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A Brief History of Galleries and Museums in Film: Part 2

All mentioned films in article
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Surprisingly little has been written about museums and art galleries on screen. But you canalways rely on Cinema Paradiso to unearth the most intriguing topics and tempt you withplenty of related viewing suggestions. Having covered the treasure houses of London andParis in the first part of our brief history, we cross the Atlantic to visit some of America'smost icon cultural venues.

'That belongs in a museum,' barks Henry Jones, Jr. in Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). He has just had the Cross of Coronado removed from hispocket by Panama Hat, who retorts, 'So do you!' This exchange between Harrison Fordand Paul Maxwell raises a lot of questions about what actually does belong in a museumand how it was acquired. Film-makers may not provide any definitive answers, but theyknow an atmospheric location when they see one.

A still fromIndiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) With Michael Byrne
A still fromIndiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) With Michael Byrne

Hushed and imposing, museums are filled with display cases housing the wisdom andaccomplishments of the ages, while the walls of art galleries are covered with canvasesproclaiming the limitlessness of the human imagination. What better settings could their befor scenes showcasing people at their best and worst - creative and destructive, curious andavaricious, cultured and philistinic?

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Very few films are set entirely in art galleries or museums. Yet their rarefied atmosphereand the eye-catching nature of the exhibits on display make them the ideal setting forpivotal scenes in dramas, comedies, thrillers and musicals, as well as crime and horrorpictures. Trysts and heists, betrayals and betrothals, killings and kidnappings have alltaken place in movie museums and galleries. And, believe it or not, some characters haveeven paused to take a closer look at the art and artefacts around them.

George, the Wire Fox Terrier belonging to scatty heiress Susan Vance (KatharineHepburn) in Howard Hawks's Bringing Up Baby (1938), only has one thing on his mindwhen he catches sight of the brontosaurus skeleton that palaeontologist David Huxley (Cary Grant) is busy trying to assemble in the great hall of a natural history museum.Before you can say 'intercostal clavicle', the intrepid pooch high tails it with the bone,which he proceeds to bury in the garden roamed by Susan's eponymous pet leopard.

A still fromBringing Up Baby (1938)
A still fromBringing Up Baby (1938)

David's search proves more taxing than the one undertaken by Sherlock Holmes (BasilRathbone) and Dr Watson (Nigel Bruce) in Roy William Neill's The Pearl of Death (1944), after the Borgia Pearl is stolen from the Royal Regent Museum by criminalmastermind Giles Canover (Miles Mander). Mild-mannered amateur artist ChistopherCross (Edward G. Robinson) pays a heavy price for having his work exhibited in FritzLang's Scarlet Street (1945), after he allows Kitty March (Joan Bennett) to take the creditfor paintings that her crooked boyfriend, Johnny Prince (Dan Duryea), hopes can make them some easy money.

Musical numbers set in museums are rarer than dodo eggs. But 'Prehistoric Man', staged atthe American Natural History Museum in New York, is one of the showstoppers in GeneKelly and Stanley Donen's On the Town (1949), which sees sailors Gene Kelly, FrankSinatra and Jules Munshin hook up with Vera-Ellen, Betty Garrett and Ann Miller during ahectic furlough. The drums start beating, however, when Miller's anthropologist noticesthe resemblance between Munshin and Pithecanthropus Erectus, although the ensemble getso carried away with their hoofing that they knock over a dinosaur skeleton.

Washington's museums are on the itinerary as junkyard tycoon Harry Brock (BroderickCrawford) hires Paul Verrall (William Holden) to give girlfriend Billie Dawn (JudyHolliday) a crash course in refinement in George Cukor's screwball take on GarsonKanin's stage hit, Born Yesterday (1951). Maggie McNamara similarly visits some ofRome's museums to become sufficiently au fait with modern art to impress Prince LouisJourdan in Jean Negulesco's Three Coins in the Fountain. And, staying in Italy. IngridBergman's tour of the Farnese collection in a Neapolitan museum shows her how differenther life with husband George Sanders could be in Roberto Rossellini's Journey to Italy (both 1954).

