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Lilly's World of Wax

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Film Identifier: F.2013-08-0011
Run Time
0h 27m 20s
Date Produced
Experimental documentary following Lillie Santangelo, long-time owner of the World in Wax Musée in New York's Coney Island. She leads filmmakers Ellen Fisher and Tom Palazzolo on a final tour, just before her museum is closed and her wax figures and exhibits are auctioned off. She reminisces about her years as a Coney Island fixture as she visits the ocean boardwalk.
Surrounded by her loyal employees, Lillie Beatrice Santangelo leads the filmmakers on a tour of her long-established wax museum in Coney Island, which she had run for over 54 years. Located in the Henderson Building on Stillwell Avenue and the Bowery, Santangelo opened the World in Wax Musée in 1926, filling it with wax replicas of both famous individuals and gruesome events. 

Lillie discusses morbid scenes with a comically deadpan delivery, describing wax recreations of murder as "another beautiful setting," and repeating wisely "crime does not pay." Lillie's memory has grown foggy (she mistakenly describes Einstein as "Father of the Atomic Bomb" and forgets what John Lennon is famous for), and the museum's custodian repeatedly steps in to fill in details of the exhibits.

Scenes of Lillie introducing her wax figures are intercut with shots of Lillie at Coney Island's annual Mermaid Parade. A man who says Lillie gave him his first job at Coney Island introduces her to the crowd and she addresses them with a microphone. With the help of filmmaker Ellen Fisher, Lillie walks on the beach and wades into the shallows of the ocean, recalling fond memories.

At the end of the film, the museum's employees toast to Lillie with a drink, and Lillie begins to tear up as she tells them she loves them all. Her employees then help her to pack up the wax figures into boxes; Lillie tells them the proper way to disassemble the figures without breaking them.

The wax figures featured in the film include baseball player Roberto Clemente, John Lennon, Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, General Douglas MacArthur with Madame Chiang Kai-shek and Governor Thomas Dewey, Albert Einstein, Muhammad Ali, Nat King Cole, and Elvis Presley. Some of the more unusual people included in the museum are Lina Medina (a Peruvian girl who gave birth at age 5), Ruth Snyder & Judd Gray (the "Double Indemnity" murderers), James Roach ("the Rape Killer"), a two-headed baby, and Richard Speck (killer of eight student nurses in 1966).
Main Credit
Palazzolo, Tom (is director)
Fisher, Ellen (is director)
Center For New TV, The (corporate name)
Additional Credit
Cartwright, Carolyn (is assistant director)
Fillipo, Mary (wild camera)
Grey, Roland (camera)
Murphy, John (wild camera)
Murphy, John (sound)
Palazzolo, Tom (is editor)
Rance, Mark (is associate director)
Rance, Mark (camera)
Schultz, Mary (is production assistant)
Silverman, Hannah (sound)
Sturba, Jamie (is assistant editor)
Wiesman, Phil (is production assistant)
Wirth, Ursala (is production assistant)
Actors, Performers and Participants
Santangelo, Lillie (is participant)
Related Place
Brooklyn (depicts)