From paradise to prison, crime filled metropolis and the loneliest place on earth: New York has a cinematic identity that encapsulates all walks of life. From classic to contemporary, the city has always played an iconic role in television and film, with some filmmakers making it a character in and of itself. Let’s take a look at some of the most iconic films to feature New York City's equally iconic Times Square.
This classic remake of the original 1933 features Jessica Lange in her film debut, beating out Meryl Streep and Goldy Hawn for the role, and launching her almost four decade long career, which is still thriving as she stars in Ryan Murphy's American Horror Story in addition to a forthcoming return to the Brodway stage.
The story follows in the same footsteps as the 1933 original, opening on an expedition of oil experts, scientists, and picks up the stunning Dwan from a lifeboat and make their way to an undiscovered island in the Indian Ocean, believed to have a huge deposit of oil. Upon arrival the team meets a primitive tribe, who later drug and capture Dwan in order to sacrifice her to a giant ape, named Kong. Dwan manages to tame the soft-hearted giant, and after escaping, Kong chases her and falls into a pit trap. When Prescott discovers the oil cannot be refined, he decides to take Kong back to New York as a promotional gimmick for his oil company. After seeing Dwan being pushed around by reporters, Kong breaks free of his bondage and pursues Dwan and Prescott, who have escaped to a nearby Manhattan bar. Kong grabs the damsel and climbs to the top of the World Trade Center, where we see the tragic end to the gentle giant’s life.
The film has since seen a sequel as well as a 2005 remake, with one more prequel set to be released in 2017 starring Tom Hiddleston and Michael Keaton. The film franchise is also slated to become an attraction in Universal Studios behind the Jurassic Park themed ride during the summer of 2016.
The Seven Year Itch
The Seven Year Itch follows the story of guy next door, Richard Sherman, employee of Brady and Company, a firm that publishes cheap pocket books. After sending his wife on a vacation to the country, he meets Marilyn Monroe’s character, an attractive actress who moves into the apartment upstairs in the midst of his proofreading a book by a psychologist describing the “ seven year itch” phenomenon. Dreaming of being successful with women, Richard takes his new neighbor out for a drink. He spends the next few days with the femme fatale, but later feels guilty about his temptations and joins his wife Helen and their son Ricky in Maine.
The iconic shot of Marilyn Monroe’s dress blowing up while crossing a subway grate was originally shot on Manhattan’s Lexington Avenue at 52nd Street in 1954, but the scene later had to be re-staged on the 20th Century Fox lot, as there were too many onlookers whistling and cheering during the scene, making the shot unusable and the otherwise ordinary street corner an iconic attraction for film enthusiasts.
Premiering at Radio City Music Hall in 1982, Annie was the first of three film adaptations that would span over the next 35 years. Set during the great depression, Oliver Warbucks decides to let an orphan live in his home to elevate his image. Fiery young Annie is chosen, after being punished on several occasions by the miserable, alcoholic supervisor, Miss Hannigan. Annie grows accustomed to living in Daddy Warbucks’ home, charming his staff, his romantic interest and secretary, Grace, and even Warbucks himself. The family sets out to adopt the child, but Annie still desires to meet her real family, and Oliver facilitates this, offering a $50 thousand reward over radio show to her real parents, who have another half of her locket.
The audition process for the title role spanned over two years, 22 cities, 8,000 interviews and 70 young actresses. Nine young actresses made it to the second round. Among those included Drew Barrymore and Kristin Chenoweth, but newcomer Aileen Quinn stole the show and landed the part. Kristin Chenoweth would later play Lilly St. Regis in the 1999 version of Annie.
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Based on the novella by Truman Capote, we find a young Audrey Hepburn portraying Holly Golightly, a naive, eccentric, Cafe society girl in the 1960’s. Holly is a resident in a semi-furnished Manhattan brownstone, where she meets Paul, a writer who is supported by a woman living in 2E. On a similar playing field, Holly is supported by gentleman escorts with plans of marrying a South American millionaire. In true romantic comedy fashion, the two protagonists end with a happy reunion and poetic justic is served. Centering around Manhattan’s swanky East Side area, Breakfast at Tiffany’s explores the nuances of being a free spirited yet wounded and vulnerable woman taking New York City by storm.
The film differs from the book in many significant ways, as is best described by George Costanza in an episode of Seinfeld. The setting (the 1940’s, not the contemporary 1960’s), Holly’s age (late teens in the novella, early 30’s in the film), her fondness for marijuana, her bisexuality, and the wistful ambiguous ending were all glossed over or changed in the cinematic rendition.
For a movie so closely associated with Manhattan and the Cafe society lifestyle, very little of the film was shot in Manhattan itself. In fact, only 8 days of location shooting occurred, which included the footage in and around Tiffany’s & Co, which opened on a Sunday for the first time in decades to allow for filming.
Based on a DC comics plotline, the classic films opens on planet Krypton, where Jor-El sends his son on a spacecraft to earth, believing that Krypton will soon be destroyed by the sun exploding. Thousands of years later, this spacecraft lands on Earth near Smallville, Kansas. The boy has miraculously only aged 3 years, due to the effects of time dilation and is adopted by Jonathan and Martha Kent, who are astonished at his superhuman abilities. 15 years later, Clark hears a psychic call, discovering a glowing green crystal in the remains of his ship. He is then compelled to go to the Arctic, where he uncovers his origin story. He develops his powers over the next 12 years and, in the process, moves to Metropolis (aka Manhattan) to become a reporter for the Daily Planet, where he crosses paths with love interest, Lois Lane.
New York City doubled for Metropolis, with the New York Daily News Building serving as the location for the offices of the Daily Planet. The film took five weeks to shoot, and intersected with the New York City blackout of 1977.
The film, starring Marlon Brando and Christopher Reeve, led to Brando being the highest paid movie star in the world at the time, making $3.7 million for 12 days of shooting. He later sued producer Ilya Salkind and Warner Brothers for $50 million because he felt he was cheated out of the considerable box office profits. Due to the circumstantial lawsuit, Brando did not appear in later sequels of the film. However, his brief screen time paid off to the tune of $14 million in total.