Old New York In Photos #52

Penn Station And The City At Night – January 1941

Pennsylvania Station seen at night from The New Yorker Hotel January 1941 - photo Underwood & Underwood

Pennsylvania Station seen at night seen from The New Yorker Hotel January 1941 – photo Underwood & Underwood

Every time you see photographs of New York’s old Pennsylvania Railroad Station you have to ask yourself how could this architectural masterpiece be knocked down and carted off piece by majestic piece to the landfill? The answer resided with the owners of the Pennsylvania Railroad and real estate developers who saw the station as a white elephant: filthy; declining train ridership; losing tons of money and impractical as a revenue generator. The land Penn Station sat upon was too valuable to let this monument to interstate travel remain in place. It would be redeveloped as office buildings and the fourth Madison Square Garden put in its place with the railroad station relegated to an unsightly subterranean labyrinth.

Soon after its destruction lasting from 1963 -1966, the city and New Yorkers began yearning for the old Penn Station. All New Yorkers today await a suitable replacement for the modern underground lair we now possess ignominiously called Penn Station.

Look at this panoramic view of Manhattan looking lit up to capacity in January 1941. Here is the original photo caption:

Pennsylvania Station

The electric glamor of New York by night shines out in this shot looking southeast from the roof of the Hotel New Yorker at 34th Street and 8th Avenue.  Directly below is Pennsylvania Terminal, its glass roof aglow. Surrounding it are gleaming office buildings and hotels. No more thrilling metropolitan scene could be recommended to the thousands who arrive at this station daily. The beacon-like light in the background surmounts the Metropolitan Life Building (23rd Street Madison Avenue). credit: Underwood & Underwood,  January 26, 1941

11 months later this photographic view would not be possible because America had entered World War II. The mandatory brownouts (dimming of all lights at night) in American cities blotted out the spectacle of light and cast a protective veil over New York City that would not be lifted until the conclusion of the war in 1945.

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Ten Great Films From The 1940s Featuring New York City

Filming Around New York City In The 1940s

On The Town posterDuring Hollywood’s golden years from the 1930s through the early 1950s there were many films set in New York City, but the vast majority were made on the studio lots in southern California. Almost every studio had their own New York set which would convey “the Big Apple.”

The reasons for doing so were obvious; the costs of actually sending the cast and crew on location to film would be cost prohibitive and complete control could be exercised in the studio for crowd control, noise, lighting and other technical issues.

Occasionally films would use stock footage of New York or a second unit directing team would be sent to capture a New York scene or two to be used as establishing shots showing the audience, yes this is New York. Usually though none of the principal characters in the film were ever actually in New York, but back in Hollywood, playing against what is called a “process shot” a background screen showing New York footage usually while the actors were walking or driving.

Even such quintessential “New York” films such as A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (1945) and Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) were shot completely in Hollywood.

So when the cast and crew actually did any filming in New York it was a rare treat, especially looking back today at the much changed metropolis.

Here are ten of the best 1940s films where a part of the movie was actually filmed on location in New York City.

Saboteur Cummings and Lloyd Statue of LibertySaboteur (1942) This cross-sountry chase of one man falsely accused of sabotage pursuing the real saboteur winds up in New York. Director Alfred Hitchcock had his second unit shoot footage in the city that shows New York in the midst of World War II. We see Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, the waterfront and other familiar city sights.  A masterpiece of storytelling the film moves at a smooth pace as you bite your nails watching. Spoiler alert: Sinister character actor Norman Lloyd battles hero Robert Cummings on Bedloe’s Island at The Statue of Liberty in one of the most iconic conclusions to a film ever shot.

