This FRIDAY JUNE 3! 5-8 PM! I’ll be at VINTAGE BOOKS AND FINE ART in historic EASTON to help celebrate FIRST FRIDAY – EASTON NIGHT OUT! Join us for a lively community evening – the streets will be filled with family fun, music, and excitement. Come explore beautiful downtown Easton’s phenomenal collection of shops, restaurants, and art galleries, including the awesome collection of gifts at Vintage, one of the coolest independent bookstores on the Eastern Shore!
Easton, the seat of the Eastern Shore of Maryland’s Talbot County, has a connection to filmmaking that dates back to some of cinema’s earliest days.
I Will Repay is a long-lost silent movie filmed in and around Easton in the autumn of 1917. Based on a short story by O. Henry, I Will Repay featured Talbot County’s own George Junkin, acting onscreen under the stage name George J. Forth. This was his fifth motion picture in his first year. He only made two more films before leaving the industry for a career in radio, another upstart entertainment industry. Some of the first scenes ever shot in Easton were filmed at the old train station, the South Harrison Street home of Congressman J. Harry Covington, and at the Hotel Norris, one of several subsequent names given to the Hotel Avon (c.1891) which once sat where the iconic Tidewater Inn, opened in 1949, is now located. The Tidewater Inn and the nearby Avalon Theatre (c.1922) are particularly notable throughout the town’s long relationship with Hollywood.
Another lost silent picture, In the Land of Legendary Lore, released in 1918, was a hyper-fictionalized romantic version of a historic love story. In-town locations filmed included the Religious Society of Friends’ Third Haven Meeting House, an Easton landmark that dates back to 1684 and is refuted to be the oldest wooden framed house of worship in America. The third floor of the town music hall served as a studio for indoor sequences. Nearby estates Ratcliffe Manor and Plimhimmon, both dating back to a 1659 survey, were also used for background scenery. Based on a 1898 story by a mercenary and adventurer named Colonel Prentiss Ingraham (1843-1904) who resided in Easton for a few years towards the end of his own screen-worthy life, Land of Legendary Lore was one of the approximately 600 novels and 400 shorter works Ingraham published, including over 100 legend-building tales of Buffalo Bill Cody. For the film adaptation, Ruth Beauchamp of Easton was cast as Jane Lowe, and though it was her first experience on camera, the Star Democrat reported that her acting, paired with her “dainty and charming personality,” left “nothing to be desired.”
In 1928, The First Kiss, starring a young Fay Wray and Gary Cooper, filmed in Easton and the nearby waterfront town of St. Michaels. Easton locations included the courthouse and jail. When it came time to shoot the climatic courtroom scenes, 200-300 locals cast as extras were stationed inside and out. Unfortunately, when The First Kiss premiered at Easton’s New Theater (later renamed the Avalon) in August of that year, excited locals were disappointed to see that due to technical difficulties those courthouse and jail scenes were not included in the final cut. A few weeks later, the film’s director Rowland V. Lee, a fan of the Eastern Shore, forwarded the scrapped footage back to Talbot County and the New Theater ran it for four nights to appreciative moviegoers.
The modern era of Easton’s claim to cinematic fame began with the location shoot for 1994’s mystery-thriller Silent Fall, directed by Australian Bruce Beresford and starring Richard Dreyfuss, the Eastern Shore born and raised Linda Hamilton, John Lithgow, and in their film debuts, nine-year-old Ben Faulkner from Baltimore who got commendable reviews in his first, and only, acting role, and as his sister, Liv Tyler, daughter of Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler, who would go on to a career with numerous notable performances. Over three weeks in early October 1993 the Silent Fall production team filmed around Easton. The town’s name on the police station was changed to Waterville and for a Halloween sequence, local children were happily recruited to go trick-or-treating a couple weeks early.
There have been other brushes with cinematic glory for Easton. In 1993, Nicholas Cage buzzed in and out of town while shooting some rural scenes for Guarding Tess with Shirley MacLaine that ended up on the cutting room floor and one of the town’s most recent cameos came in 2016 with Jackie starring Natalie Portman in an Oscar-nominated portrayal of Jaqueline Kennedy in the days following her husband’s assassination. Scenes for this film were taken at the Easton Newman Field Airport and at Tred Avon Manor (c.1800) which stands in for the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.
Read more about Easton and the movies made there in STARDUST BY THE BUSHEL: HOLLYWOOD ON THE CHESAPEAKE BAY’S EASTERN SHORE available now online and at various booksellers and retail outlets around Delmarva.
VINTAGE BOOKS AND FINE ART, located at 4th North Washington Street, across from the Talbot County Courthouse (c.1794), is a bookstore gallery specializing in fine regional art, antique maps, historic documents, hard-to-find vintage newspapers and ephemera, and rare editions of titles shelved under such scholarly topics as Medicine, Philosophy, Poetry, Literature, and Eastern Shore history. For almost ten years, husband and wife owners Tim Boyle and Anne Ruecktenwald have offered their customers a unique array of exceptional collectables and the kind of service that builds long-term and mutually satisfying relationships. I’m honored by their support of STARDUST BY THE BUSHEL: HOLLYWOOD ON THE CHESAPEAKE BAY’S EASTERN SHORE.