The French Connection | 1971
The real New York locations added a feel of authenticity that helped William Friedkin snap up both Best Director and Best Picture Oscars – and one of the greatest car chases in film history didn’t hurt.
The film kicks off, though, in France, where the doomed detective (though you need to read the script to find out that’s what he is – the movie offers no clue) follows ‘Frog One’, Charnier (Luis Buñuel regular Fernando Rey) and Marcel Bozzuffi through the streets of Marseilles.
The lowlife bar where ‘Popeye’ Doyle (Gene Hackman) gets plastered is on South Street at Market Street at the foot of Manhattan Bridge on the Lower East Side.
The toll bridge, where Sal Boca (Tony Lo Bianco) is tailed, is the Triborough Bridge to Randall’s Island at the east end of 125th Street.
At seven in the morning, ‘Popeye’ and ‘Cloudy’ Russo (Roy Scheider) stake out famed Kosher deli Ratner’s Restaurant, now gone, which stood at 138 Delancey Street (and was seen also in Boiler Room) on the Lower East Side at the entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge. Once a hangout for gangsters Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel, Ratner's finally closed its doors in 2002, but its rear area was relaunched as – erm – the Lansky Lounge. Sadly, that too has now closed.
Russo first bumps into Charnier, ‘Frog One’, at the entrance to the Roosevelt Hotel, 45 East 45th Street at Madison Avenue, midtown Manhattan. It’s another location used in Boiler Room, and can also be seen on-screen in Maid in Manhattan, Quiz Show, Malcolm X, 1408 and it's the site of Gordon Gecko's famous "Greed" speech in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street.
Frog One’s hotel was the Westbury, 15 East 69th Street at Madison Avenue on the East Side. It's closed down, and has been converted into condominiums. He gives Popeye the slip by ducking into the fancy flower shop, Ronaldo Maia Flowers, a couple of blocks away at 27 East 67th Street at Madison, and slips away with the on-off routine on the subway at Grand Central Station.
Sal and Charnier meet up in Washington DC, in front of the the Capitol Building, home of the US Congress.
Popeye’s home is the Marlboro Housing Project, on Avenues V, W and X off Stillwell Avenue in Brooklyn, where Frog Two takes pot shots at him.
He requisitions a passing car and begins the movie’s famous chase sequence at Bay 50th Street Station. The car chase filmed (over five weeks) beneath the Bensonhurst Elevated Railway – 26 blocks (count ’em) of Brooklyn’s Stillwell Line from Bay 50th Street Station along Stillwell Avenue, into 86th Street and finally right into New Utrecht Avenue, ending at 62nd Street Station, which is where Frog Two (Marcel Bozzuffi) gets shot.
The chase was filmed, unusually and not entirely legally, at full speed, with real pedestrians and traffic, though there are five staged stunts too.
French TV celeb Devereaux stays at the Doral Park Avenue Hotel, now the 70 Park Avenue Hotel, 70 Park Avenue at 38th Street in the Murray Hill district. Sal picks up the drug-stuffed car from the hotel’s underground car-park just around the corner on 37th Street.
It’s back to the Triborough Bridge for the final drug deal and shoot-out on Wards Island, where Sal’s brother works.