By Craig Leask
This is the second part to my piece on The Big Apple in The Movies. To read part 1, click here.
Ghostbusters was released in 1984, grossing $238 million in the US and $291 million worldwide. The success of the film launched a media franchise, which included action figures, a 1989 sequel, a 2016 remake and two animated television series (The Real Ghostbusters and Extreme Ghostbusters).
All three Ghostbusters movies were based in New York City and utilized great location shots throughout NYC but, as with most franchises, it is the first of the series which is the superior of the group, so I’ll focus my comments on the original 1984 film.
The opening scene of the film, showing the first of the ghostly apparitions, occurs in the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue, with exterior and ground floor scenes shot on location. The haunted basement stacks where the librarian (Alice Drummond) is in the process of re-shelving books while books and catalogue card files behind her are levitating across the aisle was actually filmed at the Los Angeles Central Library at 5th and Hope Street in downtown Los Angeles.
The fictitious Sedgewick Hotel, where the Ghostbusters team encounter and capture the green “Slimer” apparition while destroying the hotel ballroom in the process, is the Millennium Biltmore Hotel at 506 South Grand Avenue, on Pershing Square also in downtown Los Angeles. The building known as “Spook Central” where musician Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) and accountant Louis Tully (Rick Moranis) had apartments is located at 55 Central Park West, New York. For the film, the studio art department “added” a number of stories to the top of the building through matt painting, including the roof structure with the two “Gozer”, dog-like gargoyles and the temple door access to the underworld. Initially the set designers had selected 1 Fifth Avenue in Greenwich Village as the location for Dana’s apartment, but residents of the building rallied together to halt the production on their doorstep as they didn’t want to live in a building that could develop a reputation as being the doorway to Hell.
The iconic fire hall used as the Ghostbusters base of operations for Dr. Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis), and Winston Zeddmore (Ernie Hudson), is the Hook & Ladder Company #8 located at 14 North Moore Street in in the Tribeca area of New York City. The interiors, however, were filmed at Fire Station #23, a former working fire house at 225 East 5th St. in downtown Los Angeles. The fire station has been used in many productions including: Big Trouble in Little China, Ghostbusters II, Lost Highway, The Mask, National Security, Police Academy 2, and numerous others.
Other filming locations included: Tavern on the Green – Central Park at W. 67th Street (where Louis Tully pounds on the windows before being attacked by Gozer); Columbia University – Broadway & 116th Street (which portrays Weaver Hall’s Department of Parapsychology); and Lincoln Centre, where Dana Barrett meets with Dr. Peter Venkman, following her orchestra rehearsal.
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
When Harry Met Sally, directed by Rob Reiner and written by Nora Ephron, tells the story of two unlikely characters: Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan), who meet after graduation from the University of Chicago in 1982 and decide to share a cross-country drive to New York City. Their journey is followed by 12 years of chance encounters throughout NYC’s local landmarks, based on a central theme of “Can men and women ever just be friends?”. The origins of the film were derived from director Reiner’s own experiences as he returned to single life following his divorce. The collaboration between Ephron and Reiner resulted in the creation of the Harry character, while Ephron based the Sally character on herself and a mixture of some of her friends. The beauty of the film is the following of the friendship/romance between the two leads as it develops over the course of time, while the they explore their newly adopted home of New York City. The film is beautifully supported by a soundtrack of standards performed by Harry Connick Jr. for which he won a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Male Vocal Performance.
After the pair’s departure from Chicago the film is set entirely in New York City, following the two through the next dozen or so years as they start and end relationships with others and slowly develop a friendship and grow closer (Oh, they also sleep together, which complicates things, but … we’re here to talk about Architecture, not sex.)
