They’re gonna put me in the movies
They’re gonna make a big star out of me
– The Beatles and/or Buck Owens, “Act Naturally”
This area has popped up on the big screen via scenes from local military bases, our beautiful beaches, and the Gulf of Mexico. Going all the way back to 1941, Northwest Florida has had cameos and starring roles in many Hollywood feature films.
Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo was released in 1944, and both Eglin Air Force Base and Fort Walton Beach were used as filming locations. It was the story of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, based on a personal account by Doolittle Raider Ted Lawson (played by Van Johnson). Oscar winner Spencer Tracy portrays Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle.
Twelve O’Clock High, released in 1950, also utilized Eglin Air Force Base. The movie stars Gregory Peck as a new commander taking over a World War II bomber unit that flies dangerous missions over Nazi Germany.
Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was released in 1964. Filming locations included Okaloosa County and an aerial view of Destin Harbor. The movie is a satirical comedy about a paranoid general who deploys a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union without his superiors knowing anything about it.
Frogs (1972) was filmed on location at Eden Gardens State Park in Point Washington, Panama City Beach, and the Historical Museum of Florida in Tallahassee. Oscar winner Ray Milland plays an aging, disabled millionaire who hates nature and poisons it on his island estate. He invites family to celebrate his birthday and killer frogs, reptiles, birds and insects come back to haunt him.
I actually saw Frogs during its theatrical run. It was one of those movies that made me wonder where all the frogs went the next time I visited Eden Gardens State Park.
One of the most famous movies to be filmed in the area is Jaws 2, from 1978. Filming locations include Okaloosa Island (with the original Hog’s Breath Saloon featured in the movie), Navarre Beach, Destin and Shalimar. The movie picks up four years after the original blockbuster when another Great White arrives in the town of Amity Island. It stars two-time Oscar nominee Roy Scheider and the mechanical shark known as “Bruce.”
After seeing the original Jaws, I no longer just floated around carefree on my raft in the Gulf of Mexico. I knew that sharks had always been there, but that movie brought my fears to the surface. Literally. Jaws 2 didn’t help matters, but an exciting hunt for star Roy Scheider in the Morrison’s Cafeteria in Santa Rosa Mall made my day during the filming. Never found him!
The Truman Show was released in 1998 with filming locations in Seaside and Panama City. It tells the story of a man (Jim Carrey) whose life is documented 24/7 on television. Everyone knows it’s fake except Truman. I have yet to see this one, though I’ve been to beautiful Seaside many times. Truth be told, I’m not a big Jim Carrey fan.
With our beautiful white sand, clear water and striking scenery, Northwest Florida has become a popular location to be put in the movies.