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A Century Of Steel City Cinema

The feature "Cupid's Garden Party" was filmed in Pittsburgh 100 years ago.

Pittsburgh is no stranger to the cinema.  From blockbusters like “The Dark Knight Rises” to the cult classic, “Night of the Living Dead,” the Steel City has a long and close relationship with Hollywood.  Pop culture contributor Joe Wos says the region’s film industry has been strong for a century, beginning with the production of the feature “Cupid’s Garden Party.” 

Released on October 4, 1915, the concept for “Cupid’s Garden Party” came from two men, Richard Rowland and James B. Clark, who owned Metro Picture Company (later to merge and become Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios) and many theaters throughout Pennsylvania.  They decided to capitalize on their resources and create their own movies instead of buying from other companies.  Wos explains that they partnered with the Pittsburgh Press to try and “find the next big film stars.”

“They were really able to showcase Pittsburgh,” says Wos.  Screen tests took place at Kennywood and the 30-minute feature highlighted locations from Forbes Field to Highland Park to several local steel mills.

What did the film look like? That’s a tricky question.  Wos says the film has completely vanished, likely because of a fire at MGM in the early 1900s.

When “Cupid’s Garden Party” came out in theaters, Wos says it was a huge success.  He notes that viewers were always excited to see their own neighborhoods on the big screen.

“It was just really, truly a phenomenon.”

More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here

Katie Blackley is a digital editor/producer for 90.5 WESA, where she writes, edits and generates both web and on-air content for features and daily broadcast. She's the producer and host of our Good Question! series and podcast. She also covers history and the LGBTQ community. kblackley@wesa.fm
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