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New York Movies - (1930's - 1950s)

Updated on January 23, 2015

Longing for the Big Apple? Love Movies?

#1 Lens in Our Series on New York

There are probably a few people like me out there, who get homesick, and need to see a great movie set in New York City. There's some kind of magic about New York, and it even transpires onto film. If you need to get lost in "the City", here you go.

Some of these movies are so old or rare that they won't even show up in Amazon's database. Nonetheless, I have included them in the interest of completeness. Enjoy! Please email me if you have other titles to add!

Alice Faye - Glamour Girl of the 1930's

Alice Faye - Glamour Girl of the 1930's
Alice Faye - Glamour Girl of the 1930's

New York City, according to Wikipedia

New York City (officially the City of New York) is the largest city in the United States, with a metropolitan area that is among the largest urban areas in the world. The city serves as one of the world's primary global cities, exerting a powerful influence over worldwide commerce, finance, culture, and entertainment. The city is also an important center for international affairs, hosting the United Nations headquarters.

The city consists of five distinct boroughs: The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island. It is the most densely populated major city in the United States, with an estimated 8,274,527 people within an area of 304.8 square miles (789.43 km2).The New York metropolitan area is also the largest metropolitan area in the country, with an estimated 19,750,000 people over 6,720 square miles (17,400 km2) in three states.

New York is largely unique among American cities for its high use of mass transit, and the overall density and diversity of its population. In 2005, nearly 170 languages were spoken in the city and 36% of its population was born outside the United States. The city is sometimes referred to as "The City That Never Sleeps" due to its extensive 24-hour subway system and constant bustling of traffic and people, while other nicknames include Gotham and the Big Apple.

Founded as a commercial trading post by the Dutch in 1624, it served as the capital of the United States from 1785 until 1790, and has been the nation's largest city since 1790. The Statue of Liberty greeted millions of immigrants as they came to America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Wall Street, in Lower Manhattan, has been a dominant global financial center since World War II and is home to the New York Stock Exchange. Today, the city has many renowned landmarks and neighborhoods that are world famous. The city has been home to several of the tallest buildings in the world, including the Empire State Building and the twin towers of the former World Trade Center.

New York is the birthplace of many cultural movements, including the Harlem Renaissance in literature and visual art, abstract expressionism (also known as the New York School) in painting, and hip hop, punk, salsa, disco and Tin Pan Alley in music. It is also the home of Broadway theater.

New York Movies (1930 - 1934)

42nd Street [VHS]
42nd Street [VHS]

Set during the depression, this is the tale of a backstage musical in which the understudy finally gets a chance to shine. It may seem a little clich now, but in 1933 this was hot stuff. All that behind-the-scenes atmosphere feels very genuine, and the script is more acerbic than you might expect.

A sickly Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter) puts his all into what may be his last show, only to face a disaster when leading lady Dorothy Brock (Bebe Daniels) sprains her ankle. Thank heavens for ingenue Peggy Sawyer (Ruby Keeler), who steps in at the last minute. The vivacious soundtrack includes "Shuffle off to Buffalo," and the still-catchy title tune. Best of all are those extravagant, kaleidoscopic dance numbers by Busby Berkeley, then in his prime.

Hallelujah I'm a Bum [VHS]
Hallelujah I'm a Bum [VHS]

Al Jolson in one of his better movie roles; a curious 1933 artifact of the early-sound, pre-Code era, a movie replete with music, political comment, and occasionally risqu humor. Jolie plays "the mayor of Central Park," a happy hobo who cleans up after he meets an amnesiac beauty. Alas, the workaday world isn't what it's cracked up to be, as his leisure-minded pals knew all along. Although never quite clicking into classic status, the movie is borne aloft on the Rodgers and Hart score (which includes "You Are Too Beautiful" and much rhyming dialogue) and director Lewis Milestone's fluid tracking shots of hoboes marching and singing through Central Park.

King Kong [VHS]
King Kong [VHS]

King Kong was ranked by the American Film Institute as among the 50 best films of the century. Kong making his last stand atop the Empire State Building is one of the movies' most indelible and iconic images.

Manhattan Melodrama [VHS]
Manhattan Melodrama [VHS]

Clark Gable and William Powell play childhood friends who grow up to be a hood and a respected judge, respectively. Both have a thing for Myrna Loy. When Gable is accused of murder and sentenced to the death penalty, it is Powell's duty to decide whether or not to let his personal feelings for Gable interfere with justice.