Ray Milland The Lost Weekend Third Avenue photo Life MagazineThe Lost Weekend (1945) Director Billy Wilder takes advantage of New York, shooting many of the exteriors of The Lost Weekend on location. Ray Milland’s portrayal of troubled, alcoholic writer Don Birnam won him an Academy Award for best actor. The film also won Oscars for best picture, best director and best screenplay. There are so many shots of Milland in the city it becomes a game to recognize where the actual locations are. Third Avenue is prominently put on display. The giant street clock Milland passes in one scene is still there today – located on Third Avenue between 84th and 85th Streets. All the mom and pop stores and restaurants along the way are long gone, replaced mostly by chains. P.J Clarke’s on Third Avenue and 55th Street was used in the shooting but many of the interior scenes of the bar were shot back in Hollywood. Continue reading

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The Daying Dead Sea In China Is Really A Filthy, Giant Swimming Pool

More Like A Cesspool Than A Swimming Pool, The Daying Dead Sea Is China’s Solution For Its Citizens To “Enjoy Swimming”

chinese pool 3When I first encountered a photograph of the Daying Dead Sea in Suining City, Daying County, China, I had no idea of what to make of it.

My mind conjured up a nightmare scenario like the 1973 film Soylent Green in which overpopulation has been dealt with by turning people into food.

chinese pool 1The Daying Dead Sea is not an aquatic human abatoir. It is a very large indoor swimming pool that regularly attracts crowds of 8,000 or more people. Of course there is absolutely no room to swim and people jam themselves into the water and stand or float on a tube in their one spot.

They don’t need the tubes. The people can effortlessly float because the pool is made up of 43 elements and microelements  to simulate the effects of the Middle East’s Dead Sea where the salt composition is extremely high enabling easy floatation.

chinese pool 4The Chinese Continue reading

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Would You Recognize Central Park From 125 Years Ago?

20 Stereoviews Of 19th Century Central Park

Some Long Vanished Scenes And Other Familiar Sites

Mount Saint Vincent Convent, east side of Central Park near 102nd street

Mount Saint Vincent Convent, east side of Central Park near 103rd street

Central Park is a constantly evolving mixture of landscape, architecture, buildings and people.  Engineer Egbert Viele first surveyed the space encompassing the park. Landscape architects  Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, won the competition to design the park and  construction started in 1858.

Over the last 150 plus years, the park has seen many additions and subtractions within it.

The 19th century version of Central Park has many things that a New Yorker today would find familiar and others that seem completely out of character; such as a convent located in the northern part of the park.

The Academy of Mount St. Vincent shown above in the 1860’s was a group of buildings which predated the park and contained a school and convent run by the Roman Catholic Sisters. The nuns left the buildings before construction started on the park and moved to Riverdale in the Bronx in 1857.  The buildings they left behind remained for other uses such as a museum, storage and a rare plant conservatory.  All the structures were destroyed by fire on January 2, 1881. The site of Mount St. Vincent at East 103rd Street is now the composting area for the park.

Here are some other views of Central Park from 1863-1896. Click on images to vastly enlarge.

Central Park Bethesda Fountain without statueBethesda Fountain before sculptor Emma Stebbins famous bronze statue Angel of the Waters was installed in 1873.

Central Park The entrance on Fifth AvenueCentral Park’s original grand entrance on Fifth Avenue with policeman and guard house. Continue reading

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Classic Hollywood #45

18-year-old Brigitte Bardot and Kirk Douglas Having Fun On The Beach At Cannes -1953

Brigitte Bardot Kirk Douglas at Cannes 6 14 1953  - photo UPI

Brigitte Bardot Kirk Douglas at Cannes 6 14 1953 – photo UPI

What are Brigitte Bardot and Kirk Douglas doing on the beach at Cannes? Apparently just having a bit of fun during a break from the filming of their latest movie.

Bardot had made only a couple of films prior to her supporting role as Mimi in the Anatole Litvak directed film Un acte d’amour (Act of Love), which was released in the winter of 1953.

Bardot looks absolutely gorgeous here and a United Press International photographer was lucky enough to be around to snap some photos of the star, Douglas and the future star, Bardot. Here are a couple of other shots from that day.

Brigitte Bardot Kirk Douglas Cannes 53 6 14Brigitte Bardot Kirk Douglas hair braiding Cannes 53 6 14

 

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Why Few Of Us Are “Normal” Human Beings (And That’s A Good Thing!)

