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The Washoe County Courthouse from “The Misfits”

Aug 12th, 2011 | By | Category: Marilyn Monroe Locations

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As promised, while visiting my grandmother in Reno last month, I did indeed bring along a copy of The Misfits on DVD and we did indeed watch it.  Prior to gathering around her television set, my grandma informed me that she had actually seen The Misfits once before, back in 1961 when it first came out in theatres.  How incredibly cool is that!  When I asked her if she had enjoyed it, she said “No, not particularly.”  Ha!  My grandmother has never been one to mince words.  Winking smile She told me that the movie was a bit too depressing for her taste and that the horse-wrangling scenes seriously disturbed her.  Now, having seen the flick myself, I can say that her analysis was spot on.  The Misfits was seriously depressing and I had to fast-forward through each and every one of the scenes involving horse-wrangling.  I must say, though, that it was, as always, thoroughly enjoyable to see my girl Marilyn Monroe onscreen in what many consider to be her finest performance.  Every time MM would enter a scene, my mom, who watched the film with us, would say, “God, she was beautiful!”  And it is so true!  The camera certainly loved Marilyn and she was absolutely luminous in The Misfits, which, as fate would have it, was the last picture the starlet ever completed.

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A very brief, but important scene from The Misfits, which was filmed almost in its entirety in the Silver State, takes place at the Washoe County Courthouse in Downtown Reno, a building which is still in use to this day.  So I, of course, just had to drag my dad and my grandma out to stalk the place while we were in town. (My mom, who had just had back surgery, decided to sit this one out.)  The absolutely beautiful, neo-classical-style courthouse was originally designed in 1911 by Frederic DeLongchamps, in what was to be the prolific Nevada-area architect’s very first solo commission.  The stunning structure, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, cost $250,000 to construct and features a copper dome, towering Corinthian columns, a large portico, terrazzo tile flooring, and a stained glass ceiling.

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Sadly though, as you can see above, no photography whatsoever is allowed inside of the building.  According to the Yahoo! Travel website, more marriage licenses have been given out at the Washoe County Courthouse than at any other courthouse of its size in the entire country. Consequently, due to Reno’s lenient divorce laws (the city’s waiting period for a divorce in the early 1900s was only six months; in 1927 that waiting period was shortened to three months; and in 1931 it was shortened yet again to a scant six weeks!), countless marriages have ended within the courthouse walls, as well, resulting in the city being dubbed “The Divorce Capital of the World”.  In the 1930s alone over 33,000 divorces were granted at the historic courthouse, which is, I am guessing, how The Misfits came to be filmed there.

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In The Misfits, Guido (aka Eli Wallach, whom my sharp-as-a-tack, 86-year-old grandmother immediately recognized as Arthur Abbot from fave movie The Holiday), drives Roslyn Taber (aka Marilyn Monroe) and her friend Isabelle Steers (aka Thelma Ritter) to the Washoe County Courthouse so that Roslyn can be granted a – you guessed it – divorce.  Guido drops the two women off on the northeast corner of South Virginia Street and Court Street in the scene, just across the road from the courthouse, which you can see in the background in the two screen captures pictured above.

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Roslyn and Isabelle then cross South Virginia Street and head to the courthouse, where they run into Roslyn’s soon-to-be ex-husband, Raymond Taber (aka Kevin McCarthy), and have a brief confrontation with him on the front steps.  I find it absolutely amazing that the courthouse not only still looks exactly the same today as it did in 1961 when The Misfits was filmed, but that the place is still in use almost a full century after its inception. SO INCREDIBLY COOL!

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While stalking the courthouse, I was under the mistaken assumption that Marilyn had walked up the north side of the front steps in The Misfits and I had my dad take a photograph of me posing there.  It was not until I got home and re-watched the scene that I realized that Marilyn had actually walked up the south side of the steps.  Ugh, I am such a blonde sometimes!  Ah well, I guess I will just have to go back and re-stalk the place during my next visit to Reno!

Until next time, Happy Stalking!  Smile

Stalk It: The official address of the Washoe County Courthouse from The Misfits is 75 Court Street in Downtown Reno, but the front of the building and the area that appeared in the movie is actually located around the corner at 117 South Virginia Street.

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4 comments

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  1. don says:

    Good read. L. D.

  2. Allan Landman says:

    Thanks for sharing the “Misfits” locations. What Man will ever forget Marilyn with that paddle board scene!!!!! She was and always will be the Hottest woman in Hollywood.


Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. […] for my July trip out to the Silver State.  For some reason, though, while I had managed to stalk the Washoe County Courthouse from The Misfits during my visit, I had somehow forgotten all about the post office – which is a pretty […]

  2. […] Street Bridge, aka the “Bridge of Sighs”, which was featured in the 1961 film The Misfits.  As I mentioned in last Friday’s post about the Washoe Country Courthouse, during the first half of the Twentieth Century, Reno was known as “the Divorce Capital of the […]

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