FILM 1539: THE FRENCH CONNECTION
TRIVIA: The car crash during the chase sequence, at the intersection of Stillwell Ave. and 86th St., was unplanned and was included because of its realism. The man whose car was hit had just left his house a few blocks from the intersection to go to work and was unaware that a car chase was being filmed. The producers later paid the bill for the repairs to his car.
The early scene where Doyle and Russo chase down a drug dealer with Doyle dressed in a Santa Claus suit is based on a real-life tactic used by Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso. While on stakeouts in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Egan and Grosso discovered drug dealers could easily spot undercover cops, and would often flee the scene before the cops could arrest them. One Christmas, Egan came up with the idea of dressing in a Santa Claus suit, figuring the dealers would never suspect Santa Claus of being a cop. As depicted in the film, Egan walked the neighborhood streets as Santa Claus, singing Christmas carols with local kids. When he saw a deal going down, Egan sang "Jingle Bells" as a signal to his partners to move in and make the arrest. The tactic worked beautifully, and Egan and his partners made dozens of Christmas arrests over several years.
The scene where Doyle and Russo chase down the dealer near the beginning and Gene Hackman shouts out his famous question "Did you ever pick your feet in Poughkeepsie?" is based on actual "good cop/bad cop" interrogations by the real "French Connection" detectives, Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso according to William Friedkin in the DVD commentary. Grosso would gingerly ask a suspect direct questions about his crimes, then Egan would always butt in and yell unusual questions like the Poughkeepsie one. The suspect would get so rattled by Egan's offbeat questioning that he felt more comfortable answering Grosso's, thus, tending to eventually incriminate himself.
According to William Friedkin, the significance of the straw hat being tossed onto the shelf of the rear window in Doyle and Russo's car was that at that time it was a universal signal in New York City that the undercover cops in the car were on duty.
In at least one glimpse of the Manhattan skyline (as the car is being unloaded from the cargo ship), you can see the first of the World Trade Center towers under construction.
According to William Friedkin on his DVD commentary, the scene where Weinstock's chemist tests the heroin's purity uses actual heroin, and not flour or cornstarch or some other commonly used substitute.
Al Copeland named his restaurant chain, Popeye's Mighty Good Fried Chicken, after Popeye Doyle, Gene Hackman's character in the film The French Connection (1971). The chain that grew from the one restaurant became Popeye's Famous Fried Chicken.
William Friedkin credits his decision to direct the movie to a discussion with film director Howard Hawks, whose daughter was living with Friedkin at the time. Friedkin asked Hawks what he thought of his movies, to which Hawks bluntly replied that they were "lousy." Instead Hawks recommended that he "Make a good chase. Make one better than anyone's done."