We’re at the start of the vacation season and so I thought it would be fun to review silent films that were shot on location. I define “on location” as anywhere outside the studio property. My goal is to cover films shot far and near, from Southern California to Europe to Africa.
I hope you’ll enjoy what I have in store for the month and while you’re waiting for the new reviews, here are some interesting pictures shot on location that I have already covered:
(For the sake of brevity, I will just describe all these films as being “shot on location” but, obviously, most had a good number of scenes shot on studio grounds as well.)
The Wind (1928): Shot in the western Mojave Desert, which I lived in and around most of my life. Needless to say, I find the cast and crew’s melodramatic accounts of desert-related hardships to be slightly hilarious.
Tol’able David (1921): Richard Barthelmess and Henry King’s ode to Americana was shot on location in Virginia.
Ben-Hur (1925): The production rather infamously collapsed in Italy. Twice. Comparatively little of the Italian footage is in the finished film but what a story to tell!
The Love Flower (1920): D.W. Griffith’s bonkers crime melodrama is one of the films he made in Florida and the Bahamas for… reasons. There actually were reasons but, good lord, it’s a long story.
A Modern Musketeer (1917): Douglas Fairbanks headed out to the Grand Canyon for this modern swashbuckler.
The Trail of ’98 (1928): Go to Alaska, they said. Cross a wild river, they said. What could go wrong, they said. So what if we lose a few stuntmen?
Michael Strogoff (1926): A French/German production with a cast made up mostly of Russian exiles who were not too keen on returning home, this epic used Latvia to sub for Russia. According to leading man Ivan Mosjoukine, it took fourteen railway cars to transport the costumes, props and equipment. The Latvian army supplied the cavalry.
The Married Virgin (1918): An early Rudolph Valentino appearance makes this film notable but movie buffs will also enjoy seeing Hotel del Coronado (you know it from Some Like it Hot) in San Diego.
Back to God’s Country (1919): More dangerous, snowy conditions. The original leading man actually died from pneumonia brought on by the Canadian winter.
There are many more titles but I had better wrap this up before I go on too much. Anyway, I have a nice stack of titles all ready to go and I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I did!
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I often find that a single location shot in an otherwise boring movie suddenly enhances it enormously for me. I love to get a look at the streets of New York or Paris from a hundred years ago!
Wings and The Big Parade had some footage shot in San Antonio Texas where I live. If it weren’t for some historic City fotografs I wouldn’t be able to recognise the locations used. And thanks for your contribution for keeping the silent films alive.
Thanks so much! It’s always fun to see your hometown as it was a century ago.
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