1949 Film Shows Iconic NYC Sights in Amazing Technicolor

Posted On Mon, January 5, 2015 By

Posted On Mon, January 5, 2015 By In History, Video

Seventy years from now, new generations of New Yorkers will be able to watch old episodes of Law & Order or Girls to get a glimpse into a past life in the city. Our generation isn’t so often afforded that luxury, unless we’re looking at a grainy black-and-white video. But a clip from the 1949 film Mighty Manhattan – New York’s Wonder City showcases some of the NYC’s most iconic sights in amazing Technicolor.

Times Square, Mighty Manhattan – New York’s Wonder City, Technicolor, vintage Manhattan

As Untapped Cities notes, “If you can handle the quintessentially mid-century voiceover by James A. Patrick, apparently known then as “The Voice of the Globe,” the cultural generalizations and the patriotism, you can then revel in New York as it was nearly 70 years ago.” Not surprisingly, the clip opens with a shot of the Statue of Liberty, followed by a view of the much leaner skyline with the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building dominating the screen. Made in the age of the automobile, the film then turns quickly to the Brooklyn Bridge, as well as the Manhattan Bridge, Williamsburg Bridge, George Washington Bridge and Riverside Drive.

Mighty Manhattan – New York’s Wonder City, Technicolor, vintage Manhattan, Chelsea PiersChelsea Piers

Chelsea Piers looks wildly different, as steam ships are docked there. Wall Street also looks like another world, especially with the elevated trains running through the area.

Mighty Manhattan – New York’s Wonder City, Technicolor, vintage Manhattan, ChinatownChinatown

The cultural generalizations come into play when the film hits the Bowery, referring to it as a “sad reflection on the best laid plans of the city founders…a fantastic maze of blight and shadow” where “dreary men and unfortunate outcasts of society” spend their final days. Chinatown is called a “tourist attraction” and “popular meeting places for the Chinese who live in greater New York…a mecca for their reunions and assemblies,” but the actual residents of the neighborhood are not addressed.

Mighty Manhattan – New York’s Wonder City, Technicolor, vintage Manhattan, Fifth AvenueFifth Avenue

The film also highlights architectural gems such as the “so-called” Flatiron Building, the Empire State Building, Trinity Church, Temple Emanu-el, and others. When it looks down the shopping corridor of Fifth Avenue we can see one of the double-decker buses that was common at the time.

Mighty Manhattan – New York’s Wonder City, Technicolor, vintage ManhattanHorse-drawn carriages at Central Park

Funnily enough, when the narrator takes us through Central Park he notes that the horse-drawn carriages that take couples on romantic strolls are becoming rarer and rarer. A visit to the Central Park Zoo shows a sea lion feeding, the “carnivorous and quite dangerous” white polar bears, and the hippo, the “laziest animal in the zoo.”

Mighty Manhattan – New York’s Wonder City, Technicolor, vintage Manhattan, Rockefeller Center gardensRockefeller Center Gardens

When we arrive at Rockefeller Center we get a rare glimpse of the rooftop gardens, which were open for public tours in the ’40s. The film ends with the Woolworth Building, “a fitting symbol of mighty Manhattan’s spectacular growth.”

[Via Untapped via Viewing NYC]

Video and images via Mighty Manhattan – New York’s Wonder City

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