Mackinac Island and Grand Hotel In 1944
Turner Classic Movies recently ran a travel documentary filmed in 1944 about Michigan’s Mackinac Island and the Grand Hotel. (For the uninitiated, the name is pronounced MACK-in-aw)
I’m a little surprised that it was filmed in 1944 — WWII was raging in both Europe and the Pacific at that time. Perhaps it was intended as a bit of escapism for audiences of the time.
There also seemed to be quite a few people at Mackinaw Island for a nation that was under wartime rationing. They may, however, have been hired extras. It is Hollywood, after all.
One sequence in the ten minute short showed a group golfing on what has to be the Jewel, Grand Hotel’s course, which was built in 1901. Today, the Jewel is a full 18 holes. I have, sadly, never had the chance to play there, or to stay at Grand Hotel (though I have been to the island, which is accessible only by boat).
Then, as now, automobiles were forbidden on the island. Transportation to this day is by foot, bicycle or horse. In truth, the main street doesn’t look terribly different.
The Grand Hotel boasts some 397 rooms and boasts of the world’s longest porch. Each room is decorated differently. The hotel has been in operation since 1887.
Also on the island are a number of really interesting historic sites, such as Fort Mackinac. The island originally was garrisoned by the French to control water passage in the fur trade. They lost control of the island after the French and Indian War. A fort was built by the British during the Revolution, who eventually surrendered it fifteen years after the Treaty of Paris. The fort changed hands a couple of times during the War of 1812.
The oldest building there dates to the 1700s and a large number of homes from the 1800s survive. John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company store from the 1820s, for example, still stands.
The travel documentary was directed by James Fitzpatrick, who made some 200 travel film shorts in the 1930s and 1940s, both in the United States and around the world. You can see the entire ten minute short on Mackinac Island and Grand Hotel in 1944 below.