When we asked all of Philadelphia to watch Witness this weekend for Week 2 of our One Movie, One Philadelphia initiative, we expected that some of you would have fond memories of the 1985 Harrison Ford Philly noir thriller.
We did not expect that one of you might have the actual Witness car in your possession.
Reader Eric Fasci of Harleysville wrote to tell us he’s the proud owner of the blue VW squareback that protagonist John Book (Ford) takes to Amish country as he flees from crooked cops and hides out with an Amish woman (Kelly McGillis), her son (Lukas Haas), and her father (Jan Rubes).
Here’s what it looked like when Fasci bought at an auction in Leesport, he says.
Here’s what it looks like now, fixed up and taken to the site of movie’s filming in Lancaster County, where locals could take a look at it. Fasci said it still has the dent in the hood where the bird house fell on it.
Other readers also recounted a personal connection to the film.
Reader “Lefty Grove” remembers watching the production in Center City. “I happened to see them shooting a scene for Witness. It was at the old Dewey’s on the southeast corner of 15th and Locust. They had traffic blocked, and I went to see why. Harrison Ford was seated at a window and the camera was out on the street, filming him through the glass. He was taking bites of a hot dog and spitting them into a napkin. My brush with greatness!”
That prompted a memory from jgcorcoran: ‘I was an extra in that scene. Good lookin’ guy walking past their window seats. Got ~$70 minus $10 for a 1 day SAG-AFTRA membership. It was the day the Gallery caught fire 5/4/84.'
Ford, in a in recent interview with The Inquirer , said he spent several weeks doing ride-alongs with Philly detectives. Some of those local law enforcement folks ended up in the movie, readers said.
Trbshoot2 reports that “many Philly cops had extra roles in the film," and can be seen in the 30th Street Stations scenes, and in some of the shots in Lancaster County.
Readers without personal ties to the production also loved revisiting the film — and some loved discovering it for the first time.
Advantasux: “Have seen it a hundred times, still love it as much as the first time.”
cssikora1: “Somehow never saw this one! Very well done! Looking forward to the next recommendation.”
The film’s intergenerational appeal was cited by online commenter Lar64: "Love it. It is a go to movie for me. The beauty of the filming of Lancaster County, the draw of their relationship (Ford and McGillis) without being overt, and the suspense. Watched it last week. My kids quote it too.”
Commenter 1homer thought the movie, like star Ford, has aged well. I saw ‘Witness when it was first out – thought it well done and very moving, still do now.”
“Dusty Finish” loved the performances, and singled out Haas as giving “one of the best kid performances I’ve ever seen.”
The late Jan Rubes, who plays McGillis’ father, was praised as well, prompting this response from gglaser33: “Thank you for this kind mention of my Godfather Jan Rubes – his is wonderful in the movie we love watching – it’s as if he is still here with us. BTW his youngest son Tony has a brief role as a ‘Townie.’”
Lots of folks also praised the Maurice Jarre soundtrack. and John Seale camerawork.
Readers also started looking ahead to next weekend and the next selection, and several recommended the edgy Philly-shot Brian DePalma/John Travolta Blow Out, even as another reader complained about Witness being a murder movie and insensitive to the crisis at hand.
Blow Out will undoubtedly be added to the One Movie, One Philadelphia canon at some point, but near-term the selection committee may opt for something that offers more family-friendly escapism, more PG content, and fewer prostitutes. One reader made an eloquent argument for the silliness of National Treasure: Book of Secrets.