In the same year that Ben Carruthers, Tom Allen and Dennis Sallas hang out in theSculpture Garden at New York's Museum of Modern Art in John Cassavetes's Shadows,San Francisco cop Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart) follows Madeleine Elster (KimNovak) to Gallery 6 at the Legion of Honour art museum in Lincoln Park in AlfredHitchcock's Vertigo (both 1959). Keeping his distance, he watches as she gazes at 'Portraitof Carlotta', which was painted specially by Abstract Expressionist artist John Ferren.

A still fromVertigo (1958) With James Stewart And Barbara Bel Geddes
A still fromVertigo (1958) With James Stewart And Barbara Bel Geddes

As we saw in Part One, Hitchcock set the finale of Blackmail (1929) on the roof of the British Museum and further excursions duly followed. The camera glides through the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, as Bruno Antony (Robert Walker) stalks GuyHaines (Farley Granger) through the rotunda in Strangers on a Train (1951). Then. inTorn Curtain (1966), physicist Michael Armstrong (Paul Newman) gives minderHermann Gromek (Wolfgang Kieling) the slip in the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin andtheir footsteps on the polished tiles echo around the deserted galleries before Armstrongducks out through a side door.

It's the sound of clanking metal that puts the wind up the invading Nazis in RobertStevenson's Bedknobs & Broomsticks (1971), as witch Eglantine Price (Angela Lansbury) uses her 'Substitutiary Locomotion' spell to animate the suits of armour and militaryuniforms on display in the museum at Pepperinge Eye in Dorset. And speaking of inspirational moments, who can forgetRockyBalboa (Sylvester Stallone) training of thesteps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in John G. Avildsen's Rocky (1976).

The national museum of Lugash is the focus of contrasting set-pieces in Blake Edwards'sThe Return of the Pink Panther (1976). Worthy of comparison with Jules Dassin's Rififi (1955) or Topkapi (1964), the theft of the eponymous diamond is a work of ingenuity and dexterity. But the subsequent investigation by Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Peter Sellers) is anything but, as he not only has trouble with the security doors and some wax on the gallery floor, but he also manages to destroy some priceless artefacts. Sergeant CliftonSleigh (Ted Wass) displays similar levels of ineptitude in Edwards's The Curse of the Pink Panther (1986), as he is attacked by Cato (Burt Kwouk) while visiting the Clouseau Museum, in which all of the exhibits are waxworks of Clouseau's most famous disguises.

A still from Curse of the Pink Panther (1983)
A still from Curse of the Pink Panther (1983)

Dr John Stevenson (David Warner), who may or may not be Jack the Ripper, is also keeping his identity shrouded in Nicholas Meyer's Time After Time (1979), after the timemachine invented by H.G. Wells (Malcolm McDowell) and stolen in 1893 winds up in theOakland Museum of California. The action drifts across the bay and calls in at the Palaceof Fine Arts in San Francisco. Back in Blighty, the National Gallery in London makes asimilarly brief cameo in James Ivory's adaptation of E.M. Forster's A Room With a View (1985), as Daniel Day-Lewis offers Denholm Elliott the use of a villa. But not everymuseum on screen gets to play itself. In Michael Mann's Manhunter (1986), for example,the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia serves as the asylum in which HannibalLecktor (Brian Cox) is being held.

Keep on Passing Through

Of all the museum scenes discussed in Cinema Paradiso's two-part survey, the mostpoignant comes in the least expected place. Midway through their rebellious rejection ofsocietal norms in John Hughes's Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986), the three friends drop into the Art Institute of Chicago. To the accompaniment of The Dream Academy'sinstrumental cover of The Smiths's song, 'Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want',Ferris (Matthew Broderick), Sloane (Mia Sara) and Cameron (Alan Ruck) join hands with a snake of small children on a field trip and strike a pose beside August Rodin's 'Portrait of Balzac'.

A still fromFerris Bueller's Day Off (1986) With Matthew Broderick And Alan Ruck
A still fromFerris Bueller's Day Off (1986) With Matthew Broderick And Alan Ruck

But, while Ferris and Sloane slip away to kiss in front of Marc Chagall's 'America Windows', Cameron has a moment of epiphany. In a series of increasingly tighter close-ups, he becomes transfixed by George Seurat's pointillist masterpiece, 'A Sunday on La Grande Jatte' and the more he stares at the little girl facing away from the other figures in the painting, the more Cameron realises that he's also heading in a different direction to his peers.

