50 Years Ago This Week – Landmarks and Locations

New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Law went into effect on April 19, 1965.  The collective, astonished reaction heard after the razing of old Penn Station in 1964: “you mean they can do that?” contributed to a movement that ultimately led to the measure.  It was not enough to save the majestic Singer Building from the wrecking ball in 1968 – the forty-seven story tower was once the tallest building in the world – but countless other treasures have been saved as a result of the Act.

Like so much of old New York (Times Square before Disney got to it, for example) Penn Station lives on in the movies.  Alfred Hitchcock, who had a keen eye for landmarks (the British Museum in Blackmail, Mount Rushmore in North by Northwest), twice featured Penn Station, in Spellbound and Strangers on a Train.

Penn Station -- Spellbound

Spellbound

Stanley Kubrick also featured the location in his early, low budget Noir, Killer's Kiss

Killer's Kiss Penn Station

Killer’s Kiss

In fact, Killer’s Kiss features both Penn Station and the Singer building:

Killer's Kiss Singer

The Singer Building (far right), once a signature feature of the Lower Manhattan Skyline

A more flattering portrayal of the Singer building can be found in the recently discovered footage that Orson Welles shot in 1938 (three years before Citizen Kane). Welles originally intended the film to be integrated into his staging of the play Too Much Johnson, but the idea had to be abandoned.

Too Much Johnson

Too Much Johnson

In the 1960s and 1970s, American filmmakers, inspired by the location shooting of the European New Waves and encouraged by Mayor Lindsey’s incentives to bring more film production to the Big Apple, shot extensively in the city (over 350 films were shot in New York during Lindsey’s two terms).  They also preserve the City, as it was.

WA Manhattan

Manhattan (Woody Allen, 1979)