Rhode Island in the Limelight: Film

Rhode Island in the Limelight: Film

Exporting Rhode Island Culcha to the World!

Stacks of film canisters
Image courtesy Sabine Schostag/Wikimedia.

Since the early days of cinema, Rhode Island has been a prime filming location. Things were a little slow around here filmwise during the 1930s and '60s, but the '90s made up for that, earning our state the sobriquet "Hollywood of the East." And ever since the General Assembly passed legislation in 2005 granting tax breaks to productions filming in the Ocean State, the number of local projects has exploded. Listed below are dozens of features, documentaries, and shorts with Rhode Island connections. We've tried our best to list every location, within our borders, that has been immortalized on celluloid. If you know of one we've missed, drop us a line at stuffie@quahog.org.

For further information on film production in Rhode Island, see the Rhode Island Film and Television Office website.

Copies of many of the early, silent films listed below are owned by the Rhode Island Historical Society.

Warning: Here there be spoilers!

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Providence Commandery, Providence, R.I.

(1898) kinetoscope clip

This silent, black-and-white short is perhaps the very earliest filmed record of anything connected with Rhode Island. It was shot by the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on October 11, 1898. The occasion was the triennial conclave of the Knights Templar, a once-in-three-years gathering of members. It's likely that the film clip showcased the Providence Commandery's drilling chops. Other clips from the same event exist, for instance "Knights Templar Parade" "...shows the St. Bernard Commandery in the competition drill at Schenley Park," from which we can infer that the Providence contingent probably showed off their stuff in the same venue.

American Mutoscope was the first production company to visit Rhode Island (that we're aware of), and also happens to be the oldest movie company in the United States, established in 1896.

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"Columbia" Winning the Cup

(1899) kinetoscope clip

This short, silent, black-and-white clip from the Edison Manufacturing Company shows the USA's Columbia beating Ireland's Shamrock during the 1899 America's Cup competition. Columbia was designed and built by Bristol's Herreshoff Manufacturing Company.

From the Edison catalog: "The decisive moment in the great International Yacht Races is shown in this picture. Against a background of well defined clouds, the Light Boat is seen marking the finishing line in this great aquatic struggle. As the Columbia crosses the line, followed closely by the Shamrock, we see the steam from the whistle of the Light Ship announcing the well earned victory of the American yacht."

The races took place October 16 to 20, 1899, not in Rhode Island, but off Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

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Parade in Providence, R.I.

(1899) kinetoscope clip

Parades were apparently very popular subjects in the early days of film, perhaps because they showed lots of movement and pageantry. This is one of at least five silent, black-and-white shorts filmed by the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company in Providence in April 1899.

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Panoramic View of Newport

(1900) kinetoscope clip

This is one of eight or nine short films (from twenty-seven to 121 seconds in length) that were made by the Edison Manufacturing Company in 1900 for use with Edison Kinetoscopes. Narragansett Bay and the Naval Training Station in Newport were the settings for these clips, which were filmed during two separate visits. The first four or five clips were filmed in late April or early May 1900, and the other four were made in September, October, or early November 1900. The quotes in this and the following eight entries (with one exception so noted) are from Edison's catalog summaries.

The United States Navy used Narragansett Bay as a torpedo testing ground during the early part of the twentieth century. The seventy-three-second Panoramic View of Newport is the first of a series featuring the United States torpedo boat Morris. "Possibly the sensation of the flight of a bird can be nearest realized by being on deck of one of the U.S. Government's fleet torpedo boats racing at its highest speed through the water. This picture was taken under these conditions and shows the beautiful scenery comprising the harbor of Newport, R.I. In the foreground, the spray of the vessel and the foam on the water gives a fair idea of the rapidity at which this boat is moving. In the distance can be seen the wharves and shipping, including the large steamers that ply between New York and Boston. Various other objects can be seen passing the rear, and the busy motion of the men on the deck and the immense volumes of smoke escaping from the funnels all add life and energy to this picture."

Full versions of some of these films are also available for download from the Library of Congress's Digital Collections website.

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Discharging a Whitehead Torpedo

(1900) kinetoscope clip

This seventy-five-second clip shows the crew of the Morris "loading a Whitehead torpedo into the tube and then discharging it. The torpedo can be seen running along the surface of the water for a distance of over half a mile."

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Ben Bolt


Production still from Ben Bolt
Still from Ben Bolt. (IMDB).

This is the first known "feature" to be filmed, at least partially, in Rhode Island (New London, Connecticut, was another location). The silent, black-and-white, four-reeler, produced by the Solax Film Company, was released November 28, 1913.

A summary on IMDB describes the plot thusly: "Ben wins the hand of a prosperous merchant's daughter by finding the father's lost trading ship, but not before a rival suitor lays several traps along the way."

