When Rudolph Valentino filmed The Sheik in 1921 and smoldered from behind kohl-lined eyes, the real action took place not from Arabia or the beaches of California. The landmark silent film was actually made on a Montauk, New York beach at the easternmost tip of Long Island.
Long Island, New York, the New York City borough of Queens and other cities on the East Coast dominated the early film industry. Before the film industry migrated to the West Coast to evade Thomas Edison’s film and projector monopoly, the Motion Picture Patents Company, hundreds of silent movies were filmed in the New York area.
(Filming in in California made it easier for unlicensed movie industry renegades to escape to Mexico and evade compliance officers. And California has the benefit of beautiful weather year round, of course.)
Decades after the Motion Picture Patents Company was disbanded as an illegal monopoly in 1915, film production began trickling back to the New York area in a big way.
The Nassau County Film Commission would tell you that Long Island has been the setting for plenty of movies. Here’s a list of just a few well known films that were filmed in part on Long Island, New York:
The Godfather – Guggenheim's former mansion, located at the Sands Point Preserve, was the setting for the famous horse’s head scene. The tollbooth where Sonny Corleone was assassinated was filmed at Mitchell Field, at the site of Nassau Coliseum during the period of its construction.
Goodfellas – In the movie, characters played by Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco relax at the Catalina Beach Club in Atlantic Beach, New York.
Married To the Mob I and II – Concluding the triad of major Long Island mobster movies, the original film and its sequel were filmed in various locations in Nassau County, including East Meadow and a Massapequa supermarket. A mob hit was filmed on a Long Island Rail Road train passing through the East River tunnel.
Meet The Parents I and II – Ben Stiller travels with fiancé to meet his future father-in-law, a retired CIA operative played by Robert DeNiro. Havoc ensues in and around location shots in Greenvale and Port Washington.
North By Northwest – Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint filmed scenes at the Phipps Mansion, now Old Westbury Gardens. Scenes from The Age of Innocence, Love Story, The Manchurian Candidate, Cruel Intentions and Hitch were filmed at the same location.
Citizen Kane – Kane’s mansion was inspired by Heart’s castle in San Simeon, California. Scenes from Citizen Kane were filmed at Oheka Castle in Cold Spring Hills.
Television shows are regularly filmed on Long Island as well. They include Boardwalk Empire, The Good Wife, Royal Pains, 30 Rock and Growing Up Gotti.