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Guthrie Scottish Rite: Backdrop for new Ronald Reagan Movie

Dennis Quaid as Ronald Reagan (Photo: Rawhide Pictures)

by Christopher Hodapp

An article appeared on the Oklahoman news site yesterday announcing that a new biopic of former president Ronald Reagan will be released in August this year.
Reagan is directed by Sean McNamara (Soul Surfer) with a modest budget of $25 million and stars Dennis Quaid as the actor, governor and president.

For Freemasons, the important news here is that much of the filming took place in and around the
Guthrie Scottish Rite Cathedral.

Guthrie Scottish Rite Cathedral
According to the article, filming took place four years ago, between September and November of 2020, but COVID shutdowns and other issues delayed the final release until this year. The film tracks Reagan's impoverished youth in Illinois, service in the military, his unlikely patch to Hollywood and career as a movie star (making more than 50 pictures between the late 1930s and into the 50s) before entering politics in the 1960s. The John Voight character is a fictional composite of soviet agents who began tracking Reagan when he served as the head of the Screen Actors' Guild and became a fierce opponent of communism. While serving two terms as the 40th U.S. president between 1981 and 1989, Reagan stared down the Soviet Union and its then-president Gorbachov, essentially bringing the post-WWII Cold War to an end.

A few production photos from the shoot:

©Rawhide Pictures

©Rawhide Pictures

©Rawhide Pictures

The script is written by Howard Klausner ('Space Cowboys') and Jonas McCord (2001's "The Body"), based on Paul Kengor's book, 'The Crusader: Reagan and the Fall of Communism.' Director Sean McNamara was brought onto the project after the film's original director, John Avildson (who directed 'Rocky'), died unexpectedly in 2017.

©Rawhide Pictures

The production team used Guthrie's Scottish Rite Cathedral for its base of operations, and you'll see much of it on screen. Its magnificent interiors were used to recreate the Oval Office and the Situation Room of the White House; several scenes in Cold War-era Soviet Russia; the famed Cocoanut Grove nightclub (which was inside of the now-demolished Ambassador Hotel in Hollywood); and Germany's Brandenburg Gate between East and West Berlin, where Reagan famously demanded, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

Reagan's 'Brandenburg Gate' speech in Berlin is
recreated in front of the Guthrie Scottish Rite.
(Photo: ©Rawhide Pictures)

Masonic Buildings As Film Locations

Masons with unique temple rooms and buildings — large and small, old and new — would do well to reach out to their state film commissions, submit detailed photos to them, and offer building tours to their officials on a regular basis. Film commissions have employees who make themselves familiar with potential shooting locations and unique visual attractions in their state so they can effectively answer the requirements of film productions and location scouts. That can translate into money and other benefits to owners of unique properties, including Masonic temples.

Local economies are given a tremendous boost as well, when a major production comes to town. Oklahoma got picked for this particular film because the state's Film Rebate Program kicks back up to 37 percent of qualified expenditures on productions. According to a 2021
Newsweek article written when the film wrapped production, "Reagan spent 24 days filming in Oklahoma, plus three months of pre- and post-production work, employing 155 locals, not counting a few hundred extras in scenes such as a union strike in the 1940s and the night Reagan won the California governorship in 1966."

Oklahoma's Film Commission has a program whereby a town or community can be labeled as "Film Friendly," and Guthrie qualified for that status. The program educates local officials and business owners about how to roll out the red carpet when major productions come calling.

Fairfax, Oklahoma's Grayhorse Lodge 124 appeared in Martin Scorcese's
Killers of the Flower Moon (2023).

Not far from Guthrie, Grayhorse Lodge 124 in Fairfax, Oklahoma got used for scenes in Martin Scorcese's 2023 film Killers of the Flower Moon. In return, their lodge room got painted and other upgrades were added when the film crew came to town.

The George Washington National Masonic Memorial
subbed for the Smithsonian in National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets

When the 2007 film National Treasure 2 was shot in and around Washington, DC, the George Washington Masonic National Memorial stood in for a lecture hall and display area in the Smithsonian Institute. The Scottish Rite SJ's House of the Temple headquarters, also in Washington, was the location for 2009's State of Play with Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, and Helen Mirren. The Grand Executive Director's office became a congressman's office, a political speech was shot on the front steps, while several other scenes were shot in seemingly mundane hallways and corridors. Location fees helped fund some major repairs to the building. (Thanks for the info, Brent.)

Whether you recognized it or not, the United Grand Lodge of England's magnificent art-deco Freemasons Hall on Great Queen Street in London has been used in movies and TV shows for decades. Freemasons Hall is very well known to UK film crews. The producers of the 1930s-era
Poirot TV series with David Suchet as the Belgian detective seemed to be especially in love with the place, and it appeared in many episodes as wildly different locales. Just a few examples of its many on-screen appearences can be read about HERE and HERE.

While our most magnificent 'City Beautiful'-era buildings can stand in for government buildings, court houses, universities, theaters, museums and other monumental buildings of the past, that's not always what location scouts are hunting. Sometimes they're simply seeking out very simple locations that can be used for multiple settings, which can allow them to spend less moving time between sequences. Back when our company shot TV commercials, my own lodge's humble dining room stood in for a typical "church basement" meeting sequence, while our commercial-grade kitchen was the setting for recreating the kitchen of a fancy restaurant later the same day.

BTW, In Case You're Wondering...

President Ronald Reagan was NOT a Freemason. On February 11, 1988, the Grand Master of Washington, D.C. presented Reagan with a "Certificate of Honor". Both the Scottish Rite Northern and Southern jurisdictions presented him with a similar certificate, as did the Shriners, and they named him an "honorary member" (which confers no degrees and has no serious Masonic standing). But all of these were merely documents citing his commitment to charity, fortitude, temperance and prudence, and thanking him for his public service.

Fourteen out of the last 46 U.S. Presidents have been verifiably Freemasons, and only 13 have been Master Masons. (The name missing from that list at the link is Lyndon Johnson, who was initiated in a Texas lodge as an Entered Apprentice, but never advanced further.)

President Gerald R. Ford, who succeeded Richard Nixon in the wake of his resignation over the Watergate scandal in 1974, is currently the last American president who ever held Masonic membership. He was initiated in Grand Rapids along with his three half-brothers: Thomas Gardner Ford, Richard Addison Ford, and James Francis "Jim" Ford on September 30, 1949, at Malta Lodge No. 465, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Two years later he completed the second degree on April 20, 1951, in Columbia Lodge No. 3 Washington, D.C., and was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason in the same lodge on May 18 of that year. He was also a Scottish Rite Mason in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, and a Shriner in Saladin Temple in Kentwood, Michigan. Ford was made a 33° Scottish Rite Mason and Honorary member of the Supreme Council AASR, NMJ in 1962.

As an adolescent, Bill Clinton belonged to a DeMolay chapter in Arkansas, but never pursued Masonic membership. No U.S. president since then has had any official association with the Masonic fraternity.

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