The Compass Inn Museum and Fort Ligonier make history come alive on a regular basis, but the two Laurel Highlands attractions will be doing it in an entirely new way on Thursday, Jan. 19.
That’s when Fort Ligonier will host a free screening of “The Pale Blue Eye” and hold a behind-the-scenes discussion about the historical thriller, which was released Jan. 6 on Netflix. Some scenes were filmed at the Compass Inn Museum, and cannons from the fort are featured in the movie.
It is free to attend, but guests are asked to preregister online at Eventbrite or by calling the Compass Inn Museum at (724) 238-4983. The film is rated R and not recommended for children. Update: The Compass Inn Musuem says that reservations are going very quickly and tickets are limited. Ticket reservations should be made as soon as possible.
Questions can be directed to Theresa Gay Rohall at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Doors will open at 6:30 p.m., with the screening at 7. Refreshments will be included for in-person attendees and are sponsored by Michael P. Reese, CPWA (Janney Montgomery Scott LLC).
History and mystery
The plot of the film revolves around a series of fictional murders that took place in 1830 at the United States Military Academy. The storyline follows Edgar Allan Poe, played by Harry Melling, as a young cadet. Christian Bale portrays retired detective Augustus Landor, who is investigating the murders. “The Pale Blue Eye” is based on Louis Bayard’s best-selling novel of the same name. The film is produced by Bale alongside director/writer Scott Cooper, John Lesher, and Tyler Thompson of Cross Creek Pictures.
Bayard was delighted to learn the Compass Inn location shoot was not far from the Laughlintown home of his grandparents, Louis and Isabel Bayard.
“We were so thrilled that Louis Bayard, Scott Cooper, and John Lesher fell in love with our beloved Compass Inn Museum,” said Theresa Gay Rohall, executive director of the Ligonier Valley Historical Society. “Even though the film is dark and mysterious, we had such a wonderful and positive time working with everyone, from the great cast and crew to the representatives of The Pittsburgh Film Office – Kent Jackson, Phil Pierre and the location manager, Michelle Gibbs. It is an experience my board of directors and I will never forget.”
Behind the Scenes
The Compass Inn Museum is an authentically restored stagecoach stop in Laughlintown, but in late November 2021, a team of carpenters from the Pittsburgh area began transforming the Blacksmith Shop into Benny’s Haven, a fictional tavern frequented by members of the West Point community in the 1830s.
“It was an exciting time for us as we watched the transformations,” Rohall said.
After more than three weeks of preparation, filming began with many trucks, equipment, and crew arriving. Even with all of the hustle and bustle around the historic grounds, it was impossible to miss the enticing aroma of roasted duck, rabbit, and turkey legs coming from the authentically constructed cookhouse, which features a 1799 beehive oven, on the museum property.
Not only did Rohall act as the site coordinator for filming, she and her sister, Michelle Gay of McKeesport, used 19th-century recipes to prepare the food that was presented to the actors and on the tables during the filming of the tavern scenes.
For more than a month, Rohall collaborated with prop master Kris Peck – who has worked on all the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies as well as “Top Gun Maverick” among many other films – to ensure the food was period-correct and looked authentic.
Spirit of Collaboration
Fort Ligonier agreed to host the event because it has a larger space than the Compass Inn and can accommodate up to 150 guests.
“That’s what the Laurel Highlands is all about, all of us working together,” said Julie Donovan, the director of marketing and public relations for Fort Ligonier.
Donovan is excited to see history – even if it is historical fictional – in the spotlight thanks to “The Pale Blue Eye.”
“Anything that makes today’s consumer interested in history is a good thing,” she said. “I think it’s very neat to have one of the area’s historic attractions (the Compass Inn Museum) featured in the movie. There was no filming here at the Fort, but we loaned four of our cannons.”
Part of the brief panel discussion, which will take place at an appropriate intermission time during the film, will focus on how Fort Ligonier’s historic cannons were transported to Westminster College in Lawrence County for filming.
There also will be a Q&A session following the film.
Those unable to attend in-person will have the opportunity to participate virtually in the panel discussion. The online link will be sent to all attendees prior to Jan. 19. The movie will not be streamed via Zoom.