Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

A Hike Back in Time to Era of Silent Film

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

A Hike Back in Time to Era of Silent Film

Article excerpt

During the early years of silent films, movie stars came to Fort Lee to play damsels in distress, swashbuckling knights, and combative cowboys and Indians. But the real stars in Fort Lee those days -- the attraction that drew the actors, actresses, and movie crews -- were the Palisades.

On Sunday, more than 70 hikers and film history buffs paid homage to the days when Fort Lee was a magnet for the fledgling movie industry, with a trek along the cliffs that played a big role in the creation of a silent-film genre -- the cliffhanger.

The hike, and an accompanying lecture and screening of film clips, was timed to coincide with the 123rd birthday of actress Pearl White, star of "The Perils of Pauline" and other film serials. But it also was a celebration of a silent film star that never left town, Cliffhanger Point, a rock outcropping that was featured in acts of derring-do by White and other film stars.

Members of the Fort Lee Film Commission, which organized the event, said it's important to note that Fort Lee's film history has a future, as well as a past, as evidenced by the Oscar win a week ago by documentary filmmakers and Fort Lee natives Glen and Ralph Zipper for their "Undefeated."

A famous 1918 photo of White, a cameraman, an actor and a director, on the Point, is the official logo of the Fort Lee Film Commission. But commission members and employees at Palisades Interstate Park, the park that includes the Point, said that until about a year ago they weren't sure exactly where the Point was.

Park ranger Eric Nelsen last year was asked to get a modern picture of the Point for a "before and after" presentation on historic Fort Lee sites being prepared by Bergen County.

"There was just one problem," Nelsen said. "I didn't really know where that photo was taken." He and another park employee, Lindsey Foschini, spent some time walking along the cliffs, comparing the view to the 1918 photo, and discovered that the point was a good bit farther north than originally thought.

In fact, Nelsen said, he started to worry that the symbol of the Fort Lee Film Commission might actually be in Englewood Cliffs. Fortunately, a check of the boundary lines showed that the Point was safely inside the Fort Lee border. …

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