East Texans remember true story behind "Bernie" movie

LONGVIEW (KYTX) -- It was a big hit at the box office this weekend - "Bernie" opened in theaters in Tyler and Longview. The movie is based on the true story of a Carthage woman murdered by a local mortician. CBS 19's Abby Broyles spoke with people who saw the movie this weekend and joins us from our Longview newsroom.

"Bernie" is a dark comedy based on real life relationship of Marjorie Nugent, a wealthy Carthage widow, and the man convicted of killing her, Bernie Tiede. Tiede is now in a New Boston prison. Today we spoke with a woman here in Longview who was friends with the unlikely couple.

It's officially open in East Texas theaters, the movie "Bernie," starring Jack Black, Longview's own Matthew McConaughey, and Shirley MacLaine.

Seniors at Buckner Westminster Place in Longview went to see the movie this weekend.

"When it came out in a movie, they were interested to see how it was portrayed. I think a lot of people have followed this story very closely in '95 and '96," Executive Director Wes Wells said.

Some seniors even knew the on-screen characters in real life. Bobby Jo Walker was longtime friends with Marjorie Nugent, portrayed by Shirley MacLaine. Walker met Bernie Tiede on a bus trip in 1993.

"He was a delightful person," Walker says, "by the time the trip had ended he had endeared himself to everybody. He was very thoughtful, considerate, [and] kind of took care of all of us."

Bernie was Nugent's companion. Walker says he was friendly and caring.

"He impressed me so much that later on I invited him out to our church," Walker said.

But in 1996, she ran into Bernie without Marjorie Nugent.

"And I said, 'where's Marge?' and he said, 'oh she's with her sister.' Well, unknown to me, she'd been dead," Walker said.

Nugent's body was found in her freezer. Bernie Tiede was convicted for her murder in 1996.

Walker couldn't believe the news that Tiede killed her friend.

"You go back over and over something like that and you think, 'why?'" Walker said.

Walker says she was surprised by Nugent's character, portrayed as mean and controlling. She says she'll always remember the kind friend she had, and she'll always wonder what happened between Nugent and Bernie Tiede.

Walker and others who saw the movie told us they thought it was funny - they knew it would be a dark comedy.

The "real" Bernie Tiede is behind bars in New Boston serving a 30-year prison sentence for Nugent's murder.


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