The Age of Innocence | 1993
Martin Scorsese’s lush filming of Edith Wharton’s novel uses a variety of period locations around New York State to conjure up the pre-high-rise Manhattan of the 1870s, including frat houses, yacht clubs, gravel pits, private homes and clubs, although the ‘New York Academy of Music’, where Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) first claps eyes on his cousin Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer) during a performance of Faust, was actually filmed in Philadelphia.
The impressive red and gilt opera house is the Philadelphia Academy of Music, South Broad Street and Locust Street, home of the Philadelphia Orchestra. An ideal setting, the opulent interior of the building, which dates from 1857, is modelled after La Scala in Milan.
Back in New York, the Beauforts’ house, to which everyone retires for the post-opera ball, can be found bang in the centre of Manhattan. It’s the National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South at Irving Place in the Gramercy district. Previously known as the Tilden House, the Victorian Gothic building was home to Samuel J Tilden, the city Governor who brought about the downfall of the notoriously corrupt ‘Boss’ Tweed, builder of the New York County Courthouse (and played by Jim Broadbent in Scorsese's own Gangs of New York).
In 1874 the house was remodelled by the co-designer of Central Park, Calvert Vaux, while the period redecoration added for the movie so pleased the members that they kept it. If you’re lucky, you may get a peek inside as the club occasionally houses exhibitions.
Be aware, there’s a surprisingly strict dress code: no Spandex or Lycra (fair enough), no T-shirts or tank tops, no stirrup pants or capri pants, and ‘no denim of any type or in any color’. So there.
But don't be fooled by John McTiernan's 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo. The scene supposedly set in the 'Arts Club' was filmed in Manhattanville College, Purchase, while the exterior is the 1850 Italianate mansion which houses Bayard’s, 1 Hanover Square, in between Pearl and Stone Streets in the Financial District.
The city of Troy, on the Hudson River’s east bank across from Albany, upstate New York, stood in for 19th century ‘Manhattan’. Once a thriving business centre to rival Manhattan itself, the town failed to achieve the same success and, fortunately for the film-makers, missed out on the high-rise redevelopment. '23rd Street' exteriors were filmed here, while River Street, downtown Troy, stands in for turn-of-the-century 'Wall Street'. Mrs Mingott’s pooch-filled salon in ‘a wilderness near Central Park’ is the Phi Kappa Phi Fraternity House, 49 Second Street, of Troy’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy is in Rensselaer County).
The house of Newland Archer's parents is the Federal Gale House, First Street, a Hall of Residence of another of Troy’s three colleges, the Russell Sage College. The law office is the Rice Building at First and River Streets. Washington Park stands in for Manhattan’s 'Gramercy Park'. Troy has a visitor information center, the RiverSpark Visitor Center, which you’ll find at 251 River Street.
The stretch of River Street south of the centre was period dressed for the movie and, although most of the stores are empty, the set decoration has been kept.
Surprisingly, it's up in the Bronx that you'll find the delicate white aviary in which Archer walks with May Welland (Winona Ryder). The Enid A Haupt Conservatory of New York Botanical Garden, 200th Street at Bronx Boulevard in Bronx Park might look familiar to Londoners, since its design is based on Kew Gardens’ Great Palm House.
Other US locations in the New York area included the ‘Boston’ park where Archer casually bumps into Ellen (which is in Brooklyn) and the formal garden in ‘Florida’, where he tries to gee-up the marriage plans (actually Long Island).
The tiny square, in which Archer is left forlornly looking up to the window of Mme Olenska, is rue de Furstenberg, off rue de l’Abbaye, in St-Germaine-des-Prés.