poppy on set.

The following photos were seized from boxes hidden in the basement of 33 Center Street, where my mom and aunt Kelly and uncle John grew up, and where John and his family now live.  Since I was a kid, I’ve heard hundreds of stories from behind the scenes of the films that my grandfather worked on — the time my mom flew to Bimini to visit him on set, landing in the water in a 2 seater plane, scared shitless.  Stories about Dustin Hoffman’s antics on set of Tootsie – how he would stay in drag and go out for beers with the crew, grabbing guys asses while walking around some dive in Manhattan in heels and a full-face of make-up.  The family in Prague that would invite Poppy’s crew over for dinner in their one-room apartment — using a stool as the base of a dinner table and the back of a framed painting as the top.  There are too many to remember, but these photos help.  One of these days I’ll organize all of them, but for now here are some of my favorites.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
my grandfather - james halligan aka poppy - swinging on a crane over the east river, during the filming of god knows what.  circa 1970s.

My grandfather, James Halligan, swinging on a crane over the East River

during the filming of Legal Eagles with Robert Redford.

circa 1985.

poppy_crew1There’s Poppy, in the middle of the back row, with his crew.

I see another Halligan a couple of guys to the right, wearing a light green shirt.  Paul?

poppy_crew2I love this photo – everyone’s looking towards the boss, and I’m sure he’s cracking a joke.

I used to have a third photo to this sequence – where everyone’s mouth is wide open and laughing.

poppy_walkietalkieI love the lines and angles in this photo – everything from the beams and wires, to the buildings, to poppy’s flannel.

And that’s one hell of a wireless device.

uncleharold_bridgeOne of my favorite photos of ALL time.

My great uncle, Harold Kelly – my grandmother’s brother – taking a piss off of the Manhattan Bridge.

I can’t remember the exact story – I’ll have to get it from Poppy later.  But I guess my grandfather, uncle Harold, and a couple of other guys were the only ones who would volunteer to climb up the bridge, to set up for a shoot during the filming of Wolfen.  They brought a cooler full of beer, of course, and it was only a matter of time before Poppy smelled some pot and looked over to see Harold and a couple of other guys on his crew smoking a joint inside of the metal spheres on top of the bridge.  I wish I could write it like he tells it.



A couple of photos that my grandfather snapped in Prague, where he was the best boy on the crew of Amadeus.

The next batch of photos are from a scene in Legal Eagles, during which Robert Redford and the leading lady are locked in a warehouse that is about to explode.  The crew actually built the structure, wired it with explosives, and shut down all traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge and BQE for a half hour while they shot this scene.

I wish I could find the photos that were taken of the surrounding buildings, after the explosion had occured.  You can see that half of the windows are blown out, and there is debris falling all over the place.  Pretty radical.

legaleagles1the crew shooting from atop a building in Brooklyn.




In the forefront of this photo you can see a silhouette of the vehicle (no idea what it’s called, but it’s one of those things people use to lift and move heavy boxes) that Robert Redford, or in this case the stunt guy, used to break through the doors of the warehouse as it exploded, then drove straight into the East River.

My grandmother and uncle, Patsy and John Halligan, were on set for this and I have a copy of a home video that a crew member took that day.  I’ll try to upload it but I’m not making any promises.

Here are some more explosion photos – this time from Woody Allen’s A Midsummer’s Night Sex Comedy, c. 1981.





My grandfather said Woody Allen was really strange (surprise?) — instead of doing a face-to-face screening of the actors, he sat up in a tree on the hill and watched them through a telescope.

Polaroids taken during the location scout:


















That’s all for now.



Filed under the past

7 responses to “poppy on set.

  1. Abbey

    I loved the photos and stories. I’m sure you have millions of these. My husband was a stage hand (live theatre) in NYC. He’s retired now, but I can never get enough of the stories and memories. Thanks for sharing yours and good luck with your blog.

  2. Thanks, Abbey! Many more photos and stories to come.

  3. kim g

    hi sara thats the 59th street bridge i think and that is tommy in red flannel and beard

  4. thomas halligan

    Keep up the awesome work! Maybe you’ll be the one who’ll find out more information on the long dead Halligan’s
    I’m the cousin that found your mom after 10 years of researching our Halligan’s. I found her through out of all things an obituary of your Uncle Harold. I failed to realise at that time that he passed no more than 3 months prior to me contacting your Aunt Carol. At least Carol was kind enough to refer me to your mom.
    Don’t put off anything when to comes to memories and family. Time never slows.
    I took a genealogy road trip about two years ago and met your poppy, I couldn’t BELIEVE how much at an old age how he resembles my Grandfather and your Great Great Grand Uncle Patrick. When he was younger there really is no resemblance. The picture of your poppys dad is incredible, he looks like my dad
    I scanned the picture of him and Farrah Fawcett
    One day I will do my best to meet your mom and the NJ family then maybe we can all go to Ireland and raise Halligan hell.
    Sorry to drag on here, but I’m just happy to see the pride you have in your family

    Take Care Cousin
    Tom Halligan

  5. Hey there,
    Great post! I still Love “Legal Eagles” after more than 25 years (I caught it during it’s original theatrical run, even) and the warehouse sequence is still as impressive as it was then. Great bit!

  6. Pingback: Wolfen (1981) – NYC in Film

  7. Stewart Buck

    Dear Sara,

    I am looking to reach out to you in respect of your relatives’ work on the picture WOLFEN. I am currently producing a documentary called UNCOVERING WOLFEN and would be interested in speaking with you.



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