Sunday, September 16, 2012

Never mind Train Spotting what about Location Spotting?

Some of the pleasure and the pain in film location spotting. The Docklands area of Dublin is unrecognisable from the time when Educating Rita was filmed there. David, my brother, had discovered that the gasometer in the scene where Rita starts to make her way to Dr. Bryant's party was located on Cardiff Lane, and duly took a picture. However, since only a fragment of a building seen in the left background had even a remote resemblance to the one in the film grab, I decided to do some research this past weekend (in the meantime, as I told David, I'm learning more about Dublin - its history and architecture - than I ever knew, thanks to this site and our detective work. Let it be known that my motivation for dragging my girlfriend to Jamaica in 1981 - and a more willing, movie obsessed friend to New York in 1988 - was Dr. No and On the Waterfront (among countless other NY/NJ based films) respectively.
Regarding Dr. No, it breaks my heart to see Simon James's location pictures on RS. The only lead I had at the time was to Ian Fleming's house. I didn't even know, until years later (but before RS), that the bauxite mine across the bay (Ocho Rios) from our hotel was the good doctor's headquarters. Enough to turn one into a megalomaniac, if only to punish the inventors of the WWW for coming too late, and, by extension, ReelStreets!

Anyway, hours of research (and loving every second of it!) yielded the address of the building that now stands on the site of the late Cardiff Lane gasometer. It stretches from the east side of Cardiff Lane to the west side of Hibernian Way, with nothing between it and the river to the north but a few yards of concrete. The amount of real estate between the movie camera and the gasometer in the Rita grab suggests the shot was taken looking north. Since the gasometer in the movie is on the left of the frame, and Cardiff Lane puts it on the right, it stands to reason that the scene would have been shot on Hibernian Way, despite the recollection of a man in the area my brother spoke to.
However, a spanner was thrown at my theory by the discovery of archive photos of gasometers similar to the one on the Docklands but located in the Ringsend area - a likely spot for the house where our heroine lived with her husband (and coincidentally the principal location for Agnes Browne) - itself heavily transformed. One picture shows a gasometer towering over the tops of houses very similar to those in the scene towards the end when Rita returns 'home' and bumps into her ex and his new wife. However, that structure has spikes surmounted on the outer supports, unlike the one in that latter scene. More recent pictures of the surviving Ringsend one (now converted into apartments) with spikes proves the location cited by the poster. Very inconvenient, those spikes.

By sheer luck, after sending this confusing info to my brother, I came across an old picture of the gasometer on Cardiff Lane, watermarked 'RTE' (Irish Radio/TV). This, unlike other archive photos online, shows a stockyard (or whatever it was) - with its wall built at various heights - attached to the south side of the gasometer. It matches exactly the one seen in the movie. The gasometer and stockyard stretch east to the next 'street' (seen as a wide, dirty laneway in the movie) - none other than Hibernian Way!
While this identifies the location for the 'lane' scene, we still have a problem with the later one where Rita bumps into her ex. There's always the possibility that each area, Docklands and Ringsend, had more than one gasometer, of various designs, while each may also have been populated by houses built by Dublin Corporation to the same design.
Andrew Brennan