Marquette’s first appearance on silver screen

Pictured is a screenshot from the film, “Daisy Kenyon,” showing a car driving down the road with the Presque Isle breakwater in the background. (Photo courtesy of “Daisy Kenyon” © 1947 20th Century Fox)

MARQUETTE — If you were to ask 100 Marquette County residents the name of the first Hollywood feature shot in the area, you’d probably get 100 answers of “Anatomy of a Murder.”

But they’d all be wrong.

“Anatomy,” in fact, wasn’t even the first Otto Preminger feature to have a scene shot in Marquette. That honor goes to the 1947 potboiler “Daisy Kenyon.”

“Daisy Kenyon” was a 20th Century-Fox film starring Joan Crawford, Dana Andrews, and Henry Fonda. Based on a 1945 book by Elizabeth Janeway, it told the story of New York artist (Crawford) in love with a married lawyer (Andrews).

While she’s waiting for the lawyer to divorce his wife, she starts seeing a recently returned World War II veteran (Fonda) and, as with all good 1940s films about love triangles, complications ensue.

By the end of the film, Crawford’s character is holed up in a snowy cabin. She needs time to think, so she gets into a car, drives down a snowy road, and rolls the car over (spoiler alert — she survives). And it’s that scene that was the first ever from from a Hollywood feature shot in Marquette.

In late 1946, a Mining Journal article that mentioned 20th Century Fox may be coming to Marquette to film a couple of exterior scenes for the epic, mostly because the city had the needed amount of snow.

Several weeks later, there was another article about how a second unit film crew — a film crew with no actors, used to shoot exterior, stunt work, and transition scenes in a movie–was indeed at Presque Isle for a day, getting the needed footage.

And that was Marquette’s first appearance in a Hollywood film.

The scenes shot in Marquette come near the end of the film, and the four of them last a total of about 20 seconds, intercut with shots of Crawford on a soundstage behind the wheel of a fake car.

But if you’re interested in getting a glimpse of Presque Isle from back in the late 40s, here’s what you need to do next time you notice it on TV or in your Netflix queue.

Start the movie. If you don’t feel like sitting through the film, scan ahead to 1 hour, 30 minutes and 30 seconds into the story. Joan Crawford will run out of a cabin, go into a garage, get into a car, and then drive to the edge of the (obvious) soundstage.

Then follow those 20 seconds –those four different shots — of a car driving through a snowy road. If you know Marquette, you’ll recognize it.

The car is driving (the wrong way) around Presque Isle, around the old road (now a walking path) in the section near Charlie Kawbawgam’s grave. In two of the four shots, you can even see the breakwater and the foghorn at the end of it.

Then following those four shots, the car runs off the road, in a location that’s NOT in Marquette. But for those four shots — 20 seconds worth of screen time — Marquette was indeed the shooting site of a major motion picture.

It might be a little surprising that back in 1946 a film crew would come to Marquette to shoot 20 seconds worth of footage. However, Marquette had what movie soundstages couldn’t recreate — a snowy road.

And it must’ve made an impression on the director back in Hollywood, Mr. Preminger, because a little over a decade later, he returned in full force to shoot the SECOND movie ever to have scenes filmed in Marquette, “Anatomy of a Murder.”

But 12 years earlier, “Daisy Kenyon” had the honor of being the first Hollywood movie with a scene shot in Marquette.


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