As I mentioned in the previous post, mention New York filmmaking and Scorcese would be the first name that comes to mind for many people. (For others, I guess Woody Allen would hold that position.)
As with the city of Ferrara, much of the iconic New York landscape – certainly that contained within Manhattan, at least – has changed beyond all recognition since the days of Travis Bickle, Jimmy the Gent and co. Whilst there are still some more recognisable locations out in parts of Queens and Brooklyn, those would take more time and commitment to reach than I’ve thus far had; we’re talking either get an Uber or hire a car, and a good hour or so negotiating traffic just to visit one spot – not high on the list of things to do on most people’s Big Apple vacation itineraries! (I’ve also read that certain of the locations are in neighbourhoods where, even nowadays, you’d be ill advised to hang around with cameras and a touristy-looking demeanour.)
However, there are still one or two glimpses of locations from Taxi Driver, Goodfellas et al to be had here and there.
Of the places Travis Bickle roamed in ’76, several that I’d love to be able to document such as the area around Broadway / Times Square – that was at the time synonymous with sleazy clubs and cinemas, and the epitome of New York’s image as a latter-day Sodom and Gomorrah – are of course still there, but bear little resemblence now barring the basic building geography. There are a million photos of Times Square – I’ve taken many – but there seems little point including them here. Besides, other blogs elsewhere have done an admirable job of showing how little those areas now resemble their 1970s selves.
Those streets were not so much changed when I first visited the city in the summer of 1981; however, I was way too young then to ‘appreciate’ them fully! (But I can at least say I saw them.) Besides that particular den of iniquity, the other key location I wished I could see was the area around 57th & 12th where the parking garage was located, and where we first see Travis wandering in to look for a job. Alas, here not even the basic building shells remain; whole blocks of that area have long since been demolished. A fancy feat of modern architecture (a theatre) now sits where the garage once did, and the industrial buildings at the Hudson end of 57th beyond the (now) ‘Joe DiMaggio Hwy’ have been levelled.
So, having begun once again with a little lament for what once was but no longer is, let’s spend much less energy (as seems to be my way with these NYC posts!) on what’s still there.
First up, we have candidate Palantine’s campaign HQ at the SE corner of W63rd & Broadway, where Travis first encounters Betsy [in a white dress…]. Although I haven’t bothered with ‘general areas’ that are still there but look totally different, I feel this merits inclusion since it is a specific building location – even though the old building has been by the looks of things demolished and a new one built on its spot. (It’s a dull Bank of America branch at ground level, and a nondescript apartment block above, now.)
The other location ‘hit’ I have for Travis – this one far more obvious – is the Maine Monument at the very SW tip of Central Park, next to Columbus Circle; here Travis makes his failed attempt to assassinate Palantine.
As you can see, I made no attempt to get any ‘like for like’ angle shots here. That’s something I’ve only occasionally dabbled with, though – as with many things – I regret that I haven’t made more of an effort at times 🙂 (However, such errors and omissions simply give me a reason to keep revisiting places, no?)
Just one location for this at present; it’s the exterior setting for the ‘Copa’ restaurant, where Henry takes Karen on a date and – in one of the most audatious and famous scenes in the movie – if not in cinema – we follow them all the way from the valet parking to their hastily arranged prime table in front of the stage in one continuous tracking shot. The building can be found at 10 E60th St. (on the South side of the street), and was handily just a stone’s throw from the hotel on 5th Ave where I spent my honeymoon.
As you can see, the building is unchanged in terms of the basic stonework, and the architectural features of windows, lintels, doorways etc. (as of September 2014, at any rate).
That’s it for my Scorcese hits, until at least the next time I manage to get back to NYC, that is.