The film seems to have been based—very loosely—on a popular 1843 poem of the same name by Thomas Dunn English, which was turned into a song and recorded by a number of artists prior to 1913. The maudlin poem has an old codger prodding his friend, Ben Bolt, to remember their long-ago childhood, and how all the places they remember are changed, the buildings fallen down, their friends dead.

The poem and the song begin with the lines:

Don't you remember sweet Alice, Ben Bolt,
Sweet Alice whose hair was so brown,
Who wept with delight when you gave her a smile,
And trembled with fear at your frown?

Alice was the name of the "prosperous merchant's daughter" from the movie. In the last line of the poem the narrator describes Ben as "Ben Bolt of the salt-sea gale," implying he had been a sailor. Those few lines were apparently enough upon which to hang an entire forty-minute tale.

No copy of the film is known to exist.

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Shore Acres


This five-reel screen version of James A. Herne's popular melodrama of the same name, was filmed in September and October 1914, and released on October 26 of the same year. The story takes place in Maine and involves a farmer/lighthouse keeper whose daughter elopes by sea with a doctor. An October 4, 1914, Providence Journal article reported a production company associated with this film was working on Block Island, and the setting in a production still (below) on IMDB looks suspiciously like Castle Hill Light in Newport.

Farmer with shotgun standing outside door of lighthouse
Left, Charles A. Stevenson plays Nathaniel, the uncle of the girl who elopes. (Image from IMDB). Right, Castle Hill Light, Newport, 2014.

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Calvary Baptist Church

(1914) short film

This ten-minute film, one of the holdings of the Rhode Island Historical Society, was shot on June 14, 1914, and documents part of a Children's Day celebration. The following description is from the RIHS catalog: "Outside church with cars and trolley moving past. Pastor Edward Holyoke, Superintendent Thomas W. Waterman and Assistant Treasurer Frank E. Ballou on steps of church. Parade of all the church members coming out front door of church and past the camera. Pastor Edward Holyoke and Thomas W. Waterman presenting a Loving Cup and bouquet of flowers to Fred C. Lawton on steps of church." The film was restored in 2010 using a National Film Preservation Foundation grant.

Calvary Baptist Church still stands at 747 Broad Street in Providence and has an active congregation.

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Cap'n Eri


Illustration of Cap'n Eri from the 1904 novel
"Cap'n Eri." (Illusration from the 1904 novel).

Conimicut, Warwick, was the setting for this Eastern Film Corporation production, based on the 1904 novel Cap'n Eri: A Story of the Coast by Cape Cod writer Joseph C. Lincoln, and directed by George A. Lessey.

The novel tells the story of three retired sea captains living together in the fictional Cape Cod town of Orham. Realizing that none of them are very good housekeepers, they determine that one of them will have to get married, and so they advertise for a wife. Events proceed from there. Wanna read the novel? Find it for free on the Project Gutenberg website.

In December of 1914, the Eastern Film Corporation was founded by Frederick Peck of Barrington. The Corporation's headquarters, located at 1-17 McKinley Street in the "Old Park Brewery" buildings, bordering Roger Williams Park and Elmwood Avenue, was the place where some of our nation's first silent pictures were filmed. Shooting began in the spring of 1915 and continued through late fall with a company of over eighty actors, directors and technicians. When winter approached, the company moved to Florida, and, for financial reasons, never returned.

But during that year, at least thirteen films were made. Comedies, westerns, series, features, documentaries and war films were produced there, with titles such as The Man Who Looks Like Me, The Labor Day Parade (newsreel footage of the 1915 event in Providence), Nora Declares War, and A Christmas Story.

Filming continued at those studios through 1919 by companies leasing Eastern's space. [They included] the Amber Star Film Corporation, Harry Myers and Rosemary Theby (who later worked for Universal Studios in New York), the Burns Brothers, General Film Company, and a company with no known name, which produced The Wives Union, a comedy.

—From the Providence Film Commission's "Film History in Providence."

The September 29, 1915, issue of The Moving Picture World reported that Eastern had, the previous week, constructed a whole house at Conimicut, at a cost of $500, only to set it on fire. "A battery of four cameras was trained on the structure, and after several preliminary scenes had been made, gasoline and oll was poured over the entire structure and with the blaze at its height, George Bunny, brother of the late John; William Mandeville and Herbert Bostwick, the three principal characters in 'Cap'n Eri,' entered the bulling and enacted their parts."

Screenshot of burning house
(Screenshot, The Moving Picture World, September 25, 1915).

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Alibi Bill

(circa 1915)

In 1914 Joseph Byron Totten, an actor, writer, and director, purchased a large farm in Voluntown, Connecticut, not far from the Rhode Island border. Soon he was churning out silent features and shorts, staging them on his farm and in nearby environs, including downtown Westerly, Rhode Island, which he often used for "big city" scenes. One of the first of these features was Alibi Bill, a western based on a play Totten had written for a 1912-'13 Broadway run.

