The black-and-white shots that appear in the opening minute were made in Durham, N.C., in the late 1930s by H. Lee Waters (1902-1997), an itinerant photographer from Lexington, N.C. During the later years of the Great Depression, Waters earned money by visiting more than one hundred towns in North Carolina and surrounding states and shooting 16mm film of everyday scenes and people. He would arrange to exhibit his films in a local theater where the movies were shot. In an era when movie camera ownership was rare, and long before home video cameras became common, people would flock to the theaters to see themselves and their neighbors in moving pictures. Many of Waters's films have been collected and archived in North and South Carolina. One of his films, made in Kannapolis, N.C. in 1941, was added to the National Film Registry in 2005. Other samples of his work can be seen in "The Cameraman Has Visited Our Town" on folkstreams.net.
The old home occupied by Georgiana Carr is located at 206 N. Dillard Street in Durham. It was built about 1909 by a grocery wholesaler (as opposed to 1923 by tobacco magnate, as the movie states), has gone through several owners and configurations, and now is owned and used by the Durham Crisis Reponse Center, an agency that supports victims of domestic violence. The home is across Dillard Street from a television station, and the station's satellite dishes are seen in some shots in the film.
Ellen Burstyn's character, "Georgiana Carr," bears the last name of an actual Durham, N.C., family that was prominent in the tobacco business. The large portrait in her house, showing a uniformed man with a big white mustache, is a picture of Julian Shakespeare Carr (1845-1924), one of Durham's earliest tobacco magnates, who was involved in a variety of other business enterprises and was a highly regarded philanthropist. The portrait normally resides in the North Carolina Collection of the Durham County Public Library.