According To Writer Donald Henderson Clarke, Normal Human Beings Are A Rare Breed

Man of the world bookDonald Henderson Clarke (1887-1958) enjoyed telling a good story. Clarke was able to accomplish that as a successful reporter for many New York newspapers including The New York World, New York Times, and the New York American. After his newspaper stint from 1907 through the 1920s, Clarke began writing books and screenplays which made him a tidy sum.

Born to a wealthy New England family, Clarke lived the life of a bon vivant, but always held a fascination for the underbelly of life. Besides writing about the famous and newsworthy, Clarke spent quite a bit of time with bootleggers, gangsters and prostitutes. Out of nowhere in his autobiography, Man of the World: Recollections of an Irreverent Reporter, 1951, Vanguard Press, Clarke makes an astute observation about the human condition.

64 years after this was written, this timeless description of normalcy and humanity still strikes a strong chord. Clarke’s quirky style comprises the longest run-on sentence I’ve read by a journalist, but I’ll forgive him the run-on, because he is right on the mark.

Good, normal human beings are a rarity, and we all should be thankful for that. They are dull, monotonously successful, exasperatingly even-keeled, always in good health. Of course, they should not be called normal.

Most human beings suffer from anxieties, worries, fears, suppressed desires, regrets for past sins, secret yearnings for future sins, aches, pains, toothaches, flat feet, ingrowing toe nails, body odors, hair in the wrong places, too little hair in the right places; they are too short or too tall or too plump or too lean; they wish they were married, wish they were unmarried, wish they could have a successful careers, are bored silly with successful careers, wish they had children, wish their children would hurry up and get married, wish their children would never marry, are afraid of hell, are afraid of the dark, are afraid of poverty, wish their noses were different, wish they were in society, are bored with society, wish they could know actors and actresses, wish they could get away from actors and actresses, shoot and poison their husbands, shoot and cut the throats of their wives, make love to the cook, make love to the chauffeur, talk virtue and think of vice, howl because Rossellini and Bergman have a baby without benefit of clergy – and wish they could be Bergmans or Rossellinis.

The average human being is full of imperfections which make him-her interesting. When the imperfections lead to explosions small or large, it makes the kind of news I like – the sort of news that reveals the human being for what he is – mortal and finite but clinging desperately to the idea that he is immortal and infinite; possessing nothing, no matter if he has millions of dollars, but soothing his fears with the false idea that he has possessions.

He is suddenly gone. Nothing is more ridiculous than the carcass left behind, unless it be the strangely patterned bits of cloth and leather with which he or she concealed that carcass from view. The discarded garments of one suddenly dead look tiny and silly.

Where did the spirit flit? Even several Christians will not give you the same answer. It depends on the particular belief of the particular Christian. Mohammedans will tell you Paradise, where warriors will have a bevy of houris to amuse them. Other religions, whose followers outnumber Christians, will give you other answers.

No human being ever went wherever it is and came back to tell about it in plain, everyday language. That would be one big, important, serious newspaper story I would like to cover.

Continue reading

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The First Execution By Electric Chair

125 Years Ago Today William Kemmler Became The First Prisoner To Be Put To Death By Electrocution

The original and first electric chair that was used to execute a prisoner on August 6, 1890 in Auburn, NY

The original and first electric chair that was used to execute a prisoner on August 6, 1890 in Auburn, NY

While the debate continues today over what exactly comprises cruel and unusual punishment or whether the death penalty should ever be invoked, 125 years ago today on August 6, 1890 William Kemmler became the first person put to death by the electric chair. The electric chair was proposed to be a more “humane” way to execute criminals.

On June 4, 1888 New York’s Governor David B. Hill signed a law passed by the legislature that the punishment for murder after January 1, 1889 should be “death by means of an electrical current that should be caused to pass through the body of the condemned.” Electrical experts then came up with the plan to apply the current and strap a man in a chair while he sat.

The New York Evening World wrote of the convict Kemmler on the day of his execution, “If vengeance were what the law seeks by capital punishment for murder it would get little satisfaction out of the event today, for the poor wretch whose life has been taken within the walls of Auburn Prison has for weeks awaited the coming of black-visored Death with a child-like expectancy, almost impatience.”

