June 25, 1999
Lights, Camera, Action - in New Jersey
By TOM WILLIAMS
For most of this century, the words "movies" and "Hollywood" have been
synonymous. The big studios have been located in Southern California,
where the weather is sunny and most of the stars live. But, in the
first couple decades of the 20th century, New Jersey was home base for
a number of film companies.
As an example, there were 70 films made in Fort Lee film studios from
1900-20 - including such classics as "Dan The Dandy", "The Italian
Barber" (no, it wasn't about Mike Lombardi) and "The Peachbasket Hat".
Okay, so they weren't Academy Award winners. But Fort Lee has also been
the location of a few more recent films. Sylvester Stallone's dramatic
effort in "Copland" used the Bergen County community for most of its
shoot. The hottest movie of 1997, "I Know What You Did Last Summer",
starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr.
and Anne Heche, did some shooting in Fort Lee. And so did that 1995
thriller, "Vampire Vixens From Venus".
There are no more studios in New Jersey. In fact, studio shooting is
being done less and less as top film-makers have discovered the
advantages of locations. And a number of them have found appropriate
locations in the Garden State.
Right now, as a matter of fact, Apryl Fioriglio, a 1993 graduate of
Ocean City High School who attended Seton Hall with sports producer
Colin Hause, is preparing to shoot an independent film, "Tumbling
After", in this area. Her 15-minute short, which will be submitted to
film festivals, will start shooting July 6 with locations in Marmora,
Atlantic City, Seaville and Cape May.
In fact, Fioriglio can use your help. She needs food and housing for
the cast and crew, plus extras and production workers. There is even a
need for a few more 70s-era cars. Her film will take place from 1977
through 1999. Call her at (609) 390-3144 if you can help.
Another local film-maker who used area locations was Timothy S. Mullen,
whose 30-minute film "In Place of Love" was shot largely at the
Atlantic City Race Course. In it, Mullen managed to turn former Ocean
City soccer coach Bill Hamilton into somewhat of a high-roller.
There is a small-budget film that was shot largely in Ocean City last
spring that is currently in release. It's called "Cold Hearts" and the
best-known actors in the film are Amy Jo Johnson, who plays Julie on
the popular TV drama "Felicity" and Marisa Ryan, who was one of the
stars of the CBS sitcom "Major Dad" for four years.
The fun thing about watching a movie shot in familiar locations is
looking for recognizable sites. And there are a number of films that
can give Jersey's movie fans such a kick.
Think about renting some of these during the summer.
Atlantic City (1981) is undoubtedly the most successful film
shot in the area. Burt Lancaster and director Louis Malle (the late
husband of Candice Bergen) both won numerous awards for the film, which
was shot in the resort just as casino gambling was beginning. A number
of scenes were shot at Resorts and the scenes of the old, decaying
Atlantic City are quite a contrast to today.
The Burglar (1957) was about a group of thieves, led by Dan
Duryea, who break into the home of a wealthy Main Line woman. They
steal her jewels and other valuables and then take off for Atlantic
City. The story ends with a shootout on the original Steel Pier, near
the High-Diving Horse. The interesting plot twist is the way the
thieves time their break-in. They do it while the woman is watching
John Facenda present the news, knowing they'd have 15 minutes. The film
was also the first serious role for blonde sex symbol Jayne Mansfield,
who was born in Bryn Mawr.
Clerks (1994) and Mallrats (1995) are the first two parts
of a planned New Jersey trilogy by Kevin Smith, who wrote and directed.
He has not gotten around to the third part yet because he's been
involved in films like "Good Will Hunting". Clerks, made for less than
$30,000 and featuring a cast of newcomers, won the Filmmakers Trophy at
the Sundance Film Festival. Mallrats featured Shannen Doherty, Ben
Affleck and Joey Lauren Smith. Both were shot in the Atlantic Highlands
Eddie and the Cruisers (1983) is a shore classic. A lot of it
was filmed in Somers Point - from the balcony of a motel and at Tony
Mart's. You will probably see a familiar face or two in the concert
scenes at Tony Mart's, where they used a lot of local extras. Tom
Berenger, Michael Pare and Ellen Barkin were the stars. Pare returned
for a sequel that was awful.
