New York, New York | 1977
Martin Scorsese’s brave – or foolhardy – attempt to put real characters into an old-style glossy musical wasn't made in ‘New York’ at all, but in Los Angeles, largely on soundstages at the MGM studio in Culver City – now the Sony Pictures lot.
It's an unabashed homage to musicals of the 50s, and Liza Minnelli was even assigned her mum's old dressing room (with Robert De Niro making do with Greta Garbo's). You can see much of the lot on the Sony Pictures Studio Tour, from Sony Pictures Plaza, Madison Street at Washington Boulevard. In fact, the exterior of the 'New York City Hospital', outside which Jimmy Doyle (De Niro) picks up the pregnant Francine Evans (Minnelli) after she's been for a check-up, is the deco frontage of the Irving Thalberg Building, the main administration building of the old lot.
Although the film aims for the unreal studio-based feel of period musicals, there are a few real locations, all in Downtown Los Angeles.
The 'hotel' lobby, where Jimmy Doyle is staying under and alias and tires to pass himself off as a wounded veteran and Francine as his sister, is the Main Lounge of the splendid Los Angeles Theatre, 615 South Broadway. The glittering lobby of this classic picture house has been seen in movies such as Chaplin, Batman Forever, Charlie’s Angels,Charlie’s Angels and sequel Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, as a raunchy casino in Armageddon and as ‘the Vatican’ in End of Days.
The ‘Sullivan House’, where sax player Doyle takes over leading the band when bandleader Frankie Harte has to bail out Fowler, is the dark wood-panelled Ballroom of the Park Plaza Hotel, 607 South Park View Street overlooking MacArthur Park. One of the most-used locations in Los Angeles , if not the world, you can see the Ballroom again in Barton Fink, The Big Picture, Chaplin, Mystery Men, Hocus Pocus, Hook, Mister Saturday Night, Mobsters, Primal Fear, Stargate, What's Love Got to Do With It? and Not Another Teen Movie among many others, as well as in countless TV series and music videos.
The towering structure, with its spectacular vaulted lobby, was built in the twenties as the Elks Building and long served as a hotel, but as the area around it, particularly MacArthur Park, became associated with drug related violence, it became increasingly deserted and finally closed its doors in 1998. It's now exclusively used for movie shoots and private functions.
Sadly, the next location has disappeared completely. The 'Gold Room' of the 'Hotel Sherman', where Francine convinces dubious owner Horace Morris to hire the band after the departure of Frankie Harte, was the old Myron's Ballroom, 1024 South Grand Avenue, which survived for many years as a nightclub and rock venue.
Built for actress Mary Pickford as Rutherford Hall, it was bought by one-time chorus girl Myrna Myron, and became Myron's Ballroom in 1955. Over the decades, it survived in several incarnations – called Dillon's in the 60's, Club Vertigo in the late 80's, Grand Avenue Nightclub in the 90's until finally being sold by Myrna's son Jan to become Crash Mansion. When this venture closed, the club itself was finally demolished.
Other movies filmed at the ballroom, include the 1975 version of Farewell, My Lovely, with Robert Mitchum, Queen of the Stardust Ballroom and The Cotton Club.
When Francine becomes pregnant, she's replaced by Bernice Bennett (Mary Kay Place), and the band's glory days are over. The 'Adolphus Hotel', where the residency is cancelled as audiences dwindle, is the Crystal Ballroom of Millennium Biltmore Hotel, 506 South Grand Avenue on Pershing Square.
Built in 1923, it’s been a frequent movie location over the years, for productions including both Beverly Hills Cop and Beverly Hills Cop III, The Sting, Ghostbusters, In The Line Of Fire, Independence Day, Splash, Species and Daredevil. It hosted the Oscars, too, during the 30s.