As one who did not always live in Baltimore, I initially found it difficult to pinpoint the identity and culture of Charm city, with its various and ever-changing neighborhoods, not to mention slogans. There are only so many times that comparisons between The Wire (2002-2008) and the real city can be made before one realizes it’s not all about crime. Yet, looking at how Bawl-more is represented in film, it’s easy to see that this small city wears a coat of many colors.
First and foremost, Baltimoreans love their sports. As represented in The Replacements (2000), Ravens (M&T Bank) stadium is the pride and joy of local sports enthusiasts, attracting crowds at the start of every football season. In Dave (1993), Kevin Kline shows that it’s an honor to throw the first pitch at the opening Orioles game.
What would Baltimore be, however, without schools for its children? Step Up (2006) follows dancers at Maryland School of the Arts, much like the actual Baltimore School for the Arts in Mount Vernon. The famous Domino Sugar sign in Locust Point can also be seen in this movie. Set during the civil rights movement, Hairspray (2007) happily proclaims “Good Morning Baltimore!” while the original (1988) highlights Perry Hall high school. And featured in Cry Baby (1990) is Franklin High School in Reisterstown as well as the Maryland Training School for Boys.
Of course, being a close neighbor of the nation’s capital, politics are sure to spill over. Gene Hackman stars as a corrupt president in Absolute Power (1997) where the Towson Court House is the setting for a presidential press conference. Hackman’s next Baltimore-based film was Enemy of the State (1998), where Will Smith plays a man who unknowingly possesses evidence to a politician’s violent crime. Smith can be seen on top of a downtown skyscraper and running through the (surprisingly free flowing) harbor tunnels.
Baltimore is also filled with hard working individuals within a variety of fields. Ladder 49 (2004) tells a fireman’s story, one day enjoying the St. Patrick’s Day parade with his family, the next hanging out of a downtown window many stories up trying to save someone’s life. Shots of Curtis Bay and the Inner Harbor are shown throughout the film. Meg Ryan stars in Sleepless in Seattle (1993) as a Baltimore Sun reporter, bringing Mount Vernon and Fells Point to the big screen, while Richard Gere in Runaway Bride (1999) plays a reporter where downtown Baltimore serves as a stand-in for New York. And despite an alien takeover in Invasion (2007) Nicole Kidman diligently continues her work as a psychiatrist. Anyone who has visited her “office” at the intersection of Charles and Baltimore streets should recognize its repeated appearance in the film.
Finally, Baltimore is noted for its famous, true tale. Johns Hopkins Hospital is featured in Something the Lord Made (2004), based on the true story of Dr. Alfred Blalock and his lab technician, Vivien Thomas. Alan Rickman and Mos Def play the pair who developed the shunt technique in the 1940’s, paving the way for heart surgery.
Though films mainly comprise fictitious events and people, these movies truly reflect what it means to live in Baltimore.