Bah, humbug! Scrooged is the late-80s take on Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol, starring Bill Murray as ruthless TV executive Frank Cross who is put through the all-too-familiar Ebenezer paces. Penned by SNL alums Michael O’Donoghue and Mitch Glazer, this dark Christmas comedy features a well-rounded cast, including Karen Allen, John Forsythe, Bobcat Goldthwait, Robert Mitchum, Alfre Woodard, three of Murray’s siblings, and Carol Kane as the joyfully maniacal Ghost of Christmas Present.

While not earth-shattering, Scrooged is a serviceable holiday film, giving its fair share of laughs, adventure and Christmas sentiment, along with some creative make-up and special effects. Taking place in New York, it also has a sampling of real NYC locations, although the majority of the film was shot back at Paramount Studios in Hollywood.

 

IBC Headquarters

Ill-tempered TV exec, Frank Cross, works at the fictional IBC network, headquartered in the Seagram Building at 375 Park Avenue.

 

Junior exec, Eliot Loudermilk, who was just fired by Frank on Christmas Eve, sits outside the building on Park Avenue.

 

Two security guards from the office bring Elliot his personal items in a cardboard box.

 

The guards then shove him off the property, much to the delight of Frank who watches through a telescope from his office above.

 


When I first investigated this movie’s filming locations a few years back, there wasn’t a lot of information out there, but when it came to exterior of the fictional television network, the general consensus was it was filmed at the Seagram Building on Park Avenue.

Looking out at Park Avenue from inside the lobby of the Seagram Building.

Completed in 1958, the 38-story modernist building was designed in the functionalist aesthetic and became the world’s most expensive skyscraper at the time. This was mostly due to the use of costly, high-quality components and the opulent interior design, made with precious materials such as bronze, travertine, and marble.

Looking east on Park Avenue at the Seagram Building, shortly after its completion in 1958.

The sleek edifice was originally created to be the headquarters for the Canadian distillers Joseph E. Seagram’s & Sons, but interestingly enough, it has never officially been named the Seagram Building. It has always legally gone by its street address — 375 Park Avenue.

Receiving landmark status in the early-2000’s, the Seagram Building’s facade looks pretty much as it did when it first opened over 60 years ago. Today, the building is somewhat dwarfed by its towering neighbors, but still remains a valuable piece of Midtown property, retaining a nearly one hundred percent occupancy.

 

Frank and His Brother

A group of street musicians play in front of Saks department store at 611 Fifth Avenue, across the street from Rockefeller Plaza.

 

Frank and his brother James walk north on Fifth Avenue from E 49th Street.

 

Frank openly berates the street performers as he walks by.

 

James asks Frank why he hates Christmas so much as they walk by window displays at Saks Fifth Avenue.

 

Frank corrects him, declaring he loves the Christmas season, because it means high television ratings.

 

Frank then steals a cab from a little old lady across the street from the Plaza Hotel at 6 Central Park South.

 


It wasn’t too hard to figure out where this scene took place, since you can easily spot the large Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza across the street from the musicians. Apparently production filmed during 1987’s holiday season in New York, taking advantage of all the bright Christmas decorations displayed on the city streets.

The one thing that briefly confused me about this scene was the very last bit where Murray steals the cab from “grandma.” It didn’t look like it matched the rest of the scene, and I eventually concluded it was shot at a different location. Once I determined that, I almost immediately thought the building across the street looked like the Plaza Hotel. The reason I recognized it so quickly is because I was photographing the famous hotel just.a few days prior for my research on Midnight Cowboy.

Behind-the-scenes footage taken on Central Park South, across from the Plaza, where Murray improvises pushing a random pedestrian. 

Scrooged is noted for having several cameos sprinkled throughout its running time, and this scene features a few of them. The street performers seen at the beginning are famed musicians Miles Davis, David Sanborn, Larry Carlton and Paul Shaffer (who is probably best known as David Letterman’s former sidekick on his late night talk show).

