Bridgegate: Fort Lee’s claim to fame was once as ... movie capital?
Thanks to a brewing scandal centering on the closure of lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge, it might seem like Fort Lee, N.J., with its massively snarled traffic, has something in common with Los Angeles.
But blood-boiling gridlock is hardly the only similarity between the two places: The site of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal was, in fact, once a cradle of the American film industry.
The city that sits across the Hudson River from Northern Manhattan was a precursor of sorts to Hollywood when it came to film activity. According to the Fort Lee Film Commission, “The movies came to Fort Lee when pioneer companies started to look for new filming locations” in the early 1900s. The area’s fields, woods and rolling hills, plus the New Jersey Palisades, provided diverse backdrops for film shoots, and the then-sleepy suburban town was close to Broadway, with its abundance of actors.
At a time when Hollywood was mostly orange groves, there were seven major film studios in Fort Lee, with 21 more film companies shooting on location in the area.
D.W. Griffith directed several films there, and Mack Sennett, Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Charlie Chaplin and Will Rogers all appeared in films made in Fort Lee.
Ultimately, California’s balmy climate and burgeoning metropolitan area lured the movies west, and the rest is history.
Ironically, Christie himself has opposed movie tax credits in recent years, suspending his state’s program in 2010 to close a budget deficit and blocking a production credit for the reality TV series “Jersey Shore” in 2011. The Garden State’s program is currently scheduled to end after the 2015 fiscal year.
For more on Fort Lee’s film history, check out the video below.
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