"I certainly received big thrills," Totten told a Providence Journal reporter in 1938, "because when we took scenes on Westerly streets, people drove in for miles in buggies and autos to watch us. They stopped all traffic to look at the made-up actors and actresses. Little did we realize what a tremendous industry motion pictures would develop into..."

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America Preparing


A ten-reel war propaganda documentary filmed partially in Newport. Silent, black-and-white. This is considered a "lost film"—no known print survives.

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American Aristocracy


This early Douglas Fairbanks vehicle includes scenes shot at Ocean House in Westerly.

The 136-year-old Ocean House and its property were sold in 2004 to financier Charles Royce, who had planned to restore the hotel for continued operation. But the cost of restoration proved to be prohibitive, so the building was torn down in 2005. The contents of the hotel were not included in the original sale and were auctioned off on November 27, 2004. Included among the items for sale were some of the dozens of chairs that can be seen lining the porch of Ocean House in American Aristocracy.

Between 2005 and 2010, the hotel was rebuilt with modern materials and building methods.

The fifty-one minute film is silent. The opening card reads: "Has America an aristocracy? We say yes! And to prove it we take you to Narraport-by-the-Sea, where we find some of our finest families whose patents of nobility are founded on such deeds of daring as the canning of soup, the floating of soap, and the borating of talcum."

"Narraport" is a portmanteu of two of Rhode Island's most popular resort destinations in the 1910s—Narragansett and Newport.

Watch the full fifty-one-minute movie:

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Carolina Blues


Poor Little Rhode Island sheet music
"Poor Little Rhode Island" sheet music.

Notable for the inclusion of the song "Poor Little Rhode Island":

Poor Little Rhode Island,
The smallest of the forty-eight.
You've got no prairie moon
For which coyotes croon,
But I still think you're great.

You're such a teentsy weentsy
Poor Little Rhode Island.
Let all the Texans 'yip-i-ay,'
You're still the best part of
This land I dearly love,
And I'll include I-o-way.

They've written songs about the South,
They've written songs about the North,
And I've heard them say
There's nothing finer than Carolina in the morning,
But how about the nights in
Poor Little Rhode Island?

Be careful if you're fancy free
In Providence one day.
She stole my heart away;
I dream of her constantly.

Let the sun shine bright
On your Old Kentucky Home,
Rhode Island's the place for me.

Words by Sammy Cahn, music by Jule Styne

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The Sting


Narragansett Park, Pawtucket
Narragansett Park, Pawtucket. (Circa 1950s postcard).

The fake tip "Blue Note in the fourth race at Narragansett" helps set up the big con. Narragansett Park, opened in 1934, was a horse racing venue located in Pawtucket. It closed in 1978. From about 1989 to 2013 discount closeout retailer Building 19 1/9 occupied the grandstand building where racing enthusiasts once placed bets.

More than one person on Facebook, commenting on a post related to Narragansett Park, recalled that when they saw The Sting at the Four Seasons Cinemas, less than a mile from the race track, the audience reacted to the local reference with cheers and laughter.

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The Betsy


A horrible movie, and one which we don't imagine is being touted in tourist brochures for Newport's Rosecliff Mansion, The Elms, or The Breakers, where scenes were shot to represent the lavish home of auto magnate Loren Hardeman Sr. (Laurence Olivier).

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The Americanization of Itri


This thirty-minute documentary about immigrants from the Itri region of Italy was filmed in the Knightsville section of Cranston. Director Salvatore Mancini came to Cranston from Itri when he was three years old.

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At one point Arthur (Dudley Moore) tries to pass off his hooker date (Anne De Salvo) as the princess of a small, unnamed country: "There's a very small country in the West Indies. I mean small. It's terribly small. Tiny little country. Rhode Island could beat the crap out of it in a war. That's how small it is. Eighty-five cents in a cab from one end of the country to the other. I'm talking small. They recently had the whole country carpeted. This is not a big place."

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The Bostonians


The Bostonians poster

The scenes taking place at Mrs. Henry Burrage's (Nancy Marchand), 250 Fifth Avenue, New York, were shot at Château-sur-Mer in Newport.

Château-sur-Mer shows up around fifty-six minutes in. (Screenshot).

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By a Thread


Info on the Rhode Islandy aspects of this film is extremely scanty. All we know is that it was made by Jamestown resident Craig Richardson (who later directed Anima), and it was shot at locations "throughout the state."

Alternative title: Flukes.

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The Age of Innocence


According to the IMDB, some portion of this film, based on the novel by Edith Wharton, was shot in Portsmouth. It would make sense that the scene in question would be the one where Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) sees Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer) on the pier, but doesn't speak to her. Although some of the action of the film takes place in Newport and Middletown, we're not aware that any filming was done in those towns.

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American Buffalo


This adaptation of a David Mamet play was directed by Michael Corrente and stars Dustin Hoffman and Dennis Franz. The story concerns the conflict that occurs between Don (Franz), owner of the run-down Hagist Appliances, his unstable friend "Teach" (Hoffman), and Don's teenaged protégé Bob (Sean Nelson) as plans are formed to rob a collector of his coins. As in most works by Mamet, there's plenty of tension and repetitive dialogue.

