Arlington: Eagle Film City

by Tim Gilmore, 6/22/2012

Five buildings wait.

The Norman Film Mfg. Co. of Jacksonville, Florida Presents

The CRIMSON SKULL

ALL COLORED CAST

1916 Eagle Film Studios becomes Normal Laboratories in 1920. White company owner Richard Norman’s all-black-cast films stand out from the blackface/minstrel-show “race films” made on the Riverside/Brooklyn border and in locations all over the country at the time that foreshadowed “Blaxploitation” by half a century. Norman promotional materials describe his actors as “splendidly assuming different roles.”

BILL PICKETT

World’s Colored Champion IN “THE BULL-DOGGER”

Death Defying Feats of Courage and Skill

FIVE SMASHING REELS OF THRILLS!

LAUGHS TOO!

The swimming pool in which water scenes were filmed is still there, but underground.

The old wooden production building still contains the darkroom, screening and projection rooms, and a walk-in film safe.

The Flying Ace was “the greatest airplane thriller ever filmed” in 1926; ironically, the whole film was shot on the ground.

The buildings are white, wooden, silent, lonely. Walking among them makes you lonely. You feel that nothing has ever happened here. No, you feel that everything has happened in these buildings and on these grounds, but that everything has been forgotten and lost. Before Eagle Film City, the main building of the complex had been a cigar factory sometime just after 1900. After Richard Norman retired in 1952, his wife Gloria used the complex for dance studios until the middle of the 1970s. Then the main building housed Hugh Electric Company. And then everything went empty. And now everything waits.