Thursday, August 22, 2013

Feature: TCM Launches Classic Film Tour in New York

Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne (center) is joined by Jane Powell and Dennis Adamovich, senior vice president digital, affiliate, lifestyle and enterprise commerce for TCM, TBS and TNT, to launch the TCM Classic Film Tour in New York City. Photo courtesy of TCM.
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Visit the homes of Lauren Bacall, Holly Golightly;
Take Your Picture on Marilyn's Subway Grate
By Lauren Yarger
Turner Classic Movies has come up with the perfect combination for movie lovers visiting the Big Apple the New York Classic Film Tour that highlights the city's famous landmarks and the films that feature them.

On the press launch, we were welcomed by TCM's host Robert Osbourne,  (he has a recorded greeting for you to start off the tour which officially opens to the public today). Also on hand was legendary screen actress Jane Powell (not a bad start). As the bus weaves through Manhattan, your tour guide shows clips from movies filmed on location, so you can see King Kong fending off airplanes atop the Empire State Building just as your drive by the iconic skyscraper.

Our tour guide, and native New Yorker, Roseanne Almanzar, was very knowledgeable about the city, often pausing to direct bus driver Harold Jean-Pierre to the best route across town to beat traffic while she was spewing out movie trivia (there's a contest), sharing little known facts about the movie clips she expertly paused and played on video monitors and delivering a great tour of New York in the process.

What makes a film a classic? Well, that's up to you, Rosemarie said, but tons of clips from TCM's vault run during the tour. At Columbus Circle, we saw clips from movies with scenes shot there like "Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town," "Taxi Drive" "Ghostbusters." Footage from "Superman" rolled as we drove by the apartment building where Lois Lane lived. There was a clip featuring an interview with Ann Miller speaking about filming "On the Town," the first MGM musical shot on location.

At the Prasada, a Beaux Arts classic building on Central Park West, we saw clips from "Three Men and a Baby" (this is where the bachelors lived) and "The Out of Towners." In the photo at left, though you can't see it too well, Jack Nicholson and Sandy Dennis are exiting the church that you can see out the bus window to the the left of the screen (video screens are placed throughout the coach bus so everyone has a great view of the movies).

At Lincoln Center, a clip from "West Side Story" played while we heard that two streets of vacant buildings were left up while the filming took place during construction of the current center for the performing arts which houses the Metropolitan Opera, Avery Fisher Hall and the ballet. It also was fun at one point to see a clip with a two-way Fifth Avenue (it's now one way).

Sometimes the movie stars themselves, rather than their clips are the highlights. We saw the beautiful Ansonia on the upper West Side, home to people like Enrico Caruso, conductor Arturo Toscanini, composers Igor Stravinksy and Dmitry Shostakovich, baesball star Babe Ruth and others. The residential hotel, now condos and home to the New York campus of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, used to offer a roof-top farm (complete with chicken that provided eggs for the residents), a basement Turkish bath and a fountain with live seals in its luxurious past. The "Sunshine Boys" lived here too and laughter rang out as the clip of George Burns and Walter Matthau rolled.

Other buildings featured are The Apthorp ("Network," "I Witness"), The Emerald Inn ("The Apartment"), The Ardsley where Barbra Streisand once lived and the Dakota where "Rosemary's Baby" was shot, where Lauren Bacall, Connie Chung and Yoko Ono still live and where John Lennon was killed. There's a stop there for a photo opportunity between the gas lanterns at the entrance, left, if you are interested. I had walked by this building a hundred times, but had no idea it was the famous Dakota (so named because when it was built in 1884 on what is now Central Park West, it was considered so far away from the heart of the city that it might as well have been built in the Dakota Territory....).

The bus takes the transverse through Central Park, the most filmed location in the most filmed city in the world. You have seen in in films like "Barefoot in the Park," Ransom," The Manchurian Candidate" and "Marathon Man." we also saw an early 1896 clip called "Mounted Police Charge."

We drove by the Guggenheim Museum, seen in "Cactus Flower" and "Manhattan" and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with a classic scene in "When Harry Met Sally," Also included are numerous clips and sites along Fifth Avenue, including Rockefeller Center, Tiffany's and the New York Public Library. Believe me, I can't begin to list all of the buildings pointed out and clips shown.You'll just have to take the tour and see them for yourself. It's well worth it. A great way to see the city (and the three hours flies by).

There are a few stops included during the tour in addition to the Dakota. About 30 minutes into the tour there is a brief lunch stop near Zabar's, the famous upper west deli. You can grab a sandwich there (I highly recommend their grilled vegetable sandwich) or at a few nearby shops, or you can just get a photo of yourself where Meg Ryan finds herself in the cash-only lane at Zabar's in "You've Got Mail." Other photo ops are available in front of Holly Golightly's brownstone on East 71st Street (above 
right) or on the subway grate where Marilyn Monroe's skirt blew up for "The Seven Year Itch" (Roseanne does the honors, left, with her tour guide umbrella that will help you find her when you get off the bus).













Probably one of the most memorable stops for me was at Sutton Place where you can take your picture on the bench overlooking the 59th Street Bridge (also known as the Queensboro Bridge, or the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge) from the ending scene of Woody Allen's "Manhattan'" It's a beautiful spot (above right) that I and some of my press colleagues had never been to before. It's kind of off the beaten path.

The tour concludes at Grand Central Station ("Spelbound," "The Thin Man Goes Home," "North By Northwest").

Tours, booked through On Location Tours, are offered Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 11:30 am, leaving from a location near Broadway and 51st Street (exact location given upon purchase). Cost: Adult: $40 pus a $3 ticket fee, Child: $24 plus a $3 fee. To book: 212-913-9780; http://onlocationtours.com/tour/tcm-classic-film/. There is a restroom on the bus.



Harold Jean-Pierre
A Bonus:
You Never Know Who Your Bus Driver Might Be
By Lauren Yarger
In New York's restaurants, there always is a chance that your waiter or waitress might be be the next Russell Crowe or Sandra Bullock -- most wannabe actors start out waiting tables while waiting for their big break. On the TCM Classic Films Tour Bus, a quiet celebrity among us was our bus driver, Harold Jean-Pierre, a professional musician and composer whose specialty is the tenor sax.

Harold played in the pit for orchestras on cruises for 10 years (TCM offers a movie cruise this December where Osbourne and Powell will be joined by Ben Mankiewicz, Robert Wagner and Theodore Bikel among others. More info here: http://www.tcmcruise.com/). 

A native of Haiti, Harold started exploring at age nine, when his father introduced him to the accordion. He mastered the tenor, alto and soprano saxophones, the clarinet and the flute. He studied at Five Towns college and played with the marine band during his four year tour in the military.

Harold has also played and recorded for many musicians and entertainers including Ben Vereen, Charo, David "fathead" Newman, Shirley Jones and Betty Carter, among others He is putting his "bus money" into his CD project to combine the sounds of jazz and Haitian rhythms.

"It's New York," he said. "Anything is possible."

Harold gave me a copy of the CD, "Moving On," which I popped in my player for the drive home. It is a different sound. I enjoyed it very much. Visit him at http://haroldjeanpierre.com/. Here's hoping you make it big, Harold.

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

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All material is copyright 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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