Tag Archives: 1940s

Old New York In Photos #64

Gracie Square, 84th Street and East End Avenue 1949

1949 East End Ave 84th Street 1

1949 East End Ave 84th Street 2

1949 East End Ave 84th Street 3This sequence of photos from 1949 show a car coming down East 84th Street and entering 110 Gracie Square.

The stills are from the movie East Side, West Side starring Van Heflin, Barbara Stanwyck and James Mason.

The vantage point from the dead end of East 84th Street is one you will rarely see in old photos of New York. The wall in the foreground marks one of the entrances to Carl Schurz Park.

Nearly seven decades later the changes in this view are minimal.

84th Street Google 2009Some of the canopy’s to the buildings along Gracie Square are gone. 110 Gracie Square was renumbered for the film, it is really 10 Gracie Square, one of the most exclusive co-op buildings in the city. Built in 1930 as a rental building, famous past residents include Gloria Vanderbilt, conductor Leopold Stokowski (Vanderbilt’s husband), New York Times editor and author Charles Merz, and theater critic and author Alexander Woollcott. A five bedroom penthouse apartment has been on the market for over two years. Why so long? The original price tag was $23 million. Currently the asking price will only set you back $15 million, but be prepared for the monthly maintenance charges of $16,747. In 1937 the building went into foreclosure and the entire building was sold for $450,000!

The building seen in the first two photographs on the northwest corner of 84th Street and East End Avenue is the Chapin School, Continue reading

Pee Wee Reese and Red Schoendienst – Action At 2nd Base – 1949

A Play So Close You Need Two Umpires To Make The Call

Pee Wee Reese and Red Schoendienst 7 23 1949Reese Safe at Second on Long Double
New York: Pee Wee Reese of the Brooklyn Dodgers slides safely into second in third inning of game with the St. Louis Cardinals at Ebbets Field July 23. Al Schoendienst dives in vain for the putout, but is too late. The two umpires calling the play are Art Gore (left) and Scotty Robb. Cardinals won 5-4. Credit: Acme 7/23/49

The fact that there are two umpires about to call this play is not so unusual. What makes it strange is that Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #51

James Cagney & Boris Karloff – 1940

James Cagney Boris Karloff 1940Movie Stars Twinkle At Own Party
Hollywood, Calif. – It was a dead heat when Boris Karloff (right) and James Cagney, screen menaces, exchanged leers on meeting at the first annual gambol of the Screen Actor’s Guild held here March 14. Credit line – Acme 3/16/40

Useful / Useless tidbits

The French Society of Mental Sciences in 1937 asked Boris Karloff to fill out an extensive 58 page questionnaire about his own mental health. The psychiatrists who put together the questionnaire were trying to determine how all the horror versus sympathetic roles Karloff had played on screen had affected his real life. Continue reading

Mayor La Guardia’s Homeless Solution – Arrest Them!

New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia’s 1942 solution for homelessness: Get to work or we’ll arrest you!

Bowery bums told to leave by LaGuardia 1942Rounding ’em up

New York City – “The Bowery Bum must go!” decreed New York’s Mayor La Guardia in his latest drive for municipal purity, and police squads promptly invaded the habitats of New York’s human derelicts and piled their collection into patrol wagons. Photo shows a group of the hapless men climbing into the “pie wagon”.  The mayor predicted that 30 days in the workhouse would cure them of their gutter-sleeping habits. (photo credit Acme) 11/18/1942

In 1942 some of New York City’s homeless population were comprised of families, but it also had a great deal of what were termed derelicts, vagrants and bums. These were the denizens of New York’s infamous street of despair, the Bowery.

That November, under the orders of Chief Magistrate Henry H. Curran and with the blessing of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, the order to clear the Bowery bums off the streets or be arrested was given. It may sound harsh, but then it was how the city felt they could best deal with the undesired population inhabiting the streets of the Bowery. Mayor La Guardia claimed he had received complaints from several mission societies and churches along the Bowery about the actions of the homeless on the street. Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #48

Frank Sinatra And Family At The Stork Club – 1947

And the story of when Frank Sinatra met The Godfather author Mario Puzo.

Frank Sinatra and Family at Stork Club 1947

New York – FAMILY HARMONY – Dispelling the rumors of a rift, crooner Frank Sinatra takes time off to entertain his wife and their children Frankie Jr., and Nancy, with dinner at The Stork Club. 10 -17-1947

Despite the news caption that harmony had returned to the Sinatra marriage, it would be only three years later that Frank’s wife Nancy filed for legal separation. The two were divorced in 1951 and Frank immediately married Ava Gardner.

During December Turner Classic Movies has featured Frank Sinatra as its star of the month in honor of what would have been Sinatra’s 100th birthday.

One movie that TCM will not be showing as part of their Sinatra tribute will be The Godfather. Though Sinatra does not appear in the movie, the character of singer/actor Johnny Fontane was assumed to be based upon Frank Sinatra.

