to benefit other children struggling with class and poverty in St. Louis.

More About the A. E. Hotchner Papers and Upcoming Event

Washington University Libraries has an extensive collection of Hotchner’s works, some of which are currently on display in the Thomas Gallery in Olin Library. A.E. Hotchner Papers consists of manuscript and editorial material toward Hotchner’s widely acclaimed biography, Papa Hemingway (1966) as well as materials toward Treasure (1970), King of the Hill (1970), The Man Who Lived at the Ritz(1981), Looking for Miracles (1975), Choice People (1984), Louisiana Purchase (1996) and Hemingway in Love (2015), and Hotchner’s adaptations of Hemingway materials for television and stage.

Because Hotchner is a living author, we periodically obtain more of his drafts, including from his latest novel, The Adventures of Aaron Broom, which, like King of the Hill, is set in Depression-era St. Louis, with a 13-year-old protagonist named Aaron. This book, however, is considered historical fiction, rather than a memoir.

Cover of A. E. Hotcher’s upcoming novel, courtesy of Penguin Random House

Other recently-acquired materials include copious correspondence (in photocopy) from Ernest Hemingway, production materials from several of Hotchner’s plays, and a number of photographs, scrapbooks and promotional materials. Come see more of the Hotchner collection in the Olin Library Thomas Gallery, including an original draft of King of the Hill, originally titled “Aaron in 309,” and stop by the morning of June 28 to see many more materials in Special Collections.

Page 1 of the first draft typescript of “King of the Hill,” with handwritten corrections.

If you can’t make it to Olin Library in person, you can always check out our video series, “Hotch at 100,” for intimate accounts of Hotchner’s life, taken from a recent interview with the author.

Source:

Barnes, Harper. “‘King’ of St. Louis: Movie Brings City Brilliantly to Life.” St.Louis Post-Dispatch, Aug 15, 1993, pp. 3C, 10C.

About the author

Rose is a PhD candidate in English and American Literature at Washington University in St. Louis. When she is not working on her dissertation on post-1945 asylum novels or blogging about the amazing materials in Special Collections, she fills much of her time reading, writing, gardening, and wrestling.