In stark contrast with this charming introspective pause, the gallery sequence in TimBurton's Batman (1989) is one of iconoclastic mayhem. As Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) meets Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) for dinner at Gotham City's Flugelheim Museum (designed by the Oscar-winning Anton Furst), The Joker (Jack Nicholson) bursts in and gasses everyone so that he and his henchmen can improve works like Vermeer's 'WomanWeighing Pearls' and Rembrandt's 'Self Portrait at the Age of 63' with bright green and pink paints. Informing Vicki that he's the world's first 'homicidal artist', The Joker hints ata more cultured side in sparing Francis Bacon's 'Figure With Meat'.

The same year reveals Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) working at theManhattanMuseum of Art in Ivan Reitman's Ghostbusters II (1989). Two years later, Steve Martin's weatherman adopts a new approach to art appreciation in Mick Jackson's L.A. Story (1991). As friend Susan Forristal primes her camcorder, Martin flicks down the wheels on his sneakers and rollerskates through the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where hisgliding progress causes consternation in Edvard Munch's 'The Scream' and ruffles the petals of Vincent Van Gogh's 'Sunflowers' (neither of which is actually held by LACMA). Later, Martin tells Richard E. Grant and Victoria Tennant that the abstract paintings in theMuseum of Contemporary Art get him 'emotionally erect'.

Martin dons a derby hat for his glide through the galleries, but it pales in sartorialeloquence beside the red crash helmet worn by Wallace during the ingenious robbery sequence in Nick Park's The Wrong Trousers (1993), as criminous chicken FeathersMcGraw disguises himself as a penguin in order to gain access to the Techno Trousers heneeds to remote control a sleepwalking Wallace through the theft of a large diamond fromthe local museum.

In 1996, Dario Argento became the first director to film inside the fabled Uffizi Gallery for The Stendhal Syndrome, which sees detective Anna Manni (Asia Argento) travel to Florence to apprehend serial rapist and murderer, Alfredo Grossi (Thomas Kretschmann). However, paintings including Botticelli's 'Primavera' and Caravaggio's 'Medusa' unsettleAnna before she is so overwhelmed by Bruegel's 'Landscape With the Fall of Icarus' (which is actually in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Brussels) that she succumbs to theeponymous condition that makes her believe she's kissing a giant fish in the depths of the painting sea.

A still fromThe Stendhal Syndrome (1996)
A still fromThe Stendhal Syndrome (1996)

The scaly creature takes human form in Barry Sonnenfeld's Men in Black (1997) and is chased throughManhattanby Agent J (Will Smith), who smashes the glass door of theSolomon R. Guggenheim Museum in order to pursue the alien up Frank Lloyd Wright'swhite spiral staircase to the roof. Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao providesequally exotic colour for the pre-credits sequence in Michael Apted's The World Is Not Enough (1999), which sees James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) get the better of some Swissbankers and their gun-toting henchmen.

The scene shifts to Cairo's Museum of Antiquities in Stephen Sommers's The Mummy (1999), where Ardeth Bay (Oded Fehr) speculates to Jack O'Connell (Brendan Fraser), Jonathan (John Hannah) and Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) that ancient high priestImhotep (Arnold Vosloo) wants to sacrifice Evelyn in order to resurrect his beloved,Anck-su-namun (Patricia Velásquez). The British Museum crops up in The MummyReturns (2001), while the British School in Rome stands in for the fictional Galleria D'Arte di Roma, from which George Clooney and his cohorts plan to liberate Fabergé's Imperial Coronation Egg in Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Twelve (2004).

There's another locational sleight of hand in Brett Ratner's Red Dragon (2005), as the Baltimore Museum of Arts essays the Brooklyn Museum for the scene in which Francis Dollarhyde (Ralph Fiennes) eats William Blake's picture, 'The GreatRed Dragonand theWoman Clothed in Sin'. Across the city, Alex Hitchins (Will Smith) takes Sara Melas (Eva Mendes) on a tour of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum in Andy Tennant's Hitch (2005).

