Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday Movies – The Vanishing El

The elevated line at Broadway and 125th Street

If you are a keen moviegoer like I am, you will almost certainly be familiar with the elevated railway lines that are used to such great effect in films like The French Connection, Saturday Night Fever, and the opening credits of Welcome Back Kotter. While most of the elevated lines in New York City (colloquially referred to as the ‘El’), have long disappeared from Manhattan, wonderful examples of these amazing engineering works can still be seen in Queens and Brooklyn. However, a short section of elevated line for the ‘1’ Train still soars high above Broadway and 125th Street in Harlem.

Manhattan’s most famous surviving section of elevated line today must surely be the formerly abandoned, by now newly renovated west side line. This has undergone a new lease of life, and been reborn as the incredibly popular High Line (see Walking The High Line, Street View Comes to The High Line, and here...). All of which serves to introduce today’s series of Monday Movies featuring the former Third Avenue El.

If Things Could Talk: The Vanishing ‘El’ [10:00]

As the name implies, the Third Avenue El, ran the length of Manhattan’s Third Avenue before crossing over into the Bronx. The first segments of the line opened in Manhattan in 1878, and service continued before the line was eventually shut down in stages – beginning with the Manhattan sections in the 1950s – before the complete shut down of the Bronx section in 1973.

The Third Avenue El was featured in a number of films, including The Lost Weekend (1945),The Naked City (1948), On the Town (1949), The Killer That Stalked New York (1950), and On the Bowery (1956).

The 3rd Avenue El [10:39]

In this film a beatnik photographer with a tripod, a stumbling drunk from the old Bowery, a giddy little girl travelling with her father, and a couple on a romantic excursion help create a loose narrative of life on the old El.

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