Hand-drawn map of filming locations, circa 1996.
This contemporary handout prepared by the Rhode Island Film and Television Office details all the locations used in the film.

All filming took place around the intersection of Broad, Exchange, and Summer Streets in Pawtucket. Dustin Hoffman arrived in town on May 20, 1995, and May 22 was spent in rehearsals and blocking. The Providence Journal reported that "For one scene, Hoffman yesterday kicked a yield sign, then a garbage can, and then ripped the receiver off a pay phone to try to convey the anger of his character." The Times Square Diner was at the heart of the action, and would later play a part in the film, but remained open during preproduction activities. "Breakfast patrons appeared utterly aghast as Hoffman and company burst in the door and started their rehearsal shtick. Corrente... grabbed a broom from the diner at one point and came barreling out the door, making giant sweeping motions. Hoffman went back in and escorted waitress Sharlene Whitman from behind the counter and out onto the sidewalk where they posed for a photograph, arms around each other's waists."

Riverside Diner, 2000.
The former Times Square Diner was renamed Riverside Diner for the film and given this spiffy new exterior. (August 27, 2000).

An out-of-work construction worker named Dave Pepin, who apparently was just passing by, was hired off the street as an extra because he looked kinda like Hoffman. He had to work for free, however, so his SSI payments wouldn't be in jeopardy. Another local, Barry Coutu of Barrington, was hired as a stand-in for Hoffman.

Filming began on June 1, 1995. The initial scenes were shot inside the diner, which was renamed the Riverside Diner for the movie, and in the American Shoe Shining Parlor around the corner. In addition to the new name, the diner was also given a new silver and black exterior makeover. The pink exterior of another restaurant across the street, Restaurante Lisboa A Noite, was covered up with mustard-colored paint. New names were given to all of the storefronts in the sprawling Fanning Building on Broad Street, including the one where most of the film's action takes place, Hagist Appliances.

American Shoe Shining Parlor, 2001
American Shoe Shining Parlor. The second chair from the right is where Dennis Franz sat to have his shoes shined in the movie. (March 11, 2001).

Teach's hotel room was located in the McDevitt Building on Broad Street, while the hotel stairway was in the Fanning Building. (Here's a little piece of coincidental trivia—the middle name of Libby Langdon, the director's wife, happens to be Fanning.) A parking lot at Broad and Humes Streets was transformed into a flea market. The decrepit 1915 Leroy Theater, which anchored one end of the Fanning Building and had been empty for a number of years, helped lend an air of economic desperation to the film.

Screenshot of Leroy Theatre block.
This screenshot from the film shows most of the block that served as the primary shooting location. The crumbling marquee of the Leroy Theatre is at left, Hagist Appliances at right.

Another view of the Broad Street block, circa 1996.
Another view of the Broad Street block, circa 1996. The building to the left of the theater had already been demolished, and the rest of the block would soon follow. (Pawtucket History Research Center).

Soon after on-site filming ended on July 11, the director and the three actors immortalized their achievement by placing their hands in cement in front of the Riverside Diner. This square of cement is optimistically referred to as the Hollywood Walk of Fame in some of Pawtucket's tourism literature.

Pawtucket's Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Pawtucket's super-glamorous "Hollywood Walk of Fame." (August 27, 2000).

The block that contained the Leroy Theater and the appliance store was demolished in 1999 to make way for a Walgreens. (125 of the Leroy's seats went to outfit the theater at the Blackstone Valley Visitor's Center on Roosevelt Avenue, and the first five three-foot-tall letters from the venue's sign now adorn director Corrente's Providence apartment). As of 2019 The Riverside Diner is a clothing store, while the shoeshine parlor space has been vacant since at least 2011.

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Andre the Giant Has a Posse


This seventeen-minute documentary, directed by Helen Strickler, details the origins and meanings (or lack thereof) behind the guerrilla art campaign that put the face of Andre the Giant on stop signs, billboards, and walls all over the world. It all started in a Providence skateboard shop...

Screenshot: Governor's State Room
Andre stickers all over Providence, 2000-2011.

A brief opening scene takes place in the parking lot of Atlantic Mills in Olneyville. The interview scenes with Shepard Fairey take place in his print shop, Alternate Graphics, formerly located at 410 Angel Street. Providence-based puppet troupe Big Nazo also makes an appearance.

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This tale of an 1839 revolt aboard the slave ship Amistad and the subsequent trial made excellent use of several locations in Jamestown, Bristol, Providence, and Newport during March 1997.

Jamestown: In the scene where the Africans row ashore in a lifeboat, they land on Fort Wetherill Beach.

Bristol: The river in the woods where the Africans fill their buckets is located on Mount Hope Farm in Bristol. The house on the same property was used for the scene where the courier arrives at John Adams' (Anthony Hopkins) farm with the letter from Roger Baldwin (Matthew McConaughey).

