Friday Flashback #39

A year after it was published in 1955, “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” became a major motion picture.

Gregory Peck starred as Tom Rath. He and his wife Betsy (Jennifer Jones) live in a rundown house in Westport. They have 3 kids; he commutes to an unfulfilling job in New York. The title quickly became a ’50s metaphor — one that endures today.

Some of the movie was filmed in Westport. The most memorable scenes — still recalled here more than 60 years later — took place on Main Street, and at the train station.

These 2 shots show Peck as a typical commuter. Besides the lack of a platform — and the demise of the New Haven Railroad — what else has changed? Click “Comments” below.

16 responses to “Friday Flashback #39

  1. Bonnie Bradley

    Change? How women dress! So much more creative & confident today. We’re here and we make a difference.

    • Agreed Bonnie! PLUS the number of women commuting for work had risen drastically when I worked across the across the road at Dameons in the late seventies. So I would guess there are even more these days.

  2. The gentlemen’s hat! John Kennedy killed that craze by never wearing a hat…maybe a top hat when he HAD to, but not for daily wear.

    • Nancy Hunter

      Dark humor?

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

      It’s ironic. JFK is credited (maybe the right word would be debited) for killing the economy of Danbury – The Hat City, which still calls its HS sports teams The Hatters. But in his younger days as a PT boat skipper, JFK had a huge collection of caps and wore them all. This month is the 100th anniversary of his birth. The only commemoration that I’ve heard about is at the JFK Library and Museum.

  3. Arline Gertzoff

    production company paid my late father
    50$ for the right to use a blurry view of his smokestack on the Wilton Road

  4. I think there’s one scene in the movie where Jennifer Jones is driving from train station and you can see Bridge Street out of the rear window too.

  5. Peter Gambaccini

    The last scene is on Main Street, of course.
    There was so much talk in the movie about the value of Peck’s work and his ability to do his job. The salaries being discussed for fairly coveted white collar jobs were in the $8,000 and $9,000 range. Even for the mid-1950s, that doesn’t sound like much for a guy with a house and a family who needed to commute in a nice suit every day,

  6. I love the suits and hats the men are wearing. Very classy looking, also cool brief cases. I still have my Dad’s leather briefcase 🙂

    • In those days even if you worked in the mail room you wore a proper three piece suit and changed into coveralls or put on an apron once you got to work. There was a greater sense of decorum then.

  7. Robert Mitchell

    But the world was changing, Not all the gentlemen are wearing fedoras.

  8. John F. (J-period) Wandres

    Not visible, of course, but the legendary Bar Car is no more. When I got my driving license in 1952 (and before got my own car) I pointed out to my father that I would be able to drop him off at the station in the morning and pick him up that evening when the 5:31 pulled in. It was quite a scene, then, with wives helping the “executive” down the several steps from the train to the platform because he was too drunk to make it on his own. The modern railcars now open up at platform level. More than once my father would NOT be on the 5:31 . . or the 6:11. By the time I got back home my mom had received a call that he had slept through his stop and was waiting for me in Fairfield or Bridgeport.
    I wonder if the ticket takers still rent the use of a Bridge Board — a device like a table top that four commuters, two each sitting facing each other — held on their laps, so they could play bridge or poker on the way home.

  9. John F. (J-period) Wandres

    Oh — and one more thing: How many commuters actually drive to the station in their “Station Wagon”?

  10. Michael Brennecke

    I’ve watched that movie many times. I always enjoy the driving scenes from the station, up Bridge street and turning onto South Compo, before I-95 was built and seeing the houses that are gone now in it’s wake.

    It’s a good movie.

  11. Matt Murray

    I started “commuting” in the sixties in the cars in the pictures. Those that know me, know the math doesn’t work. The explanation: My parents separated in the early sixties. My mom would put me on the 4:00 train to the city. My dad would meet me at the end of the platform and we’d take the subway shuttle to the “7” train on the IRT. We’d get off at Bleecker or Christopher and head to his place on Morton Street. I’d always ride in the front to watch where the subway was going. Later we’d go to “John’s pizza” on Bleecker and grab a pint of exotic “Hagen Das” ice cream at the corner deli/bodega. Sunday night the reverse would happen and I’d be out in the “burbs” again.

    The elevated platforms weren’t installed until 1974 or 1975. They were to accommodate the “new” M2 cars. I was doing real commuting in 1974. I remember they would install the platforms on top of the platforms. Having the platforms saved a lot of time at each stop since the conductors didn’t have to open up the stairs so people could get on and off. With those old cars (as pictured) we would step off the cars as they were still moving so we could be the first out of the lot. I had an “Sears Allstate”/Vespa scooter at the time and zipped right along. Once the M2 cars came into use, you couldn’t jump off early anymore.

    I do remember scrambling to catch the 5:20, which had the private car at the end (worthy of a separate story/post Dan?). I was running and jumped on the back platform of that special car. Once on, I went through the car, I and the members of the car, knew I wasn’t supposed to be there and I walked through as quickly has possible. Mind you I had long hair and was a teen and these were bankers in suits. In the same vein I remember running at full speed trying to get on the 6:07. As I am running I’m asking (pleading) with the conductor to open the door (it was a dutch style and the top was already open). He finally acquiesced and let me on as I could see I was coming to the end of the platform.