A Life At The Movies: Dan & Toby Talbot,The New Yorker & Other Scenes in The Dark

In the 1960’s and early 1970’s The New Yorker theater was THE repertory theater in New York City. Located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the New Yorker was a haven for film lovers. Patrons included Peter Bogdanovich who lived in the neighborhood. At eighteen years of age the ever forward Bodganovich asked for a job writing program notes. The theater became a temple for cinephiles, Vincent Canby, Jonas Mekas, Andrew Sarris, Stanley Kauffman, Manny Farber, photographers Diane Arbus and Richard Avedon were among the devotees. Early films included Von Strohiem’s “Foolish Wives” and “Nanook of the North” with live piano accompaniment. Foreign films from Godard, Truffaut, Rohmer, Chabrol were programmed as well as Hollywood directors like Hitchcock, Ford, Fuller, Hawks and Welles. Classic films with W.C. Fields, The Marx Brothers, Mae West, and Bogart were audience favorites.   

Toby Talbot’s book “The New Yorker Theater” is an interesting though somewhat rambling account of the Talbot’s adventures in running The New Yorker and other theaters (Cinema Studio and the current Lincoln Plaza Cinemas).

Dan Talbot founded New Yorker Films as a means to acquire foreign film titles to show at The New Yorker. His first acquisition was Bernardo Bertolucci’s “Before the Revolution.” He would soon after acquire the distribution rights to more than 400 other films including Godard’s “Breathless.”  

After the closing of the New Yorker, the Talbot’s opened up the Cinema Studio in 1977, located on 66th Street and Broadway (a Barnes & Noble is now there). The Talbot’s premiered such foreign films like “An American Friend”, “Perceval”, “The Marriage of Maria Braun” and “Shoah”. In 1981, the Talbots opened the current Lincoln Plaza Cinema on 63rd Street and Broadway continuing their tradition of introducing International and First Run Independent Cinema.

Below is an interview with Toby and Dan Talbot at The New School. 

8 comments on “A Life At The Movies: Dan & Toby Talbot,The New Yorker & Other Scenes in The Dark

  1. David R. Crosby says:

    It is vital that cultural history, the names, the places, the times, be recorded. John Greco here illuminates for us some of the personalities and works that were brought into the light of ever-fleeting fame.

    I am not one to bemoan the passing of days so much more polite, more gracious, so much more blablablabla. Every generation has its intellectual and artistic high points and here Mr. Greco shows us quickly through the sixties and seventies in New York by means of talking about the Talbot book of reminiscences. This is all without prejudice because one never knows when or why circumstance will have its willful way. I look forward to reading Toby Talbot’s book.


    • John Greco says:

      Thanks David for the kind words and I totally agree every generation has its intellectual and artistic high points. Life, art, the world were not necessarily better or worst in the “old days.”

      The Talbot’s were responsible for bringing to America so many foreign films, especially films of the French New Wave, though they certainly were not limited to Godard, Truffaut and co., and for their programming of classic Hollywood cinema which at the time was not considered worth reviving. They unearthed many films that were rarely shown on TV as well as organizing retrospectives on various artists (Fields, West, etc.)

      Today with home video, cable channels. on-line availability, films that were once so hard to see are now available at the flip of a button. Watch them at any time and just about anywhere. Home video has brought all films to everyone no matter where you live. No longer is it exclusive to people who live in cities like New York or San Francisco. That is so great however, what is lost is that communal theater experience. Watching a film with a like minded audience. There is nothing like watching a Marx Brothers film with an audience filled with Marxist sitting around you.


  2. Gary says:

    I have a very pleasant memory of a winter’s afternoon spent at the New Yorker in 1968. As a student at Queens College, I was taking the only cinema history course being given (now there is a Cinema Studies Dept.)and had the assignment of doing a critical analysis of a pre-1945 film.

    I chose “Million Dollar Legs,” an incredibly obscure W.C Fields, Jack Oakie film that I had no knowledge about; I chose it because it was only about 70 minutes. Little did I know that I was seeing a hilarious “mythical kingdom” satire second only to “Duck Soup.”

    I sat through the film twice taking notes in the dark. The other film on the twin bill was terrific, one I had never heard of called “The African Queen” !!!!!


    • John Greco says:

      Gary, thanks for sharing your story on the “New Yorker”. I still have not seen MILLION DOLLAR LEGS. I know it wa released on VHS but as far as I know has yet to see a DVD release. What a shame. It is also a shame you cannot find double bills like that anymore!


  3. Sam Juliano says:

    John, this was the theatre that launched my lifelong love of the cinema, as my attendance there began while taking an indroductory cinema class at Bergen Community College, where I began my education after high school. I spent many evenings there, and on weekends I attending several triple features, including those offered in a comprehensive (at the time) Ingmar Bergman festival, that I have never forgotten. I first saw JULES AND JIM and THE FOUR HUNDRED BLOWS in the New Yorker, and this theatre provided my maiden viewings of BREATHLESS and several Hitchcocks. A few blocks up from the New Yorker (on 95th Street) stood the Thalia, another art house that features themed festivals and the work of these same directors. The two theatres (with the Film Forum) were the prime repetory theatres in Manhattan.
    As far as the Cinema Studio (which you mention here) I also know it well, and have walked through it’s doors countless times, as I have now walked through the turnstyles of the Barnes and Noble Superstore that replaced it. I vividly remember seeing Almodovar’s WOMEN ON THE EDGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN there with a friend. Right across teh street was the now-defunct Regency, where I first saw SCHINDLER’S LIST in 1993.
    And of course, to this day I am a regular at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, when they screen anything that isn’t downtown (where it is easier to park).
    What a fantastic and bittersweet trip down Memory lane!!!


    • John Greco says:

      Sam, sounds like some fond memories of the NEW YORKER. I myself was there a couple of times. Back in the early 70’s I saw a twin bill of RIO BRAVO and RIO LOBO. On another occasion I saw GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 for the first time. I was only at the Cinema Studio once and for the life of me I cannot remember the film. The Regency was a one time visit also, my wife and I were dating then and we saw MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE. The Lincoln Plaza Cinema was still another one time visit where we saw THE STRAIGHT STORY.


  4. John, my apologies for posting this out of place. I’ve written the review of Catch-22, which has been published here – http://culturazzi.org/review/literature/catch-22. Thought you might be interested, since you once proclaimed your love for this book to me. Do have a look and let me know your opinion on it. Looking forward to having some more discussion about this marvelous book with you. (Cross-posting this at your other blog as well).


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