“New York, You’ve Changed” is a new Scouting NY feature in which the New York depicted in movies is compared with the city of today. Not just the usual list of shooting locations, this is a full shot-by-shot dissection to see what New York once was and what it has become, for better or worse.
We’ll be running Halloween-themed posts this week in honor of the holiday, and there seemed no better way to start than to take a New York, You’ve Changed look at one of the best New York City horror films ever made, Rosemary’s Baby.
As the credits roll, the film begins with a panoramic aerial view of north-east New York, taken from the roof of The Majestic apartment building across the street from the Dakota (if anyone has a contact at The Majestic, I’d love to go up and shoot how the cityscape has changed). We finally come to settle on a very low angle view of the beautiful Dakota at 72nd St & Central Park West (called The Bramford in the film):
The Dakota was constructed between 1880 and 1884 and originally had 65 apartments consisting of 4 to 20 rooms, with no two alike.
A picture of the Dakota circa 1890, when the Upper West Side was a bit less crowded:
One of my favorite building ornamentations in New York can be found lining the iron fence surrounding the Dakota:
It’s even on the entrance to the 72nd Street subway station:
In addition, the subway has a great antique sign above the stairwell entrance:
As the movie opens, we meet Rosemary and her husband Guy as they visit the Dakota to see a vacant apartment (how they can afford anything in the Dakota, with Guy depicted as a struggling actor, is a bit of witchcraft in itself).
As they’re touring their new apartment, they notice a bureau curiously pushed up against a closet door.
They move it aside and indeed find a closet.
We later find out that this hallway originally connected to the neighboring apartment (owned by the devil-worshiping Castevets). Breaking up apartments into smaller units by dividing the hallways is not uncommon. In the Apthorp, a building similar in idea to the Dakota, for example…
…apartments that used to span an entire floor have been broken up into smaller units by dividing the hallways with closets. If you were to punch through the back of this closet, you’d find yourself in the neighboring apartment (when I was scouting this, all I could think about was Rosemary’s Baby):
This closet, also in the Apthorp, still has a door to the kitchen as its back wall:
After seeing the apartment, Rosemary convinces Guy in a walk-and-talk (film lingo!) that they should take it. Assuming they’re walking away from the building on 72nd Street (which would make sense, based on the traffic), I believe they’re approaching Broadway, which would mean the Californian restaurant is now a Gray’s Papaya.
However, the shot moves too quickly to be 100% sure. Another angle:
After settling in, Rosemary and Guy come home one night to find that a fellow resident (a woman who had a mysterious relationship with the Castevets) has committed suicide. I believe the corpse is just about where that spot is on the sidewalk in the second picture (the people dressed as garden gnomes were doing some sort of photoshoot in front of the Dakota).
At the crime scene, we get a shot of Minnie Castevet and a view across the street. Not surprisingly, very little has changed. I’d like to know when the MTA painted all the subway globes green…
After this, Rosemary and Guy find themselves quickly becoming friends with the Castevets. Guy is having trouble getting acting gigs, and then suddenly is offered an important role when a rival actor goes blind. Meanwhile, Rosemary is unhappy at home and voices her troubles to friend Hutch. Here, they walk along an avenue, and it’s killing me that I can’t figure this one out. You can see an elevated ramp in the background of the shot, and there are VERY few of these in Manhattan. Any guesses?
Following this scene, Rosemary is given her infamous tannis root necklace (no such thing as tannis root, FYI), is raped by Satan, gets a sudden craving for raw steak, loses tons of weight and skin color, and cuts off her hair. As she becomes more and more anxious about her pregnancy, she gets a call from Hutch who says he has something urgent to tell her. They agree to meet outside the Time Life building, but Hutch never shows.
The squiggly pattern in the ground was based on the famous sidewalks of Rio de Janiero’s Copacabana Beach – here’s a picture taken by Flickr user Mondmann:
For some reason, it seems like the colors are inverted between the two pictures – no clue why this is.
Note the new fountain on the right:
Rosemary checks her time with the Newsweek building clock down 50th Street…Can’t do that anymore!
Finally, she goes into the building to give Hutch a call.
Same mural in the lobby:
The lobby was closed, or I would have gone in to see if this payphone is still there:
After learning that Hutch has suddenly became intensely ill, Rosemary wanders over to Fifth Avenue – specifically, the first window at Tiffany’s, where she admires a manger scene.
It’s hard to escape the Castevets – Minnie finds her there immediately and helps get her home.
Hutch later dies, and Rosemary becomes convinced that the Castevets are part of a coven. She tells this to her OBGYN, Dr. Saperstein, who conveniently informs her that the Castevets will be going on a long vacation and that they’re nothing to worry about. A quick view down 72nd Street as the doorman calls them a cab…
…and a farewell to the Castevets…for now.
As Guy escorts Rosemary back inside, we get a close-up view of the guard booth, which has turned gold in recent years:
Things continue to spiral downhill for poor Rosemary as she becomes convinced that Guy is in on the conspiracy. In a whirl, she walks into the middle of traffic on Fifth Ave at 55th Street. Was that gold thing on the stand a mailbox?
The enormous Disney store now occupies that corner building:
Last time we saw Rosemary on Fifth Ave, the trees in Central Park were dead. Nice to see a film actually show the passage of time:
Rosemary rips the tannis root necklace off and tosses it down a drain:
This is the one location I was really hoping to find: the famous drain where Rosemary gets rid of her cursed necklace. Unfortunately, there’s no drain where it should be, and watching the scene, you can see that shot cuts away JUST as the camera angle drops down to the ground (suggesting the drain is elsewhere and they cheated it being on Fifth Ave).
She then goes to a bookstore to purchase a few more books on witchcraft. No clue where this is – I originally thought it might be Argosy, but the two don’t match up. There’s a reflection of a neon sign in the window, but it’s too slight to make out. Any guesses?
After reading the books, Rosemary realizes that Guy was responsible for causing his rival to go blind and has betrayed her. She packs a bag and flees the apartment to Dr. Saperstein’s office. There, she learns that he’s in on the conspiracy as well and quickly leaves. We get our first look at the exterior of his office, located at 62nd St and Fifth Ave.
The full exterior of the office – a very nice address for a Satanist:
Rosemary turns onto Fifth Ave and heads for that phone booth on the corner:
Inside, she frantically calls her original doctor, Dr. Hill, and schedules a last minute appointment.
She takes a cab to his office, located at 650 Park Avenue:
There, she confesses everything, and Dr. Hill actually believes her. However, before he can help, the coven tracks her down and forces her to return to the apartment:
I swear, every time I watch the film, I find myself hoping that Rosemary will get away. Unfortunately…
From here, there’s no escape. Rosemary returns to the apartment and gives birth to the son of Satan. The film ends with her rocking the baby to sleep, and then a final shot of the Dakota.
I was really excited to do a photo essay on the locations in Rosemary’s Baby – it’s one of my favorite films, and I had initially planned to put the article together following our look at Ghostbusters. However, as I was rewatching the film, I was completely surprised to find that there are actually very few exterior shots of New York. The vast majority of the film takes place in the apartment, with only a handful of scenes that show the city.
And yet, the film is still an archetypal New York movie. Polanski brilliantly uses the city to induce a heavy sense of claustrophobia: despite being in such a teeming metropolis, Rosemary is trapped for most of the film in the her dusty old apartment, denied any reprieve or freedom from her agony.
Make sure to check your candy for tannis root this Halloween!