Berlin is located in Worcester County at the juncture of U.S. Routes 50 and 113 on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and is less than ten miles west from the Atlantic Ocean. The village expanded around a tract of land patented from a 1677 land grant and Main Street runs along a historic pathway that was used by the native tribes of the region. In the 18th century, that ancient trail became part of the Philadelphia Post Road which connected colonists up and down the Shore to the centers of commerce to the north and west. Incorporated in 1868, Berlin was a commercial crossroads, and by the turn of the 20th century, the town offered travelers more choice of accommodations than were available in Ocean City.
Prominent figures from Berlin include the post-Revolutionary naval hero Commodore Stephen Decatur (1779-1820) and Rev. Charles Albert Tindley (1851-1933), the influential Methodist preacher and pioneering gospel music composer who wrote We Shall Overcome. Beauty queen Linda Harrison, born in 1945 and a member of one of Berlin’s leading families, played the sexy primitive Nova in the original Planet of the Apes.
In 1999, Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, and director Garry Marshall reteamed to try and capture some of the Rom-com chemistry and stardust generated by their 1990 megahit Pretty Woman. When it was decided by-the-powers-that-be that Berlin would be perfect to portray the quaint and quirky fictional hometown of Roberts’ Runaway Bride title character, a deal-clincher was that the town in the movie would be called Hale after Hale Harrison, one of Berlin’s most prominent native sons, Linda Harrison’s uncle, and owner of much of the real estate that would be in the picture once cameras started rolling.
Taking on a role like any actor would, Berlin, now Hale was subjected to the costuming and makeup departments. Old storefronts, some vacant, were temporarily converted into such locations as the Carpenter family hardware store, the Hale newspaper offices, and the beauty salon, Curl Up and Dye. Debbie Parker’s Victorian Charm gift shop was turned into a dress store for one important scene.
Runaway Bride opened at #1 and was the ninth highest- grossing movie of the year, is still beloved by fans, and has had long- lasting positive impact on the town of Berlin. And though the most well-known, Runaway Bride wasn’t Berlin’s last brush with cinematic celebrity.
Berlin changed its name again, this time to Treegap, for Disney’s 2002 fantasy romance Tuck Everlasting, a remake of an under-the-radar 1981 movie based on an acclaimed novel by author Natalie Babbitt (1932-2016) starring Gilmore Girls’ Alex Bledel in her first movie, Jonathan Jackson (Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles, Nashville) as her character’s immortal teenage love-interest, and three Academy Award winning actors: Ben Kingsley, William Hurt, and Sissy Spacek.
To transform Berlin into early 20th century Treegap for the four-day shoot, producers removed all modern fences, sidewalks and electric lines that might show on film, and dumped tons of dirt on the streets to accommodate the old-time carriages and horse and buggy rigs cruising around. A nice wide shot of the town kicks the movie off, and for a few seconds Berlin goes back in time. There are a few other glimpses of the town early on, of particular fun is a stickball scene, and towards the end, there’s a contrasting bookend shot of modern Berlin that’s an effective storytelling device.
Today Berlin is an Eastern Shore success story. Captivated visitors amble down tree lined streets populated with eateries of every type, art galleries, unique shops and antique stores, and such landmarks as the restored Atlantic Hotel, and the Globe, now a popular restaurant and music venue. There are 47 structures here on the National Register of Historic Places, including those located in the downtown commercial district. In 2019, Berlin celebrated the 20th anniversary of Runaway Bride with guided walking tours and a town-movie night featuring toasts and a wedding cake.
This Saturday, I will be at Berlin’s wonderful Greyhound bookstore from 11-1 pm selling and signing copies of my new book Stardust by the Bushel: Hollywood on the Chesapeake Bay’s Eastern Shore. Please come by to say hello, browse a bit, maybe finish your holiday shopping (as always, Books Make Great Gifts!), and perhaps even pick up a copy of Stardust by the Bushel for yourself or as a present for that Eastern Shore history/movie lover in your life.
With over 60 shops and galleries and more than a dozen dining options, carriage rides and visits from Santa Claus, every weekend in Berlin in December is a Merry Marketplace!
Photographs courtesy of the Calvin B. Taylor House Museum and Linda Harrison.
Read more about Berlin, Runaway Bride, and other Eastern Shore filmmaking connections by ordering Stardust by the Bushel: Hollywood on the Chesapeake Bay’s Eastern Shore at https://secantpublishing.com/products/stardust-by-the-bushel