The Thin Man [VHS]
The Thin Man [VHS]

Powell and Loy deliver their sparkling dialog with giddy enthusiasm in this rapid-fire, three-martini suspense comedy adapted from the novel by Dashiell Hammett.


Clark Gable

Clark Gable
Clark Gable

New York Movies (1934-1939)

Libeled Lady [VHS]
Libeled Lady [VHS]

Spencer Tracy is the tough city editor who goes to extremes when socialite Myrna Loy files a $5 million libel suit against his paper for calling her a notorious home-wrecker. He hires ladies' man William Powell to seduce Loy and asks his long-suffering fiance, Jean Harlow, to marry Powell temporarily so she can play the wronged wife when Loy and Powell are discovered together.

Nothing Sacred [VHS]
Nothing Sacred [VHS]

As potent today as it was when released in 1937, this classic screwball satire stars Carole Lombard as Hazel Flagg, the small-town girl who mistakenly believes she's dying of radium poisoning. Sensing a great human interest story that will tug the public's heartstrings and help sell newspapers, exploitative journalist Wally Cook (Fredric March) brings Hazel to New York City and turns her into a media darling. Wally's callous strategy takes a sudden turn when he starts having feelings for the vulnerable Hazel. Filmed in early three-strip Technicolor and scripted by Ben Hecht and James H. Street, this sharp comedy still sizzles with its cynical take on media profiteering, and the matching of Lombard and March is unforgettably entertaining.

Rose of Washington Square [VHS]
Rose of Washington Square [VHS]

Tyrone Power stars as confidence man and gambler Bart Clinton in this rags to riches melodrama set against the backdrop of the Great White Way.

Ted Cotter falls for Rose when the two are just starting out in the world of vaudeville. Upon becoming a star, Ted helps the young woman make her name on Broadway. Instead of marrying Ted, however, Rose falls in love, and weds, the good-for-nothing Bart Clinton. Even when Bart skips bail, Rose continues to pine for her husband -- completely ignoring Ted's earnest affection for her. But her patience is not in vain, as Bart slowly begins to realize the error of his ways.


Bio: I am an Animal/building/tree hugger. Feng Shui Consultant, Interior Designer & Historic Preservationist. I am also a DJ at Flying_Roundhouse

Rita Hayworth, 1941

Rita Hayworth, 1941
Rita Hayworth, 1941

New York Movies (1940-1945)

The Devil and Miss Jones [VHS]
The Devil and Miss Jones [VHS]

Charles Coburn plays J.P. Merrick, a millionaire who goes undercover in his own department store to expose union activists. He runs into spirited Jean Arthur who takes the poor man, who couldn't sell a shoe to save his life, under her wing.

The cold heart of a blustering business tycoon is softened by his experience among the common folk, as he works and socializes with Mary Jones, her boyfriend and union ringleader Joe O'Brien (Robert Cummings), and their sweet co-worker Elizabeth, played by the always wonderful Spring Byington.

The Pride of the Yankees [VHS]
The Pride of the Yankees [VHS]

Sam Wood (King's Row) directs this touching story of Lou Gehrig's (played by Gary Cooper) love of baseball from childhood, his friendship with Babe Ruth (who plays himself), his marriage, career triumphs, and eventual resignation from the game. Teresa Wright is wonderful as Gehrig's wife.

Tales of Manhattan [VHS]
Tales of Manhattan [VHS]

A dress tailcoat alters the lives of a variety of New Yorkers -- some for the better, some for the worse -- in this entertaining, episodic drama. The jacket first falls into the possession of Orman, a matinee idol desperately in love with a married woman. When this ill-fated love triangle results in the star being shot, the garment changes hands numerous times. Rita Hayworth looks so beautiful, it's almost beyond belief.


Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's"

Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's"
Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's"

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      5 years ago

      Like the photos, thanks

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      7 years ago

      It is so stylish!

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      10 years ago

      How cool is this? Love the photos.

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      10 years ago

      Wow. FABULOUS. GLAMOROUS. I love it!!!!!!

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      Robin S 

      10 years ago from USA

      I agree, movies are a great way to relieve the home sickness of leaving NY. Great lens!


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