We all know Buffalo is a beautiful setting, and many film directors have thought the same thing.
They’ve found that the city and citizens of Buffalo were welcoming to film crews and made them feel at home. Not to mention that it’s far less expensive to film in Buffalo than in New York.
One of the best-known productions associated with Buffalo was The Natural, a 1984 film adaptation of the novel by Bernard Malamud. The film, directed by Barry Levinson, follows the ups and downs of lead character Roy Hobbs’ life and baseball career. Robert Redford played Hobbs, and the cast also included Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, Barbara Hershey, Joe Don Baker, Darren McGavin and Michael Madsen.
According to Forgotten Buffalo, the movie’s production team had been looking for a location for the baseball scenes for some time before filming began in the summer of 1983. The producers scouted more than 50 stadiums before choosing Buffalo’s War Memorial Stadium as the setting for most of the baseball scenes. The stadium was built in 1937 and was perfect for the period in which the movie was set.
Legend has it that one member of the production team was told that the stadium had been torn down, but found out while checking out a stadium in Louisville, Ky., that it was still standing. The producers contacted the Buffalo Bisons, the minor league baseball team that played at War Memorial at the time. When the producers arrived at the stadium, they found it was exactly like their vision for the movie’s baseball field.
One key scene was set in Buffalo’s All-High Stadium, which stood in for Chicago’s Wrigley Field. All-High Stadium, which has been substantially remodeled since the film, is the home of Buffalo’s National Premier Soccer League team FC Buffalo and is used by other local soccer and lacrosse teams.
War Memorial Stadium was demolished a few years after the film was released, and the movie serves as a loving memorial for longtime Buffalonians. Since 1988, Bisons games have been played at Coca-Cola Field.
Another Buffalo setting in the film was the Buffalo Central Terminal, used to represent the Chicago train station. Redford depicts Hobbs’ arrival in Chicago by walking through the terminal’s main concourse.
The Central Terminal was an Art Deco masterpiece that was considered the epitome of elegance when it opened in 1929. It had the capacity to serve more than 200 trains and 10,000 passengers per day. The station was a busy transportation hub until after World War II, when rail traffic began to decline in favor of motor vehicle and air travel. But rail service continued under the auspices of the Penn Central Railroad and later Amtrak until 1979, when the last passenger train departed from the terminal.