A still fromHitch (2005) With Will Smith
A still fromHitch (2005) With Will Smith

The Guggenheim has twice provided the setting for glitzy receptions, as Tom Berengerseeks to impress Mimi Rogers in Ridley Scott's Someone to Watch Over Me (1997) andJim Carrey strives to prevent Angela Lansbury from noticing the antics of his water-sliding birds in Mark Waters's Mr Popper's Penguins (2011). But things take a more serious turn in Tom Tykwer's The International (2009), which required the construction (over 16weeks) of a life size replica of the museum for the explosive shootout between LouisSalinger (Clive Owen) and the gunmen intent on liquidating the assassin the Interpol agent has tracked from Rome.

The Eternal City also crops up in Chad Stahelski's John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017), as our hero (Keanu Reeves) follows Camorra boss Santino D'Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) to the Galleria Nazionale Arte Moderna in order to keep tabs on him at an exhibition. Staying on the continent, Dominic Bad guy (Ricky Gervais) and Constantine (Matt Vogel), a criminal mastermind who is Kermit's double, plan to follow art thefts in Berlin and Madrid with the purloining of the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London in James Bobin's Muppets Most Wanted (2014). Meanwhile, lovers Antonia Campbell-Hughes and JulianMorris visit the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool and become fixated on Alfred Gilbert's sculpture, 'Mors Janua Vitae' (or 'Death, the Gateway to Life'), in Kieran Evan's take on Niall Griffiths's novel, Kelly + Victor (2012).

As Sir Alfred was a British artist, it's apt that his work should find a home in a UK museum. But provenance is becoming an increasingly contentious issue are concerned, although films continue to show intrepid travellers heading to exotic locations in search of enticing artefacts. In Matthew O'Callaghan's Curious George (2006), for example, Tim (Will Ferrell) makes for Africa to fetch a giant African icon that can help save the museum owned by Mr Bloomsberry (Dick Van Dyke), which is losing so much money that sonJunior (David Cross) wants to turn it into a parking lot. Similarly, in James Bobin's Dora and the Lost City of Gold (2019), Dora Marquez (Isabella Moner) and her friends are kidnapped from the archives during a class trip to the museum because her explorer parents have been searching for the Inca city of Parapata and its fabled treasure horde.

Some films are seeking to redress the balance, however, As far back as 1972, Peter Yates's The Hot Rock shows how African envoy Dr Amusa (Moses Gunn) hires John Dortmunder (Robert Redford) and his crew to retrieve from the Brooklyn Museum an African diamond that had been stolen in colonial times. Despite the meticulous planning, however, things become complicated when Allan Greenberg (Paul Sand) is forced to swallow the stone ashe's apprehended in the museum foyer while making his getaway.

More recently, Ryan Coogler addressed the topics of colonial history and culturalappropriation in the Marvel blockbuster, Black Panther (2018), as Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) and Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) join forces to break into the Museum of Great Britain and steal the ancient Vibranium axe and Dogon mask that had been looted from Wakanda. Interestingly, Coogler was denied permission to film in the British Museum and had to use the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, instead.

Metropolitan Marvels

When Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould unveiled the Metropolitan Museum of Art onNew York's Fifth Avenue in 1872, there was an outcry. The High Victorian Gothic style was so unpopular that 'the Met' was considered a mausoleum and its red brick and stone façade was hidden behind a new Beaux-Arts frontage in 1902. In due time, this wasfollowed by the Great Hall and Grand Stairway, which were designed by father and son Richard Morris Hunt and Richard Howland Hunt.

The existing complex is 20 times the size of the original and houses over two million artefacts, making it the largest museum in the United States. The Met started making its own films in 1922, when Harry Burton recorded an archaeological dig in Egypt, although by far the most charming effort is Robin Lehman's Metropolitan Cats (1983).

A still fromBlack Panther (2018)
A still fromBlack Panther (2018)

Despite having its own film archive, themuseum hasn't always been so ready to open its doors to Hollywood since Eben Adams (Joseph Cotten) got to see the picture he had painted of his beloved, Jennie Appleton (Jennifer Jones), hanging at the Met in William Dieterle's Portrait of Jennie (1948). Thistearjerking melodrama is one of several films to have made use of the Cloisters and their adjoining garden. Clint Eastwood takes a stroll with Susan Clark here in Don Siegel'sCoogan's Bluff (1968) and characters have similarly sought to unwind in the calming environs in Martin Ritt's The Front (1976), Alan J. Pakula's The Devil's Own (1997) and Edward Norton's Keeping the Faith (2000).

