‘The Sitter’ filmed in Woodhaven 10 years ago this month: Our Neighborhood, The Way it Was

Courtesy of the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society

Woodhaven has been the scene of several film shoots but one of the most memorable, even if the finished product was not, took place 10 years ago this month.

“The Sitter” was a comedy starring Jonah Hill, but the big news was that they were going to be filming at the Forest Park Carousel which, at that time, had been shuttered for two years and its future was in doubt.

It afforded residents of Woodhaven their first glance at the beloved ride since the end of the 2008 season but with rumors swirling that the city was planning to dismantle and sell it, that excitement was bittersweet.

The scene was a confrontation between the young sitter and the children he’s watching and the bad guys, with a battle taking place on the moving carousel itself. Residents were not allowed near the set, though several of us got as close as we could to see what was happening.

When they filmed the final battle, they had crew members moving the carousel slowly by hand. We were told by a crew member that they had to do that, because if they filmed on the carousel at regular speed it would look much too fast on film. They also built a mockup of the carousel for close-ups of the final battle in a studio in Brooklyn. This was quite an extensive production.

Filming lasted 10 days and they came back a few months later for additional shooting, for which they had to drop a ton of orange leaves on the ground to match the footage they shot previously.

If you’re one of the few unfortunates who saw this film, you may be struggling to remember this scene. That’s because hardly any of it was used. All of that shooting, all of the set decorations (they brought in their own fully functional street lamps), the mockup of the carousel, none of it ended up in the final product.

All that’s left are a few scenes inside Forest Park which, to be honest, could have been filmed in any park. The good news is that the carousel would reopen a few years later and shortly thereafter be designated as a New York City Landmark. But the film itself is not very memorable.

The same definitely cannot be said for another well-known film shoot that took place in Woodhaven just over 30 years ago.

It was the summer of 1989 and a film crew, led by famed director Martin Scorsese, set up camp for a few days outside of The Union Course Bar, on 78th Street and 88th Avenue. Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Ray Liotta and a host of other recognizable faces were on site to film several crucial scenes for the movie “Goodfellas.”

The interior of The Union Course Bar, today known as Neir’s Tavern, where Goodfellas filmed crucial scenes just over 30 years ago. (Courtesy of the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society)

One of the scenes took place just before Christmas and locals watched bemused as actors stood around wearing heavy winter coats on a sultry evening in July surrounded by mounds of fake snow on the ground.

Over time, the film would be regarded as a classic, and the bar where the film was shot would revert to an earlier name, Neir’s, and gain its own fame as New York City’s oldest bar, now heading into its 192nd year.

And much earlier, in July 1974, the acclaimed television movie “Queen of the Stardust Ballroom” filmed scenes during the day and deep into the next morning on Jamaica Avenue and Forest Parkway.

Watching the film now gives residents a great look at some familiar locations such as the post office and the Haven Movie Theater. It also gives residents an interesting look at the steps to the J Train on Forest Parkway, which were removed several years later.

And some of the liberties moviemakers take provided a few chuckles when we screened this film for residents a few years ago. For example, they created a bus stop on Forest Parkway (where none has ever existed).

Most amusingly is when one character takes a cab from the front of her house to the Stardust Ballroom (portrayed by the Haven Theater). Residents of Woodhaven get a smile as they watch her get into a cab on Forest Parkway and have an entire scene of dialogue before getting out of the cab, right around the corner from where she got in!

That’s Hollywood for you!

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If you have any remembrances or old photographs of “Our Neighborhood: The Way It Was” that you would like to share with our readers, please write to the Old Timer, c/o Ridgewood Times, 38-15 Bell Blvd., Bayside, NY 11361, or send an email to [email protected]. Any print photographs mailed to us will be carefully returned to you upon request.