Reel Toronto: 3 Men and a Baby
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Reel Toronto: 3 Men and a Baby

Toronto's extensive work on the silver screen reveals that, while we have the chameleonic ability to look like anywhere from New York City to Moscow, the disguise doesn't always hold up to scrutiny. Reel Toronto revels in digging up and displaying the films that attempt to mask, hide, or—in rare cases—proudly display our city.

Dear readers, there are a few core, dogmatic principles you must accept as premises under which Reel Toronto could not exist. The most important, voiced in our first ever column, is that none of this would be possible without the greatness of one Steven Guttenberg.

Unquestionably, the Police Academy films are at the heart of this theory (which is only a theory in the same sense as the “theory” of evolution or the “theory” of relativity). Equally important is this film. It shouldn’t work. It’s based on a French farce and it was directed by Spock. It stars three decent actors, of whom only Guttenberg could have been described as “box office gold” circa 1987. The film’s most iconic scene involves these gentlemen singing doo-wop to a baby. And yet this sucker absolutely broke the bank when it came out.

Ladies and gentlemen, this was the biggest movie of 1987. It easily out-grossed Fatal Attraction and Beverly Hills Cop II. It made nearly three times what the first Lethal Weapon made and also outpaced the likes of Good Morning Vietnam, Full Metal Jacket, Robocop, and even Dirty Dancing, which came in 11th in the box office race.

Is it a stretch to call 3 Men and a Baby a “classic”? Not for Reel Toronto, folks. It takes place in New York and most of the exterior filming was done there but it’s one of the biggest ’80s films shot here. It’s worth noting that the sequel is inferior in just about every meaningful way, including that it wasn’t shot here. Coincidence?

Firstly, please pardon the video quality. For whatever reason, this movie has not been given the HD remastering it so richly deserves. You won’t see a lot of identifiable Toronto here. Mostly, it’s interiors and most of those interiors were sets, most of which were built in the then-dormant Distillery District (yay!). We’ll come back to the sets at the end, but here’s an exterior you can barely see!

Tom Selleck’s character is an architect, so there are a few visits to this construction site, actually the future Scotia Plaza.

You can kinda see the shape a bit here…

…and in this scene you can see the old Canada Trust logo on a neighbouring tower, before the construction of the current TD Canada Trust Tower and before TD bought Canada Trust.

Ted Danson’s character is an actor working on a play. You can see the interior of the theatre here…

..and you can see a bit better with this exterior shot that it’s the Royal Alex.

Finally, there’s this happy scene where the three titular gentlemen take their daughter for a dip. This swimming pool is actually the one at the John Innes Community Centre.

This might not seem like the sort of movie that would generate an urban legend, but it did. There’s this scene where you can see this silhouette in the back that was allegedly the ghost of a boy who died in the house in which they were filming. But, alas, there was no house—just a set here in Hogtown. And the ghost? It’s just a cardboard cutout of Danson, which you can see in another scene (if watching the background is your kinda thing).

Thanks, Steve. Come back any time!