If you are familiar with historic St. Charles Avenue where Tulane University is situated and you happen to live there, you drive past Tulane a lot. I fall into this category and as long as I’m in town there isn’t a day I don’t drive past Tulane. A bonus: Gibson Hall is gorgeous in the spring with its blooming azaleas.
There has been considerable construction work on all streets in this area since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and more recently Hurricane Ida. Traffic cones and No Parking signs seemingly have become a permanent part of the landscape. Another constant is that a movie or TV show is being filmed near Tulane or Loyola University or across the avenue at the Round Table Club or in mammoth Audubon Park with its oaks.
All of these are great venues for filming. There’s the picturesque TU quadrangle with its sprawling oaks, Dinwiddie Hall, the stone building that features carved gargoyles and suggests that bats could emerge at night. And then there are the fraternity and sorority houses. I’ve been convinced since my time at Tulane more than 50 years ago that National Lampoon’s Animal House with John Belushi could have been filmed at my long gone fraternity Beta Theta Pi.
Why? Well, we had a pretty solid history of shenanigans. From the second floor bathroom we frequently filled balloons with water and tossed them out the window when people were walking up the front stairs. The victim could be one of our own members, coeds or on one unfortunate occasion the mailman. A direct hit into his mailbag caused mail delivery to be suspended and we were forced to go to the post office to pick up our mail, which we didn’t do because we were too lazy.
Which without mail meant we got no bills, which of course weren’t paid, which provided money for more parties with bands. Genius! “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life,” as Faber College Dean Vernon Wormer lectured the members of Delta Tau Chi, aka the Deltas, who were always on “double secret probation.”
Which got me to thinking about movies filmed at Tulane. Number One in 1968 was a total bomb. It starred Charlton Heston as an aging quarterback for the New Orleans Saints. The game was filmed at old Tulane Stadium on Willow Street. Heston was the most un-athletic human I’ve ever seen. I remember this all too well as I was an extra in that movie.
Other movies filmed at Tulane include 22 Jump Street, Bad Moms, Kristy and by light years the best, John Grisham’s 1993 The Pelican Brief starring Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington. The film won multiple awards for acting and box office appeal.
It’s a thriller about a young Tulane law student Darby Shaw (Julia Roberts) whose legal brief about the murder of two Supreme Court Justices causes her to be targeted by hit men. She’s then aided by investigative reporter Gray Grantham (Denzel Washington) of the Washington Post.
Shaw realizes how accurate her accusations are when her mentor and lover is murdered after eating lunch with her at Antoine’s Restaurant on St. Louis Street in the French Quarter. Shaw watches as Professor Thomas Callahan gets in his car on nearby South Peters Street, and it explodes. Eventually Grantham helps her unravel a conspiracy involving senior government officials.
Then there was JFK, a 1991 Oliver Stone movie, starring Kevin Costner as Tulane Law School graduate and District Attorney Jim Garrison. In the movie Joe Pesci played David Ferrie, a seedy character who DA Garrison investigated. Pesci famously said of the whole story, “It’s a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside of an enigma.”