Home > Film, TV & Radio, History, Things I Like... > Manhatta.. A Day in the Life of a City (1921)

Manhatta.. A Day in the Life of a City (1921)

An interesting little silent film today…

Filmed in 1921 by the artist Charles Sheeler and the photographer Paul Strand, it depicts (with the aid of some rather poetic interludes by Walt Whitman) a typical day in Manhattan. There’s also a musical soundtrack of sorts, but it’s hard work to say the least, and I would recommend watching it with the sound turned down…

There’s some really memorable images in the film: I particularly like the huge mass of people arriving by ferry at about 1 min 40, and then moving past the camera with that distinctive silent film shuffle. Makes me wonder if Fritz Lang saw this before he made Metropolis… there’s also the guy smashing up rocks with a large sledge hammer at 3mins 27, a seemingly pointless action by the look of the effect he’s having… The old school mechanical digger straight after is also pretty cool…

Other than the obvious changes in technology and fashion (and the blatant disregard for health and safety demonstrated at about 3 mins 45) I would guess that a typical day in Manhattan today, more than 90 years on, is probably not that different… maybe less smokey and steam driven, but certainly as noisy and busy…

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