Providence: All exterior scenes of the nation's Capital Building in Washington, D.C., including those with Adams in the garden, are actually the Rhode Island State House. The interior scenes of President Van Buren (Nigel Hawthorne) in his office were shot in Governor Almond's State Room.

Garden, Rhode Island State House, 2001.
This garden on the Rhode Island State House grounds was specifically installed for the film. (February 18, 2001).

Newport: Newport's locations helped recreate nineteenth century New Haven, Connecticut. Washington Square was the setting for a couple of exterior shots, including the scene where the courier leaves New Haven with the letter for Adams. The jail façade was constructed out of painted fiberglass in Queen Ann's Square in front of Trinity Church. The Old Colony House hosted several scenes, most notably those that took place in the courtroom. The Old Colony House Green Room supplied the setting for Baldwin's office, where he composed his letter to Adams, and the attic of the building served as Theodore Joadson's (Morgan Freeman) bedroom. Marble House has the distinction of having doubled as both the Spanish Royal Palace (for the scenes with young Queen Isabella (Anna Paquin)) and Buckingham Palace (for the scene where Queen Victoria seals a letter with wax). The church where Judge Coglin (Jeremy Northam) wrestles with his decision is St. Mary's. The mansion where dinner guests are seen alighting from a carriage is Rosecliff.

Handout of filming locations, circa 1997.
This contemporary handout prepared by the Rhode Island Film and Television Office details all the Rhode Island locations used in the film.

Many extras were enlisted from Newport's winter population; local artist John Hagen sat in as the court artist and it's his hand that we see penning the letter requesting John Adams' help with the case.

Spielberg and his wife, Kate Capshaw, McConaghey, and Freeman all stayed at the Newport Marriot during filming, while the Hotel Viking hosted the crew and some extras.

During his stay, Spielberg made himself at home. According to the June 1997 issue of Rhode Island Monthly, "...he took in the Jim Carrey flick Liar Liar in Middletown; got a twenty percent discount at Newport's Rockport Company when he went shoe shopping with movie hunk and Amistad star Matthew McConaughey; and celebrated his son's birthday with wife Kate Capshaw at the Brick Alley Pub." And in the November/December 1999 issue of the online magazine MovieMaker, Spielberg was quoted as saying that he would film in Rhode Island again "in a heartbeat."

During the early planning stages of this film, Rick Smith, the head of the Film and Television Office of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, was reprimanded by his superiors for sending joke email—they didn't believe he was really corresponding with Steven Spielberg. That gives some indication of what the environment for film was like in Rhode Island at that time. All that changed when the production of Amistad came to Newport. The film boosted Newport's economy for nearly a year after filming wrapped up, bringing in about $5 million, and the doors were opened for a slew of new film projects.

Photojournalist Vic Farmer documented much of the action in Newport during filming in March 1987. His comments and photographs can be found here.

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BOXed Man


Written, produced, and directed by Middletown resident Nick Pasyanos, BOXed Man is a comedy about the corrugated box industry. It was filmed between July 11 and December 28, 1997 in forty locations thoughout Rhode Island. Pasyanos estimates that about a third of the film was shot in office buildings in the Lincoln Industrial, Cumberland Office, and Warwick Industrial Parks. Some scenes were shot in two Cumberland eateries on Mendon Road—Davenport's Restaurant (#1070) and Eggs Up (#2378). The Inn at Castle Hill in Newport was the setting for a love scene. Additional locations in Providence, Pawtucket, and Bristol were used, as well.

View on Youtube:

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Anima poster

Written and directed by Jamestown resident Craig Richardson, this independent film (original title: Perception) tells what happens when an investigative reporter begins looking into an elderly couple's odd hobby, involving taxidermy, mummification, and puppetry. Although the action supposedly takes place in Wyoming, Rhode Island, most of the story was filmed in Foster, with additional scenes shot in Jamestown, East Greenwich, Exeter, Clayville, North Scituate, Hope, and Providence.

Foster locations include the Moosup Valley Congregational Church and the Moosup Valley Grange on Moosup Valley Road, Helen's Place on Route 6, and the Valley Store. Providence's Bertucci and Pennine funeral homes also shared screen time.

Anima was the first feature film to win an award (Best American Feature) at the Newport International Film Festival.

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Alzira's Story

(2000) documentary

This is a documentary by Christian De Rezendes about his grandmother, Alzira de Jesus Soares, and her experiences immigrating to Rhode Island from Portugal as a sixteen-year-old in 1929. Alzira married a man from Valley Falls and, laboring over four decades, eventually sponsored twenty-four of her relatives—two bothers, two sisters, and their children—in their immigration to the U.S. The story is told through interviews that were recorded in the mid- to late 1990s, old photos, and home videos.