Moreover, the Cloisters have also impersonated a convent in Hal Hartley's Amateur (1994) and the English court in Al Pacino's Looking For Richard (1996). However, it'snot currently possible to see their appearance in Julie DePietro's The Good Guy (2009). Nor can UK viewers see either version (with Ingrid Bergman in 1973 and Lauren Bacall in 1995) of E.L. Konigsburg's novel, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler, in which a brother and sister run away from home and take refuge in the Met.

One of its most frequent visitors has been Woody Allen, although his first on-screen gallery excursion took him to the Museum of Art in San Francisco so that his typicallynebbish character in Play It Again, Sam (1972) could strike out dismally while trying to chat up the morosely intense Diana Davila in front of a Jackson Pollock. Allen makes it to the Met in Manhattan (1979) after Isaac Davis first encounters culture vulture Mary Wilkie (Diane Keaton) occurs at the Guggenheim. This paean to Allen's home borough also includes scenes shot at the Whitney Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. Most memorably, Isaac and Mary get caught in a thunderstorm and seek shelter in the HaydenPlanetarium at the American Museum of Natural History.

Elsewhere in the Allen oeuvre available to rent on high-quality discs from CinemaParadiso, Jonathan Rhys Myers and Scarlett Johansson bump into each other in TateModern in Match Point (2005), while Kristen Bell works as a curator at the Guggenheim in When in Rome (2010). Allen returned to the Met for A Rainy Day in New York (2019), as student Timothy Chalamet wanders the galleries while girlfriend Elle Fanning isinterviewing film-maker Liev Schreiber. He runs into Selena Gomez, the sister of an old flame. and is also spotted by his aunt and uncle, who remind him about the charity gala that his parents are hosting and that he is keen to avoid.

One of the most iconic scenes set at the Met was actually filmed at the PhiladelphiaMuseum of Art. Brian De Palma pays homage to Alfred Hitchcock in Dressed to Kill (1980) by having the camera glide through the galleries to the sound of clicking high heels, as Kate Miller (Angie Dickinson) steels herself to flirt with Warren Lookman (Ken Baker), the handsome stranger in sunglasses who had joined her on a bench in front of a painting depicting a reclining gorilla.

The elegant Sackler Wing houses the 2000-year old Temple of Dendur and it proves the perfect place for Harry Burns (BillyCrystal) to guide Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) through the pronunciation of pepper,paprikash, and pecan pie in Rob Reiners's When Harry Met Sally. .. (1989). The samesetting features in A Perfect Murder (1998), Andrew Davis's remake of Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M For Murder (1955), as David Shaw (Viggo Mortensen) becomes distracted from a discussion of hieroglyphics at a charity gala by the entrance of Emily Bradford Taylor (Gwyneth Paltrow). Something for Cinema Paradiso renters to look out for is the fact that Shaw's pictures were painted by Viggo Mortensen himself!

A still fromA Perfect Murder (1998)
A still fromA Perfect Murder (1998)

Everyone knows that billionaire Pierce Brosnan steals Claude Monet's 'San GiorgioMaggiore at Dusk' from the Met to the tune of Nina Simone's 'Sinnerman' in JohnMcTiernan's The Thomas Crown Affair (1999). But this variation on Norman Jewison's 1968 Steve McQueen vehicle of the same name was denied permission to film at the museum, as it was thought that the theft that puts NYPD detective Michael McCann (Denis Leary) and insurance investigator Catherine Banning (Rene Russo) on Crown's tail would encourage others to tamper with the exhibits. Brosnan can be see on the outside steps, but the finale referencing René Magritte's 'The Son of Man' was filmed in the NewYork Public Library.

Despite the Metropolitan's grandeur, it often has to settle for cameo appearances like theone in Mark Waters's Head Over Heels (2001), which is used to establish that MonicaPotter is an art conservator. And it's reduced to the setting for swish functions in bothRoger Michell's Changing Lanes, as Ben Affleck attends a do honouring a benefactor in the Temple of Dendur, and Wayne Wang's Maid inManhattan (both 2002), which turns the charity ball to which senatorial candidate Ralph Fiennes has invited hotel maid and single mom Jennifer Lopez into a Cinderella moment.

