June 25, 1999
Lights, Camera, Action - in New Jersey


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 area.
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 successful.
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 Taj Mahal.
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 primeevents@prodigy.net. 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.