Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Starring Chester, Connecticut


Welcome to Cape Ann, Maine. Or, as we in New England call it, Chester, Connecticut.

As part of our annual celebration of Amtrak’s National Train Day, which falls this Saturday, May 12th, we have a look today at the filming sites for the fictional Cape Ann in the movie “It Happened to Jane” (1959). This Doris Day/Jack Lemmon film is going to be discussed this Thursday on my Another Old Movie Blog. I hope you can join us over there.

Chester, Connecticut was a movie stand-in for a fictional Maine village, where Doris Day and Jack Lemmon run up against a nasty mean railroad owner played by Ernie Kovacs. It’s a charming movie, and its many outdoor shots of a seemingly idyllic New England village in a lush 1950s summer are a huge part of what makes the movie so pleasant.

A lot of townspeople were used as extras in the film, its own town fife and drum corps appeared in the movie, and Chester still identifies with the film to the extent of showing it in the Meeting House of an occasional summer evening. Larry Bloom, a native of Chester, writing in the New York Times January 25, 2009 noted, “…it is eerie, in particular, to watch the scene of town meeting that takes place in that very building, or watch Lemmon and Ms. Day argue in front of the nearby waterfall on High Street.”

It must be eerie, too, to catch glimpses of long-passed relatives “voting” in town meeting.

Have a look at then and now. You’ll see that not a lot has changed in Chester over the last 50-odd years, that perhaps the biggest change is reflected in the seasons. The movie was shot during summertime, with all the trees leafed out. You can almost smell the mowed lawns and hear the crickets. These present-day shots were taken in March, when things are still apt to be pretty colorless and the sunshine weak.

Doris drives to the center of town. 


Chester Center, photo by JT Lynch
The green building is still green, the stone building next to it has an addition.

Doris Day runs from Caldwell's general store.


Chester center, photo by JT Lynch
The store is pink now, and it's a resaurant.

The church.

United Church of Chester, photo by JT Lynch

Doris and Jack coming out of the Meeting House

Doris and Jack fighting in the car in front of the Meeting House.
 
Chester Meeting House, now a theater and concert hall where "It Happened to Jane" is sometimes screened.  It has been in continual public use for over 200 years.  Photo by JT Lynch
 
Doris Day and Steve Forrest visit the cemetery.
 
It's probably this cemetery, just across the village green from the Meeting House.  Photo by JT Lynch
 
Jack Lemmon drives his convertible down High Street to catch up with Doris at the waterfall.
 
This is High Street, Chester, looking down on the waterfall from the other direction.  Photo by JT Lynch.
 
Doris fighting with Jack at the waterfall.
 
A new stone wall barrier on the bridge built in 2001, photo by JT Lynch
 
High Street waterfall, Chester, CT, photo by JT Lynch
 
The "Cape Ann" whistle stop.
 

Chester, CT whistle stop, photo by JT Lynch
 
A little closer, photo by JT Lynch
 
Doris and Jack's train arrives in "Marshaltown".
 
Funny, but that building with the gold dome in the distance looks familiar.  Could it be the Connecticut State Capitol Building?
 
Now that you mention it, the "Marshaltown" train station looks a lot like the Union Station in Hartford, Connecticut, photo by JT Lynch.
 

 A closer view of the Connecticut State Capital Building in Hartford, photo by JT Lynch.


The train from the "Eastern & Portland RR" no longer exists.  However....
 
...you can ride one very similar on pretty much the same route Doris and Jack take at the Essex Steam Train.   Photo by JT Lynch.
 
In the movie, the train runs along an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Maine.
 
But that's really the Connecticut River. Photo by JT Lynch.
 
Chester, Connecticut has a huge role in this movie, playing stand-in for the fictional Cape Ann, Maine, and adds such personality and warmth to the film that it deserved an Oscar...if they gave them to villages.

Have a look at this previous post on the delightful Essex Steam Train.
 
Please stop by "Another Old Movie Blog" on Thursday for a closer look at "It Happened to Jane".


2 comments:

Laura said...

These shots are fantastic -- I love learning about movie locations! Would love to visit Chester one day. :)

Thanks for terrific background on IT HAPPENED TO JANE!

Best wishes,
Laura

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Thanks, Laura. I hope you can make it to Chester sometime. Maybe some day when they're showing "It Happened to Jane" in the Meeting House.