Godfather: Part III (1990), with Al Pacino and a cast of
heavyweights, shot a few scenes at Trump's Castle.
The In Crowd (1988) is a film that generally takes place in
Philadelphia and its suburbs. It is about a TV dance show, whose host
sounds a lot like Jerry Blavat. You can still hear the Geator, by the
way, on Kool 98.3 FM. Anyway, one touching scene takes place on the
Wildwood boardwalk. Joe Pantoliano plays the host with Donovan Leitch
and Jennifer Runyon as the two most popular dancers. If you liked
American Bandstand, you'll enjoy this.
Jersey Girl (1992) was shot in Jersey City with the adorable
Jamie Gertz getting involved in a romance with Dylan McDermott.
King of Marvin Gardens (1972) brought Jack Nicholson and Bruce
Dern to Atlantic City. The title, of course, comes from the game of
Monopoly. Ellen Burstyn and Scatman Crothers are also featured in this
story of the pre-casino Atlantic City. Look for local bandleader Jerry
Vigue in the scene at the train station.
The Lemon Sisters (1990) is about two sisters - Diane Keaton and
Carol Kane - who buy their own club in Atlantic City. Elliott Gould,
Ruben Blades and Aidan Quinn are also featured.
The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) is a blood-soaked and
foul-mouthed action film starring Geena Davis and Samuel L. Jackson
that shot scenes in Atlantic City. It was, of course, commercially
Marnie (1964) was a Hitchcock classic starring Tippi Hedren as a
mysterious blonde who steals money from her employers - again and again.
One of her stops is in Atlantic City. Sean Connery, Diane Baker and
Bruce Dern are also featured.
Ransom (1996) was shot in Jersey City and various Bergen County
locations. It was a remake of a Glenn Ford film, directed by Ron Howard,
featuring Mel Gibson, Rene Russo and Gary Sinise.
Rounders (1998) stars Matt Damon, Edward Norton and John
Turturro in a story about a reformed gambler shot primarily at Trump's
Snake Eyes (1998) is Brian DePalma's story of a political
assassination at an Atlantic City boxing match. It stars Nicholas Cage,
Gary Sinise and John Heard. There are many scenes in Atlantic City but
a lot of the indoor arena scenes were actually shot in a Montreal
skating rink. One interesting scene was a boardwalk setting that
actually was filmed at Egg Harbor Township High School. They built a
fake boardwalk and pumped in water to make waves. Something about the
Atlantic City boardwalk not being real enough.
Tattoo (1981) is about a model (Maud Adams) who is pursued by a
psycho tattoo artist (Bruce Dern). He kidnaps her and holds her hostage
in an Ocean City house, located at the boardwalk near 17th Street. The
house was rather isolated in the film and is now gone, replaced by some
of those fast-multiplying duplexes.
That Night (1993) also shot some scenes in Ocean City, including
nighttime shots on the 9th Street beach with the Music Pier and Shriver's
in the background. C. Thomas Howell and Juliette Lewis are the stars
and the film has a great oldies soundtrack.
Wise Guys (1986) is a mediocre film about two hoods (Danny
DeVito and Joe Piscopo) who rip off the mob and run to Atlantic City,
among other places. Directed by Brian DePalma, it also features Ray
Sharkey and Patti LuPone.
These aren't all great films but, because of where they were shot, they
are interesting. If you have comments about these films, or others that
were overlooked, feel free to e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is undoubtedly a topic that will be revisited down the road.
In the meantime, rent a few of these films and see how many locations
you can recognize.
Be sure to read The Sandpaper in the Ocean City
area and The Beachcomber in the Wildwood area throughout the summer
months for similar features.