Alzira's Story was shot on location in Portugal; Attleboro, Massachusetts; Slatersville, North Smithfield; Pawtucket; and Woonsocket. It premiered in July 2000 at the Tourism Council Visitor's Center Theatre in Pawtucket, at the start of the Rhode Island International Film Festival, and had its television debut on Rhode Island PBS in 2004.

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Atlantis: The Lost Empire


It's amazing what you can do with animation these days...

Audrey (Jacqueline Obradors): Wow. Look at all those tattoos.
Cookie (Jim Varney): Shoot. That ain't nothin'. Look here what I got. [lifts up shirt] All thirty-eight United States. Watch me make Rhode Island dance. [wiggles his belly] Go on, baby, dance. Dance! There you go!

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(2001) short film

An army colonel, a businessman, a gangster, and a priest get together to play a board game. It's not the first line of a joke, it's part of the plot of Bedfellows, a $25,000, thirty-three-minute short, written, produced, and directed by Cranston filmmaker Michael Grilli. The game participants are playing to decide the fate of a kidnapped young woman, and before the story ends, bet on it, blood will be shed. Filmed primarily in the G.E. Monowatt mill complex off Elmwood Avenue in Providence, Bedfellows premiered at AS220 during the summer of 2001.

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Aleister! is a mockumentary horror film based on the life of occult legend Aleister Crowley. It was shot on digital video between July and October 2002 in Newport and Providence. An unnamed Newport mansion was used as a location. (Crowley reportedly spent time in the 1920s conducting seances at Newport's Wrentham House, aka Indian Spring, 325 Ocean Avenue).

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One Hour Photo


Seymour "Sy" Parrish (Robin Williams) is seen wearing a Rhode Island School of Design sweatshirt in the scene where he watches TV in the Yorkin family home.


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By The Sea


By the Sea poster

A young pastry chef (Elena Aaron) rediscovers her Cuban heritage while working in a hotel in Westerly. The ten-day October 2001 shoot included scenes in Wilcox Park and at the Westerly Train Station, but the Weekapaug Inn in Watch Hill is the locus of most of the action. The opening shots, at "Julian's restaurant," were shot at Aqua Viva, 286 Atwells Avenue, Providence. The baseball scenes utilized the talents of the Providence Grays vintage baseball team. Other local color includes shots of quahoggers on Quonochontaug Pond. A hallway at the Weekapaug Inn doubled as the hallway outside Lena's New York City apartment.

The film premiered at the Castle Cinema on Chalkstone Avenue in Providence, on April 28, 2002, the last night of the Providence Festival of New Latin American Cinema.


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Bedford Springs


We don't know much about this feature-length film, other than that it's a dark comedy that was partially filmed in Newport and Middletown.

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Getting Out of Rhode Island


Getting Out of Rhode Island DVD case

Morgan Stipe (Jeremy Banks) is desperate to escape his small-town Rhode Island roots and make it big in Hollywood, so he launches his own production company. To get things kick-started, he hosts a fundraising rollout party and invites his semi-famous friend, Jake Mattison (Robert Merrifield), as networking bait for a motley cast of forty-two actors, screenwriters, artists, choreographers, newspaper reporters, and other assorted wannabes. Egos clash, ambitions are dampened, secrets are revealed, feelings are hurt.

The party, and the filming, took place in the basement of director Christian de Rezendes' apartment at 409 North Main Street in Slatersville between 6:45 and 9:18pm on November 17, 2001. Filming was almost continuous, with only two breaks to reload the video camera. While backstory, basic character traits, and motivations were supplied to some of the actors, there was no script, and participants were left to improvise, in character, for the full two-and-a-half hour shoot.

Although almost the whole film takes place inside an apartment (with a few forays outdoors), Rhode Island permeates the movie. A Code of Ethics poster is prominent on one wall, as is one advertising "Blackstone Valley, Rhode Island." There are two video screens running during the party, one of which is showing something called, Road Movie RI. de Rezendes and actor John Dolber created this video especially for the movie on September 10, 2001, just driving randomly around Rhode Island's back roads with a video camera. The reporter who keeps interviewing party guests is from the Woonsocket Call. The bartender's table is dressed with a Newort Storm beer banner. And of course a great deal of the party talk has to do with being a filmmaker in Rhode Island and the state's standing as "Hollywood of the East."

We learned from one of the DVD's extra features that, in the scene where Quinley Blais (Ken Spassione) threatens to call 911, the actor meant to dial 411, but in the heat of the moment he accidentally dialed the real emergency number. The Rhode Island State Police showed up very soon afterward. Fortunately, the film shoot was completed when they arrived, and apparently no-one was charged.

Getting Out of Rhode Island premiered April 9, 2003, at the Castle Cinema in Providence, then went on to win Best of the Fest at the Black Point Film Festival.

Oh, and if you plan to view this movie, we advise taking some kind of motion sickness preventative beforehand.


In November 2023, Rezendes posted the whole movie to Vimeo.

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Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World


Replica Rose, c1970
The replica HMS Rose. (Circa 1970 postcard by Edwin Hills).

