HUDSON, N.Y. -- A small river city complete with buses decorated as trolley cars, a renovated Main Street reminiscent of the 1930's and even experienced extras is ready for its role in the movie 'Ironweed' next year.
The film about a bum who comes home begins shooting early next year in Albany and Hudson, about 30 miles south of the capital, and residents have started thinking again about their last fling with stardom 27 years ago.
The city of 8,000 was the setting for some scenes in 'Odds Against Tomorrow,' a little-remembered 1959 film starring Harry Belafonte.
Just about everyone -- young and old -- remembers something about the movie and their city's co-starring role. Some even had bit parts in the film about a bank robbery.
'The city was picked because the bank had a side exit which was crucial to the bank robbery scene in the film,' Norstar Vice President Charles Brewer said about 'Odds.'
Clara Kellner, a long-time city resident, puts its simply: 'If they make it an on-going thing, Hudson will be a little outpost of tinsel town.'
The quaint city emerged as the best Hudson River community between New York City and Saratoga Springs as backdrop for 'Ironweed,' based on William Kennedy's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
The story is set in Kennedy's native Albany in 1938, but the director decided additional settings were needed to supplement Albany scenes, said Leila Boyd of the state Commission on Movies and Television.
Jack Nicholson will star as Francis Phelan, the ex-ballplayer and drunk who returns to his native Albany as a bum who has hit bottom. Meryl Streep will co-star in the film, which will be shot from February until April.
The Nicholson-Streep combination is sure to guarantee a healthy box office when the film is released, although residents seemed less than awed by the prospect of adding a little Hollywood glitter to their lives.
Real estate agent Irving Price, president of the agency helping find locations, said people are eager to help make the film, even if they are restrained in their enthusiam.
'In a small town it takes more than a few bulldozers to move people,' Price said. 'That's why a small town is so nice to live in - and why we're trying to keep it that way.'
The lunch crowd at the Mariner restaurant on Warren Street one recent afternoon took the idea of the movie in stride.
'Everybody's just waiting to see if it's really going to happen,' said Margie Knapp, who works in the business office of The Register-Star. 'People are not sure yet if they'll be here a day or if they're moving in.'
'Ironweed' action will center on the old Marsh's department store, for 90 years the heart of the city's main business street, but abandoned about two years ago. Its empty window cases, high carved ceilings and four floors can be transformed into whatever the production crew has in mind.
City officials and others involved in the production say a combination of historic restoration and proximity to Albany, 30 miles away, were key reasons for Hudson's role in the film. But residents have other ideas.
'The studio saw that the city is filled with wonderfully ordinary and yet unique people,' Brewer said. 'They wanted to bring two of the biggest stars today here because the background would truly be suited to their talents.'
Hudson's only hotel, the St. Charles overlooking Seven Street Park on the city's main square, is ready to welcome construction workers when they arrive in October, and the actors and crew next year.
Gail Arcuri, whose family bought and renovated the hotel in 1983, said they tried to restore the hotel to its 1930s appearance. Arcuri cheerfully shows a visitor the suites, decorated in Colonial blue and beige, Nicholson and Streep might stay in while in town.
Warren Street merchants are not so concerned with the reason the city was picked for the scenes, but they are hoping the hoopla will bring them some extra business.
'We welcome the increased traffic, if people come down to see the action,' said Paul Montana, whose appliance business has been a few doors down from Marsh's for 40 years.
Everyone agrees the rural town with one movie experience under its belt will muster some enthusiasm, once the cameras start rolling.
'One thing's for sure,' banker Brewer said, ''Ironweed' will be the most successful film at the Hudson theater since 'Odds Against Tomorrow.''