The film supports the transition from Chicago and the pair’s development by utilizing such iconic locations as: the arch in Washington Square Park; Greenwich Village where Harry is initially dropped off by Sally after their lengthy car ride; The Boathouse Restaurant in the Loeb Boathouse (E 72nd St. and Park Ave.) in Central Park where Sally informs her friend (Carrie Fisher) that she has broken up with boyfriend Joe; The old Giants Stadium (50 Route 120, East Rutherford, demolished in 2010) in New Jersey where Harry unloads his situation to his friend Jess (Bruno Kirby); Shakespeare & Co Booksellers (2259 Broadway at 81st Street) where the newly single Harry and Sally reconnect; the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Temple of Dendur in the Sackler Wing (1000 5th Avenue and East 82nd Street); the Christmas tree the two purchase is at the Plant Shed on West 96th Street at Broadway on the Upper West Side; the blind dates the two set up for each other are at the Cafe Luxembourg, (200 West 70th Street); the wedding of Jess and Marie (Bruno Kirby and Carrie Fisher) and the New Year’s Eve celebration where the two finally get together as a couple is at the Puck Building , 295 Lafayette Street at Houston in the Skylight Ballroom.
I could not write this piece without mentioning the iconic scene where Sally vocally fakes an orgasm at a Deli (Katz’s Delicatessen, 205 East Houston Street at Ludlow Street) to prove to Harry that it can be done. This being followed by the perfect line, “I’ll have what she’s having” delivered by a nearby customer, who also happens to be director Rob Reiner’s mother, Estelle Reiner. The Deli actually has a sign now over the iconic table where this scene took place.
The First Wives Club (1996)
The First Wives Club follows three friends – Brenda Cushman (Bette Midler), Elise Elliot (Goldie Hawn) and Annie Paradis (Diane Keaton) – reunited decades after their graduation from Middleburg College (filmed at Brooklyn College, 2900 Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn.) following the suicide of the fourth in their college group, Cynthia (Stockard Channing). Reconnected following Cynthia’s funeral, the group realize they share a common situation. After years of supporting/developing their husbands’ careers, the three have each been discarded by their spouses and replaced by younger models. Hence the creation of The First Wives Club, Hugh Wilson’s successful direction of Olivia Goldsmith’s 1992 novel of the same name, set and filmed in New York City. As with the other movies included here, The First Wives Club becomes a virtual tour of New York City’s local hot spots. In TFWC, however, the locations in the film portray local haunts frequented by affluent society.
Following Cynthia’s funeral (held at Campbell’s Funeral Parlor at 1076 Madison Avenue), the trio retreat to The Leopard at des Artiste’s (1 West 67th Street at Central Park West) for a liquid lunch. Other local haunts include Barney’s (660 Madison Avenue at East 61st Street) where Brenda confronts her husband Morty (Dan Hedaya) as he is purchasing clothing for Shelly (Sarah Jessica Parker), his new flame;
There is the synagogue (Park Avenue Synagogue, 50 East 87th Street at Madison Avenue) following Brenda’s son’s Bar mitzvah, where the team run into Brenda’s shady Uncle Carmine (Philip Bosco); the King Cole Bar at the St Regis Hotel (2 East 55th Street at 5th Avenue) where Elise drowns her sorrows after learning she’s slotted to play the grotesque mother role in a new theatrical project. There’s the home of the much-divorced Gunilla Garson Goldberg (Maggie Smith) at 1901 Fifth Avenue at East 82nd Street (the Benjamin N. Duke House).
There are numerous other NYC locations in the film including: the residences of the women and their ex-spouses; Brenda’s ex-husband’s apartment (1056 5th Avenue and East 87th Street) where the girls plummet to earth on window washing scaffolding; the Chrysler Building (405 Lexington Avenue and East 42nd Street) where Elise and her lawyer meet with her ex-husband and his Counsel); the Plymouth Theatre where Elise performs in the play Of A Certain Age (renamed in 2005 to the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 West 45rd Street and 7th Avenue); Christie’s (20 Rockefeller Plaza 6 and West 49th Street) where Elise’s husbands possessions are auctioned off to the naïve Shelly; and the ‘Cynthia Swann Griffin Crisis Center for Women’, created by the girls in the TFWC in memory of their lost friend (4 Bond Street at Lafayette Street).
From 1954 through 2018, there have been 32 different Godzilla films produced by Toho in Japan. Additionally, there have been several American productions including Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956), King Kong vs. Godzilla (1963), Godzilla 1985 (1985), and three Hollywood productions: Godzilla (1998), Godzilla (2014), and the upcoming Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) and Godzilla vs Kong, which is scheduled for release in 2020.
