A few years ago, I took a little road trip with my parents to Harlem, Georgia to visit the Laurel and Hardy Museum. I’ll post my photos in a few days. It was a fun experience and it got me to wondering what other film museums might be out there. After doing numerous google searches, I came up with the results listed below. I notice that stars who came from small towns tend to get museums as opposed to stars born in major hub cities like New York or Los Angeles. There is a sense or pride or “claim to fame” for many of these small towns. I know that the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences is planning to build a film museum that is slated to open in a few years. Hollywood has such a rich and fascinating history and we need a large scale museum to showcase that. The good news is that the Academy has really impressive exhibitions that change year round. These exhibitions are always free and open to the public along with the Academy screenings throughout the year. Take a look at the list and let me know if there are any other museums out there that I’m missing!!!!
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Museum
This museum is located in Jamestown, New York. I hear that Lucy’s ashes were originally interred here in Los Angeles, but moved to Jamestown in 2002 by a relative. Looks like fun!
Walt Disney Family Museum
This one is located in the Prisidio area of San Francisco. I have several friends up there and have visisted the city a million times. I have no idea how this placed managed to escape my attention for so long! I must pay this museum a visit on my next trip! I love the fact that they even have a screening and lecture series.
Clark Gable Museum in Cadiz, Ohio
I’m not sure if I’ll ever find myself being in Ohio, but I’ll put this on my list.
Ava Gardner Museum in Smithville, North Carolina
I literally stumbled across this museum while I was on a roadtrip with my parents to Virginia. It is a small museum, but really packed with fascinating items about Ava Gardner’s life and career. As a vintage fashion collector, I was also thrilled to see several evening gowns on display that were gifts to Ava from Howard Hughes. Ava Gardner and her family are buried at the Sunset Memorial Park cemetery one mile from the museum. They also have an Ava Gardner Film Festival each year to celebrate her life and career.
Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota
I haven’t been, but it is on my list.
John Wayne Museum
I can’t imagine when my travels would ever take me to Winterset, Iowa but you never know. Based on the website, the John Wayne Museum looks great and the area is also the famed location behind the book and movie THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY. Plus I bet they have great little historic hotels and antiques stores there.
Fairmount Historical Museum (James Dean)
I heard that there used to be a separate museum dedicated entirely to James Dean, but it recently closed its doors. Now his life is featured as part of the Fairmount Indiana Historical Museum along with local hometown hero Jim Davis, the creator of Garfield.
Jimmy Stewart Museum
Given Jimmy Stewart’s small town American appeal, this museum in Indiana, Pennsylvania (Jimmy’s hometown) looks like a loving tribute to him.
Three Stooges Museum
Located in Ambler, PA, this appears to be the first and only museum of Three Stooges memorabilia with a collection of 100,000 pieces. Wow! Alas they only seem to be opened one day a month, so a trip here would take advance planning.
Bruce Lee Museum
This website appears a bit confusing as it show pictures of a museum, but doesn’t seem to have information about the locations, hours, etc. I found a story about another museum in the NY Times, so hopefully there will be more on this soon.
Laurel and Hardy Museum in Harlem, Georgia
This museum is in the birthplace of the great Oliver Hardy. More details will be posted soon!
Laurel and Hardy Museum in Cumbria, England
This museum is in the birthplace of Stan Laurel. I must add this to my list for my next trip to England.
Carmen Miranda Museum at Parque do Flamengo, in Rio de Janeiro
I know someone who went to this museum and said is was rather ramshackle and decrepit. That makes me all the more curious to see it.
Marlene Dietrich Collection at the Filmmuseum in Berlin, Germany
I’m dying to see this museum as I love Marlene and the era of German Expressionism. Someday!!
Greta Garbo Museum in Smaland Province, a section of Sweden
I haven’t been, but it is on my list.
There more stars from small town America who don’t have museums, but should:
Louise Brooks and Vivian Vance (I Love Lucy) were both born in Cherryvale, Kansas.
Lana Turner was born in Wallace, Idaho.
Carole Lombard was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana. While she doesn’t have a museum, she apparently does have a Bed and Breakfast.
Individual Film Museums:
Wizard of Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas
I’m not sure when I’ll ever be in Kansas, but this may warrant a special trip.
Gone with the Wind Museum in Marietta, Georgia
This will be my next road trip when I’m with my parents again in Georgia.
Silent Film Related Museums:
Niles Essenay Silent Film Museum in Fremont, California
This film museum is a short jaunt from San Francicso and well worth the drive. They have docents who are passionate devotees of silent film and give excellent tours. The Niles Museum also has silent film screenings year round as well as a Broncho Billy Film Festival every summer. There are also little antique stores, a cafe, a biker bar and a vintage train in the immediate area as well. What more could you possibly ask for?
Hollywood Heritage Museum in Hollywood
If you are like me and live in Los Angeles, this is right in your backyard. This museum is affordable, has incredible docents and a series of lectures each month on the golden age of Hollywood. These lectures are only $5 for members and $10 for guests. Past lectures have included “Early Hollywood”, “Irving Thalberg and the Rise of MGM” and “Haunted Hollywood”. They also have books, DVDs, cards and numerous items for purchase. This museum/organization is also one of the strongest voices for historic preservation in Los Angeles. I strongly suggest paying a visit to the museum and showing your support.
Larger Film Museums:
National Museum of Cinema in Turin, Italy
I must must must return to Italy and see this!
Cinematheque francaise in Paris, France
While the primary mission of the Cin?math?que is to show films, they also have three floors of stunning exhibition space. On my last trip to Paris I saw an exhibit to the great cinema pioneer Georges Melies, an exhibit on Hollywood and the history of Henri Langois and another exhibit about Dennis Hopper and the New Hollywood. There is also a gift shop in the building and three separate theatres to see films in usually seven days a week for most of the year. For any film fan, a visit to the Cinematheque francaise is an absolute must!
Museum of Moving Image in Astoria, NY
I took a train to Queens and visited this museum in 2004, but I must admit it was disappointing. Astoria was a huge location for many silent films and where Paramount Pictures kept their East Coast Productions housed. Numerous stars such as Clara Bow, Louise Brooks and Gloria Swanson made films at the studio there. Read the book “Hollywood On the Hudson” by Richard Koszarski for more details on this. The museum’s costume selection consisted of Robert DeNiro costumes all from films after 1991. It mostly consisted of information about how films are made. There wasn’t really any trace of the silent era or of the in depth, detailed history I had hoped to find. Then again that was several years ago now. I might be tempted to visit again the next time I’m in New York to see if they have made any changes.
Hollywood Museum at the Max Factor Building in Hollywood, CA
I’m a bit mixed on this museum. I love the art deco design of the Max Factor building, but this museum tends to include WAY more modern film items for my taste. That said, they are the only large film museum we have at the moment.