Most of the other celebrity cameos in Scrooged are in the “cast” of the TV station’s production of A Christmas Carol, which includes John Houseman, Buddy Hackett, Jamie Farr, gymnast Mary Lou Retton, and the movie’s co-writer Michael O’Donoghue. Also in the movie is Six Million Dollar Man star, Lee Majors, in a fake promo for The Night the Reindeer Died and crooner Robert Goulet in a fake promo for his Cajun Christmas Special.

Buddy Hackett playing himself playing Ebenezer Scrooge in the movie’s fictional TV Special.
Lee Majors packing heat at the North Pole for a fake TV action movie, The Night the Reindeer Died.

 

Eliot Gets Splashed

Presumably coming from Central Park, a depressed Eliot walks aimlessly on W 64th Street.

 

He pulls out a pint of liquor wrapped in a paper bag and stops in front of  5 W 64th Street so he can take a swig.

 

But before he can, Frank’s cab speeds by, splashing a puddle in his face and causing his bottle to fall and break.

 


Since this scene didn’t showcase any street signs or obvious landmarks, and the building in the background was fairly nondescript, I thought finding its location would be a bit tricky. But this is one of those situations where knowing the location of another scene helped me figure of the location of this scene since they were shot within a couple blocks of each other.

(See “The First Ghost” below for more details.)

 

Back At IBC Headquarters

After going to an awards ceremony, Frank’s cab pulls in front of the network headquarters at 375 Park Avenue.

 

Frank gives the driver a generous 15¢ tip as he gets out of the taxi, leaving his TV award on the backseat.

 

He marches across the plaza and into the building, where he is shortly visited by the ghost of his old boss, Lew Hayward.

 

The security guards wish Frank a “Merry Christmas,” which he responds to with a wry wince.

 


Naturally, this exterior scene also took place at the Seagram Building on Park Avenue, but pretty much all the building’s interiors were sets created at Paramount Studios in California. The only exception was the lobby, which was the real one in the Seagram Building.

Before I began this “NYC in Film” project back in 2016, I never really heard of the Seagram Building, although I was vaguely familiar with its large plaza out front and its pair of matching fountains from walking along Park Avenue over the years. While certainly not as well-known as the nearby Chrysler or MetLife Buildings, the Seagram Building has actually been featured in a lot more movies than I first expected. It was the main office building in 1959’s The Best of Everything, Neil Simon’s 1970 comedy The Out-of Towners, the 1964 drama Youngblood Hawke, and was where Paul and Holly Golightly have a heartfelt conversion in 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

A scene from Breakfast At Tiffany’s taking place outside the Seagram Building on Park Avenue.

It was even (sort of) featured in 1990’s Misery. Even though they didn’t actually film in New York, the interiors of Paul Sheldon’s literary agent’s office was theoretically inside the Seagram Building, based on the skyline backdrop out the windows.

A scene with Lauren Bacall from the 1990 horror film, Misery, shot on a studio set in Hollywood, designed to look like it’s taking place in the Seagram Building in NYC.

The building was also where Marlo Thomas’ boyfriend worked at in the 1960s sitcom, That Girl. Of course, like most TV shows from that era, production was based in California. Filming primarily took place at Desilu Studios in Culver City but they did occasionally do some second unit shots on location in New York.

Marlo Thomas and Ted Bessell outside of the Seagram Building from the pilot episode of That Girl (1966-1971).

As I continued to research NYC movies, I discovered a lot more that had scenes that took place at or near the Seagram Building, including Mirage (1965), The Hot Rock (1972), Going in Style (1979), Hero at Large (1980), The King of Comedy (1983), Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), The Secret to My Success (1987), and Weekend at Bernie’s (1989). 

And I’m sure there are more to be added to that list.

 

Exiting the Subway

Meanwhile, Frank’s assistant, Grace, exits the Court Square subway station, carrying her non-speaking son down the stairs onto the corner of 45th Road and Jackson Avenue.

