Sunday, November 9, 2014

New York as it was

FXM Retro is running John and Mary early this afternoon and again early tomorrow morning at 4:00 AM. It's a story about two people in late 1960s New York City who wake up together in bed one morning obviously having had sex, and then goes back and forth in time detailing how they met and wound up in bed, and where they're going to go from here. The idea is interesting, but some of the execution turned me off to the movie.

One of the things that makes the movie worth a watch, however, is the presentation of New York City at that time. This was just after the end of the Production Code, and in addition to opening up on subject matter, studios were really starting to go on location as it was becoming too expensive to keep all those back lots. The Naked City two decades earlier is often considered one of the earliest movies to do almost all of its shooting on location and in the streets of New York, but it's a trend that I think really picked up in the late 1960s. As good as Judy Holliday is in The Marrying Kind and It Should Happen To You, those movies don't feel as New Yorkish as A Hatful of Rain a few years later.

However, the color movies showing New York City as it looked back then deserve a viewing. The two that are probably the best for this, or at least the best that I can think of, are The French Connection and Panic in Needle Park. There's a lot of an ugly side to the city in these two, which shouldn't be surprising since this is the era just before the city nearly went bankrupt and President Ford supposedly told the city to "drop dead" as the headline paraphrased him. The Landlord deals with a part of the city (Park Slope, Brooklyn) that was just on the cusp of gentrification much in the same way the city as a whole would: compare Times Square of the 1970s to Times Square today. Another good movie showing the decaying side of the city might be George C. Scott's The Hospital; there's something ghastly and dated about the early-1970s hospital in that movie

What other good movies are there that accurately portray New York as it was back in the day?

No comments: