Philadelphia Sites That Have Figured In The Films

Posted: July 31, 1987

So you've finally overdosed on summer films.

What was it? The bubble gum on the floor? The noisy characters in the front row? Or was the four-star rating on that last feature - Revenge of the Full Metal Beverly Hills RoboCop: Part IV - just too much?

No matter. You need to stretch your legs and take a walk around this city of ours. Let's hit the streets for some enlightened exercise.

No, it's not another guided tour of the Cradle of Liberty. What we have in mind is something a little more attuned to your interests, something for those of you whose idea of culture is a black and white film.

We call it the Hollywood Guide to Philadelphia.

Actually, the Philadelphia Film Office is responsible for this tour. The office has coordinated the dozens of film projects - not just major movies, but television shows, music videos and commercials - that have used Philadelphia as a set.

The scenes are as familiar as Rocky running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, as obscure as the Hooters rocking in a Center City parking garage. Some of the scenes, such as the police station in Trading Places, aren't what they seem. And others, like the intersection of 14th and Hall in Mikey and Nicky, don't even exist.

So, film buffs, put on your running shoes. Our first stop is the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and we're gonna sprint up the steps just like Rocky.

When you get to the top, don't bother looking for the hero of Rocky I, II, III or IV. Though Sylvester Stallone's film series has introduced Philadelphia to millions, the museum rejected a monument to the series' place in filmdom - a statue of our hero raising his boxing gloves. It was too plebeian for museum tastes, so to find the Rocky statue you have to go all the way to South Philadelphia, where it stands on the steps of the Spectrum.

While the museum's exterior is probably most familiar to filmgoers, the museum's interior - home to about a half-million artworks - did make the silver screen on one occasion. The film was Dressed to Kill, but unfortunately, the museum didn't get any billing. Instead, it doubled for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City as the scene of Angie Dickinson's romantic pursuit.

Before you leave the museum hill, take a look down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. This is Philadelphia's most scenic boulevard, and it's been the location for numerous commercials and television shows, including a segment of Entertainment Tonight.

At the foot of Rocky's steps, on Eakins Oval, you'll find a statue of a mounted George Washington, father of our country and star of his own television mini-series. (But we're getting ahead of ourselves. That comes later in the tour.)

First head east on Spring Garden Street to 17th Street, home of the Community College of Philadelphia. If those front steps look familiar but you can't place them, it's because the college served a different purpose in Trading Places. Formerly the U.S. Mint, the college's main building was the police station where Dan Aykroyd had his run-ins with the law.

Go south on 17th Street to Walnut, hang a right and walk to Rittenhouse Square. In Rocky II, Stallone and Talia Shire strolled there, and in Trading Places, Eddie Murphy rolled there, pretending to be a blind amputee who had served in Vietnam.

On the east side of the square, the Curtis Institute at 18th and Locust was the Heritage Club, a Union League-esque men's club in Trading Places. On the opposite side of the park is the Dorchester apartment building, outside which Andrew McCarthy met his girlfriend in Mannequin.

Walk a few blocks south and you'll see one of the reasons film producers are drawn to this city. It's Delancey Place, one of the quietest streets in Philadelphia. Delancey exudes elegance, so Trading Places used the house at 2014 as Aykroyd's posh residence. The house at 1823 was used in the opening sequence of the television series Angie.

If you're into rock, wander back to the 1700 block of Chancellor Street. It looks like an alley, but the Park America Inc. garage was just the thing the Hooters needed for a video, "Johnny B."

From here, it's a short jaunt to the southeast corner of 15th and Locust Streets. In a former life, a Dewey's Restaurant was in business on this corner, and aside from prostitutes and other night people, it attracted the makers of Witness. Harrison Ford, Lukas Haas and Kelly McGillis munched on hot dogs at Dewey's just before splitting for the Amish country. Today there is nothing here but a sterile-looking bank. Shame. Another loss for the preservationists.

On Broad Street, you don't have to be a movie star to park your car in the middle of the street, and you don't have to be a pin-striped stockbroker to walk into the "Duke & Duke" brokerage. That's because "Duke & Duke" - headquarters of the scheming brothers played by Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy in Trading Places - is actually the Fidelity Bank Building at 135 S. Broad St.

North of Fidelity, at Broad and Market, is City Hall, which has had a share of attention in films.

If the scaffolding ever comes down, stand to the northwest of the hall and check out the "obscene" view of William Penn that the kids joked about in Birdy.

In Blow Out, John Travolta discovered the best way to travel through the City Hall courtyard when he raced up Market Street in a Jeep. He somehow bypassed Dilworth Plaza and drove beneath the building's arches, avoiding both falling stonework and panhandlers. But upon emerging on the east side of the hall, he lost control of his Jeep and crashed into a display window at John Wanamaker.

The window - at Wanamakers' northwest corner, at Market and Juniper Streets - is repaired, but the sidewalk is torn up, thanks to the Market Street reconstruction project. Get off the street and go inside, to the store's Grand Court. Wanamakers was made for the movies - Rocky II used it for a shopping scene, and it was the featured location in the film Mannequin (Kim Cattrall even flew a lightweight aircraft through the court).

Not to be outdone by its competition, the Gallery, on Market Street, was a bit player in Just the Way You Are, when it served as a background for Kristy McNichol as she boarded a SEPTA bus.

We're getting close to Philadelphia's historic district, and here's where you can see some of the stuff that made the city famous 200 years ago:

* In the two TV mini-series, George Washington and Washington II: The Forging of a Nation, the city's historic district was naturally the star. Among the real-life scenes were Independence Hall, Sixth and Market Streets, the Hill-Physick-Keith House at 321 S. Fourth St., and the Powel House at 224 S. Third St. (Washington actually slept at the Powel House on more than one occasion.) Other scenes for the Washingtons were shot at Head House Square, Second and Pine Streets.

* St. Elsewhere filmed a scene with William Daniels and Bonnie Bartlett in front of Independence Hall and, for some reason, the TV show pictured traffic moving the wrong way on Chestnut Street.

* Trading Places, Blow Out, Cross Country and The In Crowd also filmed at Independence Hall.

If you have the energy, here are a few other film locations you can visit - or just wait until you get the films on video:

* 30th Street Station is a scary place, according to the movies. In Blow Out, Nancy Allen was abducted there by John Lithgow, and in Witness, Lukas Haas witnessed a murder in the men's room.

* At 46th and Market Streets, Matthew Modine and Nicolas Cage chased pigeons under the El stop in Birdy; the yellow brick building on the corner is where television's American Bandstand was based.

* At the University of Pennsylvania, St. Elsewhere filmed a scene with William Daniels along Locust Walk, and Bill Cosby shot a segment during the Penn Relays at Franklin Field for The Cosby Show.

* The AME Church at 41st and Spring Garden Streets is the church pictured in the title sequence for Sherman Hemsley's sitcom Amen.

* The Woodland Cemetery, at 40th Street and Woodland Avenue, was used in Mikey and Nicky, starring Peter Falk and John Cassavetes, though the scene is so dark that you can't see the gravestones. By the way, though Mikey and Nicky ostensibly takes place in Philadelphia, director Elaine May takes plenty of liberties: She places a rundown bar at the trendy corner of Second and South, and a movie theater at 14th and Hall.

Fourteenth Street in Philadelphia? Only in the movies.

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