Did somebody say Schenectady? On screens big and small, ‘Schenectady’ has popped up often through the years

Actor Bradley Cooper waves to fans outside City Hall in Schenectady before filming of 'The Place Beyond the Pines' in August 2011.
Actor Bradley Cooper waves to fans outside City Hall in Schenectady before filming of 'The Place Beyond the Pines' in August 2011.

SCHENECTADY Actor Henry Hull was one of the first to give Schenectady a cinematic shout-out.

Hull was portraying a journalist in the 1945 World War II drama “Objective, Burma!”

The film featured daring wartime exploits: A squad of soldiers parachute into Japanese-occupied Burma with a mission — locate and blow up a radar station. Escaping Burma becomes the real trick, as the men must return to their base through an enemy-infested jungle.

The movie, with Errol Flynn in the lead role, mentions Schenectady, Central Park, Crane Street, Union College and The Gazette. It is currently available on HBO Max; the Schenectady references can also be seen in a two-minute clip posted on YouTube.

Movie and television fans have seen and heard Schenectady on their screens in the past. Sometimes the city shows up in prime time; other times Schenectady receives lines in classic and modern films.

NOTE: The Daily Gazette in 2011 published a story detailing Schenectady appearances in pop culture. We’re always discovering new ones, and today — with the Union College connection to “The Way We Were” on the front page — are updating Schenectady references in movies and television shows.

Script popularity might be traced to the strange sound of the name, or perhaps the creative spellingsand fractured pronunciations Schenectady has endured over the years.

Whatever the reasons, the city has a knack for showing up on the pop culture bulletin board.

Here’s the proof.


People can thank Ranald MacDougall for Schenectady’s inclusion in “Objective, Burma!” MacDougall was born in Schenectady in 1915, and remembered his hometown as screenwriter for the war story.

In the film, journalist Mark Williams (Hull) is traveling with the detonation team. He asks some of the guys where they’d rather be, and strikes up a conversation with Lt. Sid Jacobs (William Prince).

Jacobs tells the writer about Cannonball Island in Central Park, Schenectady. The soldier also says his father owns a grocery store on Crane Street and adds that he graduated from Union College.

Williams says he knows people in Schenectady. “My column is syndicated there, The Gazette,” he says, telling a surprised Jacobs his quotes will be printed in the hometown newspaper.


Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney played aspiring singer-actors in 1939’s “Babes in Arms,” one of several Rooney films in which kids staged their own song-and-dance shows.

Judy, as Patsy Barton, decides to visit her mother. Here’s the script the actors followed, with Rooney’s Mickey Moran following the elusive Patsy:

“Is this the sleeper bus for Schenectady?” Moran asks a bus employee. Moran finds his would-be girlfriend, and learns she’s Schenectady-bound to visit her mother.

The movie was filmed shortly after Garland and Margaret Hamilton completed “The Wizard of Oz.” Hamilton, the wicked witch of “Oz,” plays a similar role in “Babes” — without the broomstick.


Schenectady starred in the 2012 crime drama “The Place Beyond the Pines” with Bradley Cooper and Ryan Gosling. Much of the movie was filmed in the area; landmarks and local businesses made the final cut.


The 1956 science-fiction film “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers” is remembered and respected by some for Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion special effects and the spinning, Earth-invading saucers. Scenes that show the crafts crashing into the Washington Monument and into the Union Station train depot remain impressive 66 years later.

Lead scientist Russell Marvin, played by Hugh Marlowe, figures sound waves and electricity shut down the saucers. “Call Schenectady and tell them we’re going to need the biggest generator they’ve got!” Marvin says.

The call would have been made to General Electric, as GE then made generators in Schenectady.


Daffy Duck, like Warner Brothers colleagues Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner, was a movie star before he took his act to television. The Warners’ cartoon shorts often were shown before main attractions.

In 1952, Daffy tries to sell insurance to a confused Porky Pig in the short “Fool Coverage.”

“Good morning, sir,” Daffy says. “I represent the Hotfoot Casualty Underwriters Insurance Company of Schenectady.”

