‘Seberg’ puts Marshalltown star in spotlight again

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Kristin Stewart stars in the “Seberg” movie which is a fictionalized version of a period of Jean Seberg’s life when she was involved with the Black Panther Party.

Marshalltown native Jean Seberg is back in the spotlight — this time because of a movie about her private life.

The movie, “Seberg,” stars Kristen Stewart in the title role. The movie, released Feb. 21 in select theaters, focuses on Seberg’s activism and involvement with the Black Panther Party rather than her movie career.

The movie is directed by Benedict Andrews and also stars Anthony Mackie, Zazie Beetz, Vince Vaughn, Colm Meaney and more.

The Marshalltown expert on the deceased movie star is Nancy Adams, who keeps abreast of all of the latest news and information. She said the “Seberg” movie bears noting that it is highly fictionalized and that it targets a period in Seberg’s life that needed no embellishments.

“While most unfortunate that, by the filmmakers own admission, they did very little research — not contacting her family, not visiting her hometown nor the extensive archives held there — the hope is that viewers of the film will be compelled to learn the actual truth of her life, and in so doing, be inspired,” Adams said.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Seberg graced many magazines covers during her career.

A more comprehensive film about that aspect of Seberg, Adams said, is a documentary entitled “Movie Star: The Secret Lives of Jean Seberg.”

Seberg is not someone Adams knew, but the curiosity she felt about the movie star morphed into admiration and a determination to keep Seberg’s name alive and works known.

“The deep relationships formed with her family, close friends, biographer, documentarians and musicians all intent on telling her true story have enriched my life beyond measure,” Adams said.

Some of the information Adams has gathered regarding Seberg’s activism is rooted right here in Central Iowa.

“Caring for the disenfranchised and those without a voice was a part of Jean, always, and thus predates her celebrity,” Adams said. “It is well known that she joined the Des Moines chapter of the NAACP in 1952, when she was just 14 years old. That in itself is extraordinary.”

One of the jackets purchased by Jean Seberg for the Meskwaki is on long-term loan to the Orpheum and is on display.

A major theme in the “Seberg” film is the actress’ involvement with the Black Panther Party and the interest she received from the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a result.

“As is clear, when Jean first became associated with the Black Panthers, by contributing to their free breakfast program, it was but a continuation of her long history of social activism,” Adams said.

Not only was Seberg active in the NAACP and the Black Panther Party, but her interest extended to animals.

Adams said Seberg wrote a short play for the Animal Rescue League (ARL) “Be Kind To Animals” week. The play was performed and won an ARL contest.

“The prize was a puppy that she refused to accept, concerned it would hurt the feelings of Rusty, the family dog,” Adams said.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS A display case at the Orpheum features people from around the world showing their support for and love of Jean Seberg.

Seberg represented Marshalltown High School at Girls’ State during her junior year and was appointed lieutenant governor. Eventually, she was nominated as the vice-presidential candidate of the Nationalist Party in the mock government. Seberg also joined the Red Feather Kids, a United Way campaign, in which she won an award.

Adams said Seberg was known in high school for her work on conferences for Children & Youth and Recreation, and was celebrated as the chair of “Teenagers Against Polio” campaign.

As Seberg’s celebrity grew, she made contributions to the Mesquaski Bucks since she knew them.

“She gifted them with regulation uniforms so that their basketball team could compete in organized sporting events,” Adams said.

With the hopeful surge of Jean Seberg interest, Adams said there are some books people can read that focus on her private life. Her suggestions are “Jean Seberg — Breathless” by Garry McGee, “Neutralized: The FBI vs. Jean Seberg” by Jean Russell Larson and McGee and “The Films of Jean Seberg” by Michael Coates-Smith and McGee.

For Marshalltown residents or visitors, some locations Adams recommends visiting are the former Seberg Pharmacy building on 13th Street, which is now the home of C Eye Care. Adams said there are many references to Seberg inside.

She also said people should check out Miller Middle School, which was the high school when Seberg was a student and where she performed in several plays; Riverside Cemetery where her parents — Ed and Dorothy Seberg are buried, along with her brother, David, and infant daughter, Nina Hart Gary.

Adams said self-guided legacy tour maps are available at the Orpheum and the maps point out highlights of the tour.


To keep up with the latest information on Jean Seberg, visit “Jean Seberg at the O” Facebook page.

The next Jean Seberg Festival of Arts will take place Nov. 13-15 at the Orpheum.


Contact Lana Bradstream at 641-753-6611 or bradstream@timesrepublican.com


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