Movie-Infused Ice Cream

How many ice cream parlors do you know that are decorated with memorabilia from a Hollywood film career? I’ve only encountered one, when I was attending the Savannah Film Festival the week before last: it’s Leopold’s, conveniently located next door to a 1940s movie theater now owned and operated by SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design), which puts on the festival.

Leopold’s dates back to 1919, when three Greek immigrant brothers (George, Peter and Basil Leopold) opened the original establishment and learned their trade. The great songwriter Johnny Mercer grew up just a block away and was a regular customer, visiting Leopold’s whenever he traveled back home in later years. The current proprietor is Peter’s youngest son Stratton.

Quoting the ice cream parlor’s website, “Though Stratton left Savannah to pursue his Hollywood dream, Leopold’s Ice Cream continued to be a Savannah tradition carried on by other members of the Leopold family. In the summer of 2004, Stratton and Mary officially opened the new Broughton Street location. They continue their legendary family business proudly using many fixtures from the original store including the black marble soda fountain, wooden back bar and telephone booth. Leopold’s Ice Cream is hand-crafted in historic downtown Savannah using the original, secret recipes and techniques handed down to Stratton by his father.

Leopold's Today

A perfect combination: ice cream and a movie theater. (Photo Courtesy of Leopold’s Ice Cream)

“The new location was designed by Academy Award-nominated designer Dan Lomino, who applied his Hollywood magic to create the wonderful store you see today. He used many of the original Leopold’s fixtures and incorporated props, posters, and signed photographs of actors Dan and Stratton have worked with over the years. Leopold’s is once again a fun, family-friendly ice cream parlor circa 1935!”

I enjoyed surveying the walls, which are decorated with one-sheets of movies Stratton has worked on, a showcase filled with props from Mission: Impossible 3, and a selection of electronic movie slates, not to mention an old Moviola and a Panavision Panaflex camera.

Stratton Leopold with Panaflex

Stratton Leopold with his Panaflex camera. (Courtesy of Leopold’s Ice Cream)

As a fan of vintage Americana and an ice-cream aficionado I can tell you that Leopold’s is worth going out of your way to visit. Be prepared to wait in line, as people gather every day of the week to get their ice-cream “fix.” I fell in love with their chocolate-chocolate chip flavor but I doubt you’ll be disappointed with anything you order.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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April 2024