I’m focusing on the 1998 version (the 2014 version has the giant reptile doing battle in San Francisco rather than NYC). Prior to ending up in NYC, Godzilla reveals himself in Tahiti, Panama and Jamaica (all filmed on Oahu, Hawaii). Once across the Atlantic, Godzilla arrives at the Fulton Fish Market on South Street on the East River. As if following a tourist map, the giant lizard then seeks out and destroys most of the New York’s iconic landmarks. From tramping the streets of New York while Mayor Ebert (Michael Lerner) is giving a speech in front of Federal Hall on Wall Street to being baited by the Army with a large pile of fish in Madison Square Park, before New York’s Flatiron Building. Spooked, the lizard flees, knocking the top off the Chrysler Building in the process. The army’s next attempt at luring occurs in the Sheep Meadow in Central Park, before being ambushed at Grand Army Plaza in front of the Plaza Hotel.
A great deal of time is then spent in and around Madison Square Garden on 7th Avenue where Godzilla has built a nest and laid what appears to be hundreds of eggs. A chase through the streets of Manhattan following the military’s destruction of the nest (and the Gardens) leads to the Brooklyn Bridge where an entanglement in the bridge’s suspension cables makes a sitting duck of the lizard (as well as the famous bridge).
Although set in NYC and the wide shots and landmarks are obviously the real thing, the film follows the regular practice of filming as many street and chase scenes as possible close to Hollywood, in Los Angeles. For simplicity, a great number of the action was filmed from various angles in one intersection – Broadway and 7th St. in downtown Los Angeles. Filming from different angles has the benefit of appearing as many different locations.
If you are in Los Angeles, check out the Godzilla star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6925 Hollywood Blvd.
Serendipity is a romantic comedy starring John Cusack (Jonathan Trager) and Kate Beckinsale (Sara Thomas). It tells the story of a chance meeting between the two leads at Manhattan’s Bloomingdales department store while Christmas shopping for gloves. Although both partnered to others, there is an instant connection and the two spend the day together, wandering the streets of New York, Central Park and a small café called Serendipity 3 (225 East 60th St.) where the two share the restaurant’s signature Frozen Hot Chocolate. As the two part ways, an obscure method of reconnecting is proposed, and the balance of the movie is spent following the two as they meander around NYC trying to locate one another. Near misses bring the two close to meeting while providing an excellent opportunity to show off the sites of NYC as they retrace steps and follow leads.
Throughout their journey, the pair singularly or together visit: Central Park’s Wollman Skating Rink where they take a romantic skate, and (spoiler alert) also where they reconnect at the end; The 47 story Waldorf-Astoria Hotel at 301 Park Avenue and East 50th St. where Jonathan is to be married; The golfing pavilion at Chelsea Pier 59, 11th Avenue and West 18th St. where the two miss each other by minutes; Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey; the Grand Army Plaza in front of the Plaza Hotel where Jonathan discusses his options with his best man Dean (Jeremy Piven); The Mall in Central Park and numerous street locations throughout Manhattan (West 56th St. at 6th Avenue, Park Avenue at 50th St., Greene Street at Spring Street, East 60th St. at 3rd Avenue, and Waverly Place at West 10th St.
To read my piece on movies filmed in San Francisco, click here.
From as far back as Craig can remember he has been passionate about architecture and the atmosphere that can be created through a well-designed building. In movies, he fulfills this passion by gravitating to films where the production infuses the location into the plot as one of the characters. Be it the long dark shadows of mysteries and haunted house films, to classics of the 40’s and 50’s set in big old houses, grand Italian plazas, or remote villages. It’s the locations Craig is drawn to, so much so that, on occasion, he has even been accused of overlooking plot failures and weak directing, having been so engrossed in the set design and location. What he hopes to accomplish with his writing is to share this passion and encourage others to see for the first time – or revisit – movies where the architecture plays as pivotal a role as a character in the plot.
Great selection of movies. I usually judge a movie by whether I was entertained. It was interesting to connect the movies to points of interest I am familiar