Sunday, December 30, 2007

Scenes from a Terminal

The good folks over at Trainjotting have turned me on to a blog called 2nd Avenue Sagas. This blog is similar to Trainjotting, but it puts more of an emphasis on the MTA subway system. On 2AS's latest post, they list a number of movies that were filmed on the subway over the years. This got me thinking about all the movies that have been filmed in Grand Central Terminal (By the way, most people confuse Grand Central Terminal for Grand Central Station. Grand Central Station is the subway stop at 42nd St. The big cavernous train depot with the teal ceiling is actually called Grand Central Terminal.) I Googled the words "Grand Central" and "movies" and was forwarded to About.com, where author Pam Skilling lists her top 5 Grand Central movies (I've added some commentary):

1. North By Northwest

In Alfred Hitchcock's classic film, a Madison Avenue adman played by the dashing Cary Grant is mistaken for a government agent and pursued across the country by a gang of spies. He makes his escape from New York City in an exciting sequence filmed at night inside the real station. This is one of Hitchcock's most masterful and entertaining films. It has everything -- comedy, suspense, and Cary Grant (sigh).

A few years back I had "North By Northwest" actress Eva Marie Saint on my train. When I collected her ticket, I said something like: "Here I am in Grand Central with Eva Marie Saint...I feel like Cary Grant." She gave me a polite smile, but her children (who are my age) got a good chuckle out of it.

2. Midnight Run

This 1988 movie features Robert DeNiro as a bounty hunter who has to transport Charles Grodin from New York to L.A. before he can collect his fee. Grodin is afraid of flying, so DeNiro drags him through Grand Central to catch a train to Los Angeles. This is just the beginning of their long, strange journey. This is one of the best road-trip/buddy movies ever made.

I watched Deniro and Grodin film the Grand Central scene for this movie. It took them several takes, and hours, to get the shot just right. In the film, the scene only last for about two minutes.
Grodin used to ride my train on a regular basis. He is a very nice guy.


Francis Ford Coppola's Cotton Club is set in the legendary Harlem night club during the 1920s and 1930s. Released to negative reviews and bad publicity in 1984, the film is now considered one of Coppola's most underrated. It features a climactic ending (spoilers ahead!) with Richard Gere and Diane Lane (the gangster's moll) boarding the famous Twentieth Century Limited train in Grand Central, headed for a new life in L.A.

A friend of mine used to date Gregory Hines, one of the stars of this movie. She once made him come into Grand Central just so he could meet me. Unfortunately, I had gone out for coffee and missed him.


This underrated gem directed by Terry Gilliam features a spectacular scene in which Grand Central Terminal is transformed into a glittering ballroom filled with waltzing commuters. To film this scene, more than 400 extras waltzed around the terminal from 8 pm until the first commuter trains arrived at 5:30 am the next morning. This modern-day fairy tale also features great performances from Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams (yes, really!).


1978's Superman features some very cool scenes set in villain Lex Luthor's fantastic subterranean lair under Grand Central Terminal. But Superman gets a few points off for cheating. They actually filmed these scenes on a sound stage in London. A for Creativity, C for Authenticity. Either way, Superman is a very entertaining movie featuring a gorgeous, young Christopher Reeve and a portly, campy Marlon Brando as Jor-El.

They filmed this movie long before I started on the railroad. Christopher Reeve did ride my train on a fairly regular basis though. Read my story about him here.

I know that there were a million other movies filmed in Grand Central over the years, i.e. Men in Black, I am Legend, Falling in Love, Madagascar, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but I can't rember them all now. I invite my coworkers to leave comments about their Grand Central movie experiences.
This year, instead of spending New Year's Eve out on the road with the "amatuers", snuggle up under a blanket and watch one of these movies.

1 comment:

sandi said...

It is astonishing how many celebrities you run into on the train...and I never see a single one! Ever. Anywhere. I'm going to have to start keeping my eyes open.