Monday, October 20, 2008

The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery

I recently rented the 1959 movie "The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery", shot almost entirely on location in South City. It stars Steve McQueen as the getaway driver in the heist of the Southwest bank at Kingshighway and Southwest.

Some of the actual STL cops and bank employees were cast in their actual roles. There is some really choice footage of some familiar sections of town.

Here are some places I recognized:
  • There is a meeting of the thieves under one of the ornate pavilions at Tower Grove Park.
  • McQueen's character steals a license plate for the getaway car in the Famous Barr parking lot at Chippewa and Kingshighway. As far as I could tell, there was a sea of surface parking at the southeast corner of that intersection.
  • Of course the bank at Southwest and K'hway. The site of the current BP and former Don Brown Chrysler/Jeep was also a sea of surface parking.
  • There was a nightclub in the movie, directly across Kingshighway from the bank. It is an empty lot now, but I wonder if there was once a happening deco-style nightclub there, or was it shot at another location?
  • There is a murder scene in the film where a woman is pushed down a fire escape in the back of an apt. building. I'd love to know where that was shot.
  • There is a great scene at the opening of the film where they are driving across the Eads bridge from the Illinois side. My how Downtown has changed. This was before the grounds were cleared for the Arch.

I won't say this was a great film by any means. It was a simple noir style typical of the 1950's. Yet, as a STL history lover, it is a must see. Man, I wish I could have seen St. Louis when it was still a bustling, densely populated city.

Again, the movie was released in 1959. That means it was probably shot sometime in the mid to late 1950's. The population of STL in 1950 was 856,796 and by 1960 it was down 13% to 750,026. Still a lot of people lived here then, almost double the current population. It is clear from this film that by the late 50's, the destruction of older buildings to make way for the car was clearly underway.

1 comment:

  1. Watch it here: