“We Oughta Be in Pictures...!”
Then again, we already are…
- First published July 2001.
“We Oughta Be in Pictures...!” was first published in the July-August 2001 issue of “Cliff Notes.”
For more on our video, A New Deal for the Palisades — and to view it! — see “Meeting the 'Reel' Ghosts” by Carol Hoernlein, P.E.
As we’ve recounted here at other times, the Palisades played an important role as an on-location shooting site during the early silent film years, the most memorable example, perhaps, found in the opening chapter of The Perils of Pauline. Dozens of other silent films featured Palisades scenery, as well.
In the decades since the film industry packed its bags and headed out to Hollywood, we’ve still found our way onto the big screen from time to time. Indeed, our proximity to New York City — the “right-coast” yang to Hollywood’s yin — would make that almost inevitable.
Along with any number of student-made shorts, television commercials, and fashion shoots, some of the more (or less) memorable wide-screen releases of recent years include these:
- In 1988, Tom Hanks became Big at a carnival staged by director Penny Marshall at Ross Dock, complete with Ferris wheel, candy stands — and a sinister looking wishing machine.
- In a pair of pivotal scenes, Martin Scorsese had three of his GoodFellas, Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro, and Joe Pesci, bury a body — then ghoulishly dig it up later — in the woods near State Line Lookout (1990).
- Alec Baldwin showed up at Ross Dock in 1996, not to ride on Ferris wheels, but to wrestle with fellow bad guys, finally blowing them up in their own car. It was all the result of his entanglement with Demi Moore, The Juror with whom he was, uh, tampering.
- That same year, back up at the woods at State Line, Gary Sinese spoke some angry words regarding the Ransom he was demanding of Mel Gibson.
- At the end of 1997’s Cop Land, Sylvester Stallone is seen ruminating about his life and its recent events near Hazard’s Dock, at the foot of the George Washington Bridge.
- In 1999, Woody Allen turned State Line Lookout’s Lookout Inn into a 1930s-era jazz club for Sean Penn in Sweet and Lowdown.
Location scouts continue to call, and we have no doubt but that perceptive “fans” of the Palisades will continue to catch glimpses of their favorite cliffs in movies yet to be made.
We’d like to think, though, that the year 2001 will be remembered as a particularly exciting one for the Palisades in moving pictures. Not because of any wide-screen releases, but because two small-screen productions are due out this year, each featuring the Palisades not as backdrop, but as star.
Later this year, Media Women, an independent, not-for-profit production company based in Hackensack, plans to release a half-hour television documentary on the epic, turn-of-the-century struggle to preserve the Palisades from destruction at the hands of quarrymen. The story will pay particular attention to the role played by women — specifically the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs — in this fight, one of the earliest efforts at large-scale conservation of scenic resources.
In the meantime, viewers will soon be able to enjoy a VHS tape of our own making. Entitled A New Deal for the Palisades, this 30-minute compilation of 16-millimeter film footage shot by park workers during the 1930s and early 1940s features scenes of swimmers in the Hudson River, along with some of the work and accomplishments of “New Deal” agencies in building retaining walls and other parts of the park’s infrastructure. This project was funded in part by a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of Cultural Affairs in the Department of State. The original footage was restored and digitized, then edited together with narration taken from park documents of the day, and given a “live” organ sound track by Jeff Barker of the Galaxy Theatre in Guttenberg, NJ. It will be ready for screening by late July, and available for sale shortly thereafter. Complimentary copies will also be provided to local libraries and school systems. (See “Meeting the 'Reel' Ghosts.”
We’ll see you at the pictures…!