Photo by Glen Wilson, © 2019 Warner Bros. Ent. All Rights Reserved
The movie Motherless Brooklyn, written, directed and starring Edward Norton, opens this Friday. The film, a long time in the making, is based on the noir mystery novel set in 1950s New York City by Jonathan Lethem. Urban enthusiasts will be delighted to find that the central plot involves topics of urban renewal and gentrification, made compelling through a whodunnit adventure. Fans of New York City history will recognize a thinly-disguised Robert Moses character, called Moses Randolph, played by Alec Baldwin, a Jane Jacobs-inspired character called Gabby Horowitz played by Cherry Jones, and an all-star cast rounded out by Willem Dafoe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bobby Carnavale, and Bruce Willis. Norton plays the tourette-inflicted detective Lionel Essrog, who doggedly tries to get down to the bottom of the murder of his former boss. The filming locations for Motherless Brooklyn are a delight to behold, effectively recreating a New York that is both lost and still with us thanks to the very people that inspired the book.
Without spoiling any plot points, we share with you more than ten filming locations to look out for in Motherless Brooklyn!
1. NYC’s Public Baths
The pool at the Hansborough Recreation Center. © 2019 Warner Bros. Ent. All Rights Reserved
Moses Randolph likes his daily swims and the real Robert Moses was certainly a swimming proponent: he was responsible for the building of twenty-three pools and bathhhouses throughout his long career (and many accumulated titles). In an early scene in Motherless Brooklyn, we see that he has closed off one of the city’s public baths for his own personal use. He exits through the Neoclassical-style Asser Levy Public Bath, heads down the stairs, and gets into his car. This New York City landmark is located on East 23rd Street in the Kips Bay neighborhood and named after one of the first Jewish residents ever of New York City and the first to ever own a house here. Levy made his way from present-day Lithuania to Amsterdam and to the New World in Dutch New Amsterdam in 1654, starting as a tradesman and becoming a wealthy and influential lawyer and businessman over the ensuing decades.
In one of the final scenes of the film, Randolph and Lionel Essrog meet at a beautiful indoor pool. Perhaps this is meant to be the interior of the Asser Levy public bath, or another location. Regardless, this blue-tiled pool is located inside the Hansborough Recreation Center on 134th Street in East Harlem.