In the summer of 1923, Chanute Air Force Base was turned into a movie production site. The News-Gazette spent that summer producing “The City Beyond,” a film that showcased the twin cities. The film was shot around Champaign, Urbana, and Chanute Air Force Base. Airplanes were filmed taking off at Chanute and performing extravagant maneuvers to be used in several scenes, including one that featured an aerial pageant.
Hundreds of local people took part in the movie. The film was directed by J. Law Siple of Siple Studios in Chicago and starred Miss Ruth Honn, Mr. Frank Robeson, and Mrs. Elizabeth Boggs Bartling. Although the film was meant to highlight scenes from Champaign-Urbana, it also told a story. The plot of the film focused on a motion picture company filming on location in a strange city.
And the film was a hit! It ran at the Virginia Theater for three days, July 23-25. The News-Gazette reported that hundreds of people crowded the lobby, eager to see a film that featured their family and friends. Many people even returned to view the film for a second or third time. The scenes shot at Chanute were considered one of the most "outstanding" parts.
Following the screening, the News-Gazette kept the film and reported that they had already received several requests to show it in nearby towns. They stated, “The film will be a volume of Twin City history and in future years will be cherished again as an exact chronicle of the city as it was.” Chanute’s role in the local production captures the close relationship that the base had with the town from its very beginning.
News-Gazette articles written on “The City Beyond” include: “’The City Beyond’ Local Picture to Be Shown Here This Week,” The News-Gazette, July 22, 1923, pg. 1-2; “’The City Beyond’ to Be Shown at Virginia July 16, 17, and 18,” The News-Gazette, July 8, 1293, pg. 13; “The City Beyond Will Close Run Wednesday Night,” The News-Gazette, July 25, 1923, pg. 7; “’The City Beyond’ Scores Triumph Before Crowds,” The News-Gazette, July 24, 1923, pg. 7.
-Liz, Archives Intern