Ocala is the county seat of Marion County and the principal city of the Ocala, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area, with an estimated population of 335,125. It is located in the heart of central Florida, 70 miles northwest of Orlando along the I-75 corridor. Known as “The Kingdom of the Sun” and “Horse Capital of the World,” Ocala is one of the major thoroughbred centers of the world and is home to Silver Springs, a 350-acre (1.4km2) State nature park that surrounds the headwaters of the Silver River, the largest artesian spring formation in the world.
Six “Tarzan” movies, the “Sea Hunt” TV series, the horror movie classic “Creature From The Black Lagoon”, National Geographic specials, TV commercials… the list goes on and on of movies, TV shows, and commercials that have been shot at Silver Springs over the years. Today, Silver Springs’ crystal clear waters, tropical jungles and thick forests still serve as locations for the film and television industries.
Film crews have been attracted to “Florida’s Original Tourist Attraction” since 1916 when the silent movie The Seven Swans, starring Richard Barthelmess and Marguerite Clark, was shot at the park. Many more small films followed, but it wasn’t until the 30’s and 40’s when Johnny Weissmuller starred in six Tarzan movies shot at Silver Springs that the attraction’s exotic surroundings became a popular location for films.
Since the 1940s, many movies have been shot in and around Silver Springs’ main spring area including The Yearling starring Gregory Peck and Jane Wyman, Distant Drums with Gary Cooper, Underwater starring Jane Russell and Richard Egan, Blindfold with Rock Hudson and Claudia Cardinale, Never Say Never Again starring Sean Connery, and Smokey & The Bandit 3 with Jackie Gleason. Military training films on jungle warfare have also been shot at the park.
When television became popular in the early ’50s, Silver Springs continued as a location for national TV talk shows and adventure series including: The Jack Paar Show, You Asked For It, I Spy, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, SeaQuest and the soap opera One Life To Live. Countless TV specials and commercials have also been shot at the park for numerous companies including The Discovery Channel, Mercury Motors, Johnson & Johnson, DuPont, and Dean Witter.