Traveling through Movies

St. Louis #1, New Orleans

St. Louis #1, New Orleans

I’m working hard to promote The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two, a collection of ghost-hunting reports and short stories which I edited, with a series of interviews on my other blog. Unfortunately, that means that Cemetery Travel hasn’t been getting the attention it deserves.

While I haven’t been getting out physically to visit cemeteries, it doesn’t meant that I’ve stopped obsessing about them. In fact, my husband and I were watching a movie last night when the action suddenly raced through a graveyard. If it had been possible, I would’ve slowed the movie down to a frame at a time so I could really absorb what I was seeing. The plot would have had to wait for me to glut my eyes.

The cemetery feature I was enjoying? It’s called The Naked City, the 1948 noir that gave us the line, “There are eight million stories in the naked city.” You may have even watched the movie without noticing the cemetery scene at all, since it’s just a backdrop for the murderer to flee the police. I turned to my husband and said, “I think that’s the Marble Cemetery.”

We’d stood outside its locked gate last summer while I pined to get in.

It’s got me thinking about other cemeteries that show up in movies. One of the first I saw was Holy Cross–in Colma, California–in this great scene from Harold and Maude:

And there’s the acid trip scene in Easy Rider, which was filmed in St. Louis Cemetery #1 in New Orleans. I won’t link to that here, since I can’t find a clip that shows much of the cemetery, but it’s in the movie, if you care to go looking for it.

One of my favorite cemetery scenes that’s actually integral to the movie’s plot is in the scene in the churchyard of San Francisco’s Mission Dolores in Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Jimmy Stewart follows Kim Novak to a prop headstone, but while most people are watching the story unfold, I’m always admiring the old rosebushes and the lovely old gravestones and the imitation Grotto of Lourdes that has since been removed. You can catch a glimpse of the graveyard in the trailer:

Think about it: how many cemetery scenes can you name in movies?  When you saw it, were you paying attention to the plot–or were you, like me, trying to read the headstones?

Edited to add:

I’ve been doing more research about the cemetery in The Naked City.  The best I can figure out is that it isn’t really a cemetery at all.  Take a look at a still from the film:

naked_tombstonesNot only are the tombstones very close together, but there’s no visible text on any of them.  I think this isn’t a graveyard at all but a tombstone showroom.  That’s sort of borne out here.

Still, my point remains:  I obsess over graveyards in movies.

 

About Loren Rhoads

I am the author of the essay collection Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel, co-author of the novel As Above, So Below, and editor of The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two. In addition to blogging at CemeteryTravel.com, I blog about my morbid life at lorenrhoads.com.
This entry was posted in Cemetery essay, Cemetery movie review and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Traveling through Movies

  1. {theEye} says:

    Awesome post! Both “Harold and Maude” and “Vertigo” were two very influential films of my youth, but it never struck me until now how much cemeteries to play a part in both these films! Death of course is a main theme in both tales, but the physical space of the cemetery came to mean so much more . . .

    Adore! Looking forward to more cemetery action!

    Sincerely,

    {theEye}

    http://theeyeoffaith.com

    +

  2. Yes I too get all excited over the cemetery backdrop and forget the film for a moment, often trying to work out if it’s one we’ve visited, Then I avidly read the titles to see where it was if I haven’t recognised it so I can make a note to visit in the future.
    Oh my, sounds a bit like obsessive behaviour to me……..
    If you haven’t already seen this, take a look I love it http://sleepinggardens.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Abney%20Park%20Cemetery

  3. coastalcrone says:

    Excellent post! So many, many movies – drama & comedy – have cemetery scenes in them. “Vertigo” is my favorite too – and the opening scene in “Doctor Zhivago.”

  4. Jo Bryant says:

    So I was wondering…why couldn’t you get in to the Marble Cemetery /

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