Mystery of how 'same' 2 JATC inmate murals
could appear at same time in both mess hall and corridor


Robert De Niro in rousing JATC mess hall scene, one of the still photos in the DVD/video promo. To access the promo, click image.
Perhaps you or someone you know can help clear up a mystery concerning how the "same" two inmate-painted murals could appear at the same time in both the James A. Thomas Center (JATC) corridor and the facility's mess hall during the spring 2002 filming of scenes for the Robert De Niro - Billy Cyrstal movie "Analyze That."

The NYCHS webmaster seeks to contact any current, former or retired NYC Department of Correction staffer, uniformed or civilian, who might have recollections about the use of the inmate-painted corridor murals to decorate the JATC mess hall (that in the movie was represented to be Sing Sing's mess hall).

Here's the background to the mystery.

During an update of our website's directory of files (aka the sitemap page), a group of the site's web pages related to JATC murals underwent review. That included searching the Internet for any additional relevant information which might possibly be added to those files.


The motto on the made-for-move wall erected in the JATC mess hall reads "For a better tomorrow you will have to build a stronger mind today!" Click to access the 2006 NYCHS teaser page about the wall and motto mural.
One of those JATC mural pages posted on our website in 2006 told how the movie company fabricated a wall board to look like a marble tile wall for the mess hall scenes. That was because the jail's real mess hall wall supposedly didn't look like "the real thing." The "more realistic" but fake wall featured a motivational motto (see image left) painted on it.

In searching the Internet to see whether more about the movie's mess hall scenes might be found to enhance what appeared on our web page about it, a promo for DVD and video versions of the film was encountered on the Warner Brothers website. The promo page provided access to a series of about 50 "stills" from the DVD or video. Four of those photos -- #40 through #43 -- appear to have been filmed at JATC.

The NYCHS webmaster, in examining those four photos, thought murals on the mess hall walls in two of them appeared identical to inmate-painted murals that also graced the walls of JATC's long corridor or, if not identical, then copied to look like those two inmate murals.


With inmate-painted mural in background, De Niro appears under attack by another inmate in JATC mess hall scene above, one of the still photos in the DVD/video promo. To access the promo, click image.
One of the two stills includes the two murals in question; the other of the two stills includes only one of the two murals in question. But that still shows that mural almost fully and very clearly. (See image right.)

The mural in that still shows a sandy beach front with tropical trees, white foaming waves surging against a huge rock, and a sunset sky of orange and red.

The movie still image depicts the inmate Mafioso Paul Vitti (De Niro) holding a food tray and arching backwards as another inmate appears to stab him with what in the still appears to be a ice pick-like weapon.

The "inmate" extras in the scene standing in front of the mural appear watching the attack whereas as most of those seated seem unaware of what is taking place, except one or two who appear looking at the action out of the corner of their eyes.

The scene in the actual film on the DVD shows only a corner of the tropical beach mural. The weapon in the hand of Vitti's attacker is shown as flat-bladed knife.


Above is a larger version of the 8th of 35 images in the 2006 NYCHS presentation of inmate-painted murals in corridors of JATC. The mural in the movie scene image immediately preceding on this current page appears to have less of the rock and surf surge on the left than show here above but more trees and sky on the right. The addition and subtraction may have been fabricated to align the "tile work" better. To access the above image's page in the 2006 virtual tour of the corridor's inmate murals, click it.
The NYCHS web page about the mess hall's made-for-movie motivational motto wall was added to our correction history site in 2006 along some other pages about JATC murals. Among them was a series of pages showing inmate-painted murals on the walls of the long JATC corridor connecting to its various cell blocks.

The text for that series of pages -- the JATC inmate murals virtual tour -- explains:

"The James A. Thomas Center, formerly the Rikers Island Penitentiary and the House of Detention for Men, is no longer used for inmate housing.


In the one DVD/video promo movie still that includes the two murals in question, De Niro is shown walking with a food tray moments prior to the ice pick attack scene. On the left in the image is part of the tropical beach mural. In the far background, the mural to the right of center shows white clouds in the blue sky that seem to curve down into a very open "V" or "U" shape pointing below to blue water between hills right and left. To access the promo, click image.
"The cellblocks off the long main corridor are unoccupied.

