Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Forgotten (or Overlooked) Film Tuesday: 12 Favorite Movies Set in New York City

Yet again it is the anniversary of that bleak day, September 11, 2001. I thought I'd try something a little different for Forgotten Film (or other Audio/Visuals) Day, the weekly meme hosted by Todd Mason at his blog, Sweet Freedom. 

Don't forget to check in and see what forgotten films or other audio/visuals, other bloggers are talking about today. We're eccentric and eclectic. Can't ask for much more than that.

Here's my entry for this week: 
New York In the Movies

Twelve Films set in NYC (real or imagined) which will make you smile and remind you of what a wonderful place the city is, then, now and forever.

Not in any specific order, just listed as they occurred to me:

1) MOONSTRUCK (1987) Directed by Norman Jewison and starring Cher, Nicholas Cage and a sterling cast of terrific actors including a scrabbling pack of assorted fuzzy dogs and a feisty old Italian actor named Feodor Chaliapin who gets the second best line in the movie: "I'm confused." Romance, comedy, Lincoln Center, Brooklyn and Italian food. What could be better?

2) ARSENIC AND OLD LACE (1944) Directed by Frank Capra and starring Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, Raymond Massey and Peter Lorre. From its memorable opening sequence at Ebbet's Field - home of the Brooklyn Dodgers - to the cozy house (situated next to a grave yard within viewing distance of the Brooklyn Bridge) of two adorable old ladies who have been sequentially getting rid of lonely old men who happen to stop by for a glass of home-made elderberry wine, this movie is a total loony delight. It doesn't hurt that most everyone in the story is nuts and that it all takes place on Halloween. And to top it all off, Edward Everett Horton and Jack Carson stop by.

3) THE WORLD OF HENRY ORIENT (1964) Directed by George Roy Hill and starring Peter Sellers, Tippy Walker, Merrie Spaeth and Angela Lansbury. Two coltish school girls indulge their adolescent (and very inconvenient) adoration of womanizing pianist, Peter Sellers, by spying on him and putting a damper on his love-life. The only film I can remember which shows girls coming of age in a play-land which happens to be the city of New York. Delightful.

4) HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (1986) Directed by Woody Allen and starring Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey, Dianne Wiest, Michael Caine and Woody Allen. (I'm not the world's biggest Woody Allen fan but I find myself including two of his films on this list. Go figure.) Between one boisterous Thanksgiving and the next, romantic complications occur in one Manhattan family. The thing I like most about this film is that it shows what living in NYC actually looks and feels like - more or less.

5) ON THE TOWN (1949) Directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, starring Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Jules Munshin, Ann Miller, Betty Garrett and Vera-Ellen, including a small part by the wonderful, rubbery-faced Alice Pearce who steals the movie. Three sailors on leave in NYC have only 24 hours to see everything and, of course, meet some girls and fall in love. Great dancing and Betty Garrett as a cab-driver. Terrific. "New York, New York's a wonderful town. The Bronx is up and the Battery's down, and people ride in a hole in the ground.....!"

6) THE THIN MAN (1934) Directed by W.S. Van Dyke and starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as the always effervescent Nick and Nora Charles. Ex-detective (or so he keeps telling everyone) Nick Charles has married a rich wife - the oh-so-sophisticated, delightful and indulgent, Nora - so he no longer needs to work. But murders will keep happening and beautiful young girls will keep asking Nick to get involved - in between cocktails. A delightful murder mystery that takes place in a make-believe tinsel-town New York over Christmas.

7) BIG (1988) Directed by Penny Marshall and starring Tom Hanks. Robert Loggia is perfection as the likable head of a NYC toy company. He practically steals the movie from Hanks. Remember the piano keys scene in F.A.O Schwartz? My favorite scene, however, is the staff meeting in which Hanks (an adolescent boy in a grown man's body - literally) comes to the attention of the boss and aces out the other staffers. John Heard is hilarious as one of the aced-out staffers.

8) SEARCHING FOR BOBBY FISHER (1993) Directed by Steven Zallian and starring Joe Mantegna, Joan Allen, Ben Kingsley and Max Pomeranc. A film based on real-life chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin's early life which includes some wonderfully atmospheric scenes of chess hustlers in Manhattan's Washington Square Park. One of the hustlers: Laurence Fishburne. Max Pomeranc is absolutely right as the young chess genius who, despite the pressures, must find the right balance between being a prodigy and being just a boy - a terrific performance.

