Posted by Ted Sheppard on August 19, 2010 at 3:40 PM.
When the Niagara Arch Bridge was constructed in the early 1960s, it was the world’s longest fixed arch span, an engineering marvel. During its construction period it was replete with side issues that had nothing to do with engineering or construction.
How, or if, General Motors got permission to film a commercial for their new edition Chevrolet, I don’t know. The film crew showed up in force. The key element of their filming was a jet assisted helicopter that was rented from a Parisian firm. With the aircraft came a pilot and photographer, Henri and Pierre, really, and they were the stars of the show.
We had not finished the paving of the bridge deck. The asphalt in-fill between concrete haunches at each floor beam had not been placed. The beautiful white Chevrolet sedan would actually bump across the bridge. The car had the typical American family in it, man and woman in the front seats, and a boy and girl in back.
Henri and Pierre ate this up. They flew over the bridge, under the arch, getting low shots and then high shots. There was so much background, the arch, the river, the gorge, and they were trying to get the very best shot locations. After two trial runs, Henri and Pierre signaled that they were ready for the real take. I had seen enough and went back to the office trailer.
Shortly thereafter one of our ironworkers appeared in the trailer doorway asking to be laid off. I told him that we were going to finish on Friday, and I needed everyone to stay until then. He then told me that he didn’t want to be on our payroll when he hit “that guy.” I was young and much sharper then, so I immediately knew that something had gone wrong with the commercial.
The head inspector on the Canadian side of the bridge was “the meanest man in town.” No one had told him about this filming. As the white Chevrolet started across the bridge, he commandeered a bright orange pickup truck and chased it across. When he caught up with the car, he got out and went to the passenger side of the car and yelled some very rude words at the driver. At this point our ironworker said to the woman, “Say the word, lady, and I will let him have it.” She didn’t say a word, and that is when he decided to try to get laid off.
By this time the film crew decided it was safer for everyone if they called off the shoot. Poor Henri and Pierre; they had worked so hard and had had so much fun. The commercial was supposed to have run on Bonanza and The Dinah Shore Show. I watched those shows, but I never saw the white Chevrolet being chased across the bridge by an orange pickup truck. I guess they had no sense of humor.
For another post about this project, see Thunder in the Gorge.
To read about the new look Chevy unveiled in 1963, click here.
For background on the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge from Wikipedia, click here.