Capitol Hill Restoration Society

Preservation Cafe, Hollywood on the Potomac

Posted on August 21st, 2013

Mike Canning, a long-time Hill resident, was the presenter for the September 18, 2013 Preservation Café.  Mr. Canning has written on movies for the Hill Rag since 1993 and is a member of the Washington Area Film Critics Association. Mike has served as a board member for the Society during his decades as a member of CHRS.Mike’s presentation, titled Hollywood on the Potomac, offered a comprehensive look at how DC has been historically portrayed in American feature films.  The presentation focused on several prominent movies, closely examining how Washington and specifically, Capitol Hill, has been treated as either subject, setting, or background.

Movies discussed included:

–        “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939) where a full reproduction of the Senate chambers was built to shoot most of the scenes since filming inside the Capitol building has never been allowed.

–        “Born Yesterday” (1950), at the time, considered as an education of the inner workings of Washington to the general public.

–        “The Exorcist” (1973) where the house cast in the movie had an addition built onto it to be true to the ending of the book.

–        “In the Line of Fire” (1993) with Clint Eastwood, which features an improbable roof chasing scene through the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

–        “Being There” (1979) where Chauncey Gardiner walks up North Capitol St for a picturesque, but unlikely walk towards the Capitol building.

–        “No Way Out” (1987) with Kevin Costner, where a car and foot chase scene in Georgetown ends up with the protagonist impossibly catching a Metro ride at the “Georgetown” station (actually filmed in a Baltimore metro station) and coming out directly into the Old Post Office Building!

Other movies that were discussed included “All the President’s Men” (1976) with Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford, “Minority Report” (2002) with Tom Cruise, and “Broadcast News” (1987) with Albert Brooks.

Mr. Canning’s book, also titled Hollywood on the Potomac, includes more films and goes into additional detail about the intersection of the Capital City and the movies.  It is available for purchase at Riverby Books, 417 East Capitol Street, SE (tel: 202-543-4342) and at Capitol Hill Books, 657 C Street, SE (tel: 202-544-1621).