On the Bowery a Success at Film Forum

Posted on: October 1st, 2010 at 6:20 am by

When Lionel Rogosin’s On the Bowery premiered at Film Forum on September 17, the local press was jazzed.  Here was a classic piece from 1957 that showed a thin slice of life on our beloved thoroughfare.  And it delivered.  Cash money.

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In its twelve-day limited run, the independent film grossed $41,802 in box office receipts.  A tweet from distributor/restoration house Milestone Films confirms the figure, and adds that the final day (Tuesday) grossed $4,002 alone. Modest success, indeed.

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Now let’s take a ride in the Delorean, if you will.  Upon its initial release in 1957, the New York Times panned the film:

True, the candid photography of actual Bowery scenes—gin-mills, flop-houses, missions and drunk-cluttered doorways at dawn—is sharp and unrelenting. Carl Lerner, who edited the film, has done a fine job of assembling these sordid and pitiful scenes. And Charles Mills has given the assemblage an affecting musical score. As a piece of straight documentation, “On the Bowery” makes a tough, arresting film.

But the thread of story that runs through it—the two-day fall and rise of a young man who finds himself sidetracked on the Bowery—appears just a shade too fictional to be believed by anybody, except those who take sightseeing bus tours of lower New York. And its performance by Ray Sayler as the young man and Gorman Hendriks as a sly old bum, while remarkably true in many details, looks consciously directed, as it was.

And to top it off:

Much more enjoyable on the program is a thirty-minute Walt Disney film, “Man in Space,” which explains with animations a projected launching of a manned rocket satellite outside the atmosphere of the earth.

[Film screengrab via Walking off the Big Apple]

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