One of eleven children, William Kemmler was born into poverty in 1860 in Philadelphia, PA. Continue reading

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The Yankees Are Closing In On 10,000 Wins

The New York Yankees Are About To Become The First American League Team To Win 10,000 Games

Yankees Win - photo USA TodayYou can love ’em or hate them, but the record speaks for itself. While seven National League franchises have attained 10,000 career wins, the New York Yankees will reach that mark sometime in September, becoming the first American League team to do so. They currently have 9,971 wins. (All statistics as of August 2, 2015.)

No other American League team is close to hitting this number. It will probably take another eight or nine years for another A.L. team to get there because the Boston Red Sox are second in A.L. career victories with 9,193.

Following Boston, the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers are neck and neck with 9,064 and 9,061 wins respectively.

Bear in mind that some of National League teams have been around since 1876 so N.L. teams had a bit of a head start in reaching 10,000 wins. There is also futility for some teams. Realize the Philadelphia Phillies who came into existence in 1883 have still not won 10,000 games (total wins  9,505).

The franchise with the most wins all-time are the San Francisco Giants, Continue reading

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This Is The Last Known Photograph Of Babe Ruth

A Dying Babe Ruth In Memorial Hospital July 29, 1948

Last Photo of Babe Ruth in hospital  July 29 1948New York – Babe’s Most Recent Picture – This picture, taken at Memorial Hospital here July 29, is believed to be the last picture of the baseball idol. It was made just before the Babe’s most recent relapse. With him is Steve Broidy of Allied Artists movie studio, who is presenting Ruth with a check for the Ruth Foundation for underprivileged children. The homerun king’s condition today was critical.  photo – AP, August 11, 1948

Babe Ruth June 13, 1948 in Yankee locker room

Babe Ruth June 13, 1948 in Yankee locker room

On June 13, 1948 just six weeks prior to the above photograph being taken, Ruth made his final appearance at Yankee Stadium and put on his old uniform for the last time as his number three was retired by the Yankees. After the ceremony the uniform would be shipped off to Cooperstown to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The day was hailed as Silver Anniversary Day at Yankee Stadium officially marking the 25th anniversary of “The House That Ruth Built.” Sixteen members of the 1923 Yankees came to the ceremony and even participated in a two inning old-timers game against a team of Yankee all-stars from other years.   But everyone was there to see the man himself, Babe Ruth.

Friends and old teammates lined up and approached Babe before the ceremony and he obligingly signed autographs for everyone. After others had spoken, Ruth emerged from the dugout to a huge ovation and made a short speech in a raspy voice telling the crowd how happy he was to be present, how proud he was to be the first man to have hit a home run at Yankee Stadium and how glad he was to be with his old friends again.

Babe Ruth, William Bendix and a studio executive on the set of The Babe Ruth Story

Babe Ruth, William Bendix and a studio executive on the set of The Babe Ruth Story

Returning to the story of our original photograph, the last one of Babe Ruth, the emaciated Babe was probably happy to receive a check for the film The Babe Ruth Story, based on his life . But he could not have been pleased with the film which starred William Bendix. Continue reading

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The Forgotten Richard Nixon Assassination Attempt – 1968

Yemeni Born Brooklyn Resident, Ahmed Rageh Namer Is Arrested For A Conspiracy To Assassinate President-Elect Richard Nixon – 1968

Ahmed Rageh Namer in custody as a Brooklyn detective holds a rifle confiscated from Namer's home

Ahmed Rageh Namer (in hat) is arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder, as a Brooklyn detective holds a rifle confiscated from Namer’s home. photo: AP

Some students of history are familiar with Samuel Byck’s  1974 deluded attempted assassination attempt of Richard Nixon by hijacking and flying a plane into the White House.  Or they may know about Arthur Bremer’s attempt on Nixon in 1972. Bremer failed to get near Nixon and instead successfully shot and paralyzed presidential candidate George Wallace a few weeks after his failed attempt at Nixon.

But most people are unaware that a Brooklyn man, born in Yemen named Ahmed Rageh Namer was arrested along with his two sons in 1968 and charged with conspiracy to kill President-elect Richard Nixon. Continue reading

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