So thanks to several carefully-planned Hollywood trips, I’ve been very fortunate to visit some really cool silent-related locations, such as the site of the former Keystone studio, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the Roosevelt Hotel, the Chaplin studio, Buster Keaton’s gravesite, the Egyptian Theatre, Musso & Frank’s, and the closest a stranger can legally get to Buster’s Italian Villa.
I’ve also had priceless experiences at both the Buster Keaton Convention in Muskegon, Michigan and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. For a classic film lover, each and every one of these experiences was a dream come true–from the big festivals to the little moments like relaxing in L.A.’s Echo Park and thinking, “That’s the same lake all those Keystone comedians had to jump into!”
But there’s still several places I’m bound and determined to visit one day, and as of right now these sites are in my top 6:
6. Jacksonville, Florida
Back in the 1910s, Florida came mighty close to being one of the film capitals of the world. Filmmakers on the East Coast found it convenient to work in the warm southern climate during the dicey winter months, and as a result around 30 companies set up shop there by 1916. Today, the only studio whose buildings have survived is Norman Studios, one of the few who made films with all-black casts. The buildings have been preserved and converted into a silent film museum, which sounds well worth a road trip.
5. Lübeck, Germany
Do these old, old European buildings look familiar? If you love silent horror, they should–these are the buildings Count Orlok moves into in Nosferatu (1922). The window he stares out of is the middle window on the third floor of the building on the left. Werner Herzog filmed scenes for his own Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht in the very same spot, as a way of showing his reverence for the original film.
These historic structures are in Lübeck, Germany and are called the Salzpiecher–or “salt storehouses,” which is how they were used in the 16th-18th centuries. And I simply have to go there and see them for myself–preferably on a cloudy, gloomy day.
4. 318 E. 48th Street, New York City
I don’t care if the actual building was knocked down and replaced in 2012, this was the location of the Comique film studio where Arbuckle filmed some of his funniest two-reel classics and where Buster made his first appearances on film, and I must go there, darn it. Oh, and silent superstars Norma and Constance Talmadge had their studios in the same building, too.
3. Leeds, England
In 1888, the world’s first moving pictures were shot in Leeds, England by French-born inventor Louis Le Prince–Roundhay Garden Scene and Traffic Crossing Leeds Bridge. A plaque is on the old building facing that very same bridge where Le Prince shot his famous footage, and it’s thought that we can even pinpoint which window he was standing in. How can I resist travelling to the birthplace of motion pictures? It’s going to happen, folks!
2. Cottage Grove, Oregon
Just about everyone who loves silent films dreams of going to the Oregon town where Keaton filmed his masterpiece The General, and standing in the very location where the silent era’s most famous (and expensive) stunt took place. It’s said that twisted pieces of railroad track are stuck in the rocks along the river to this very day.
The old railroad line itself has apparently been converted to a bike trail (or so I’ve heard), which to an avid biker like myself is a bonus incentive. One day, I shall glide along those trails on my trusty bike and imagine myself back in the summer of 1926.
1..The Pordenone Silent Film Festival
Also known as Le Giornate del cinema muto, this, my friends, is the most prestigious silent film festival in the world–a week-long extravaganza that’s been held annually in Italy for over 35 years. Going there would be a kind of pilgrimage, one that I’m anxious to undertake. One of my mottos is: “One day, Pordenone!”
So those are some of the biggest items on my silent-related bucket list so far. What are some of yours?
I live in Jacksonville Beach. If you ever make it to Jacksonville, I’ll be glad to escort you to Norman Studios. I was invited on a tour there once, and you’d love it. The only sad thing is that the studio is about the only reminder in town that Jacksonville was “the first Hollywood.”
I’ll take you up on that, Steve! 😉
Pordonone is pretty much top of my list too. I live not too far from Cottage Grove, and in fact headed a meeting of the Southern Oregon Library Federation there. If you go, be sure to drop in on their lovely little library and take a look at whatever innovative display director Pete Barrell has up! I guarantee you’ll be impressed (could be an Indian teepee, a small old-time airplane, or a NASA satellite…he just never quits). If you go to NYC, be sure also to visit 11 E. 14th Street, where Biograph was located.
That’s also on my bucket list–that, and Broadway itself, lots of history packed into that street!
“One day, Pordenone!”
How do you envision that coat of arms that supports that motto?
I’m envisioning a film reel with film strips curling around it or something like that. Or a tiny guy with a tiny Pathe camera. 😀
I’m glad I’m not the only one with a silent movie bucket list! Lol.
Right now, at the top of the list is Hollywood- plain and simple. I went when I was a teenager but I wasn’t that into its history then. It’d be nice to go back and have a good, long explore. 😁
When you went this last time, did you go see any of your old favorite spots or was it all new horizons?
Most of it was my favorite spots, with a couple new locations–Musso & Frank’s, the Griffith Observatory, and the Hollywood Museum in the Max Factor building being highlights. I try to see something new every time I visit, And one day, the Hollywood Heritage museum will actually be open when I’m there!
I’m ashamed that I live WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE of Bobby Harron’s grave and I’ve yet to go. Going to Fort Lee, New Jersey is also on the agenda. I have considered going to the George Eastman House, but Rochester is way far from NYC! There’s ALOT of silent movie stuff I should be doing right here in the city, and I’ve yet to do. Possibly because I’m so busy watching them at home! lol.
Oh my, you simply must visit his grave–and maybe leave a flower or two for me!
I already was going to on your behalf (and Silentology’s), that was already planned! I’ve heard that it’s not easy to find his grave, or that it may be unmarked. In fact you’re the one that told me that someone took a picture of it; that’s the only thing I have to go on. Everything else I’ve read says that you can’t find it.That’s what’s kept me from just stopping in and paying my respects as I walk past (or through, which I sometimes do). But I definitely intend to; if I can’t make it to Bobby Harron’s grave, which is a mere walk from where I live, then what kind of card-carrying member of the Silentology community am I pretending to be?!!!! 😀
I’ll get to the bottom of this mystery! I won’t make you come all the way here to solve it for us! 😀
You can do it, I believe in you!! 😀
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Reblogged this on Silent-ology and commented:
Yes, I am alive…barely! I was sick pretty much this whole month and had to put a bunch of writing projects on hold. So until I get some new content up I thought this repost would be a good vehicle for discussion. Do you have a “silent film locations” bucket list? Anything interesting or unique you’d like to share? Please comment!
Lea, the next time you come to L.A. you could see some of the silent stars’ homes. I did that a number of years ago, comparing them to the images on vintage postcards of the 1920s. Many of those houses are now gone (Tom Mix, Gloria Swanson, Mabel Normand), but many are still there (Dolores Del Rio, Henry B. Walthall, Anita Stewart). There’s also the Chaplin Studio, Beale’s Cut (seen in SEVEN CHANCES) and the location of the MODERN TIMES finale, a stretch of lonely road where the silent era came to an end.
And the next time you visit the Bay Area, go to Niles and see the location of the Essanay Studio. Very nearby are locations used in THE TRAMP, THE CHAMPION and Mary Pickford’s REBECCA OF SUNNYBROOK FARM. And, back in San Francisco, you can see the same building used for McTeague’s dental office in GREED, as well as exteriors from a couple of Keaton shorts.