A block party, Hollywood-style Film sets Sudbrook Park back decades

September 16, 1991|By Meredith Schlow | Meredith Schlow,Evening Sun Staff

THE TELEPHONE POLES and fire hydrants that line the street are fake, but the excitement that crackles through the normally quiet neighborhood in Sudbrook Park is very real.

"Look at that!" says Marylyn Wills, pointing toward a white van parked across the street.

" 'East Coast Studio Rentals' ," she reads from the side of the cab. "Isn't that cool?"

Hollywood filmmakers are in Maryland again, this time on Adana Road, to film "That Night," a story of teen-age romance seen through the eyes of a 10-year-old girl. Based on the novel by Alice McDermott, the story is set in a small neighborhood on Long Island during the summer of 1961.

From now until the end of the month when filming will be completed in the area, tiny and not so tiny touches have whisked picturesque Adana Road back to the early '60s.

A basketball net hangs from one of the fake telephone poles erected complete with wires and street lamps. The real phone and electric wires are routed through the backs of the houses, residents explained, giving the real neighborhood a tidier appearance.

Many of the street's biggest bushes and hedges have been trimmed or removed, said one of the film's executive producers, Elliott Lewitt. He said the neighborhood's lush gardens tended to block the view from one end of the road to the other. Film crews will replace any bush or plant at a resident's request, he says.

Fresh sod was planted on some lawns, and one house, in which much of the filming is taking place, underwent major construction to increase the size of its dormers, Lewitt says.

"And we love these old cars," Dorothy Diehl said of the late '50s vintage autos that line the street and are parked in residents' driveways.

"How long has it been since you've seen an Edsel?" she asked, pointing to a blue station wagon parked across the street from her house.

David Cohen, a member of the vintage automobile club Street Cars of Desire, stood on the street one recent morning keeping a watchful eye on his flawless coral-and-white '57 Pontiac.

"The only reason to do this is the sheer thrill of having your car in a movie," said Cohen, who learned through a newspaper ad that filmmakers were seeking cars. "What will be exciting is when it's actually driving through and they shoot it."

Adana Road resident Elizabeth Anton stood on her front step talking with neighbors about the latest in the filming's escapades.

"We're outside all the time," she said, still in her nightgown. "Look at me, I'm not even dressed!"

"They were spraying the grass today," announced neighbor Gertrude Drew. "Spraying it green!"

"Last night, the light from the cherry-picker was right up in my window," Dorothy Diehl said excitedly, adding that crew members had requested that she turn off her kitchen light during filming. "It doesn't bother me," she said. There was so much to watch, she added, "I haven't even washed last night's dishes -- I just put them in the sink."

Sudbrook Park is in Baltimore County south of Pikesville. Filmmakers chose Adana Road after a nationwide search for a location turned up the pretty, tree-lined street that Lewitt says is more beautiful than anything he had imagined.

"It was really a surprise to us," he said, adding that the crew had almost settled on Campus Hills, a neighborhood near Goucher College graced with split-level homes built in the 1950s.

Sudbrook Park, he said, is "sort of what everyone has in their mind of being like the neighborhood they grew up in, even if they didn't. . . . It just lends itself very beautifully to a film location."

Though residents cite some inconveniences -- cars are not permitted on the street during filming, and parking is sometimes difficult -- nearly all say the crew has been more than willing to address any problems.

"They told me they would shuttle me to my car," Diehl said. "They've been very accommodating."

"That Night" stars 10-year-old Eliza Dushku, a Massachusetts resident who has no previous acting experience. Among the actors are C. Thomas Howell, whose credits include "E.T." and "Red Dawn," and Juliette Lewis, who was in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation." Warner Bros. has not announced the release date for the film, which being made on a $10 million-$15 million budget.

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