Mar 02 2013

Documenting W.C. Fields on the Long Island Motor Parkway in 1925

At Thursday's meeting of the Long Island Motor Parkway Preservation Society, people were fascinated by the post of the 1925 film "Sally of the Sawdust". As a follow-up to several requests, here is my documentation of where I believe D.W. Griffith filmed W.C. Fields on the Motor Parkway.


Howard Kroplick

Edited Clip "Sally of the Sawdust" showing the Long Island Motor Parkway (1 minute and 44 minutes)

Winchester Boulevard Motor Parkway Bridge

Note the trestle bridge and the road curving to the right in the background.

An exact match for Winchester Boulevard in this 1924 aerial.

A 1928 photo of the bridge.

Creedmoor Motor Parkway Bridge

This clip in the film was clearly taken from a bridge. Note, the road in the background curves to the right.

In 1925, the only Queens bridge in which the Motor Parkway went under was the Creedmoor Bridge. As shown in this 1924 aerial, the Motor Parkway curves to the right in the background matching the film image

Commodore Boulevard Motor Parkway Bridge

In this clip the road was straight after traveling over the bridge.

My best guess is Commonwealth Boulevard Bridge. Also confirmed by my favorite co-author Al Velocci.

The straight path of the Motor Parkway after Commowealth Boulevard.

Lakeville Road Motor Parkway Bridge

The two cars taking a curve on the Motor Parkway.

Immediately after the curve, the cars traveled on a trestle bridge.

The only trestle bridge following a curve on the Motor Parkway was the Lakeville Road Bridge in Lake Success. Also note the location of the Great Neck Lodge as seen in this 1929 aerial.

Great Neck Lodge

Here was my big surprise after watching the film several times. In this image, a bridge is in the background with an apparent gasoline station on the right.


A building can be seen to the right of the gas pump.

In the film, W.C. Fields goes through a fence to escape his pursuers. The fence was clearly a prop for the film. But, check out the design of the building in the back. look familiar?

I believe it was the Great Neck Lodge! This may be the only existing film of a Motor Parkway gate lodge when the road was active.

The dormer, shutters and drains of the Great Neck Lodge match the building in the film.

Socony Gasoline Sign

A view of W.C. Fileds showed a Sconony Gasoline sign in front of the building.My favorite co-author Al Velocci confirmed that gasoline was sold at the Great Neck Lodge from 1912 to 1928.

This 1924 Motor Parkway receipt confirmed that Socony Gasoline was the supplier of choice for the Motor Parkway.


Mar 03 2013 James 6:49 AM

Any thoughts on the ridged field after he makes his escape? Or is that segment likely filmed elsewhere?

Mar 03 2013 gene martin 8:49 AM

someone asked back awhile where there was a 1905 curved dash olds,it is in the riverhead historical museum, in the basement on west main st.the curator told me it is going to be restored in the future,when??? This is a great place to see if your interested in Long Island history

Mar 03 2013 Howard Kroplick 10:40 AM

James, I believe that segment was filmed at a different location. Note the posters on the fence before and after the crash do not line up. Moreover, the fence near the lodge was likely a movie prop.

Mar 03 2013 Al Velocci 11:23 AM

Howard, Great detective work on the Motor Parkway’s part in the W. C. Fields movie, especially regarding the Great Neck Lodge. With regard to the bridge in question in Queens, it is the bridge over Commonwealth Blvd., not the Marcus Ave,, bridge. Keep up the great work. Al.

Mar 03 2013 Brian D McCarthy 6:14 PM

I’m glad that you created photo stills of the car   vs.    Fence scene, Howard.  I guess at that point,  the car was traveling. East on the limp; with. h the Lakeville Rd bridge in the background.  Seeing the car bounce all over the farm. Field. Was comical.

Mar 04 2013 Gary Hammond 9:48 AM

Not surprising that W.C. Fields was in a movie on the LIMP, as L.I. at the time was a film producing mecca, with Studios located in Astoria, “on location” filming all over the island, and W.C. Fields living on L.I. (I believe Bayside at the time).  California would later become the filming industry’s headquarters due to the weather, allowing year round filming.

Mar 04 2013 Ted 2:42 PM

Watching the film again and looking at the pictures I noticed alot more than what I did’nt see the first time and agree to what you all are saying. You guys are great,and thanks for letting us all know about it

Mar 28 2013 S. Berliner, III 7:59 PM

Re: ” This may be the only existing film of a Motor Parkway gate lodge when the road was active.”, reminder - keep looking, Howard.  I used to frequent the Trans-Lux{?} Newsreel at 74th{?} and Madison during WWII and clearly remember a newsreel feature of the LIMP.  Bear in mind that it had just been closed and Dad drove me out and back, quite probably on the last day, with me standing up in the back seat, hanging on for dear life to the rug rope, so it was still vivid in my young mind (then).  Sam, III

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