 

Returning from the doctors, Grace tells her son that she’s certain he will talk again someday.

 


This appeared to be an easy location to figure out since you can see the subway station name on a sign above the stairs, reading, “45 Rd-Courthouse Square.” However, I did have to do a little digging around before I was able to finally confirm the exact filming location.

One thing that slowed me down was the station name, since “Courthouse Square” doesn’t exist — at least not anymore. It seems as though the 7-train station in Queens used to be called Courthouse Square-45th Road but got changed to simply Court Square when it was renovated in 2011.

Looking east from Jackson Avenue, a 2007 view of the Courthouse Sq-45 Rd entrance before it was renovated, compared to a still from the 1988 film (inset).

Before the renovation, the stairs leading to the elevated IRT platform used to flank each side of 45th Road, as seen in the film. But afterwards, the road was closed off and taken over by an updated entrance which included an elevator for ADA accessibility.

A 2007 view of the 45th Road entrance to the 7-train before the 2011 renovations (left) and the same entrance as it appears today (right).

Additionally, a transfer was constructed to connect the IRT’s 7 line to the IND’s G and E/M lines —which were connected to each other in 2001— making it all one big hub under the name, Court Square.

The previous 2001 project not only involved constructing a pedestrian transfer between the two IND stations, it also included installing two “moving sidewalks” in the main corridor to help speed things up for commuters. This was the first and only time these airport-style walkways were installed at an MTA subway station.

However, these moving walkways were plagued with problems almost immediately after their installation (which reportedly cost $3.5 million). They could only operate in one direction, they regularly broke down or were out of service, and according to an internal report, they saved commuters, on average, only nine seconds each way. Finally in 2018, the pair of moving sidewalks were removed.

Looking at the corridor at Court Square in 2018 during the removal of the moving walkways.

Now that those problematic walkways are gone, New Yorkers have a new complaint about this Long Island City transit hub. Apparently the new design on the elevated 7-train platform involved replacing traditional solid windscreens with mesh ones that are nearly transparent. And since the platform edge is only 10 to 15 feet from nearby residential buildings, they allow waiting subway passengers to look directly into some apartment windows.

Once these updates to the platforms were made, local residents became concerned that it could create potential “peeping tom” scenarios. But most subway riders thought it was a non-issue — as one unsympathetic passenger said to an interviewer in 2012, “It’s New York….You get what you pay for.”

 

The First Ghost

After being freaked out by macabre hallucinations, Frank exits the restaurant at 43 W 64th Street.

 

He hails a cab and is helped in by the restaurant’s doorman. 

 

The driver aggressively speeds down the street the wrong way, nearly killing some pedestrians in front of 20 W 64th Street.

 

As the cabbie drives west towards Lincoln Center, he tells Frank that he’s the Ghost of Christmas Past.

 

After a few more erratic twists and turns, the cab finally ends up on W 65th Street where it heads east towards Central Park West.

 

Meanwhile, Eliot starts to open a new bottle of booze in front of 15 W 64th Street.

 

But then his bottle is snatched out of his hands by the ghost cabbie as he drives by. 

 


The restaurant location was easy to find since you can clearly see the iconic Lincoln Center in the background in a few of the exterior shots. Plus, a couple websites already listed the restaurant to be on W 64th Street. Of course, the interiors were shot back in California, most likely on a set.

When it came to the bottle-snatching part of this sequence, I couldn’t see many details other than an apartment building behind Bobcat Goldthwait. Since the facade looked typical for the Upper West Side, I figured there was a good chance it was filmed somewhere near the restaurant on W 64th.

Bill Murray and director Dick Donner outside the restaurant on W 64th Street.

The best clue to go on was in the wide shot of the cab driving away where I could see a distinct white modern building on the left, as well as a distant church spire. (You can see them in the 5th “before/after” image above.) As I searched for that modern building, my research partner Blakeslee searched for Upper West Side church spires and soon found a match with Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. (The church, incidentally, was featured in another Murray comedy, Ghostbusters. In it, it was situated next to the infamous “Spook Central” on Central Park West.)