We don't usually list a movie just because it happens to have a Rhode Islander among the cast, but we don't mind making the odd exception. In this case the Rhode Islander in question is a ship, the HMS Rose, which plays the part of the HMS Surprise in Master and Commander.

Although she was built in 1970 at Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Rose spent most of the 1970s and '80s as a dockside attraction in Newport. She is a replica of the original HMS Rose, a ship captured from the French by the British in 1757 which was refitted and used against the colonies in the American Revolution. The original Rose saw a lot of action in Rhode Island waters, conducting anti-smuggling operations and raiding Block Island and Jamestown for supplies.

The replica Rose was purchased by Twentieth Century Fox in 2001, and was subsequently sailed from Newport to Puerto Rico, through the Panama Canal, and up the western coast of Mexico to San Diego in 2002, a thirty-six-day journey.

After her stint in Master and Commander, Rose was refitted for use in the 2011 fim Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. As of 2023 she works as a dockside attraction in San Diego under the name Surprise.

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The Cat in the Hat


The Cat (Mike Myers): Hey, Rhode Island license plate. You never see those.

Yeah, because Rhode Islanders almost never leave home. Why should they? Everything they could possibly want is found within Little Rhody's borders. And for anything that's not, there's television.

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Bone Sickness


Bone Sickness DVD cover
(DVD cover).

If you are a fan of tremendous amounts of watery arterial blood spraying from the ruptured bodies of the dead and the living alike, and are bored with scenes that actually progress the action of the story, this is your movie. Shooting took place at locations in Attleboro, Seekonk, Rehoboth, Pawtucket, and Providence between April 14, 2002 and January 2004. Most of the interior house shots are a pastiche of the homes of director Brian Paulin in Seekonk and lead actor Rich George in Pawtucket. The only recognizable Rhode Island location is a shot of downtown Providence, probably taken from Prospect Terrace, that shows up around an hour-and-a-half into the film.

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(2005) documentary

Buddy movie poster

Cherry Arnold spent almost a year following Providence Mayor Vincent A. "Buddy" Cianci, Jr. around with a camera. Just about any year in Buddy's thirty-year political career would have made a fine documentary, but Arnold happened to capture the one (2002-'03) in which Cianci was tried and convicted for running a criminal enterprise out of City Hall, and sentenced to more than five years in prison.

Arnold doesn't only cover that year, though. Through interviews, news footage, and photographs, and even materials from Cianci's own archives, tied together with narration by Warwick native James Woods, the film outlines Buddy's whole life, including a glimpse of his childhood. And as much as the piece is about Buddy, it's also about Providence, the city he promoted, bullied, sweet-talked, threatened, and charisma'ed from "armpit of New England" to "Renaissance City."

We'd argue that the film is also, at least nominally, about hairstyles. See Channel 10 news anchor Doug White's coif go from brown to white, without ever changing shape. Can you spot the point at which Buddy went from au natural to folically enhanced? Which toupee is he wearing in this clip, in this photograph? Is that the tousled salt and pepper piece used for fires and crime scenes, the distinguished silver-gray model for when he wants to appear statesmanlike, or the longer one he wears to cover up the fact that his real hair is in need of a trim?

The eighty-six-minute film premiered on the evening of August 11, 2005, at the Columbus Theatre in Providence, as part of the Rhode Island International Film Festival. Interest in the film was huge, with hundreds more people showing up than the theater had seats for. Among the crowd were Sheila Bentley, Buddy Cianci's ex-wife; FBI agent W. Dennis Aiken; and various ex-Cianci staffers.

Providence Journal film reviewer Elizabeth Gudrais noted the irony of the fact that Cianci had tried to have the Columbus shut down in the early 1990s. "At the time, the theater showed X-rated films; Cianci proposed taking it through eminent domain and making it into a high school for the performing arts."

With less than two percent of available footage being used in the documentary, Cherry Arnold promised that the DVD would be "a total collectible," incorporating tons of anecdotes and outtakes from the cutting room floor. And indeed, when it was released on October 26, 2007, the DVD did include all that plus Cianci's first post-prison interview and the twenty-three-minute mini-documentary, "A Promise for Change," which Cianci had made in 1976 to commemorate his first run for mayor in 1974.

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The Call of Cthulhu

(2005) short film

Call of Cthulhu title card

Most of this forty-seven minute long, silent, black-and-white film was shot in California, but in April 2005 the crew made a special trip to our little corner of the world to film a scene in the Fleur-de-Lys building in Providence. The film purports to be a period- and text-faithful adaptation of Providence horror writer H.P. Lovecraft's short story of the same name.


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After the Storm: Lessons from the Northern Edge

(2008) documentary

This documentary about the December 2004 loss of the scallop boat Northern Edge includes some footage shot in Portsmouth and the port of Galilee in Narragansett.

