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Home of the Brave: 1949

New York, 1949. This Kodachrome slide of Broadway at Times Square arrived by postal mail a few weeks ago from Shorpy member RalphCS, who snagged it at a yard sale. Good work and thanks! There are a few more to come. View full size.

New York, 1949. This Kodachrome slide of Broadway at Times Square arrived by postal mail a few weeks ago from Shorpy member RalphCS, who snagged it at a yard sale. Good work and thanks! There are a few more to come. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Bond Sign Waterfall turned off here

The bond sign had a 50,000-gallon waterfall 27 feet high and 120 feet long behind the large "BOND" logo which was apparently turned off when this photo was taken. Drat!

Feel the heat

Those hot days in NYC. You can just feel the car exhaust bouncing off the pavement. Nice to see the top of the Empire State Building sans radio tower.

[Look again. - Dave]

Do this, don't do that --

To Greg B's point about the elaborate signs - it may have been the studios that were paying for those. 1949 was the tail end of it, but Hollywood used to operate under the "studio system", where movie studios would also own a relatively large chain of theaters. The studio probably had more money than an individual theater, so they could more easily produce fancy signs.

Something that probably helped was that under the studio system, studios would sign contracts with actors for several movies. Once they figured out who their top few leading men and ladies would be, they could re-use the letters for those names for several movies if they wanted to.

I also understand that until maybe the 1970s, it wasn't common for movies to be released all across the US at the same time. They'd get an initial release in, say, New York and LA, and then expand to smaller cities over time. Spending money on fancy signs in New York might have helped the studios to convince independent theater operators in smaller cities to book the film - "it sold 5,000 tickets a day in New York!"

Finally, for electric signs like this, it wouldn't have been difficult for the sign company to stock a few copies of the alphabet, with bulbs installed and ready to go. Then, when they got an order, they could paint a backing board, hang the letters on it, and wire them together relatively quickly. This would have worked better for standard-ish typefaces, like on the "Home of the Brave" sign, and not as well on custom ones, like the curved letters for "Barkleys of Broadway".

In another sign of the times, 1949 seems pretty early to me for a "seven-segment" clock display (on the Bond store). Apparently somebody didn't care for the open-topped "4" that most LED and LCD seven-segment displays now have, and installed one more segment to get a pointy-topped 4.

June 10, 1949

Based on all of the visible movie marquees on this wonderful pair of Times Square photos, they were taken on or around June 10, 1949. (High-speed film may have been needed to catch a theatre actually showing "Night unto Night." It was savaged by critics. In an era in which even bad reviews tended to be understated, the New York Times review on June 11 ended with this dig: "Having waited so long to expose 'Night unto Night' to the light of day, the Warners might better have left it at the bottom of the well, for some things are best forgotten.")

Most will never know

After spending a long time gazing at all the fascinating sights in both of these nostalgic Times Square pictures from RalphCS, it is impossible to choose a favorite. There is so much going on in both of them and if one were to focus in on each pictured person's current activity, one can get caught up in their imagination, i.e., the young man with the long cardboard box hailing the taxi (what is in the box, where is he taking it, etc.). Each person pictured has their own mission, errand or destination just as is still going on everywhere today, like watching an ant farm with all the inhabitants completing their tasks, all intent on their own personal pursuit. One can write an entire book just observing the characters in both pictures and envisioning their purpose at this hour on this day 68 years ago. The mystery is in knowing that everyone alive is doing likewise somewhere on earth at this hour today and may also unknowingly be having their photo frozen in time, oblivious to the fact that their particular moment of activity may be stored away in obscurity for almost 70 years and then suddenly be revealed on computers or TV screens for everyone to see and question. Most of the people in these pictures are probably long-gone and will never know that on April 5th in the year 2018, they were being studied and scrutinized in detail anywhere in the world by countless viewers of Shorpy's wondrous website.


I love these shots from RalphCS. Thanks, man! Somewhat illogically, I suppose, when I view so many B&W photos at Shorpy, I begin to sense that much of history was drab and graceless — mostly blah. Thanks for the magical antidote Ralph!

The Barkleys of Broadway

Although this was the only film that Astaire and Rogers made together in color, it was their last film together, and their first after ten years apart. The song “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” by George and Ira Gershwin, was also used in the 1937 film “Shall We Dance,” in which Astaire sang it to Rogers, as in “The Barkleys of Broadway.” The dance duet for the 1949 film was ballroom, not tap, and is well worth watching for its elegance, vigor, and moments of restraint. He was 50 at the time, she 38.

"Strangers" on a Sign

Next to the Victoria: Jennifer Jones and John Garfield in "We Were Strangers."

I was able to tweak the image just enough to make out the names, then a quick visit to the IMDB to find out what movie they were in together.

... and "The Home of the Brave"

I hope one of those other Kodachromes shows the marquee of the theater just beyond the Victoria, because I can't for the life of me make out what it's advertising and I am dying of curiosity.

Neon and Bulbs

The movie "Home of the Brave" cost $375,000 to make in 1949. Today it would cost at least that much just to create the elaborate signage that accompanied it at Times Square.

Different styles

Men wear clothing and women wear apparel?

Zooming in, it looks like the female statue is a bit cold. She definitely needs more apparel, or is it clothing?

Camel Fedora

A better view of the sign. Click to enlarge.

[Not quite the same sign, is it? The Kodachrome version shows the brim turned down. - Dave]


Amazing photo! How can I buy a print?

[I've added it to Print Gallery. - Dave]

A Plethora of Details

Such a wonderfully colorful photo with so much to see, captured on a bright sunny day in New York City to distinguish it from the more typical drab black and white photos we typically see of it in this era. "Every hour 3490 people buy at Bond" -- their numbers may be down somewhat these days, and I wonder whatever happened to Mr. and Mrs. Statue.

I was always fascinated by how theaters used to be able to construct such colorful electric signage on a movie-by-movie basis in those days. Let's stop in at the Mayflower Coffee Shop and try their doughnuts. Kudos to the photographer for capturing the Camel sign blowing a smoke ring. We see the ubiquitous DeSoto taxicabs of that era in New York City as well.

[Plus a Packard. - Dave]

Face on the Camel sign

Hard to tell from this angle, almost looks like a Mexican sombrero maybe?

[The infamous "Urban Sombrero"! - Dave]


London 2.0

The New York I Remember

I used to live at 72nd Street Central Park West and walk to this area on weekends. It's great to see a photograph from that time. I had no camera of my own, but borrowed my mother's.


I could look at this all day!

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