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:
Not 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.