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Beyond the Dunwich Horror


Another Richard Marr Griffin effort, this one based on the H.P. Lovecraft short story "The Dunwich Horror."

Rhode Island locations include Block Island (the Block Island Ferry, the Surf Hotel, Mohegan Bluffs, Island Cemetery), Central Falls (Cogswell Tower in Jenks Park), Exeter (the Middle of Nowhere Diner), Foster, Narragansett (the stone ruins at Black Point), Pawtucket (Pawtucket Public Library, Slater Memorial Park), and Providence (Benefit Street, North Burial Ground, the Old State House). An asylum set was built at Bristol Community College in Fall River, Massachusetts.

The official premier took place on May 23, 2008 at the Columbus Theatre in Providence, although we also have a report that it was shown at the Rhode Island International Film Festival on October 26, 2007—but that may have been a rough cut.


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Behind the Hedgerow: Eileen Slocum and the Meaning of Newport Society

(2010) documentary

Another feature-length excursion from G. Wayne Miller and David Bettencourt, makers of On the Lake, the 2008 documentary about Zambarano Hospital. This one is about the life and times of the late Eileen Slocum, Newport's "last grande dame," and largely features narration mined from a series of interviews conducted with her by Miller for his 2000 Providence Journal series on Newport Society, "A Nearly Perfect Summer."

Behind the Hedgerow premiered on the opening night of the Rhode Island International Film Festival on August 10, 2010, at the Veteran's Memorial Auditorium in Providence.

View on Youtube:

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The Purge 3: Election Year


Purge: Election Year title screenshot.
(Screenshot from The Purge: Election Year trailer on Youtube).

The third entry in this dystopian murder spree franchise was filmed in Rhode Island—mainly Providence and Woonsocket—between September 14 and early November 2015.

In rough chronological order, here are the recognizable locations used:

  • The NFFA meeting takes place in the Governor's State Room at the Rhode Island State House.
  • A town hall meeting scene was filmed in Sapinsley Hall at Rhode Island College.
  • The Kwik Mart, 118 Main Street, Woonsocket, was transformed into "Joe's Deli."
  • T.F. Green Airport, Warwick.
  • Athenaeum Row, Benefit Street, Providence, provides at least some of the exteriors for Senator Roan's (Elizabeth Mitchell) residence.
  • Woonsocket's Main Street was used to depicts the streets of Washington, D.C.
  • Weybosset Street, Providence, where the triage van drives beneath the "Peace not Purge" banner.
  • Some scenes were shot on the campus of the Rhode Island School of Design; specifically the alleyway adjacent to the Design Center's south wall, 30 North Main Street (this may be where the guillotine scene takes place).
  • Prospect Terrace, Providence, is where Barnes (Frank Grillo) and Roan spot the drone.
  • When Barnes and Roan come down a set of concrete stairs and turn right along a blue painted wall, that's the rear of 162 Main Street, Woonsocket. The mural in the background which normally reads "Keep Woonsocket Beautiful" was modified to read "Keep Washington Beautiful" for the film.
  • The spot where the tracer bullet is left is under the iWay Bridge at Bridge Street, just south of the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier.
  • The Safe Zone is located in the basement of the Rhode Island State House.
  • St. Ann Arts and Cultural Center at 84 Cumberland Street in Woonsocket stands in as Our Lady of Sorrows, the site of the purge mass.
  • The scene where Barnes parlays with Bishop (Edwin Hodge) takes place in the the RIPTA bus tunnels on South Main Street.

Screenshot: Governor's State Room
The Governor's State Room at the Rhode Island State House. (Screenshot from Dead Meat's Kill Count video on YouTube).

Screenshot: The Kwik Mart, 118 Main Street, Woonsocket
The Kwik Mart, 118 Main Street, Woonsocket. (Screenshot from IMDB).

Screenshot: Reporter at T.F. Green Airport, Warwick
T.F. Green Airport, Warwick. (Screenshot from Dead Meat's Kill Count video on YouTube).

Screenshot: St. Ann Arts and Cultural Center, Woonsocket
St. Ann Arts and Cultural Center, Woonsocket. (Screenshot from Dead Meat's Kill Count video on YouTube).

Some locations that were reportedly used but which were either unrecognizable or deleted from the final cut include Shipyard Street on Johnson & Wales University's Harborside Campus, Indian Point Park Bridge Tunnel, and the Speaker's Office and Capitol Rotunda at the Rhode Island State House.

Screenshot: Federal Courthouse, Providence
This screenshot from the movie trailer shows the exterior of the Federal Courthouse in downtown Providence. We don't recall seeing this exact shot in the film, so it may have been left on the cutting room floor. (Screenshot from The Purge 3: Election Year trailer video on YouTube).

Sometimes productions leave their locations better than they found them. Steven Feinberg of the Rhode Island Film and Television Office told the Boston Globe that "...Blumhouse Productions... left a nice curtain behind in the State House."

The film was released to theaters nationwide on July 1, 2016.

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