Wednesday, July 01, 2009

New York in the Movies

The original Penn Station, circa 1910.

The demolition of Penn Station is one of the great blots on New York's architectural history. Designed by the prestige firm McKim, Mead and White and completed in 1910, it was demolished a mere fifty-three years later when the prevalence of the automobile led to a decrease in train use and revenue. It was a much protested, and tragic affair, especially considering the great trouble it took to build in the first place. The Bowery Boys have a great podcast on this feat of design and engineering.

I'm kind of obsessed with the old Penn Station, the quintessential symbol of cultural loss through short-sighted urban planning, so I was struck when I saw Farley Granger running down those grandiose steps in Strangers on a Train. I love it when my obsessions intersect.

Look for it at the 7:05-minute mark.

There's a neat little website that lists Penn Station's celluloid cameos, should you want to run out and hunt them down immediately. Be forewarned though, you'll be saddened when you do.

Also be forewarned that someone actually wrote this on Imdb: "When Guy jumps in the cab after the tennis match he tells the driver "Penn Station", when clearly he arrives at Grand Central Station." Yes, clearly. Be careful what you read, for the truth can only be found on Spinster Aunt.


Anonymous said...

In this photo, it looks like one of the walls became the NY post office on the 34th and 8th. Is it? Or is it me being seriously NY sick and imagining things? Hugs. A

Andrea Janes said...

I think the NY Post Office was either designed by the same architects or was all self-consciously done in the same style. It must have been a grand block once. One thing I do know is that there's an original eagle statue from Penn Station stuck in front of the post office somewhere.