"The offices off the second floor corridor are used for staff work, interviews, conferences and hearings.

"In March 2006, for a segment of a planned "Jails of NY" show in its Secrets of NY series, NYCTV Original Productions filmed in one of the cell blocks off the long main corridor in the James A. Thomas Center, formerly known as the Rikers Island Penitentiary.

"Kelly Choi is host of the "Jails of New York: Secrets Unlocked" show in the NYCTV Original Productions Secrets of New York series.

"To get to the cell block where Kelly Choi narrated part of the "Jails of NY" show, the NYCTV Original Productions crew and its equipment traveled a portion of the long main corridor of JATC.


Above is a larger version of the 16th of 35 images in the 2006 NYCHS presentation of inmate-painted murals in corridors of JATC. The actual film on the DVD shows the mural in the movie still image immediately preceding on this current page much closer and more detailed than in the still. It appears to have the same white clouds in the blue sky that seem to curve down into a very open "V" or "U" shape pointing below to blue water between hills right and left. To access the above image's page in the 2006 virtual tour of the corridor's inmate murals, click it.
"The corridor appears briefly in the show.

"On a prior visit without their cameras, the producers had scouted the jail as a film location.

"They walked JATC's corridors. NYCHS used the occasion as an opportunity to take a series of digital photos of the inmate-painted murals on the corridors' walls."

The digital pictures taken during that March 2006 photo shoot constitute the NYCHS "virtual tour" of the inmate-painted murals that now no longer grace JATC corridors, their having been subsequently removed as part of the building's renovation and repair.


Anyone know which JATC cell block was used to shoot this scene, one of the still photos in the DVD/video promo? That scene and those in the mess hall come early in the movie, leading into Vitti's "mental breakdown" that sets up the fanastic rationale why authorities conditionally release him into the reluctant custody of his psychotherapist, Ben Sobel (Crystal). To access the promo, click image.
In the opinion of the NYCHS webmaster, the murals seen in the "Analyze That" DVD/video promo stills of mess hall scenes are the same as were on the walls of JATC's long main corridor, or were derived from them But exactly how did the corridor murals get into the movie mess hall scenes?

Their being removed from the corridor walls, placed on the mess hall wall for the 2002 movie scenes, and then restored to their places on the corridor walls can been ruled out, given the age of the paintings and their deterioration through the decades.

As the virtual tour of the corridor murals shows, several were severely peeling, a fact that probably contributed to the later removal of most, if not all those murals.


Scene from the Rikers segment of Jails of New York in the NYCTV Original Productions "Secrets of NY" series shows Correction Officer Joseph McGough (since retired) leading the way down the James A. Thomas Center main corridor. Note inmate painted mural on left wall. It is #4 in our web site's virtual tour presentation "Rikers Penitentiary/ HDM/ JATC murals painted by inmates." This and the other views from the Jails of New York show in the "Secrets of NY" series are presented through courtesy of NYCTV Original Productions that retains and reserves all rights.
A more plausible theory would involve the movie company photographing the tiled corridor wall with the mural and using that image to fabricate a board to erect in the JATC mess mall to look more like what the movie makers considered an inmate mess hall tiled wall should look like. A variation of this theory has a photo of the corridor wall mural used as a template or model with which a similar scene is painted for the fabricated "tile wall" board.

However, that's just a conjecture. So, if anyone has information to confirm or correct the theory or its variation, let us know. Also, any information on approximately when the corridor murals were removed and any other related particulars would help fill gaps in their history.

E-mail answers to NYCHS@NYC.RR.COM

--- To Anton Refregier's WPA mural Home & Family.
---
To Rikers Pen/HDM/JATC inmate murals.
--- To Harold Lehman's Rikers Penitentiary mess hall WPA mural.
--- To Ben Shahn's NY -- Rikers Mural: NYCHS Excerpts.
--- To scenes from Jails of New York in the NYCTV Original Productions "Secrets of NY."
--- To JATC mess hall's 'tile wall' with motto mural painted for a movie.
--- To NYC DOC History Menu.
--- To NYCHS home page.