A Little Bit of Movie History – “A Trip to the Moon” and “Hugo” – in Chelsea, New York

One day a fellow New York crazy, Judy Richheimer, asked me if I knew about an iron railing in Chelsea that included a high relief depiction of a rocket landing on the moon. I had to admit that I didn’t, so she took me to 305 West 21st Street, just west of Eighth Avenue, and there it was – a scene that was based on the 1902 silent movie “A Trip to the Moon” (“Un Voyage dans la Lune”).

The movie had been written and directed by Georges Melies, and interest in it was revived in 2011 because both the movie and the movie’s director were featured in “Hugo,” the Martin Scorsese film and winner of five Academy Awards.

The railing had been commissioned by a group of documentary filmmakers who are clearly film buffs and whose offices are at the site, and it was executed by Warren Holtzman, a blacksmith headquartered in Philadelphia.

The irony is that the image is flopped. In the movie, the rocket lands in the right eye of the unfortunate man in the moon, whereas the “Railing” version has the rocket landing in his left eye.

It’s not the only instance in the history of New York graphics where an image has been flopped. Just look at the heavenly sky atop the concourse in Grand Central Terminal. Yes, Paul Helleu’s depiction of the zodiac is, according to the astronomers, flopped.

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