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“Reel Jersey Girl” Program Commemorates Early Cinema In Fort Lee

Pearl White during filming "The House of Hate" at Cliffhanger Point on the Palisades in 1918.
Pearl White during filming "The House of Hate" at Cliffhanger Point on the Palisades in 1918. Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of the Fort Lee Film Commission
Pearl White in her Stutz Bearcat on Hudson Terrace in Fort Lee in 1918.
Pearl White in her Stutz Bearcat on Hudson Terrace in Fort Lee in 1918. Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of the Fort Lee Film Commission.

FORT LEE, N.J. -- The Fort Lee Film Commission and the Palisades Interstate Park Commission will say Happy Birthday with the program "Reel Jersey Girl" Friday, March 4.

Released in March 1914, "Reel Jersey Girl," was a 20-episode adventure that premiered to packed movie houses around the world that spring.

Today, it may be one of the most famous movies that most of us have never seen. Pathé, the Jersey City-based French studio that produced the movie, would release a string of serials starring Pearl White during the next several years filmed in and around Fort Lee and the Palisades.

Eric Nelsen, a historical interpreter for the Interstate Park, will present a short illustrated talk about White. Drawing on accounts from participants in the early film industry and historic images provided by the Fort Lee Historical Society, the old Coytesville section of Fort Lee will be brought back to life — a place where, in the 1910s, dirt roads and livery stables met the exciting new world of motion picture production.

Fort Lee Film Commission Executive Director Tom Meyers will discuss the role White played in the birth of the American film industry in Fort Lee. Clips from a few of White’s movies will be shown at the 8 p.m. event at the Fort Lee Historic Park Visitor Center.

“This will be a rare chance for modern viewers to experience a little bit of the excitement of the early days of this dynamic new art form,” Nelsen said. “People may even want to cheer aloud for Pearl or hiss at the villain.”

A reception with a “Cliffhanger” birthday cake will follow the March 4 program. For those who are interested, before the program begins, they can meet Nelsen at 7:15 for a short walk on paved walkways in the historic park to an overlook above the George Washington Bridge. Participants should wear sneakers or other sturdy shoes and dress for the outdoors.

On Sunday, March 6, the public is invited to join Nelsen for a guided hike to Cliffhanger Point, one of the filming locations used by early moviemakers on the Palisades. For more information about the hike, please call (201) 768-1360 Ext. 108.

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