Thank you, Robert Evans, for ‘Serpico’ scene at Lewisohn Stadium

Architecture & Design · Dance

In this snippet from Serpico (1973), fellow cops Tony Roberts and Al Pacino haggle in the eerie ghost town of a grand structure where so much New York art and culture — famously, summer concerts by the New York Philharmonic — met an avid audience. It’s the 8,000-seat-capacity Lewisohn Stadium on the campus of City College of New York in Harlem. Now long gone.

In the bad old days …

The Doric-colonnaded amphitheater located between Amsterdam and Convent Avenues, from 136th to 138th Streets, was built in 1915. Lumet’s film about crooked cops was released in 1973 — sadly the very year Lewisohn met the wrecking ball.

At the Lewisohn Stadium in August 1931 (its fifth summer booking), dancing for audiences totaling more than 50,000, Denishawn had farewell performances. Jack Cole, whose biography I am writing, danced in those concerts. Performing under the name of J. Ewing Richter, Cole is credited high among the concert’s cast of thousands.

Sidney Lumet directed the picture, but it was surely producer Robert Evans (who thought big) who green-lit the location shooting. He had to have. Essentially, Evans, who died this past weekend, made sure that Lewisohn Stadium stayed in the picture.

Lewisohn Stadium, City College of New York, undated [1917]
source: New York Historical Society

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