Sinatra and his lawyers were wary at the inclusion of the mob-affiliated Fontane character in the book and later the movie. The lawyers wanted to see a manuscript before the book was published. The request was refused.

In the book, Puzo thought he portrayed the Fontane character sympathetically. But Puzo also realized that if Sinatra thought the character was himself, he might not like it – the book  – or Puzo.

This turned out to be a very astute assumption: Sinatra was not pleased when he read the book.

After the publication of The Godfather in 1969, at Elaine’s restaurant in New York, Puzo had a clear indication he was not on Sinatra’s buddy list. Host and owner Elaine had asked Sinatra if he would like to meet Puzo who was dining there at the same time as Puzo. Sinatra emphatically said, “no.”

As Mario Puzo described in his 1972 book The Godfather Papers, (G.P. Putnam Sons) Puzo finally met Sinatra in August 1970 In West Hollywood, California at the famous Chasen’s restaurant. Continue reading

Horror Movie or Hockey Player?

Who’s Behind This Mask?

Jacques Plante 1st mask 1946 1 23Though your first guess of who might be behind this frightening mask may be Hannibal LecterJason or Leatherface, it is actually hockey player Jacques Plante.

The legendary Montreal Candiens goalie was not the first to use a mask for protection, but Jacques Plante was the player to introduce the goalie mask as everyday equipment. Before Plante, the only goalie previously to wear a mask was the Montreal Maroons’ Clint Benedict who wore one briefly in 1930 to protect a broken nose.

This Associated Press photo was taken January 23, 1948 when Plante was just 19-years-old. He was playing organized hockey for the Quebec Citadelles and was still five years away from his NHL debut with the Canadiens.

This leather and fiber mask Plante wore in 1948, was used only in practices because there were so many pucks coming at him at once.

photo via sb nation habs eyes on the prize Plante hurtPlante first donned a mask in a game on November 1, 1959 against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Plante was struck on the left side of his  nose and upper lip in the first period on a shot from Andy Bathgate. The game was delayed 20 minutes as Plante left the ice, received seven stitches and returned wearing a plexiglass mask (not the one seen in the photo above).

photo via sb nation habs eyes on the prize Plante bloodiedMontreal coach Toe Blake, a traditionalist, had been an ardent opponent of Plante wearing a mask. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #52-A

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.

editor’s note; We have changed the title of this story to Old New York in Photos 52-A because someone forgot how to count – there were two number 52’s!

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

Classic Hollywood #44

Brian Donlevy and Wife Marjorie Lane At A Party 1946

Brian Donlevy and wife Marjorie Lane

Brian Donlevy is one of those stars who you see in a lot of films from the 1930’s – 60’s who has been mostly forgotten by today’s generation. That is a shame because he was a good actor who starred in some excellent films including Beau Geste (1939), The Great McGinty (1940), The Glass Key (1942), Kiss Of Death (1947) and The Big Combo (1955).

Donlevy took his role as the sadistic Sergeant Markoff in Beau Geste a little too seriously alienating many of the other cast members to the point that they all supposedly detested him. In one of the final scenes in the film, John Geste played by actor Ray Milland, kills Donlevy with a bayonet. According to director William Wellman and corroborated by Ray Milland in each of their autobiographies, Milland actually stabbed Donlevy near his left armpit. The rest of the cast was elated, Milland was apologetic.

This photo above was taken by Nat Dallinger, the great photographer of Hollywood’s stars during its off hours at home and at play. King Features Syndicate would distribute Dallinger’s photos called “Inside Hollywood with Nat Dallinger” with many of captions written by Dallinger himself.

Here is the original caption: Continue reading

W.C. Fields Will Gave The Bulk Of His Estate To Establish A College For White Orphans

W.C. Fields Died On A Day He Pretended To Despise, Christmas Day 1946. When His Will Was Read, It Had A Peculiar Racial Provision In It

WC Fields full face and portraitsMovie star comedian W.C. Fields is not well remembered by today’s generation, his cerebral brilliance generally going unappreciated or unrecognized. But those who know comedy such as Monty Python’s John Cleese said of Fields, “At a time when political correctness often stifles honesty and impulse to laugh and genuine wit is in such short supply, I think nothing could be healthier than the re-discovery of this most original, perceptive and unrepentant of comedians.”

When Fields died 68 years ago today on December 25, 1946, his will provided small amounts for family members and friends with the $800,000 remainder of his estate being left to establish “The W. C. Fields College for White Orphan Boys and Girls Where No Religion of Any Kind is Ever to be Taught.”

This strange racial provision seemed completely out of character for a man who treated blacks as equals and stood up for racial equality long before it was popular.  It was at W.C. Fields insistence that his Zigfield Follies friend, the great black vaudeville star Bert Williams, be allowed to join Actor’s Equity. Williams was finally admitted to the association. Fields said Williams was, “The funniest man I ever saw and the saddest man I ever knew.”

So why would Fields put this exclusionary provision in his will? Continue reading