Manhattan | 1979
Woody Allen’s impeccably stylish monochrome hymn to New York kicks off with a montage of the city’s iconic images. I know – ‘Iconic’ is one of the most over-used words in film criticism, and I'm probably more guilty of its abuse than anyone. But, in my defence, tracking down ‘iconic’ images is my quest. And Manhattan has more than its share – so it's not surprising that it shares locations with lots of other films.
The New York landmarks featured in the prologue include the thirties-style, stainless steel Empire Diner, 210 Tenth Avenue between West 22nd and West 23rd Streets (featured also in Men In Black II and Igby Goes Down); the Staten Island Ferry; the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; and the Temple of Dendur, an Egyptian complex rebuilt in the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue, illuminated within its purpose-built, glass-walled gallery (also the setting for the opening scene of Roger Michell's Changing Lanes, with Samuel L Jackson and Ben Affleck).
The film is burdened with the line destined to haunt Allen forever (“I’m dating a girl who does homework”) during the opening foursome at the famed restaurant Elaine’s, which for many years stood at 1703 Second Avenue between 88th and 89th Streets on the East Side – the place to see and be seen in rather than eat. After the death of owner Elaine Kaufman in 2010, the NY institution struggled on for a few months but finally closed its doors in 2011. It appears also in Allen's 1993 Manhattan Murder Mystery and his 1998 film Celebrity.
Isaac Davis (Allen) has an inauspicious meeting with neurotic poseur Mary Wilkie (Diane Keaton) at an exhibition in Frank Lloyd Wright’s white spiral Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue at East 89th Street. (where Will Smith encounters his first alien in Men In Black), but begins a guarded flirtation after a second meeting in the Sculpture Gallery of Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), 11 West 53rd Street.
Apart from painting, drawing and sculpture, the MoMA collection also includes more than 22,000 films and four million film stills – making it the strongest international film collection in the United States. Among the holdings are original negatives of the Biograph and Edison companies, and the world's largest collection of DW Griffith films. The film collection is stored in the Museum's Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Center, a state-of-the-art facility opened in 1996
It’s afterwards that the pair famously watch dawn breaking from a bench on Riverview Terrace on Sutton Square, beneath the Queensboro Bridge. The stunning image inspires the movie’s famous poster, but there’s no bench here and the view is now disfigured by a series of bollards (there’s a tiny park just below, which obviously inspired the scene, but the famous view is from the street itself).
After throwing in his TV job, Isaac kvetches to Yale (Michael Murphy) in Rizzoli’s Bookstore, when it stood at 31 West 57th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues (also where Robert De Niro met Meryl Streep in the 1984 romance Falling in Love). The bookstore moved to the St James Building, 1133 Broadway, in 2014 and the 57th Street store has been demolished.
Mary and Yale meet furtively at the perfume counter of shoppers' heaven, Bloomingdale’s, 1000 3rd Avenue at 59th Street between Lexington Avenue and Third Avenue, while Isaac collects his kid from ex-wife Jill (Meryl Streep) for a meal and some guy stuff, at the Russian Tea Room, 150 West 57th Street alongside Carnegie Hall, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, the showbiz hangout seen also in 1982's Tootsie, with Dustin Hoffman.
An electrical storm in Central Park causes an increasingly friendly Isaac and Mary to duck into the Hayden Planetarium, part of the American Museum of Natural History at Central Park West on 81st Street (the complex in which Tobey Maguire attends the charity bash in Spider-Man 2).
Tracy’s school is the progressive Dalton School, 61 East 91st Street on the Upper East Side.
The pizza place, where she tells Isaac she’s off to London, is John’s of Bleecker Street, 278 Bleecker Street at Morton Street and Seventh Avenue in Greenwich Village. It’s small and usually packed, unsurprising since it was recommended by the director as the best pizza in New York – and who's going to argue with that? John’s was founded in 1929 by Italian immigrant John Sasso on Sullivan Street, but after losing his lease, he dismantled the original coal fired brick oven and moved it to the Bleecker Street premises.
Enjoy the old-school ambiance, original wooden booths sentimentally etched by our loyal customers, the black and white art deco floors worn by time, turn of the century tin ceilings and faded murals tell tale of a bygone era.
Isaac plays squash with Yale at the Uptown Racquet Club, Park Avenue between 52nd and 53rd Streets, visits the Whitney Museum of American Art, when it occupied the Breuer Building, 945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street, with Mary Wilkie, and watches art movies with her at the now gone Cinema Studio, which stood at 1966 Broadway.
Still there, though, is speciality delicatessen Zabar’s, 2245 Broadway at West 80th Street, where the couple gaze at the gourmet delights on display. Zabar’s is still going strong – see it again in Nora Ephron’s West Side romance You’ve Got Mail.
There’s a quick break away from Manhattan. It’s on an outing to the Palisades at Englewood Cliffs, across the Hudson River in New Jersey, that Isaac gets to see Jill’s published account of their marital break-up.