Synopsis by Nathan Southern
Eleanor Grand shot her documentary West Virginia Coleslaw as a film student at Ohio University in 1975. A low-budget 16mm short, the work is of considerable ethnographic interest. It provides a warm and intimate biographical portrait of Harley Warrick, the last man to paint Mail Pouch Tobacco signs on barns across America, who died in 2000. Warrick now claims the posthumous status of a celebrity in certain quarters; a number of websites are now devoted to him, and his work lingers in rural areas of Middle America, such as Ohio and West Virginia, for passersby to admire. This film is quite scarce indeed; only a few prints and videotapes of it are known to exist. It attained some recognition when the late director/producer Mel London referenced it admiringly in his wonderful 1978 career book Getting Into Film; London miscredits it as a film by "Ohio State University Graduate Susan Lynn Schrier." This was a misnomer -- Grand, not Schrier, helmed the film. West Virginia Coleslaw is exactly the sort of delightful human interest material that, back in the '70s and very early '80s, used to crop up on Charles Kuralt's America, and might have appeared from time to time on local television stations as a special late-night segment, long after Johnny Carson's Tonight Show went off the air but before the test patterns came on.
barn, painting, tobacco