Category Archives: Photography

“On The Town” Filming On Location In New York -1948

A 1940s Movie Rarity – Hollywood Comes To New York To Film “On The Town”

Kelly Munchin Sinatra central Park bicycle riding

Cars in Central Park! Frank Sinatra Jules Munchin and Gene Kelly risk riding bicycles in Central Park in the 1949 movie On The Town

It was the early 1920s and in his autobiography director King Vidor recalls describing his next film to his boss. Vidor proposes shooting the film on location for authenticity. His fiscally minded producer Abe Stern tells him, ” A rock is a rock, and a tree is a tree. Go shoot it in Griffith Park!” Vidor whimsically titled his 1953 book A Tree is A Tree. Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #90 – Errol Flynn & Mrs. Roosevelt

Errol Flynn Receives A Trophy From Eleanor Roosevelt – 1939

1939 Errol Flynn Eleanor Roosevelt

The event held on  January 25, 1939 in Fort Myer, VA was a benefit fighting infantile paralysis. Errol Flynn (above) rides Badger, a horse belonging to John Roosevelt, son of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

So what did Flynn do to earn the trophy? Being a movie star entitles one to receive accolades and awards even if they’re meaningless. Mrs. Roosevelt presents Flynn a silver cup for participating in the event.

As part a two day show, for the President’s birthday program, monies went to the National Foundation of Infantile Paralysis. The previous year, comedian Eddie Cantor incorporated the name this organization is commonly known as today – The March of Dimes. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #109 – Old Subway Signs, Helpful or Confusing?

A Times Square Subway Entrance Sign – 1955

Times Square subway entrance 1955If you say the single digits four, five and six along with the letters N, R, Q and W to a first time visitor to New York City they probably won’t be able to decode the meaning.  But a New Yorker hearing that same combination would instantly recognize you are talking about the subway. Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #89 – An Interview With Harpo Marx – Bagpipes Player

An Interview With Harpo Marx: Why He Was Taking Up The Bagpipes – 1943

Harpo Marx with bagpipes 1943 credit photo APDuring World War II Hollywood celebrities that were too old or unfit to be in the armed forces served in other ways. Almost without exception performers tirelessly traveled across the United States and all over the world to entertain the troops.

The Marx Brothers had not made a movie since 1941s The Big Store. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #108 – Fifth Avenue & 33rd Street c. 1908

Fifth Avenue Looking North From 33rd Street c. 1908

5th Ave 33rd Street Waldorf-Astoria

The Detroit Publishing Company photographer captured a typical summer day on Fifth Avenue looking north from 33rd Street. The date is sometime between 1905 -1910 based upon the vehicles seen on the streets and style of dress.

Two prominent buildings are on the west side (left) of the street. The Waldorf- Astoria Hotel in the immediate foreground between 33rd and 34th Streets. One block further north is the Knickerbocker Trust Building.

The Waldorf-Astoria as some people know is a combination of two different entities. Seen here on the near corner of 33rd Street is the 13 story Hotel Waldorf built by William Waldorf Astor in 1893. The 17 story Hotel Astoria was opened four years later on November 1, 1897 by his cousin John Jacob Astor IV. Before the Hotel Astoria was completed the two hotels agreed to combine operations to form the world famous hostelry that stood on the site until 1929. The Waldorf Astoria set up their new hotel on Park Avenue and 50th Street and the Empire State Building went up on  the hotel’s old site.

In this close-up you can see the dividing line between each hotel as the exterior wall colors are different. The Waldorf-Astoria was unified in many design elements such as exterior lighting and window canopies. Though slight differences between the two hotels are apparent. The Hotel Astoria put some extra flourishes beside their windows in the form of lion head bas reliefs. Continue reading

The Story Of The Beatles Butcher Cover – 1966

The Beatles Choose A Bizarre Photograph For A Controversial Album Cover – 1966

And The Alternate Covers You’ve Never Seen

Beatles Yesterday and Today original LP cover

The Beatles decided to use this photograph for their Yesterday and Today album cover.

The four normally squeaky clean Beatles had dressed in smocks resembling butcher’s garb with dismembered dolls and pieces of meat dripping crimson. It was supposed to be a bit of fun. The Beatles “Butcher cover” ended up a big fiasco.

Maybe today this cover would not even raise an eyebrow. But in 1966 this album cover shocked the music industry.

Billboard Magazine June 25, 1966

‘Salesman of the various Capitol records Distributing Corp’s branches are recuperating from a busy weekend spent stripping the latest Beatles album, “The Beatles Yesterday And Today’.
Some 750,000 albums, which were pressed, packaged and shipped to the factory branches, have been recalled for repackaging. Reason for the recall is the cover art, which shows the Beatles in white smocks surrounded by what appears to be dismembered baby dolls and butcher shop cuts of meat.

According to some reliable reports, none of these albums have reached dealer shelves, although some have been received by reviewers and rack jobbers. Capitol has a new cover printed, showing four nearly neatly dressed Beatles inside and draped around a trunk.