Edie Sedgwick (Sienna Miller) and Chuck Wein (Jimmy Fallon) can be spotted outside the Met in George Hickenlooper's Factory Girl (2006), while anthropology student Scarlett Johansson gets to see both the Met and the Museum of Natural History as she gets to know Manhattan's Upper East Side in Shari Springer Berman's The Nanny Diaries (2007). Apocalypse survivor Robert Neville (Will Smith) goes fishing for carp in the Temple of Dendur in Francis Lawrence's I Am Legend (2007). Even more memorably, he also plays golf on the wing of a spy plane on the deck of USS Intrepid at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum at Manhattan's Pier 68. More functionally, picture restorer MichelleMonaghan meets Patrick Dempsey in the statue court at the Greek Room in Paul Weiland's Made of Honor (2008).

The British Museum stands in for the Met so that Zac Efron can become acquainted with Zoe Kazan in Richard Linklater's Me and Orson Welles (2008), while Percy (Logan Lerman) and his school tripping classmates go to the Greek and Roman galleries in Chris Columbus's Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (2010). The same year also saw Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan), Jake Moore (Shia LaBoeuf) and Bretton James (Josh Brolin) attend a charity gala at the Met in Oliver Stone's Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, while Rachel McAdams chinwags with Jeff Goldblum in the museum in Roger Michell's Morning Glory (both 2010).

Six years after Christopher Walken's Fugue String Quartet play in the Met's Grace RaineyRogers Auditorium in Yaron Zilberman's A Late Quartet (2012), Debbie Ocean (SandraBullock) assembles a crew to steal Cartier's $150 million Toussaint Necklace during the annual Met Gala in Gary Ross's Ocean's 8 (2018). But nothing captures the glitz of this prestigious event more faithfully than Andrew Rossi's documentary, First Monday in May (2016), which follows fashion curator Andrew Bolton as he puts together the record-breaking 'China Through the Looking Glass' exhibition, while also planning the Met Gala with fabled Vogue editor, Anna Wintour.

The Nation's Attic

Evolved from the Columbia Institute For the Promotion of Arts and Sciences, theSmithsonian Institution was founded in 1836 at the behest of heirless British scientist James Smithson, who had gifted 104,960 gold sovereigns to the United States in order to further knowledge. A scene in Steven Spielberg's Amistad (1997) shows John Quincy Adams (Anthony Hopkins) dozing off during the congressional debate about Smithson's bequest.

Designed by James Renwick, Jr., the first building in Washington, DC - known today as 'The Castle' - was opened in 1855 and a further 18 museums, 21 libraries and nine research centres followed in order to house the Smithsonian's 154 million artefacts. It even has its own zoo, which opened in 1889.

The Castle was the first Smithsonian venue to appear on film, as alien spaceship hover above it in the opening scene of Robert Wise's The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). Later, crowds gather in front of the Arts and Industries Building and theNational Museum of Natural Historyto watch Klaatu (Michael Rennie) step on to the Earth's surface to bringhis message of intergalactic peace. Extraterrestrials also make for The Castle in Fred F. Sears's Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956), which sees Hugh Marlowe and Joan Taylorstrive to protect the Project Skyhook space programme from extraterrestrial interference. It also takes two to save the day in John Lounsbery's The Rescuers (1977), a Disneyanimation that sees the Smithsonian Institute [sic.] entrusted with the giant diamond thatMadame Medusa has been thwarted from stealing by mouse agents Bernard and MissBianca. The museum is only mentioned at the end and doesn't figure at all in The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981). But Charles Smithson, the character played by Jeremy Ironsin Karel Reisz's take on John Fowles's novel, is based on founder James Smithson.

A still fromThe French Lieutenant's Woman (1981)
A still fromThe French Lieutenant's Woman (1981)

Corrine Jefferies (Cybill Shepherd) is head curator of the First Ladies Collection at theNational Museum of American History in Emile Ardolino's Chances Are (1989) and her galleries, The Castle and the Edith Haupt Garden pop up as she is pursued by Alex Finch (Robert Downey, Jr.), who just happens to be the reincarnation of her late husband,Louie. But Cinema Paradiso users will have to keep their eyes open at the start of GaryTrousdale's Disney animation, Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001), as the Smithsonian only appears in the drawing of young Milo Thatch's home museum.

