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Tuesday April 16th 2024

The Bonfire Of The Vanities | 1990

The Bonfire Of The Vanities film location: Winter Garden, New York
The Bonfire Of The Vanities location: the lionisation of journo Peter Fallow: Winter Garden, New York | Photograph: wikimedia / Sterilgutassistentin

Fatally miscast and drastically cut down, Brian De Palma’s film is left as little more than a trot through the plot of Tom Wolfe’s satirical novel. The whole story of the making of the movie is chronicled with painful detail in Julie Salamon’s fascinating The Devil’s Candy (and what a movie that would make).

The Bonfire Of The Vanities film location: Park Avenue, New York
The Bonfire Of The Vanities film location: the upscale apartment of ‘Master of the Universe’ Sherman McCoy: Park Avenue, New York

‘Master of the Universe’ Sherman McCoy (Tom Hanks) lives at 800 Park Avenue near 75th Street, naturally on Manhattan’s prestigious East Side. You might notice that the house number is changed to ‘816’ in the film, and to complicate the issue further, the lobby scenes were filmed in number 77 Park Avenue, way down south of Midtown.

His workplace is the Bond Trading Room at Merrill-Lynch in Two, World Financial Center, 225 Liberty Street, the tallest of architect Cesar Pelli’s asymmetrical four-tower complex occupying the landfill site at Manhattan’s southern tip, near to the site of the World Trade Centre (in fact, it was substantially damaged by the collapse of the twin towers on 9/11).

Merrill Lynch cooperated with this less-than-sympathetic portrayal of NYC life on condition that their name was not mentioned. Oops.

In one of the more controversial scenes, McCoy and Maria Ruskin (Melanie Griffith) find themselves lost in the Bronx at night. It’s in the High Bridge district on 167th Street, between Sherman and River Avenues north of East Harlem, that they get involved in the fateful hit-and-run accident, under the Third Avenue Bridge where Third Avenue crosses the East River.

McCoy finds himself taken to the austere deco fortress of the Bronx County Courthouse Building, 851 Grand Concourse at the southwest corner of East 161st Street. The local subway station is 161st Street/Yankee Stadium a couple of blocks west, but this is not the one into which Peter Fallow (Bruce Willis) hustles McCoy, which was nothing more than a fake entrance built on the sidewalk to keep the action flowing smoothly.

Rev Bacon (a caricature of Al Sharpton) exploits the case with a demonstration staged for the media at a housing project on 171st Street between Fulton and Third Avenues, just west of Crotona Park in the Bronx.

The Bonfire Of The Vanities film location: Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, 900 Exposition Boulevard, downtown Los Angeles
The Bonfire Of The Vanities location: the post-opera party: Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, 900 Exposition Boulevard, downtown Los Angeles

Out on bail, McCoy attends a post-opera party where guests are harangued by the apocalyptic poet Aubrey Buffing (Andre Gregory). This scene filmed closer to Hollywood, way across on the West Coast, among the stuffed predators in the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, 900 Exposition Boulevard, part of the Exposition Park complex of museums and galleries, downtown Los Angeles.

Back on the East Coast, the courthouse used for McCoy’s – much cut-down – trial scene is over in Queens. It’s the Queens County Courthouse, 88-11 Sutphin Boulevard in the Jamaica district.

The lionisation of Fallow, which opens and closes the movie, is held in the vast 3-story barrel-vaulted glass atrium of the Winter Garden, with its grand semi-circular marble staircase, and sixteen 45-foot palm trees imported from the Mojave Desert.

Part of the same lavish Battery Park City complex housing the Merrill-Lynch offices, the Winter Garden was another structure severely damaged in 2001 – but one of the first to be completely restored and reopened again in September 2002.