Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

September 8, 2013

Kokomo common on the silver screen

City pops up frequently in television, movies.

By Carson Gerber
Kokomo Tribune

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It might be the unusual name, it might be the location, but whatever the reason, Kokomo has had way more than its 15 minutes of fame on the silver screen.The city made its first appearance in a silent film called “A Romance of Kokomo” in 1917. The movie was filmed in Kokomo, and made its premiere at the now-demolished Isis Theater on South Main Street.Over the decades, Kokomo has popped up in high-profile TV shows and low-budget thrillers. It’s been the setting for comedies and the on-site location for historical TV movies.“Considering the size of Kokomo, I’m surprised by how many movies it’s played a role in,” said Steve Blackwell, a motion picture instructor and faculty member at Indiana University Kokomo. “I think it’s the name. It has a certain rhythm to it, and it has that sort of hick feeling. If somebody says they’re from Kokomo, it generally means they’re from the country.”That’s the case in the classic 1980s movie “The Blues Brothers,” where the Chicago blues band stops by a fictitious bar called Bob’s Country Bunker set in Kokomo.“What kind of music do you normally have here?” Dan Aykroyd’s character Elwood Blues asks the bartender.“Oh, we got both kinds,” she replies with a sweet hillbilly accent. “Country and Western.”Whether it’s in the movies or on TV, here’s a list of on-the-screen productions both large and small where Kokomo played its part, and played it well.

"The Kid from Kokomo" (1939)It’s a tale of Homer Baston, an orphan from Kokomo with a talent for boxing who is on a quest to find his long-lost mother. The movie largely takes place in Kokomo."Mother Wore Tights" (1947) A song titled “Kokomo, Indiana” makes a debut in this musical featuring Myrtle McKinley, who heads out to San Francisco to attend business school, but instead ends up in a chorus line. The director thinks she’s talented and ends up marrying her in this chronicle of a vaudeville family."Sweethearts on Parade" (1953)Kokomo is the place where Cam Ellerby brings his traveling medicine show to town and it spells glamour and excitement to young Sylvia Townsend (Eileen Christy). Kathleen Townsend ends up discovering Ellerby is her long-lost husband. "Assassination" (1987)Jay Killionhad, the presidential bodyguard, drives through Kokomo with the first lady after embarking on a perilous cross-country journey to escape assassins. Although the movie indicates the characters drive through Kokomo, it’s surrounded by mountains and doesn’t look anything like the city.

"Terror Squad" (1988) Filmed at places like then-Kokomo High School (now Central Middle School), the Howard County Courthouse and other local locations, this low-budget action movie makes the city the target of a terrorist attack. The majority of the movie was filmed and takes place in Kokomo, and the final chase scene was filmed on downtown streets."The Ryan White Story" (1989)This made-for-TV movie documents the story of Ryan White and his battle with local officials when he’s barred from the classroom after contracting AIDS. The movie was mostly filmed in Indiana. Critics had a positive response to the movie. The Associated Press reported some residents thought the movie unfairly portrayed the city. Then-Kokomo mayor Robert F. Sargent received phone calls from across the country complaining about the city’s response to Ryan White, even though he wasn’t serving during the time of the incident."Cats Don't Dance" (1997) A cat named Danny travels from his home in Kokomo to Hollywood to become a movie star."Band of Brothers" (2001)In this HBO TV miniseries, Kokomo is referenced in the first and third episodes.666 Park Avenue (2012-13)Although it was only a short-lived ABC horror-drama, this show had two of its lead characters hail from Kokomo. There are two off-hand references in the first two episodes.Source: Ian Hoagland, owner of Distilled Productions in Kokomo

Low-budget movies filmed in Kokomo:"Unheard Cries of Mercy" (2003 short film)"Beating the Bunny" (2005 video)"Chaos in Outer Space" (2009 video)"Tomato Man" (2010 video)Source: www.imbd.com