“New York, You’ve Changed” is a Scouting NY feature in which the New York depicted in classic movies is compared with the city of today, a full shot-by-shot dissection to see what once was and what has changed. Check out North By Northwest Part 1 here!
Continuing where we left off, Thornhill is abducted and taken to Old Westbury (the horror!). The car turns off Old Westbury Road…
…and heads for the Townsend estate:
Where are we actually?
Old Westbury Gardens, of course!
Old Westbury Gardens was built by US Steel heir John Shaffer Phipps in 1906 for his new wife Margarita. Today, the estate is open to the public, and I highly urge you to go if you’ve never been. The interior is amazing and the gardens are absolutely gorgeous.
Old Westbury Gardens has played a roll in a number of movies, from Love Story to To Wong Foo to American Gangster. The goon car pulls up…
…and Thornhill is brought inside…
…to a movie set that looks nothing like Old Westbury Gardens. Personally, I really, really wish Hitchcock didn’t rely so heavily on studio sets, as if they were interchangeable with the real thing. He clearly preferred the heightened level of control, but I think his films suffer for the choice, especially when compared with the energy his on-location work exudes.
We hit a brief stretch of not-on-location locations. I don’t think you need me to point out that the road Thornhill is sent drunkenly down is not in New York:
The police cars may say Glen Cove, but I’m betting this was filmed in California as well:
Trying to prove that he’s not crazy, Thornhill and his mother (played by Jessica Royce Landis, who was actually younger than Grant) investigate the Plaza on what is assuredly a movie set:
Ditto the hotel room:
Back to New York City again! Following a hunch, Thornhill heads for the United Nations where Lester Townsend is scheduled to speak:
The production was unable to get permission to film at the UN, so they cheated it in a few different ways. The brief shot of Thornhill exiting the cab is backdropped:
However, the shot of Thornhill going up the stairs is the real deal. Hitchcock and crew hid in a van parked across the street and covertly grabbed the shot (praying, of course, that no one started gawking at Grant):
The interior of the UN was achieved through matte paintings and studio sets (though I really appreciate that they included the 59th Street Bridge out the window):
Now under suspicion of murder, Thornhill flees to nearby Grand Central to hop a train to Chicago. You’ll notice one major difference in this comparison shot. On the left, just open space…
Today, a staircase!
Grand Central was always intended to have twin staircases, but for some reason, the eastern one was never built. It was only added during restoration work in the mid-90s.
Thornhill has a discreet phone conversation in a pair of phone booths I imagine were added for the filming:
You would not believe how many people actually used this mailbox while I was trying to take this picture:
Thornhill exits the booth, highly suspicious of everyone around him. Can someone explain why the different colors in brickwork are so contrasted here? Is it a filter?
Two cops watch diligently at the famous Information Booth:
Today, things are a bit more modern:
Thornhill hurries across the terminal to the ticket booth windows…
“New York Central System” has been replaced by “MTA Metro-North.”
Thornhill goes up to Window 15 to buy a ticket:
The windows have since been renumbered, but if you’d like to buy a ticket at the same window as Cary Grant, just go to #6:
Thornhill orders a ticket from a teller – and suddenly, we’re in movie set land again!
Let’s compare it anyway. It blows my mind that so many minor sets were built when you were already on location at the real damn thing, but 1957 was a different time.
He turns around – and Thornhill is gone! This is backdropped, of course…
Thornhill makes his way to the western set of track entrances…
And finally, boards a train:
I want to believe that someday, we’ll be as nostalgic for this style of train – but for some reason, I doubt it.
From there, it’s on to Chicago – and adventure!
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