The mention is just as fleeting in Jon Turteltaub's National Treasure (2004), as BenjaminFranklin Gates (Nicolas Cage) divides some of the artefacts has unearthed between the Louvre, the Cairo Museum and the Smithsonian. However, we get to see some proper realestate in Peter Segal's Get Smart (2008), as not only is the CONTROL counter intelligence agency based in the National Museum of Natural History, but Agent 86 Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell) can also be seen walking through its Rotunda.

In Nora Ephron's Julie and Julia (2009), blogger Julie Powell (Amy Adams) is so obsessed with Julia Child (Meryl Streep) and her pioneering book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, that when she visits the chef's kitchen at the National Museum ofAmerican History, she leaves behind a pack of butter as a mark of respect. The same year also saw the release of the first film to be given permission to include the Institution's name in its title. Shooting at The Castle, the National Museum of Natural History, and the National Air and Space Museum, Shawn Levy's Night At the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian sees hapless museum security guard Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) fetch up in Washington.

Of course, Cinema Paradiso users will know that in Night At the Museum (2006), deadbeat dad Daley had hoped to turn his life around by working the night shift at NewYork's American Museum of Natural History. However, his plans for a quiet life are dashed when an ancient Egyptian tablet brings to life such exhibits as a playful dinosaur, a stuffed monkey, a bullish waxwork of President Theodore Roosevelt (Robin Williams) and miniature figures of a Roman centurion (Steve Coogan) and a cowboy (Owen Wilson).

Now, three years later, Daley finds himself in the middle of another nocturnal muddle after the exhibits are temporarily transferred to the Smithsonian. Luckily, aviatrix AmeliaEarhart (Amy Adams) is on hand to help prevent reanimated pharaoh, Kahmunrah (HankAzaria), from taking over the world using the tablet belonging to his younger brother, Ahkmenrah (Remy Malik). But Daley becomes concerned when the tablet's power beginsto wane and he has to travel to a fantasy version of the British Museum in London to restore its lustre by lifting a curse in Night At the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014).

One can only presume Daley was elsewhere when Michael Bay's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) came to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Centre at theNational Air and Space Museumand, therefore, missed witnessing the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird re-jig itself as an Autobot named Jetfire. Nothing is going to keep Tecumseh Sparrow Spivet (Kyle Catlett) from reaching the Smithsonian, however. When he learns that he has won the Baird Prize for his invention of a perpetual motion machine in Jean-Pierre Jeunet's The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet (2013), the 10 year-old prodigy sets off for Washington by freight train without telling his parents back in Montana (Callum David Rennie and Helena Bonham Carter) in order to give a speech to the Institution's great and good.

A still fromTransformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) With Megan Fox
A still fromTransformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) With Megan Fox

Doubtless, Master Spivet would be delighted to meet the Marvel character floating around the National Mall in Anthony Russo's Captain America: The Winter Solider (2014), as Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) mooches around the Milestones of Flight galleries at theNational Air and Space Museumbefore going into action with fellow S.H.I.E.L.D.members Natasha Romanoff (aka Black Widow; Scarlett Johansson) and Sam Wilson (akaFalcon; Anthony Mackie) to do battle with his erstwhile buddy, Bucky Barnes (aka WinterSoldier; Sebastian Stan).

Staying in superhero mode, we move to the DC Comics Extended Universe for Patty Jenkins's Wonder Woman 1984 (2020), as the National Air and Space Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and theNational Museum of Natural Historyall get a look in because Diana Prince (Gail Gadot) works at the Smithsonian. Indeed, she is asked by the FBI to team with new recruit Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) to identify the antiquities recovered from a foiled robbery. However, the timid geologist and cryptozoologist is jealous of Diana and becomes intrigued by the fact that the Dreamstone bears a Latin inscription that grants its holder a wish. Perhaps she'll ask for a CinemaParadiso subscription so that she can select to her heart's content from the 100,000 high-quality titles in its unrivalled catalogue.

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