Monday, January 11, 2010

The Street of Forgotten Men, a local perspective

Along with collecting material for my project about Louise Brooks and the San Francisco Bay Area (see previous blog), I have also been collecting material about The Street of Forgotten Men (1925) and the places where it was filmed in New York City.

The Street of Forgotten Men was Brooks' first movie. It is is an underworld romance set among professional beggars in the city's Bowery. Brooks has a brief, uncredited role as a moll (the girlfriend of a gangster, or criminal). She is on screen in one scene which lasts less then five minutes. I had a rare opportunity to see the film a few years back while visiting Washington D.C., where I screened a 16mm print for myself in a small cubicle at the Library of Congress.

The film was adapted from a Liberty magazine story by George Kibbe Turner and directed by Herbert Brenon. I've also had the opportunity to examine a copy of the original script, which resides at Lincoln Center in New York City.

The film was in production during May, 1925. A few reporters from the various New York City newspapers of the time visited the set, or wrote articles on its production. The film was officially released on August 24th of 1925 - though it premiered in at the Rivoli Theater in New York City more than a month earlier. Over the last few years, I have managed to collected a number of articles both on the making of the film as well as reviews from when it was shown. These articles were collected through inter-library loan of microfilm and by visiting various libraries in NYC.

At the time of it's release, The Street of Forgotten Men received excellent notices. One newspaper critic, Mildred Spain of the New York Daily News, even commented, "The Street of Forgotten Men dips into the dark pools of life. It shows you the beggars of life - apologies to Jim Tully - and in showing them it shows them up."

The film was shot in the Astoria studios on Long Island, as well as on location in New York City. One memorable scene – when characters Charles and Fancy (played by Percy Marmont and Mary Brian) come across the colorfully named Bridgeport White-Eye (played by John Harrinton) – was shot on Fifth Avenue. Another, when Fancy marries Philip (played by Neil Hamilton, the future Commissioner Gordon on Batman), took place at one of the city's local landmarks, the Little Church Around the Corner on East 29th.

It is this still standing local landmark that caught my eye. I've managed to collected a handful of pictures, postcards, booklets and books detailing the church's color history. A couple of them are included here. Anyone also interested in collecting material on this one-time Louise Brooks film locale would do well to start here.

The Bowery, and the catch-phrase used to describe it as "The Street of Forgotten Men," seemingly came into circulation because of Turner's story and Brenon's film. (Though I may be wrong about this.) The film in which Brooks appeared was a look back at the Bowery of old. Here is a short 1930's film titled Street of Forgotten Men which gives a sense of the place during the Depression. Things hadn't changed all that much.

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