The posters all over town for the upcoming Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (note the 2009 version uses the numerals rather than the orignal’s spelled-out numbers) had Stephanie and me itching to watch the original, which we did the other night. Well worth returning to, though we hope it doesn’t deflate the remake too much.
So much of the film seemed like a time capsule from the mid-70s, even though (as NYMag notes this week) the mayor’s office mandated that the train used in the original be free of the era’s ubiquitous subway graffiti. The contents of the time capsule, then? It would include the characters’ obsessions with things like women joining the police force or transit union, the now-defunct names of transit companies, the assumption by Matthau’s character that visiting Japanese transit officials wouldn’t speak a word of English, and above all the array of New York accents.
Whatever happened to the New York accent — or even to New York accents in the plural? It’s possible to live in downtown Manhattan and go for days without talking to someone who speaks like a native New Yorker. You’ll hear them in mom and pop shops, or in places like post offices or public schools. But it’s not too much a stretch to imagine the old New York accents — which began to be noticed by observers and represented in print in the late 19th century — will soon be a thing of the past, thanks mostly to the homogenizing force of global capitalism.
Clearly, the filmmakers in 1974 aimed to make the train hostages a cross-section of New York types, one or two of each, almost like animals chosen for salvation on Noah’s Ark.
When the film ended and the credits rolled, we saw that the characters had, in fact, been named for the types they were supposed to represent. The list, in part, taken from IMDB:
Anna Berger … The Mother Gary Bolling … The Homosexual Carol Cole … The Secretary Alex Colon … The Delivery Boy Joe Fields … The Salesman Mari Gorman … The Hooker Michael Gorrin … The Old Man Thomas La Fleur … The Older Son Mar
Looks like the credits on the new one don’t quite line up with the same sort of typecasting: a few nondescript commuters or professionals, with a mom and a “Puerto Rican girl” as the only categories that seem compatible with how characters were listed in 1974.
I’ve lived in New York for a while and never heard a “New York accent.” Those people I think mostly moved out to the suburbs decades ago.