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Brooklyn Heights movie night ‘The Heights in Lights’ on Thursday

A film tribute a decade in the making with expert commentary and even its own cocktail

May 19, 2021 Mary Frost
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It would be hard to find a New York City neighborhood that has appeared in films and television shows more often than Brooklyn Heights.

On Thursday, May 20 at 7 p.m., the Brooklyn Heights Association will be hosting a special showing of a montage of clips from productions that have been filmed on location around the neighborhood. The online event is dubbed “Heights in Lights – A Tribute to Brooklyn Heights in Film & Television.”

BHA is keeping most of the featured film titles under wraps until the show — so no spoilers. But it would be hard to walk along Cranberry Street without a scene from Moonstruck popping into your mind.

“One of the great pleasures of these clips is the way they document both how little and how much has changed,” BHA President Erika Belsey Worth told the Eagle. “The views from the Promenade are such a reminder of that Brooklyn Bridge Park was once just an idea.”

The film montage was originally compiled in 2010 by Brooklyn Heights-based novelist, playwright and filmmaker Peter Hedges (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, About a Boy, The Heights). It was aired only once, for the organization’s centennial. This year, Heights resident and television executive Red Fabbri updated the piece with material created post-2010.

“Living in Brooklyn Heights, you take for granted how camera-ready this neighborhood can be,” Fabbri told the Eagle. “Producing this piece helped me rediscover why for nearly the entire film and TV era, so many talented artists in front of and behind the camera were inspired by and shot in our neighborhood.”

“For the music, we wanted to feature a mix of the music from the movies (On The Town, Moonstruck), songs inspired by the neighborhood (“Tangled Up In Blue”, “I and Love and You”), and fun-to-edit-against upbeat songs from New York City artists across the decades (Talking Heads, The Strokes, Parquet Courts), Fabbri said.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, BHA was not able to hold their popular Show House event this year and was looking for something to take its place, BHA Executive Director Lara Birnback said.

“We were looking for something fun and educational to lift people’s spirits coming out of Covid,” she said.

Heights resident Laura Trevelyan, the BBC’s World News anchor, journalist and author, will be joined by Brown University 20th Century literature and film professor Deak Nabers, also a Heights resident, for a kick-off conversation about Brooklyn Heights’ starring role in films. These experts will give viewers a sense of the films’ historical context, Birnback said.

“Who knew that our beautiful, serene neighborhood was also beloved by Hollywood directors and location scouts?”  Trevelyan told the Eagle. “My personal favorite is the 1987 classic Moonstruck, starring Cher and Nicolas Cage, which co-stars an entire brownstone on Cranberry Street — the characterful house is a scene stealer, again and again!” Trevelyan said.

A film tribute a decade in the making

BHA President Erika Belsey Worth told the Eagle the history of the making of the montage. “When the BHA was planning the centennial celebration of the BHA in 2010, Judy Stanton had the idea of putting together a montage of clips filmed in Brooklyn Heights,” she said. “The committee loved the idea, but said it couldn’t be done without a pro and a team. Judy approached Peter Hedges, who loved the idea and agreed to produce it — not foreseeing how much time it would take!”

Belsey Worth added, “The viewing team included then-BHA President Tom van den Bout, his wife Brenda Nelson and Judy.” The team got all the videos from the former Mister Video rental on Clark Street, she said.

Hedges’ initial edit for the BHA’s centennial “is really not just the inspiration, but the foundation on which the updated version was built,” she added.

Some of the films have interesting backstories. Unlike in most movies, for example, the actual address of 10 Montague Terrace, a historic brownstone mansion overlooking the Promenade, was stated in The Sentinel. According to one longtime Heights resident, this happened because the film’s director Michael Winner got into a dispute with the building’s then-owner over his wish to carry out a potentially damaging effect on the building. The owner believed that in retribution, the director allowed the actress Ava Gardner to say the actual address, and for years the building was plagued by crowds of sightseers.

Enthusiasm among locals for the showing is high, and one Heights establishment, The BINC on Henry Street, has designed a special “Heights in Lights” cocktail to enhance the experience. (Everyone who buys a ticket will get the recipe, and you can bring your ticket to the bar during the month of May between 5-7 p.m. for a free aperitivo of olives or mixed nuts.)

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