Once we confirmed they filmed that wide shot on 65th (just one block north of the restaurant), I finally realized why my search for that modern building didn’t net me any results — it’s now gone. The building was actually home to the Estelle R. Newman Center, a nonsectarian agency for the blind. Dedicated in 1971, the 12‐story building at 15 W 65th Street provided services for thousands of visually-impaired people for nearly fifty years until the structure was razed circa 2017.

On the left, the former Estelle R. Newman Center at 15 W 64th Street in October 2017, shortly before it got razed.

Knowing the crew filmed the wide shot on W 65th Street, I searched along the block in Google Street View for the building that appeared behind Goldthwait when his bottle gets snatched, but didn’t find anything. I then decided to check out some of the nearby streets and soon stumbled upon 15 W 64th (also known as 15 Lincoln Plaza), which aside from the color, was a perfect match.

After that, I took a guess that the “Eliot Gets Splashed” scene (see above) was also shot in the same vicinity and after a quick look around found a match at the corner building on W 64th and Central Park West.

 

Frank’s Childhood Home

After driving through a cloud of smoke, the cab arrives in Frank’s childhood neighborhood in the year 1955.

 

The cab then parks on the residential 41st Drive in Queens.

 

Frank finally realizes the ghost has taken him back in time.

 

Frank seems ashamed that his home at 5828 41st Drive is the only house with no Christmas decorations.

 

After the ghost magically travels through the front door, Frank tries to follow but slams his head instead, which the ghost finds hilarious. 

 


I think Frank’s childhood home was supposed to look like it was in some suburban town, but assuming it was shot in NYC, I thought it looked mostly like something in Queens. Fortunately, I could see a couple of the house numbers in the scene, including Frank’s old home, which I saw said 5828 once I brightened up the image.

Cropped-in images from the film, showing the address numbers on Frank’s house (right) and the neighbor’s house (left).

I then went to the NYC Municipal Tax Archives, which at the time I was researching this movie, had only recently released all of its 1940s digital photos. One nice feature on the website was the ability to search by building number. So I plugged in 5828 and got 44 results —certainly a manageable lot to look through— but I didn’t have to do much searching as the second result on 41 Drive looked very promising.

A circa 1940 tax photo of 58-28 41st Drive in Queens that was used as Frank’s childhood home in Scrooged.

To get a better look at the house, I went to Google Street View and could quickly tell I found the right street (or drive, rather). From there, it was just a matter of lining things up to figure out where exactly the wide shots of the taxi cab were filmed. After I did that, I realized they cheated the length of the street, basically repeating the same stretch a couple times over.

 

Frank’s Brother’s Apartment

The Ghost of Christmas Present takes Frank to his Brother’s apartment at 21-29 45th Avenue in Queens.

 


This location stumped me for the longest time, which was frustrating because it seemed like a findable place. The row houses in this scene looked like something you might see on the Upper West Side, but since there was a yellow sign in the shot indicating a “stop ahead,” I figured it was filmed somewhere else as it’s mostly traffic lights up there.

I thought the two neighborhoods where they most likely filmed this quick establishing shot were the West Village and Brooklyn Heights. However, after painstakingly looking at any block with a stop sign in both of those areas, I couldn’t find a match, although I did find a couple close calls that made me do a double-take.

I finally ended up putting the scene on my Missing Locations page, and a few months later, reader Dana Cohen wrote in to say she found it. Since early 2020, she’s been on a mission to identify and map every Sex and the City location, and even though she has never seen Scrooged, she recognized the block immediately from several episodes of the show. Turns out the apartment was just a stone’s throw away from Silvercup Studios, where Sex and the City was headquartered during its run on HBO.

From the second season of Sex and the City, a scene shot on 45th Drive in Long Island City, Queens.

It also turns out the apartment was just a stone’s throw away from the Court Square subway station which was used in a previous scene.

