Phoenixville could have a sign on the edge of our borough: Phoenixville, Home of Three Major Movies and Stars!
Dr. Moylan Mills, Professor Emeritus of Integrative Arts, presented a well integrated program, Oct. 17 at the Phoenixville Public Library, to an attentive audience.
He explored many films made in Pennsylvania. The film showing scenes of Phoenixville were: "Bright Victory," "From the Terrace" and "The Blob." The stars included Arthur Kennedy, Paul Newman and Steve McQueen.
However, the Penn State University professor detailed an early film not made in Pennsylvania as a triumph. "The Birth of a Nation" depicted the American Civil War so vividly that viewers thought the scenes were actual ones. Made in 1915, "The film was technically advanced," Mills stated.
In a quiet, pleasant tone, Mill said, "It was very pro Klu Klux Klan, and some questionable scenes had to be cut."
From 1940 on Pennsylvania stood high in quality films.
1940: "The Philadelphia Story" starred Cary Grant, James Stewart and Katherine Hepburn.
1949: "Bright Victory" showed scenes of Valley Forge Army Hospital, a scene at Church and Main Streets, Phoenixville, and a brief shot of Valley Forge State Park (now a national park).
1958: "The Blob" depicted Phoenixville's Colonial Theatre and today's home at Third Avenue and Main Street.
1960: "From the Terrace," highlighted the building, still standing today on East Bridge Street, often called The Superintendent's Building. (People who were actually employed there didn't call it that, however.)
1970: "The Molly Mcguires" was shot in Hazelton.
1976 "Rocky" pushed Sylvester Stallone's career forward.
1978: "The Deer Hunter," filmed in Pittsburgh.
1983: "Flashdance," showed Pennsylvania scenes.
1990: "Silence of the Lambs."
1993: "The Age of Innocence" was shot partially at Philadelphia's Academy of Music.
1995: Robert Redford starred in "Up Close and Personal" - a work based on TV personality Jessica Savich.
1998: "Beloved" was another Philadelphia film. Though the story was Cincinnati-based, the director wanted a 19th century look, so Philly was perfect. In this film, it was necessary to cover three streets with dirt. Though the director and crew didn't have city permission to do so, so the streets were disguised, and store owners complained, "It ruined the Christmas shopping season."
1999: "The Sixth Sense" was a huge hit, Mills noted.
1985: "Witness," I saw it and so did many, involved an Amish boy's observance of a crime committed in Philadelphia's 30th Street Train Station.
"National Treasure," a movie about the Declaration of Independent, is headed towards us. "Nicholas Cage will star," Mills indicated.
"Annapolis" is being shot currently in Philadelphia.
"Two hundred million dollars has been pumped into Pennsylvania films," Mills stated.
Mills gave three reasons why Pennsylvania was a natural for the industry:
1. There's a sense of newness.
2. Philadelphia has a developed crew and staff, who will work cheaper than those from California.
3. The production crew is helpful here.
Mills showed three film clips to his audience: "Birdie," "Rocky" and "Witness."
About Rocky, he taught, "Stallone had bit parts in 'B' movies and soft porn before Rocky. He wrote the script, and shopped it around Hollywood for a while and stipulated that he wanted the Rocky role. Stallone had lived in Philadelphia for awhile, and the producers decided on Philly.
"One scene showed Rocky running down Ninth Street. An observer threw an apple at Stallone, and Stallone caught the fruit. The action was so spontaneous, it was kept in the works.
"The critics hailed the film as 'the best in 1976.'
"Stallone became a major star after the film.
"A new feature of Rocky was a hand-held camera that didn't shake. It was called steadi-cam, and invented by Garrett Brown."
Mills felt "Witness" was one of the best films. It was nominated for an Academy Award.
Mills gave credit for Phoenixville's neighboring Lubin studio for pre-dating Hollywood.
Come see me at Phoenixville Public Library, Community Room, Thursday, Nov. 11, 7 p.m., for a discussion on "Why Write a Column?"
With Valentine love, Keystone Konnie.