9) TOOTSIE (1982) Directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Dustin Hoffman and Jessica Lange. A New York 'method' actor who has a rep for being difficult to work with, impersonates a woman and, improbably, gets a leading role on a top television soap opera. That's about all you need to know. Hoffman is brilliant and funny and, incredibly, makes for one terrific broad.

10) GUYS AND DOLLS (1955) Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine. Based on the Broadway show with characters created by Damon Runyon and set in a glittery fantasy of New York - shot entirely on a sound stage. Loved the scenes of hoods, gamblers and Times Square low-lifes dancing and singing.

11) THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (2011) Directed by George Nolfi and starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. New York has never looked more beautiful or more mysterious than in this fantasy tale of star-crossed lovers. A fabulous film in which suspension of disbelief is paramount. Matt Damon can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned. Emily Blunt isn't bad either. But New York almost steals the show.

12) MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY (1993) Directed by Woody Allen and starring Woody Allen and Diane Keaton as a married couple who are too curious about the death of a neighbor When the nice elderly lady upstairs dies suddenly, New Yorkers Larry and Carol Lipton decide (well, Carol decides, much to Larry's consternation) that the husband is a killer. Not hilarious fun, but funny enough and the ambiance of living in NYC is perfection. (Thanks Dorian, for convincing me to take another look at this film.)

Obviously there are many MANY more movies that have been set in NYC, this is just a brief sampling of some of my favorites. When you think of NYC - what films instantly leap to your mind?

P.S. The poster at the top of the post has clues to the many films made in NYC then and now.


  1. Yvette, for once I'm relieved that I've seen most of the films on your very apt list of films set in NYC. A unique tribute to 9/11. However, SEARCHING FOR BOBBY FISHER pricked me a bit 'cause I hadn't even heard of it. I mean, I'm crazy about chess and though this film isn't about Bobby Fisher, my favourite chess player of all time, Josh Waitzkin might well have gone the Fisher way in terms of success on the global chess arena.

  2. Oh then you absolutely need to see this film, Prashant. It's one of the best. Not very many people have heard of it, so don't feel bad. :)

    If fact, I read that many well known chess players played bit parts in the film including the real Josh Waitzkin. Though I wouldn't know any of them, maybe you might. :)

  3. Great idea Yvette. As you say,m you could easily pick dozens of others but these are all great New York films and I might pick alternates for some of the titles. if it were me, well maybe I would add some romantic pics like Allen's black and white paen to the city, MANHATTAN, Vincente Minelli's THE CLOCK with Judy Garland never more beautiful and maybe Hitchcock's REAR WINDOW and Billy Wilder's THE APARTMENT. If you want a really, really long list, there is a massive selection at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_films_set_in_New_York_City

  4. I thought about MANHATTAN, Sergio, but the sight of Woody Allen and the Hemingway girl always made me queasy. If there were only a way to edit them out then I'd like the movie better. :)

    I didn't see the list on Wikipedia, these are just personal faves. I like your choices too - except the above named.

    But I'll go take a look anyway, just to see what faves I forgot. Thanks.

  5. So many good ones! I would add AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER.

  6. That's a good one too, Bev. Even if a great deal of it takes place on an ocean liner.

  7. The Butcher's Wife is what I first thought of--it's a romantic comedy starring Jeff Daniels and Demi Moore. Circa early '90s (?).

  8. What a wonderful tribute to such a dynamic city.

    I love many of the films on your list, but I would add Manhattan Melodrama and Miracle on 34th Street.

  9. Surprised none of my favourites were here Yvette, but I suppose there are so many films to choose from. 'Crossing Delancy', 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn', and 'You've Got Mail' would be others on my list, but I'm sure I will think of more once I ve posted this!

  10. That's a film I missed, Tasha. I'll take a look on Netflix. There are so many really good NYC-based films. It's definitely hard to narrow it all down.

  11. Thanks, Ryan, how could I forget MIRACLE ON 34th STREET? Well, I just did. That's what happens when your list is not a researched one. But it's a list made from the heart.

    That counts. :)

  12. That's the problem, Michelle Ann, there are SO MANY terrific NYC films - and I'm just concentrating on the feel-good movies.

    I'm not crazy about YOU'VE GOT MAIL because of the ending, but agree that it shows off NYC nicely.

