Reliving Make Believe at Movie Sites Throughout the United States

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The Potter School building in California, site of a frightening scene in “The Birds”. Photo by Vampy1/Dreamstime.com
The Potter School building in California, site of a frightening scene in “The Birds”. Photo by Vampy1/Dreamstime.com

Bob Burrus is channeling the movie star John Travolta. He enters Lenny’s Pizza in Brooklyn, New York and orders a slice with cheese and pepperoni. After devouring the snack, he emerges onto 86th Street and struts down several blocks as the song “Staying Alive” plays in his head.

Bob is reliving the opening scene of the 1977 motion picture “Saturday Night Fever.” And he’s not alone. As he mimics one of his favorite movie sequences, other people around the United States are fantasizing theirs.

Keeping Movie Memories Alive from Maine to Hawaii

From the U.S. states of Maine to Hawaii, places where parts or all of movies were filmed attract both residents of, and visitors to, the country who are seeking to hold onto memories of beloved motion pictures. At locations ranging from a delicatessen in New York City to a beach in Hawaii, from a reformatory in the state of Ohio to an island off the coast of South Carolina, people recapture treasured scenes.

Some folks stop by Katz’s Delicatessen in New York City and plop down at a table marked by a sign which identifies it as a prop from the 1989 movie “When Harry Met Sally.” That’s where Meg Ryan acted out the famous fake orgasm scene which prompted an elderly woman seated at a nearby table, who was played by the mother of the director Rob Reiner, to tell the waitperson, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

A memorable scene in “When Harry Met Sally” was filmed at Katz’s Delicatessen in New York City. Photo from Katz’s Delicatessen
A memorable scene in “When Harry Met Sally” was filmed at Katz’s Delicatessen in New York City. Photo from Katz’s Delicatessen

A number of visitors to the state of Maine are on quest to relive scenes from movies based on books by the best-selling author Stephen King. That master of horror has lived in Maine for most of his life and places with which he’s familiar play roles in his novels, and motion pictures which are based on them.

For example, the Thomas Hill Standpipe, a water tower built in the city of Bangor in 1897, shows up in his novel ‘IT” when the bodies of drowning victims are found inside the structure. The Mount Hope Cemetery is the setting for scenes from “Pet Sematary,” and the names of some characters in that film are believed to have been borrowed from headstones.

King’s creepy Victorian-style house in Bangor, Maine also is worth a look-see. It dates back to 1858 and is surrounded by a fence that’s decorated with bats and gargoyles.

Steven King’s House looks frightening enough to be included in a movie. Photo from Maine Office of Tourism 
Steven King’s House looks frightening enough to be included in a movie. Photo from Maine Office of Tourism

As long as you’re in Maine, you might wish to take in other film locations. Sand Beach on Mt. Desert Island was the site of a picnic in “The Cider House Rules.”  The Marshall Point Lighthouse near Point Clyde is where Forrest Gump ended his run across the country from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic in the movie that bore his name.

Not surprisingly, the magnificent tropical state of Hawaii has a number of motion picture claims to fame. In what may be the most legendary beach scene of all time, Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr engaged in a passionate kiss on the shore of Halona Cave in the 1953 film titled “From Here to Eternity.”

A very different scene occurs in the original version of “Planet of the Apes” (1968) which starred a craggy looking Charlton Heston. The movie comes to an end on a beautiful strip of sand located between Zuma Beach and Point Dune in Malibu, Hawaii.

From Prison to Parole Room in Ohio

Locations in the state of Ohio provided the backdrop for much of the action in “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994).  Most of the film was shot in and around Mansfield, Ohio, and an immersive experience awaits those who seek out the locations.

The brooding Ohio State Reformatory played the role of the fictional Shawshank State Prison, which supposedly was in New England. Warden Norton’s office, the parole board meeting room and the tunnel through which Andy Dufresne escaped are among sites waiting exploration. The reformatory also houses what passed for the hotel room where Brooks stayed and, shortly after being paroled, died.

The Ohio State Reformatory aka Shawshank State Prison. Photo from Destination Mansfield/Richland county
The Ohio State Reformatory aka Shawshank State Prison. Photo from Destination Mansfield/Richland county

A self-guided Shawshank Trail Driving Tour leads devotees to 15 filming sites, including the courtroom where Andy was wrongly sentenced for killing his wife and her lover and the bus station where Red purchased a ticket to join his friend Andy in Mexico.

A very different locale provided the backdrop for one of a number of iconic characters played by the very popular actor Tom Hanks. Most locations portrayed in “Forrest Gump,” for which Hanks won an Academy Award, are grouped around Beaufort, South Carolina.

The fictitious town of Greenbow, Alabama, where Gump lived as a boy, is played by Varnville, South Carolina, a town of about 2,000 residents. The tiny bridge with a “Mississippi Welcomes You” sign which Forrest crosses is east of Beaufort.  Even the realistic Vietnam War scenes, when Gump first meets Bubba and Lieutenant Dan, were filmed on barrier islands off the South Carolina coastline.

Settings for Scenes Where They Took Place

The list of settings, imaginary and real, includes some places at or close to where they’re depicted in films. The dreamlike baseball diamond in the middle of a corn field in “Field of Dreams” (1989) is at a farm in Dyersville, Iowa, a town of about 4,000 people near the state’s eastern border. Fans of that movie continue to show up to tour the farm house and see, and run around, the regulation-sized field.

Fans of “Field of Dreams” still visit its filming location to run around the bases. Photo by David Carter/The Visual Playground
Fans of “Field of Dreams” still visit its filming location to run around the bases. Photo by David Carter/The Visual Playground

Alfred Hitchcock’s frightening film “The Birds” (1963), in which flocks of murderous sea gulls and crows viciously attack humans, was filmed in and around Bodega Bay and the nearby town of Bodega, a former fishing village on California’s coast.  Adding a touch of reality is the fact that the inlet actually is located along a major migration route and is a popular bird-watching site.

Among places associated with that motion picture are the Potter School building (now a private home), from which terrified children ran screaming while being attacked by birds, and the Tides Wharf and Restaurant.

Countless other places throughout the United States also have played roles in numerous motion pictures. They wait discovery and delight by fans seeking to keep alive memories of favorite movies.

If you go. For information about visiting movie sites throughout the United States, check out the website of each state’s tourism office.

Authors: Fyllis Hockman and Victor Block are a husband-wife team of experienced travel journalists who have gallivanted throughout the United States, and to nearly 80 countries around the world, and written about what they have seen, done and learned. Their articles have appeared in newspapers across the country and on websites across the Internet, and they each have won numerous writing awards. They love to explore new destinations and cultures and uncover off-the-beaten-path attractions. Read more of their work at The Rambling Writers