Sunday, December 20, 2009

Filming in Forest Hills 1921: Sentimental Tommy

I Have Often Walked: Filming in Forest Hills, 1921
by Queens Historian Ron Marzlock

Members of the Hasselriis family of Forest Hills Gardens walk up the hill on 66th Road toward the movie set for “Sentimental Tommy,” in 1921.

Due to the movement of stone and soil during the last great ice age, Forest Hills sits atop of a glacial moraine, then the land dips down sharply to where the Grand Central Parkway now runs.

The very steep 66th Road didn’t offer the best land for building homes back in the 1920s. But for Astoria Studios of Long Island City, the upward climb toward Queens Boulevard was perfect.

That’s where Astoria constructed the set for “Sentimental Tommy,” a silent film made in 1921. From 102nd Street — where Forest Hills Hospital, the former LaGuardia Hospital, now sits — to 110th Street the studio transformed 66th Street in the style of an old European village. With no other apartment houses obstructing the view, the Forest Hills Inn tower could be seen in the distance, as in this photo.

Hollywood was just developing in the early ’20s, and movie production had not yet relocated west. Queens County was ideal for making movies due to its rural state. Shortly after the filming “Sentimental Tommy,” Astoria came back to Forest Hills to use the original Cord Meyer Building (which was torn down in 1967) on Queens Boulevard, successfully passing it off as a college in a movie.

Today these great silent films in which Queens County was used are rapidly being lost due to the unstable nitrate film base they were shot on.

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