    And I did love Tom and Meg together way back when.

    That's the fun of these sorts of lists, everyone is welcome to mention their own faves and maybe pick-up a tip about some film or other they might have missed.

    I'll bet there are hundreds of films based in NYC, including the dramas, etc.

  13. Yvette, I absolutely adore your 12 days of Christmas, er, cool NYC movies, which always kinda make me feel like Christmas is around the corner somehow! :-) You nailed a great many of my own favorites, including THE THIN MAN, which also happens to be one of my favorite Christmas movies, just as its sequel AFTER THE THIN MAN is my favorite New Year's movie! :-) HANNAH AND HER SISTERS also resonates with me, partly for personal reasons: years ago, when I was still young enough to live with my mom and stepfather, he launched into a nasty tongue-lashing for no apparent reason (is it any wonder she eventually kicked the jerk out?), and both Mom and I angily stormed out of our Manhattan apartment. Mom and I decided to see HANNAH AND HER SISTERS. It didn't take long for this endearing dramedy to make us happy again; from then on, we dubbed HANNAH.... "The Movie That Saved Christmas"! :-) Speaking of Woody Allen, I'm delighted that you included one of Team B's faves, MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY, on your list; we're happy it grew on you!

  14. Dorian, I didn't even think of the twelve days of Christmas theme. I'm not kidding. But thanks for finding my post's hidden meaning. Ha!

    I mostly love the 'happy' New York movies and this is a nice representation of 'em.

    Though I love the dramas too, just not in the same way.

    I didn't think I'd like HANNAH AND HER SISTERS - but then I saw it and liked it very much, especially the setting.

    'The Movie That Saved Christmas' - I like it.

  15. I like NYC movies that feature parts of the city that are either neglected, unknown or never truly appreciated. MARATHON MAN features some good scenes in the old 70s Central Park Zoo and the running path along the reservoir, but it's not a tourist's (or even a native New Yorker's) love letter to the city by any means.

    I have yet to see a movie that features the beautiful Cloisters on the far upper west side. I always take NYC newcomers there. So many haven't a clue it exists. Anyone know if there is a movie at least partially set there?

  16. John, can't remember a movie that used the Cloisters cinematically. I'm sure there must be one. IT's a great place for a murder.

  17. I sent in a detailed message last night and had to get through the word jumble here several times before it went through. But it looked as if it went through but it's not here.

  18. Kathy, I'm sorry you're having trouble posting. You're the second person who's notified me of this. So I disabled the word verification thing. At least until all the spam starts building up again.

    Then I'll probably use it for awhile and then not. Back and forth. I guess that's the new normal.

  19. Great list Yvette!

    The neighborhood around Moonstruck is absolutely gorgeous!

    So happy to see Arsenic and Old Lace up there too.

    Like you said there are so many films to choose from … I particularly like the films that show us bits of NYC that we are not used to or shows them in a very interesting way. The films that showed the decay and rot in the 1970s have always been of interest to me. Thinking … Taxi Driver and Warrior (1979). The latter being quite surreal IMO.

  20. Yeah, I had input here. I love Broadway Danny Rose, one of Woody Allen's first movies.

    And I liked Hannah and Her Sisters, not the main story, but Woody Allen's story, trying different religions, upsetting his parents, and then thinking he had a brain tumor -- but he was in a doctor's waiting room hearing someone else's diagnosis. He went home thinking he was doomed. (My funny anecdote here is that my then-partner saw that movie and then he thought he had a brain tumor! Hypochondriacs are us! It was hilarious.

    I will write down those I haven't see for years. I did like Moonstruck and The Thin Man, and others. I put Searching for Bobby Fisher on my TBS list.

  21. Iba,I purposely left off any heavy drama or tragedy or grim stuff. I wanted the list to reflect 'happy' times. More or less.

    It's up to you, when the time comes, to do the heavyweight movies - many of them from the 70's - many of which I didn't see. Hey, I lived in NYC in the 70's, I didn't need to be hit over the head with it. Truth be told, it wasn't really as bad as shown in films. I mean, we lived through it. :)

  22. Kathy, I think you will love SEARCHING FOR BOBBY FISHER. It's a little known gem of a movie. Just wonderful.

    I don't think I've ever seen BROADWAY DANNY ROSE, I'm adding it to my ever growing queue.

    I have a bit of the 'hypochondriacs are us' in me too. Ha!


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