Why can’t they get it right!

Genius, 2016


Movies have the ability to transport us anywhere past, present or future. And with today’s CGI technology the past can be recreated with astonishing accuracy. So it boggles my mind that they can’t get things right.  Let me state up front that I will go to see Genius, the film about story editor Max Perkins and his working relation with author Thomas Wolfe, when it gets released next month. The cast is great, Colin Firth, Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Guy Pearce and Laura Linney (my favorite actress in movies today). I love films that take place in the 1930’s, but nothing takes me out of the moment faster when the details are wrong. And the trailer for Genius had enough inaccuracies to get me upset enough to write this post.



Train station

I don’t know where the scene above is suppose to take place, from the trailer I assume it is somewhere in the United States.  And the steam engine makes it old timey, but why couldn’t the filmmakers use an American locomotive instead of a British one. I will update this post if by some chance this scene takes place during a trip to England.



Genius, lower 5th Avenue

Judging by the placement of the CGI’d Empire State Building in the shot above this is supposed to be lower 5th Avenue. What is wrong with this image, oh let me count the ways . . . first, contemporary London street lights in front of buildings that are nowhere near Manhattan.  And speaking  of street lights, only two are on the street. Don’t walk down this 5th avenue after dark, unless you bring a flashlight. Compare the above to a photo of the actual 5th Avenue, in 1948.

5th Ave & 14th St. 1948

Ok, even if you are shooting the film in the UK, do some research to at least know that 5th Avenue was a two-way street in the 1930’s. It didn’t convert to one way until January 14, 1966. Just take the two minutes to Google “5th Avenue, 1930’s” it will provide answers.



Here is the shot that annoyed me the most –


Max Perkins and Thomas Wolfe gazing at the 1930’s Manhattan skyline?

There is not much in this shot and yet what is there is all wrong!!!!! For comparison here is a photo of the actual 1930’s mid-town Manhattan skyline –

Notice that none of the buildings are illuminated with flood lights.

Notice that none of the buildings are illuminated with flood lights.


Since Driving For Deco’s last blog post was celebrating the 85th anniversary of the Empire State Building let’ s take a look there first and work our way to the right.

Genius version of the Empire State Building

Above is the fiction, below the real –

Empire State Building, night time, 1930's

In the 1930’s only the spire of the Empire State Building was illuminated at night. The floodlighting of the building from the 72nd floor went into effect with the opening of the New York World’s Fair in April of 1964. NBC always had a television antenna atop the building right from its opening in 1931, but they were a lot shorter, no more than 20 – 30 feet.

 The 200 foot tall antenna seen in Genius was not added to the top of the building until 1950-1951.



New York Life Insurance Building

Because of the location of this, between the Empire State Building and the Metropolitan Life Tower, I have to assume that the above gray blob is supposed to be the New York Life Insurance Building. In reality it is a very elegant building designed by Cass Gilbert that opened in 1929. None of that style and elegance is evident in its CGI incarnation.

The actual New York Life Insurance Building.

The actual New York Life Insurance Building.



Moving on, the Metropolitan Life Tower, located at 24th Street and Madison Avenue is seen in all its illuminated glory.


Metropolitan Life Tower?

And the truth –

Met Life Tower night

Notice, that the light at the very top of the building and the clock are the only exterior lighting on the Met Life Building. It wasn’t until 1970’s that the roof of the building was lit up.


And the best for last – The Chrysler Building. Now here is one of the jewels, if not the jewel of the Manhattan skyline and one of the most famous buildings in the world. Genius does not get it right, but it is not the only film to depict it wrong, off the top of my head it wasn’t correct in Benjamin Button or Revolutionary Road either.


I guess it seems inconceivable that a building as magnificent as this would be left in the dark. The setup for lighting plan for all the triangular windows was actually in place from the opening of the Chrysler Building in 1930 but was not implemented until 1981. Until then it was just a dark silhouette, as seen in the photos below, taken over a 30 year period.



All this wrong in a two and half minute trailer. I can’t wait to see the film and see what else might be there that is anachronistic. There just might be a follow up post.


Anthony (the period picky half of the Freakin’, Tiquen’ Guys)

Please follow and like us:

Leave a Reply