In late April 1949, Anthony Mann’s M-G-M film noir Side Street filmed on authentic New York City locations for the first ten days of its seven-week schedule, returning briefly to Manhattan in June for retakes. This impactful thriller about a part-time mail carrier (Farley Granger) who steals $30,000 from criminals – only to have regrets about his crime – culminates in a searing car chase through lower Manhattan’s financial district. In brief, Granger is first abducted in a Yellow cab and then forced at gunpoint to drive the taxi once several police cars are in pursuit.
As I was preparing my book on Anthony Mann’s crime thrillers, my brother Louis miraculously managed to retrace the locations the taxi and squad cars speed through. Here is a rough approximation of the chase route:
The chase actually begins in Culver City, California, on the M-G-M backlot “New York Street” (below left frame), where the taxi is seen departing with Granger as prisoner. The action then shifts to the cobblestoned Houston Street, where the taxi screeches and turns to drive under the West Side Elevated Highway (below right frame).
At this point, an all-points bulletin is issued to all police cars, and a radio car in an industrial part of lower Manhattan backs away from the camera to join in the chase (below left frame). Cops are then seen getting into squad cars outside the police precinct overlooking South Street that presently houses the New York City Police Museum (below right frame).
The taxi races past decaying dockside buildings on Twelfth Street (below left frame) as a watchman observes from the sidewalk (below right frame).
Then it is back down the West Street elevated highway where the taxi swerves to avoid an oncoming truck (below left frame). At Pearl Street, a police car spots the taxi (below right frame) and pursues it through the Tribeca area (bottom left frame). The vehicles narrowly avoid colliding in front of Honest Dave’s tool store on the corner of West Broadway and Greenwich Street (bottom right frame).
At Centre Street and Park Row, the taxi cuts through a Mobilgas station near the decaying Park Row Elevated Station before steering back onto the road and beneath the Brooklyn Bridge (below left frame). On the other side of the bridge, the taxi barely avoids hitting a truck in an industrial area (below right frame).
After the main villain kills yet another person, the taxi speeds up Jacob Street (below left frame) and down Exchange Place (below right frame) before crossing Broadway (bottom left frame) and speeding along the cobblestones of Warren Street (bottom right frame).
After all the participating cars screech past the old Federal Reserve Building near Maiden Lane and John Street (below left frame), the taxi is finally stopped on Wall Street near Federal Hall (below right frame).
In addition to being a superb film noir, Anthony Mann’s Side Street immortalizes what in many aspects is a lost New York City.