HOW HOLLYWOOD GETS NEW YORK, AND THE UPPER WEST SIDE, WRONG

By Stan Solomon

Supposedly, Texans are proud of their “Don’t Mess With Texas” slogan. Maybe they’re right. And maybe we equally proud New Yorkers need a similar slogan – something like, “Yo, Hollywood! Don’ Screw Aroun’ Wit’ New York City!”

A tad crude? Perhaps, but, Your Honor, we plead Justifiable Crudity, as it was inspired by the countless maddening examples of our beloved city’s being portrayed inaccurately in films and television programs churned out by the Hollywood machine.

No, it’s not silly inaccuracies, like:

(1) out-of-work 20-somethings living in 2,500 sq.-ft. glass-walled condos with Sub-Zero appliances; or

(2) street addresses on the Law and Order series, like 865 W. 54th Street, that would put a building in the middle of the Hudson; or even

(3) the fact that every time someone gets “Fired” by Trump on Apprentice or Celebrity Apprentice, there is never any traffic to prevent that limo’s pulling right up to the main entrance of Trump Tower, on Fifth and 56th, for gosh sakes!

Rather, it’s the really gross inaccuracies. One howler, especially for Upper West Siders, was a scene in the first episode of WNBC’s Smash, its dueling-divas “Broadway musical” series, where, across the street from the conspicuously-labeled but actually non-existent “204 Riverside Drive,” was not beautiful Riverside Park but a row of apartment buildings.

Even worse was the tri-fecta of misrepresentations in the new Fox-TV series, Touch (Forgive me Father, for I have watched Fox-TV!) in just its March 22nd premiere episode. First, a young man landed at “New York – Kennedy” (or so the script tells us) after journeying all the way from India…to spread the ashes of his American baseball-loving-but-now-deceased father on Yankee Stadium’s center field (!) Eventually he did reach a stadium – but definitely neither the home of The Yankees nor of The Mets. Judging by its three tiers and semi-suburban surroundings, perhaps it was Anaheim.

Next, Keifer Sutherland’s main character had to prevent a depressed cancer-patient from leaping from a bridge. Which was definitely unlike any New York-area bridge…even one in the outer boroughs…even one in New Jersey. It had that 1930’s-style pre-cast concrete look of many of those bridges over the Los Angeles “River” that we’ve all seen on the screen, too often. What appeared to be a Freeway off in the distance sort of confirmed that suspicion.

Finally, Sutherland’s character traced down a telephone number to an address on “E. Fordham Road” in The Bronx. He wound up staring at a non-descript mid-rise apartment house on an empty street absolutely devoid of any trace of the vibrant and colorful urban street scene that makes Fordham Road, and, in fact, any neighborhood shopping street, such a great experience.

These are just a few examples of Hollywood’s pandering to the rest of the country, “showing” them The Big (Wicked) Apple, which they view as a strangely fascinating (but-from-a-distance) freak show, totally different from “The Real America.” Yet occasionally Hollywood does get it right, especially with its Manhattan-at-Night views, as in the recent financial melt-down drama Margin Call, or the real urban  grittiness portrayed in the great car chase scenes in 1971’s The French Connection, where Detective “Popeye Doyle” (Gene Hackman) frantically drives his Pontiac muscle car down Stillwell Avenue and other Brooklyn avenues, chasing after the bad guy aboard an “el” train on the tracks above.

The subway?! That brings to mind the 2009 remake of The Taking of Pelham 123, loaded with inaccuracies and misrepresentations, like having Wi-fi available in underground or “a branch” of The Federal Reserve in Brooklyn.

But let’s not go there.

Graphic by Avi, using photos by aharvey2k and Ed Yourdon.

ART, COLUMNS, NEWS | 5 comments | permalink
    1. Michael says:

      The worst subway inaccuracy (which is at the heart of the movie) has to be The Warriors!!!!!!!

    2. jerry says:

      All true! But the thing that bothers me the most is when the movie production companies come in and literally take over a neighborhood. Foe example, God forbid you’ve parked your car on a block scheduled for a shoot…you either get towed or drive around for an hour trying to find a legal space – somewhere – or give the hell up and garage the car to the tune of 20 to 40 dollars. The studios generally make beaucoup bucks on the movies they produce – so it would be a fine idea to compensate the residents of the neighborhoods they take over for their own profit…i.e., give a $30 dollar parking voucher to those inconvenienced by their “no parking” warnings posted on the lamposts and no parking signs. Surely piddlystuff when compared to a multi-million dollar production budget

      • Scribblin' Stan says:

        Jerry is totally on-target. BUT, let’s be honest for a moment. Who amongst us denies having his /her heart go just a little bit all-a-thumpy when we catch sight of those 843-foot semi’s hogging the curbs for several blocks, those piles of anaconda-like black electrical cables, and those impossibly-thin and ridiculously-young Production Assists with their too-cool-4-U walkie-talkies?
        Case in point: There we were, a year or so ago, escorting friends, somewhat-traitorous Brooklyn-born ex-NYers now living in SoCal but back here for a visit. We pass a scene as described above, and learn that this crew is taping a scene for the then-hit The Good Wife, starring the Emmy-winning star Julianna Margulies.
        Male half of the visiting couple, an otherwise intelligent, well-read, sophisticated gentleman long past his Medicare-eligible date, suddenly stops, stares at the trailer holding cast dressing rooms, and turns love-struck pre-teen, intoning, “Julianna, come out please!” over and over.
        The rest of us, lacking a large net to drape over him, scurried off, pretending we had never seen him before.

    3. Steven says:

      Even the beloved “Seinfeld” used the exterior of an L.A.-area building to represent the outside of Jerry’s UWS apartment building! It happens all the time. That’s life. Nobody cares but us. Even on “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” the last season featured a story about Inwood, but Inwood wouldn’t allow the film to take place there, so the show changed streets signs in Hell’s Kitchen to make it appear to be Inwood. I’m sure L&O used those addresses-in-the-middle-of-the-river to dissuade people from trying to visit the actual addresses, even though some real addresses WERE used.