The duck fumbled the city’s pronunciation, which was probably part of the gag.


The 2005 boxing film “Cinderella Man” tells the story of Depression-era boxer Jim Braddock. In the movie — as in real life — Braddock fights Abe Feldman of Schenectady.


In 1955’s “It’s Always Fair Weather,” Angie Valentine has completed service in World War II and plans to open an upscale restaurant. When Valentine — played by actor Michael Kidd — meets his friends 10 years after the war, he is running a diner in Schenectady.


The title of the 2008 film “Synecdoche, New York” is a play on Schenectady.


A chatty “Daisy Miller,” played by Cybill Shepherd, is in Europe and tells her friend Winterbourne “I’m very fond of society, I’ve always had plenty of society, I don’t mean only in Schenectady but in New York, I go to New York every winter. … I have more friends in New York than Schenectady.”

The 1974 movie is based on Henry James’ 1878 novella of the same name. In the book, Daisy’s 10-year-old brother Randolph considers their hometown of Schenectady superior to all of Europe.


In the 1942 Jimmy Cagney film about song-and-dance man George M. Cohan, “Yankee Doodle Dandy” — often shown around the Fourth of July — Schenectady turns up in the “So Long Mary” number. A young lady is being escorted to a train by a group of singing admirers. “This reminds me of my family,” sings Mary, played by Joan Leslie, “on the day I left Schenectady.”

Some Schenectady references come from television shows.


The 1960s version of “The Twilight Zone” has been praised as one of the greatest programs in television history. The original series ran from 1959 through 1964; episodes featured science-fiction, horror, fantasy and surprise endings.

Creator Rod Serling was born in Syracuse, grew up in Binghamton, taught at Ithaca College and maintained ties to upstate New York. Serling included references to upstate communities and regions throughout the series.

Schenectady made one of the second-season stories.

On Feb. 24, 1961, fans saw “The Odyssey of Flight 33” for the first time. Passing through the sound barrier, a commercial airliner accidentally travels back in time.

The flight crew discovers geography has changed.

“Well, we’ve flown over what should be Schenectady, Albany, points north,” says an officer aboard the airliner.


The city showed up — not literally — during the spring of 2011 in an episode of Fox’s then-popular “House” medical drama. Eccentric Dr. Gregory House has a secret — he’s been to Schenectady for the past four years, where he has placed second in a potato gun competition.

On the April 11 show, House reunites with his pal Dr. Remy Hadley, better known by the odd nickname “13.” House kidnaps Hadley to Schenectady for the annual “Schenectady Chili Cook-Off and Spud Gun Competition.” The formidable “13” proves her worth to old House — she knows how to build a powerful spud gun.


Singer-actor Dean Martin was well-known for his television gig as an affable boozing playboy, a gag that helped carry his NBC variety show to a nine-year run from 1965 into 1974.

Comedian Foster Brooks showed up once in a while, and Brooks also poured and sipped onstage (the actor had actually been sober since the mid-1960s).

On one show, available on YouTube, Brooks stumbles into the scene and interrupts Martin and his pianist, Ken Lane.

“Have you ever been in Schen-ectady?” Brooks asks, barely delivering the key word.

“No, I have never been in Schenectady,” Martin responds.

“Must have been two other guys,” Brooks answers.


In NBC’s long-running “Will & Grace,” Debra Messing’s Grace Adler was raised in Schenectady. Her mother Bobbi, played by Debbie Reynolds, was still living in the city when the series ended its run in 2006.


In “The Honeymooners,” Jackie Gleason’s classic mid-1950s television series, screwball Ed Norton (Art Carney) barges into a pool room and greets Gleason’s blustery Ralph Kramden. Norton is smoking a cigar and explains that Hagerty, one of Norton’s fellow sewer workers, is celebrating: “His mother-in-law moved back to Schenectady,” he said.

The show owns another connection to the city. Joyce Randolph, who played Trixie Norton, worked in Schenectady during 1945. The General Electric Company had built some of its early television production studios in the city.

“Mostly I remember the lights, which were so harsh, and that terrible black lipstick,” Randolph told the New York Times in 1993.

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