Statues from Movies and TV
Detroit mayor Dave Bing reached out to citizens of the internet for suggestions for how to invigorate his city. One of the suggestions that came in yesterday was that Detroit should erect a statue of Robocop, from the 1987 film Robocop, which was set in Detroit. The mayor seemed to dismiss the idea out of hand.
He’s probably hearing more about it today, as the idea is gaining ground. Plenty of statues of fictional characters from film and TV stand in other cities.
The city of Metropolis, Illinois is proud to be the official home of Superman. The city erected a 7-foot fiberglass statue of the super hero in 1972. Unfortunately, too many people tried to see if Superman was indeed bulletproof (he was not) and the statue deteriorated. In 1993, the town raised $120,000 to replace the fiberglass statue with a bronze sculpture, which is bulletproof.
The statue of fictional boxer Rocky Balboa that stands outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art was originally cast as a prop for the 1982 movie Rocky III. The statue was later donated to the city of Philadephia. For months after filming, the statue stayed in its place on the steps leading up to the art museum, as it was in the film. Then it was moved to the entrance of the Wachovia Spectrum in South Philadelphia, where many of the character’s fights took place. When Rocky V was filming, the statue moved once again to the museum steps. In 2006, it found a permanent place in the yard in front of the museum. Image by Flickr user msspider66.
In 2007, the village of Žitište, Serbia erected its own statue in homage to the fighting spirit of Rocky Balboa.
In 1999, the cable channel TV Land decided to honor the iconic fictional characters of television with statues placed in their hometowns, a project that was later called “TV Land Landmarks”. The first such statue was of Ralph Kramden, the New York City bus driver played by Jackie Gleason in the 1955-’56 series The Honeymooners. The natural place to display the statue was at the New York-New Jersey Port Authority Bus Terminal building in mid-town Manhattan, where it was erected in 2000. Image by Flickr user Tom Magliery.
TV Land planned to install of statue of Mary Richards in Minneapolis in 2001, but local controversy over the project pushed the unveiling to 2002. The one image most people remember from The Mary Tyler Moore Show is that of character Mary Richards throwing her hat into the air during the opening sequence. The statue that stands at the corner of 7th Street and Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis, where the scene was filmed, depicts the character doing just that.
Andy and Opie Taylor, the father and son characters played by Andy Griffith and Ron Howard in The Andy Griffith Show, are seen in two statues in North Carolina. The first was erected in Raleigh, the state capitol in 2003 as part of the TV Land Landmark series. But the actual town that Taylor’s Mayberry was fashioned after is Mt. Airy, which is Griffith’s hometown. So TV Land arranged to have a second statue placed in Mt. Airy in 2004. Both statues, which depict Andy and his son Opie going fishing, have suffered multiple acts of vandalism, which only highlights how the fictional Mayberry doesn’t exist in the real world. The statue pictured is in Mt. Airy. Image by Flickr user Melissa Wilkins.
Dr. Bob Hartley
In 2004, TV Land commissioned a statue of psychologist Dr. Robert Hartley from The Bob Newhart Show to be erected in Chicago. The statue was temporarily installed outside the office building used for exterior shots of his workplace. It now has a permanent place in the sculpture garden at the Navy Pier. The statue of the doctor sitting in a chair is accompanied by a couch, where visitors can recline and imagine being psychoanalyzed. Image by Flickr user Dystopos.
In 2005, a controversial TV Land statue of the witch Samantha Stevens from the series Bewitched was unveiled in Salem, Massachusetts. Some citizens of the town objected because the witch trials of 1692 that are associated with the community were a tragedy that should not be trivialized. Some TV fans were upset because the series actually took place in a Connecticut suburb. The statue sits in Lappin Park. Image by Flickr user dresdnhope.
Milkwaukee, Wisconsin welcomed an icon from the TV series Happy Days in 2008, when a statue of character Arthur Fonzarelli, known as The Fonz was unveiled. The TV Land statue was sculpted by artist Gerald Sawyer. The Fonz, installed near the river while Henry Winkler, who portrayed the character looked on, was the final statue erected in the TV Land Landmark series. Image by Flickr user mechanikat.
American Movie Stars
Eastern Europe has seen a trend in the past few years of honoring American movie stars with statues in towns that have no connection to the actor or any of their films. In 2005, a life-size bronze statue of Bruce Lee was installed in Mostar, Bosnia. It was soon vandalized and sent to Zagreb for repair, but has not yet returned to Mostar. Last year, Johnny Depp was honored with a statue of his likeness in Drvengrad, Serbia as part of a film festival. The most recent such statue is a bronze bust of Sean Connery unveiled in Tallinn, Estonia.
Should fictional characters be depicted in municipal statues? Do you think such artwork dilutes the honor a statue implies for a real person, or it this type of scheme fair game for drawing tourism?