Movie Cars: “Road To Perdition”

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    Anyone know the black 1932 Series 53 in which Paul Newman’s character is chauffeured?


    Bill Morris knows the car, he was there for the filming of the movie. If memory serves, it was a non-running car, they pushed it where it needed to be.


    They should have used a Packard; everyone knows bootleggers and roues drove Packards, and classy, old-money people owned Pierce-Arrows


    I think gangsters and bootleggers favored Cadilacs, Lincolns and mainly Ford V-8’s if they were concerned about out running the cops.


    I was in the movie in my ’29 in the scene when they arrived in Chicago and there was a great shot down LaSalle Street from the Chicago River Bridge at Wacker Dr. and LaSalle.  I was three cars in front of Hanks Buick but with everything moving around in the shot we couldn’t pick out the car.  Thankfully the Chicago Tribune published a still photo of the shot and we were able to spot the car.

    That shot lasted all of about six or seven seconds and was the most expensive day of shooting in the entire movie.  There were about 120 cars and most of them were Model A Fords.  The morning of the shoot we had a driver’s meeting with the movie where it was explained that we would all be assigned a starting spot on LaSalle and when they said “Action” we would drive our cars about 25 yards and then stop.  That was the shot.  Then they would say “RESET!” and we would all back up to our original spot for another run.  We had several near accidents with guys who were NOT used to backing up their cars in close company with other cars at the same time.  This six second shot required SEVENTEEN takes.

    When they said to warm up our cars to get ready I heard the sound of 90 Model A’s suddenly running and revving in a parking lot.  What a racket and of course they all sound just alike.  There was one other Pierce-Arrow there that day, a ’29 owned by Ron Aumueller but he was positioned all the way at the south end of LaSalle Street and was not visible in the movie.  He did, however get paid for being there.

    That’s movie making!

    I don’t know who owned the ’32 but it was never run or driven in the movie.


    Grest story, Bill, thanks for sharing!



    A cautionary tale: someone like me might end up driving your car. Awhile back a friend of mine rented out his Buick Roadsmasher and a 50’s Packard to a small “indie” movie production for $75 each. He asked me to drive one of them down for him. The producer asked if we would like to be extras for $20 driving the cars as background, and could I drive anything? Full of over confidence, I said sure. Most of the cars had been left by their owners for the day. Instead of assigning me to the Packard I had just driven down I drew a ’53 Chevy pickup. No problem. Should be like a ’69 Toyota Landcruiser six I had driven.  My friend was issued overalls to look like a mechanic but was to drive his nice Buick that was more like a manager’s car. I was issued a loud ‘50’s sports coat to drive the buckaroo pickup. Casting and costumes obviously a mystic art left to professionals.

    After waiting around for a few hours and snarfing the buffet lunch the call finally came. The beat-up Chevy was parked a couple feet behind a nicely restored Hudson, and I had to back up ASAP so he could get out. When I got in, I realized I was in trouble. First, no starter button. Then I vaguely recalled that some cars had a foot pedal to engage the Bendix and starter. Got it going, whew! The traditional three-on-the-tree column shift wouldn’t engage in any gear, which is when I realized the mysterious extra lever coming out of the floor was an aftermarket Hurst shifter. It had no shift diagram. My first guess at reverse was wrong and I lurched another foot closer to the Hudson. My second guess was wrong, and now I was inches from his bumper. The third try was a charm and I got the heap going in the right direction.

    The bunch of us then drove our cars up and down the same block over and over in a race track pattern as background to the street scene. Luckily the Chevy had a “necker” steering knob so flipping U-turns curb to curb without power steering was a breeze. I didn’t know if the movie was ever finished but a couple decades later I chanced upon it and discovered the scene I was in didn’t make the final cut. All that risk to the Hudson for nothing.


    My first encounter with a Pierce-Arrow was through a used car lot in Monroe MI where they rented pre-war cars to movie lots, then sold them when the shooting was done. I came across the black 1929 (or 30) Pierce-Arrow used in the series The Untouchables (1993-94) I fell in love with the car, but no way was my wife going to let me have it. I think it got sold, and shipped, to Texas shortly after my encounter with it.


    There was a maroon and black Series 80 coach in “Live By Night”.


    Just spotted a black Pierce-Arrow sport sedan; 1931 or so, in the movie “Public Enemies”; being driven by “Melvin Purvis” in Chicago.


    Opening scene in Rodney Dangerfield’s Back to School 1933 Pierce-Arrow in “Back to School, 1986”


    Could this be the same Car that was used in Public Enemies?

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