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Sunday June 16th 2024

Mean Streets | 1973

Mean Streets location: Via Tutto, Cleveland Plaza, New York
Mean Streets location: The ‘Little Italy’ bar: Via Tutto, Cleveland Plaza, New York

The template for so much of Martin Scorsese’s subsequent work is here in his breakthrough picture, petty crime and redemption in Little Italy: Catholic guilt, New York in the Seventies, visceral direction and an unerring ear for classic pop.

And the sense of intense personal involvement (it’s Scorsese himself, not Harvey Keitel, who speaks the interior thoughts).

It comes as something of a surprise to realise that this archetypal picture of Italian-Americans in Little Italy, New York, had only eight days filming in the Big Apple (and that was stretched from a budgeted four days).

And much of that was filmed in Belmont, the Italian community in the Bronx, standing in for the much-changed Manhattan locale.

All the interiors, and plenty of the exteriors too, are in Los Angeles, including the final shooting and car crash. ‘Tony’s Bar’ is a soundstage set in Hollywood. The apartment of Charlie (Keitel) is an office building on Hollywood Boulevard near the famed intersection with Vine Street.

Mean Streets location: Old St Patrick's Cathedral, Mulberry Street, Little Italy, New York
Mean Streets location: The churchyard: Old St Patrick’s Cathedral, Mulberry Street, Little Italy, New York

The churchyard where Charlie and Johnny Boy (Robert de Niro) have a heart to heart is unmistakably the real New York though, the Old St Patrick’s Cathedral, 264 Mulberry Street between East Houston and Prince Streets in Little Italy (which supplied church interiors for both The Godfather and Godfather Part III).

Little Italy hangout, the ‘Vulpe’ bar, was 23 Cleveland Place, just north of Broome Street and the Police Building, which was smartened up to become a small Tuscan restaurant. Times change, and 'Vulpe's' patrons would presumably have a hard time getting their heads around the fact it's (currently) Henley Vaporium, a vape cafe.