Astoria Back In Time

Movies On Location:

It’s no surprise that Astoria is prominent in plenty of modern movies. We have Kaufman Studios right in our own backyard, and countless production companies use our very streets as the backlots to shoot scenes. Of course it’s not hard to spot modern-day Astoria, with its familiar stores and even more familiar streets and corners, but what about the old Astoria?

It may seem to some shocking to hear that Paramount Studios, before it became a West Coast conglomerate, called the current Kaufman Studios home. But that’s only the beginning of the movie business in Astoria prior to their departure in the late 1930s. Countless movies over the years have placed key scenes in Astoria, and here are our top three “Blast from the Past” movies.

Kiss of Death (1947)

This Henry Hathaway directed film follows a jewel thief who was offered parole from Sing Sing after being coerced into giving up information about his accomplice. There are several scenes filmed in Astoria, the most prominent being on 14th Place and Astoria Park, where the main character (played by Richard Widmark) lives. There, the film features sweeping views of the RFK Triborough Bridge over Astoria Park, as well as a great shot of the Hell Gate Bridge.

The Wrong Man (1956)

One of Alfred Hitchcock’s lesser known films, this was actually inspired by a real life Queens musician in 1953 called Manny Balestrero, the Public Domain namesake of the main character—played by Henry Fonda. Balestrero was wrongly accused of an insurance office robbery and had spent countless hours trying to convey his innocence. In fact, the street where he lived in Elmhurst was recently named “Manny ‘The Wrong Man’ Balestrero Way,” located at 73rd Street and 41st Avenue. The movie placed a deli scene on 43rd Street and 34th Avenue, where Balestrero (Fonda) is seen trying to hide his face from a mug shot.

King Kong (1976)

A small but rather prominent scene in the 1976 remake of this classic is on the N/W line on 31st Street and 23rd Avenue, where a poster mock-up of a train was placed on the sidewalk to pretend that Kong threw it there.

Whether you’re a fan of the oldies or not, they’re always great to appreciate the old Astoria, and realize just how it has changed.

—Catherina Gioino

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