I doubt if the the St Louis Hotel was ever considered one Calgary’s finer establishments, but one thing it does have is character, truck loads of it, and this made it a perfect backdrop for some scenes in the 1983 movie Superman 3. In this part of the story the sullen and dishevelled man of steel can be seen patronizing this fine establishment. Outside, curious and confused passers by gawk, wondering what in the world has happened to their hero. Unknown to them he’s been affected by kryponite, which has caused a personalty change and he’s become surly, dangerous and unpredictable. After partaking of his fill, he’s seen to fly away.
At the time of filming, the St Louis (known to locals simply as the Louie), was one of Calgary’s premier dive hotels. It was a flop house for wino’s, drug addicts, street people, the mentally ill, and other cast outs of society. It’s a building with lots history and while beaten up and rough looking, it still proudly shows off its classic lines.
Sitting empty since it closed some seven years ago, the structure turns 100 in 2014. Slated for preservation it’s a window into times past, looking
meek and almost insignificant surrounded by the giant city hall and empty but soon to be developed lots nearby. It will become a part of Calgary’s new East Village, a new development rising from the ashes of a one time rough and depressed neighbourhood.
The first scene we see from the movie shows a large crowd gathering in the front of the hotel. They mill about confused upon seeing Superman sitting at the bar. As you can see, in the thirty years since that scene played out, very little of the hotel has changed. The main St Louis Hotel sign and many others above the doors are still there and while the facade has changed from tile to brick, the front of the structure retrains the same flavour. These old hotels seem to be time capsules, and while the world around them is in constant change, they can usually be counted on to stay pretty much the same throughout the years.
In the second scene we see a close up of the bar window with Superman plainly visible. Our shot duplicates that scene.
The third shot taken at a shallow angle allows us to see the hotel’s famous sign, or at least parts of it. On the far right the man of steel can be just seen inside the bar and behind one can see the Calgary Tower, which the producers made no attempt to hide or disguise (it’s well known as this town’s landmark). In our now picture one can see that the view has changed considerably. The tower and other buildings seen in the background are obstructed by the new city hall.
The fourth shot shows the man of steel walking away looking rough and unkempt and our picture captures the spot that took place at.
In the last set Superman can be seen flying away with the Calgary Tower and an LRT train showing clearly in the background. Now the massive glass clad city hall looms over everything blocking that view. The trains still pass though and we manage to catch one in almost the same position as was seen in the movie. BTW, trains started running here only a couple years prior to the filming of Superman and before that, the dead end road seen here would have continued on to various old buildings (including he Queen’s Hotel, a favourite of my folks) that sat where city hall does now.
In one final picture you can see the hotel from a distance. City hall towers over it, dominating it in fact, but otherwise you can see the structure is quite lonely being surrounded by empty lots. Where it sits is soon be reborn – or at least that’s what the plans are.
You’ll notice the producers made zero effort to hide the real name of he hotel and in fact they did little in that respect throughout the movie. Any attempts to disguise an actual location where thinly veiled at best.
In addition to the St Louis, there are other rub-a-dub hotels from that same World War One era that still stand today, all of them closed. Right around the corner from the Louie is the King Eddy (King Edward), the home of the blues, which is slated to be restored at some point. Nearby the Cecil Hotel stands empty and it holds the distinction as one of Calgary’s most notorious and dangerous places. It was the last old school hotel to close, having done so in 2009. The St. Regis Hotel still stands in a deeper part of downtown. The National, or Nash as it was known, is located east of downtown in the neighbourhood called Inglewood and it has been recently renovated (heck they rebuilt it from top to bottom). It will have condos on the upper floors and retail space at ground level. Finally, the Calgarian, or the remnants of it, sit next to the St Regis.
We’ve had a great time doing these then and now movie themed shoots and you can expect more. A lot of films have been shot in and around Calgary! We’ll also be doing a second report on the St Louis Hotel where we look more at its history, including the great love affair Calgary’s then mayor Ralph Klein had with it.
Images form the movie are copyright Warner Brothers.
To see some Superman 3 then and now shots we took in “Smallville”, go here…
Superman 3 then and now – Smallville.
To see other Supeman 3 scenes filmed in Calgary, follow this link…
Superman 3 then and now – opening scenes.
To see a report we did on the National Hotel, another dive establishment, click this link…
The Nash aka the National Hotel.
If you wish more information on this place, by all means contact us!
Date: March, 2013.
Location: Calgary, AB.