Maine is not a great movie making destination but we have had a few films made here that show of the beauty of the state. If you have a few free minutes, consider adding one of this to your “must watch” list in the next few months.
Empire Falls (2005). A made-for-TV miniseries that was good, not great (as is so often the case, the book was better). It was filmed primarily in Waterville. There was lots of excitement when Paul Newman, Ed Harris, Helen Hunt and the rest of the cast came to town. Aidan Quinn was arrested for drunk driving, which, given the extent of things to do in Waterville (ie, not much) is not too surprising.
The Preacher’s Wife (1996). This remake of the 1947 The Bishop’s Wife was primarily filmed in New Jersey–but the ice skating scene was shot in Deering Oaks Park in Portland. The cast and crew arrived in mid-February, normally ideal ice skating weather but Portland was having an unusual warm spell so no snow or ice anywhere in sight! They improvised but the scene ended up being much shorter than originally intended.
The Man Without a Face (1993). Mel Gibson’s directorial debut was filmed on Deer Isle with additional scenes in Camden, Rockport, Lincolnville, and on the Bowdoin College campus in Brunswick. This movie gives very nice views of he state and the story isn’t bad, either.
The Whales of August (1987). This film was notable for bringing together a number of famous stars for a final reunion: Bette Davis, Lillian Gish, Vincent Price, Ann Sothern, and Harry Carey, Jr. It was notable in my book for being a little…tedious, but maybe if I re-watched it today I would appreciate it more. It was filmed entirely on Cliff Island in the Pitkin House. You can visit Cliff Island and the Pitkin House (view it from the outside, not go in) from Portland. Take the Casco Bay Ferry to Cliff Island (1.5 hours one way) and walk about 30 minutes to the Bluffs. There is a general store on the island which makes sandwiches and serves ice cream, if you wanted to pack a picnic or have a snack.
Peyton Place (1957). This steamy pot-boiler (although not as steamy as the book) was filmed primarily in Camden with additional scenes shot in Belfast and Rockland. Lana Turner did not come to Maine for filming (who knows why? I don’t) so her scenes were shot on a sound stage at 20th Century-Fox, creating some continuity glitches in the movie. Interestingly, in the book, the fictional town of Peyton Place was based on Gilmanton, NH but the movie was made in Maine. Another movie with a New England flip-flop was On Golden Pond (1981) with Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn. In the book, Golden Pond was in Maine but the movie was filmed on Squam Lake in New Hampshire.
Carousel (1956). In the original plan, most of Carousel was supposed to be filmed in Boothbay Harbor but in the end, only bit and pieces of the original on-location scenes remain. Various theories are offered for why this is although it seems that lighting was a major problem (all the evening and night scenes came out too dark and had to be re-shot on a sound stage) and well as technical difficulties related to the type of film (Cinemascope 55 mm vs. traditional 35 mm film). The famous scene where Gordon MacRae (Billy Bigelow) sings “Soliloquy” was filmed on a beach in Malibu, California. This drives me bananas since beaches in California look nothing like beaches in Maine! Personally, I find watching Carousel to be a bit of a slog (right up there with the original Oklahoma! starring [surprise!] Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones). This video of “June is Busting Out All Over” gives some nice views of Boothbay Harbor as well as some terrific choreography–and it’s 120 minutes shorter than the movie, which means you can do something else with the 2 hours of time you saved not watching the whole movie!
Don’t be confused by A Summer Place (1959). This is another pot- boiler and I will admit, one of my guilty pleasures. The story takes place on fictional Pine Island, Maine but the entire movie was filmed in California–Monterey, Carmel, and various sound stages on the Warner Brothers lot. The house at the end, where Ken and Sylvia are living, is the Della Walker house, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It is still extant and can be see at 26333 Scenic Road, Carmel Point. Googling I note that it was open a few years ago as part of a fundraising house tour! I would love to see it someday.