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Friday December 2nd 2022

The Pawnbroker | 1965

The Pawnbroker location: Park Avenue at 116th Street, East Harlem, New York
The Pawnbroker location: Site of Rod Steiger’s pawn shop, and the ‘Radiant Bar’: Park Avenue at 116th Street, East Harlem, New York

With Sidney Lumet at the helm, it's no surprise that this gritty drama is set, and filmed in New York. Rod Steiger considered his performance as an Auschwitz survivor as his finest and, although he was nominated for an Oscar, he lost out to Lee Marvin in comedy Western Cat Ballou.

The Pawnbroker is one of those movies which seems to have faded into obscurity, despite being a major release in its day.

Steiger is Sol Nazerman, living in emotional denial after the trauma of the concentration camp, and eking out a living in New York’s East Harlem.

The pawnbroker shop stood on Park Avenue, though that's not as glitzy as it might sound, as this is the far north of the avenue in East Harlem. It was 1642 Park Avenue, just north of 116th Street, but sadly no longer exists. When I visited in 2000, the lot was still vacant.

You can still recognise the neighbouring buildings though, which are largely unchanged. The film’s ‘Radiant Bar’ at the junction of 116th Street and Park Avenue was Ochun Botanica, a florist. I believe it's now a shoe store.