Radio Days | 1987
Woody Allen usually borrows from Ingmar Bergman, but occasionally he takes Federico Fellini as model. If Stardust Memories is his Eight And A Half, then Radio Days, in its fragmentary, evocative nostalgia, is a Big Apple Amarcord.
With his usual canny eye for period locations, Woody Allen conjures up both the working class neighbourhood of Queens and the stylish Manhattan of the Forties.
The neighbourhood of Little Joe (Seth Green as the young Allen character) is Rockaway, the spit of land on the Atlantic coast of south Queens. His family home is 180 Beach 115th Street between Ocean Promenade – the Boardwalk – and Rockaway Beach Boulevard, the neighbourhood shopping centre, from the roof of which the schoolkids watch their teacher’s naked dance.
The radio repair shop, on the way back from which Little Joe meets his father working as a cab driver, is a few blocks east on Beach 97th Street.
Rockaway’s Playland, the amusement park Joe passes on the way to school while coveting the Masked Avenger Secret Compartment Ring, stood at 185 Beach 97th Street, until it was torn down in 1987, shortly after Radio Days was filmed.
Built as Thompson’s Amusement Park in 1938, its huge Atom Smasher rollercoaster, seen in the movie, was used in the 1952 big-screen showcase, This Is Cinerama.
Joe and his friends hang out at Breezy Point, on the north shore at the far west end of the Rockaway peninsula, and at Steeplechase Pier, on the Boardwalk at 21st Street, Coney Island. You can see the pier again in Darren Aronofsky’s darker take on the neighbourhood, Requiem For A Dream.
Joe’s school, where the anatomically explicit snowman is built, is PS70, 30-45 42nd Street, Astoria in Queens, and the Hebrew class, where Joe steals the money meant for the Jewish National Fund, was the Synagogue Congregation Mogen Abraham, which stood on Attorney Street on the Lower East Side.
Aunt Bea (Dianne Wiest) and her beau Chester take young Joe to see The Philadelphia Story at Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Sixth Avenue, where he's understandably overwhelmed by the spectacular gold-leaf foyer. It's also where Daddy Warbucks takes his young ward to see Camille in John Huston’s film of the stage musical Annie, and where Michael Corleone watches The Bells Of St Mary’s in The Godfather.
The fast food establishment they visit was Horn and Hardart, then one of the few remaining automats in the city, which stood at 200 East 42nd Street. But this is New York, time passes, and even this one is now just a memory.
Still going strong, though, is Macy's Herald Square, 151 West 34th Street between Seventh Avenue and Broadway, where Joe gets a chemistry set with Aunt Bea’s winnings from the radio quiz. The store is, of course, the setting for 1947 Christmas classic Miracle On 34th Street.
The family bumps into the snotty radio whizz-kid at Prospect Park Zoo, Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. It’s another place that’s undergone changes. In 1988, the zoo closed for a five year major renovation.
On the other side of the tracks, the nightclub, frequented by Manhattan sophisticates Roger and Irene, where Sally (Mia Farrow) works as a cigarette girl, is the King Cole Dining Room of the St Regis New York, 2 East 55th Street at 5th Avenue – another location seen in The Godfather and also in The Devil Wears Prada.
The bar is named for the ‘Old King Cole’ mural, commissioned for the old Knickerbocker Hotel by John Jacob Astor IV from painter Maxfield Parrish. When the Knickerbocker was demolished, the mural was relocated to the St Regis. In fact, women weren't allowed into the King Cole Room until 1950 – and then only after 4pm.
Roger and Irene’s chic chrome-and-glass townhouse was one of the city’s most famous gay discos, the Paradise Garage, which stood at 84 King Street. Pumping out garage music from the late Seventies through the Eighties, its doors finally closed in 1987, though the building still remains.
Biff Baxter (Jeff Daniels) broadcasts his show from the art deco splendour of the GE Building, 30 Rockefeller Center, 50th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, while Sally, is fired from a studio in the Metropolitan Life’s North Building, Madison Avenue between 24th and 25th Streets, after failing to give a laxative commercial sufficient "inner life".
Before finding fame, she hangs around outside famed showbiz restaurant Sardi's, 234 West 44th Street at Broadway (seen also in Martin Scorsese’s mordant King of Comedy and black comedy No Way To Treat a Lady.
Among the bars where people gather to follow the tragedy of the little girl trapped down a well is the Nom Wah Tea Parlor, 13 Doyers Street in Chinatown, NY's oldest dim sum parlor, situated on an oddly angled street in Chinatown, featured also in King of New York, and it’s where Peter Parker goes to meet Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
The 'Malt shop counter', where the girls swoon to the radio crooner, was Brummer’s Confectionery, which used to stand at 731 Grand Street, in Jersey City, New Jersey. Brummer’s is still in business, but the old Grand Street store has gone.
Among other New York landmarks used are the Brill Building, 1619 Broadway (famous from The Sweet Smell Of Success and Woody Allen’s own Broadway Danny Rose); and the ballroom of the New Yorker Hotel, 481 8th Avenue, at West 34th Street. The hotel’s ballroom also appeared, though differently decorated, in Bullets Over Broadway.