Alan W. Livingstone, president of Capitol Records, explained the cover recall: “The original cover in England was intended as ‘pop art satire’. However, a sampling of public opinion in the United States indicates that the cover design is subject to interpretation. For this reason, and to avoid any possible controversy, or undeserved harm to the Beatles’ image or reputation, Capitol has chosen to withdraw the LP and substitute a more generally acceptable design.

Meanwhile, Capitol is making a painstaking effort to recall the covers to make sure they are destroyed. Reviewers are requested to return the cover to Capitol, and dealers who have received streamers are asked to hold them until a salesman calls.

The butcher cover was and still is one of the most controversial record covers ever produced. So what is the story behind it?

Photographer Robert Whitaker had worked with the Beatles previously so he was no stranger to having them before his lens.

On March 25, 1966 Whitaker took a series of promotional photographs of the Beatles. Instead of the typical boring shoot, Whitaker had the Beatles doing wacky things with props in unconventional poses.

Whitaker posed the band holding sausages. George Harrison had his head placed in a birdcage. Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #21 – 1920s & 1930s New York City Aerial Images

New York City In The 1920s & 1930s As Seen By Airplane

A Vanished Skyline

Peenn Station Area from airplane 1920sWhen in lower Brooklyn, Queens or bicycling across the George Washington Bridge, I look at the New York City skyline. It has become something I do not recognize.

New York is a city that architecturally alters itself every year. It comes as no surprise that there are buildings that now obscure the sight of what were once tourist magnets.

The Woolworth, Bankers Trust, Equitable, Municipal, Citicorp and Chrysler Buildings are dwarfed by new neighbors. Fifty Seventh Street is now an ugly amalgamation of needle glass towers selling for $40 million to absentee owners.

I never experienced the grandeur of the classic Manhattan skyline. It had mostly vanished by the 1960s in a spate of modern construction in the financial district and midtown. However, even through the 1980s there was not an infestation of buildings that blocked New York’s most notable structures.

But in the past fifteen years the New York skyline has been overhauled. In the process obliterating the uniqueness of New York. New, mammoth unattractive buildings are now spreading like a fungus in the city. The skyline seen now could be Chicago, Los Angeles or Houston. It has been impossible to stop a bunch of undistinguished architectural monstrosities to destroy the vistas that made New York famous.

Let us return to the 1920s and 30s when New York City looked like NEW YORK CITY. Here are some aerial postcard views showing what was once a picturesque city.

Click on any image to enlarge as all of these postcards are real photo. I scanned many (not all) of them at 300 dpi so the detail is pretty clear when enlarged.

New York from the south aerial view 1930sLooking north we have a fantastic overview of the entire southern portion of the island.

aerial lower manhattan east river 1930s aerialAnother classic view when approaching Manhattan from the south showing the piers and many turn-of-the-century and art deco buildings that proliferate in lower Manhattan.

Aerial view of Lower Manhattan from the Hudson Looking east across the Hudson another at the southern tip of Manhattan. This view captures most of the important buildings in the financial district.  Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #88 – Dracula, Bela Lugosi Wants To Be “Good”

What Bela Lugosi’s Life Was Like In 1936

Bela Lugosi Dracula in street clothes

Bela Lugosi was not always Dracula

With today being Halloween we thought we’d do a story about Bela Lugosi and Dracula. Not many children dress as Dracula on Halloween anymore. You are not allowed to wear the cape and put fangs in your mouth unless you are a real vampire. This is because of the very vocal beyond-the-fringe maniacs who go into an uproar about “cultural appropriation.”  So, Dracula is off limits as a costume as far as certain groups have told us, such as ORVIL (Only Real Vampires In Life) .

For those who don’t realize it, I’m not serious, but sometimes it feels as if this is where mainstream society is headed unless somebody speaks up.

Bela Lugosi (1882-1956) the actor most identified with Dracula, loved and loathed the role at the same time. Dracula made Lugosi famous, but in the process it typecast him as being a horror star. Most people do not realize that prior to Lugosi being cast in Dracula in 1931, he had starred in the Broadway production of the play for three years. Previous to that he was a leading man with strikingly handsome features.

So who was the real Bela Lugosi? Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #107 – Drexel Building 23 Wall Street aka J.P. Morgan Building

The Demolition of the Drexel Building c. 1913 aka J.P. Morgan Building

Drexel Morgan Building photo Detroit Publishing Co.One of the most valuable pieces of real estate in New York City is 23 Wall Street at the corner of Broad and Wall Streets. From 1876 -1913 the site was occupied by this building, the Drexel Building seen in the photo above made by the Detroit Publishing Co.. Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #87 – James Caan Gets Married 1976

James Caan and Sheila Ryan Get Married

James Caan wedding Sheila Ryan 1976

James Caan Sheila Ryan wedding ceremony photo: Gary Thompson Globe Photos

Here we see James Caan and Sheila Ryan getting married on January 12, 1976. It was a happy occasion, I guess. But why do groom Caan and bride Ryan look like they want to either call it off right then and there or deck the chaplain for saying something inappropriate? Or is just the seriousness of the solemn occasion? Continue reading