On Facebook longtime friend Martha Moran has shared this timeless film of a Manhattan tour from 1939, remastered in bright, vibrant color by the excellent Romano-Archives. You can view the 3-minute film below, or via this link posted by Eric Larson at mashable.com, @_ericlarson on Twitter. For this post I’ve made two screenshots of favorite images from it. One shows a theater marquee in Harlem where they were evidently screening W.C. Fields’ “You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man,” my favorite movie comic. Oddly, it anticipates the compressed spellings mandated by today’s social media, as the narrow marquee reads, “U Can’t Cheat a Honest Man.” It reads like a tweet. The second screenshot is of the #5 bus, a route I still use regularly in Manhattan. I consider it my personal “scenic drive” as for part of its route it cruises along Riverside Drive, affording splendid views of the Hudson River. It must have been glorious in 1939, when it was a double-decker bus with an elegant curving stairway that conveyed passengers to the upper deck!
I suggest that at the very end you notice all the big ships docked at piers on the west side of Manhattan. This reminds me of a line in one of my favorite S.J. Perelman humor sketches, where a woman tells the narrator she’s waiting to pay him a debt “until my ship comes in,” whereupon he retorts with, “I’ll be watching the shipping news,” a reference to the ubiquitous maritime tables that newspapers used to print every day. Thanks for this to Martha Moran.