As I indicated in my summary of “The First Ghost” scene, I almost always explore areas near a confirmed location when trying to figure out a missing one. And I did briefly consider the possibility that the brother’s apartment was near the subway station, but I rejected that notion since most of the apartments in Queens do not look like what appears in the film.

A small section of Long island City in Queens, with an A indicating where the brother’s apartment was filmed and an S indicating where the subway scene was filmed.

Of course, it turns out that was a mistake on my part. But thankfully, there are crafty readers out there that can offer a little help with location mysteries like this. It was a tiny Christmas miracle!


The rest of the “New York” exteriors from Scrooged were shot on Paramount Studios in Hollywood, including the shop where Frank and Claire first meet and the homeless shelter where Claire works. Interestingly, the fictional location of the shelter seems to be at three different places. The card she hands Frank in the movie has a 43rd Street address on it. However, when he visits the shelter, a street sign says 3rd Street, and the building has a banner that says 9th Street.

But since this movie created a world of time-travelling ghosts, I suppose a multi-locational homeless shelter is an acceptable concept as well.

Character actresses Anne Ramsey and Bill Murray improvise a scene in the shelter.

Bill Murray and actor/singer David Johansen as the Ghost of Christmas past, who was also a real life friend of Murray’s.

Like a lot of other movies directed by Richard Donner (who helmed such diverse projects as The Omen, Superman and the Lethal Weapon series), I like Scrooged a lot — I just don’t love it.

In general, it’s hard to go wrong with an adaptation of the Dickens’ classic, and almost any Murray comedy is going to be fun to watch. So, with such a combination, you’d expect this to be just a little better.

Dick Donner talking with Nicholas Phillips who played the Tiny Tim-inspired character in the film.

I think the underlying problem with Scrooged is the tone, which seems to vary from scene to scene. Apparently, the original concept with screenwriters Michael O’Donoghue and Mitch Glazer was for the movie to be a dark, gritty, R-rated version of the holiday fable.

When Murray came on board, he pushed for a softer tone and wanted to expand the love story with Claire. Apparently, after taking a break from starring in anything for four years, he was more interested in making films from that point forward that had “good values.”

On the set with Scrooged screenwriter Michael O’Donoghue and star Bill Murray, both of whom worked on SNL during the 1970s.

In an interview with Starlog Magazine, Murray remarked, “There was a lot I didn’t like. To remake the story, we took the romantic element and built that up a little more. It existed in the script’s original version, but we had to make more out of it. The family scenes were kind of off, so we worked on that.”

And to add another slant to the film, it’s been said Donner was going for a much broader comedy, which went against Murray’s instincts.

When asked by film critic Roger Ebert if he had any disagreements with Donner, Murray replied, “Only a few. Every single minute of the day. That could have been a really, really great movie. The script was so good. There’s maybe one take in the final cut movie that is mine. We made it so fast, it was like doing a movie live. He kept telling me to do things louder, louder, louder. I think he was deaf.”

Director Richard Donner rehearsing a scene on the office set with John Forsythe’s stunt double.

But despite all this, the film still works as a whole. Even today’s audiences seem to enjoy Scrooged quite a bit. I think that’s a testament to both Murray’s comedic skills and the ingenious storyline built into A Christmas Carol.

As with many NYC films made during the 1980s and 90s, the on-location shooting for Scrooged was at a minimum, even though it had a sizable budget.

Often the movies from this era would use Toronto to double for New York, but Scrooged relied on Hollywood sets to fill in for any parts not shot on location. (Although, for some reason IMDB lists Toronto as one of the filming locations. That’s undoubtedly a mistake, as I found no evidence that they did any filming at our neighbors up north.)

Yet, even with minimal on-location shooting, the movie still has a palatable, if not fanciful, New York flavor to it. And when it comes to Christmas movies during this holiday season, you could do a lot worse than Scrooged.

There’s nothing humbug about it.