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The truth about ‘Fargo’

| March 28, 2021 12:00 AM

The entertainment industry recently took note that March 8 marked the 25th anniversary of the movie “Fargo. I remember the fanfare that accompanied the movie’s release back in my old stomping grounds. (Our farm is about a half hour southeast of Fargo)

I was, of course, living in Whitefish at the time and working at the Inter Lake, but I’ve always kept abreast of the hometown news via the Fargo Forum. Watch parties were planned back home, Chamber of Commerce officials were giddy this movie was going to put Fargo on the map in a big way.

As the Duluth News Tribune recently noted in an article about the 25th anniversary: “The movie ‘Fargo’ attracted more attention to the fair city than an outsider bringing spicy food to a church potluck.”

Then we all watched the movie.

That big balloon of pride quickly deflated for many viewers. For starters, the movie largely takes place in Minnesota (so why call it “Fargo”?) and many took issue with what they believed to be an exaggerated portrayal of the Minnesota/North Dakota accent (ya sure, you betcha).

To refresh your memory, the dark comedy stars Frances McDormand as Marge Gunderson, the mild-mannered pregnant Minnesota police chief who investigates the murders that ensue after Jerry Lundegaard, a desperate car salesman played by William H. Macy, hires two thugs to kidnap his wife to extort ransom money from his wealthy father-in-law. Of course that plan goes wildly wrong and Lundegaard’s wife Jean meets her demise in a woodchipper.

Jean was played by Fargo native Kristin Rudrud, who attended Moorhead State University the same time I did, and I remember seeing her on stage in college theater productions. She was a stand-out performer.

I was among those who scoffed at the overblown accents of the “Fargo” cast.

“We don’t sound like that,” I protested a little too vehemently to my co-workers at the time. Trouble is, they’d overheard me lapse into “Minnesotan” on occasion when I took a call from someone back home. The word “ya” becomes something like “eee-yah” in true Minnesotan.

I also alleged Minnesotans don’t swear as much as the two bungling thugs in the movie, based solely on my idyllic upbringing in a Lake Wobegon-type community where everyone was above average and we were all good people, weren’t we?

I have to confess, though, that after watching “Fargo” again many years later, the accents were pretty much spot-on. Kristin Rudrud sounded exactly like my Aunt Virgie from Moorhead.

Despite our feelings about the movie, it went on to achieve great acclaim. “Fargo” received seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, winning two; Best Actress for McDormand and Best Original Screenplay for Joel and Ethan Coen, who wrote, produced and directed the film.

To top it all off, in 1998 the American Film Institute named “Fargo” one of the 100 greatest American films in history.”

The movie certainly did put Fargo, North Dakota, on the map, even if it wasn’t exactly what the locals had in mind.

Turns out, though, Fargo didn’t need a movie to convince people it’s a great place to live and work. Over the past couple of decades, there’s been a wonderful revitalization of the downtown area, and the city has seen growth that’s turned the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area into a regional economic driver.

The Fargo of my youth, with the grand department stores such as Herbst and DeLendrecies, are long gone, but the vitality of the city is still there in spades, don’tcha know!

News Editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.