Synopsis by Eleanor Mannikka
The subject of this documentary is Hell's Kitchen - a neighborhood between Ninth Avenue and the Hudson River in Manhattan near Broadway's mid-town theater and music districts - and home to husband and wife directors Reed and Maren Erskine. The notoriety of Hell's Kitchen extends back toward the beginning of the 20th century when immigrants settled there in large numbers, and gangland activities slowly began to give the area a bad reputation. At the same time, countless vaudevillians, actors, actresses, and musicians - including Jackie Gleason (whose family lived here) stayed in Hell's Kitchen while they auditioned for Broadway shows, waiting for their big break. Today, the community is trying to get rid of the drug culture and prostitution that plague it, while at the same time promoting its legit theater district along 42nd St. Local gatherings bring together the elderly actors who remember how it used to be, and their reminiscences, as well as newreels and still photos provide the basis for this documentary. Using these sources, Hell's Kitchen Chronicle illustrates how the area is about to be bulldozed under to make room for profitable apartment complexes and office buildings - leaving the old bodegas, delis, and other local shops to memory. Anyone interested in changing societies and the preservation of the past would enjoy this film on a rapidly vanishing piece of American history.