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Wednesday August 15th 2018

The First Wives Club| 1996

The First Wives Club filming location: Bond Street, New York
The First Wives Club location: the crisis centre: Bond Street, New York

After years of servicing their husbands' careers, three aggrieved wives, are been dumped for trophy models and set out for revenge in Hugh Wilson’s surprise hit which is set, and filmed, in New York.

The opening prologue with four optimistic students pledging lifelong friendship as they graduate from ‘Middleburg College’ in 1969 uses the backdrop of Brooklyn College, 2900 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn.

Years pass and despite a luxury lifestyle real life has caught up with one of their number, Cynthia (Stockard Channing), who decides to take a dive from the terrace of her Park Avenue penthouse.

It’s Cynthia’s funeral that brings together Elise (Goldie Hawn), Brenda (Bette Midler) and Annie (Diane Keaton) for the first time in years. It’s held in Campbell’s Funeral Parlor, 1076 Madison Avenue at 81st Street, a celebrity departure point, which is also featured – for a musical number, no less – in Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You.

Copious amounts of alcohol at the post-funeral get-together unleash years of resentment – apart from the chirpily booze-free Annie who’s clearly deeply in denial.

The First Wives Club filming location: Cafe des Artistes, West 67th Street, New York
The First Wives Club location: the wives get together: The Leopard des Artistes, West 67th Street, New York

The liquid lunch is held at The Leopard at des Artistes (formerly, and better known as, the Cafe des Artistes), 1 West 67th Street at Central Park West and Columbus Avenue on the West Side. The cafe was previously seen in Woody Allen's, Manhattan Murder Mystery and it's the location – supposedly – for Louis Malle’s My Dinner With Andre.

Beginning to wake up, Brenda mournfully eyes the slimline frocks on display in the windows of Barneys Store, 660 Madison Avenue at East 61st Street (although the store interior where she confronts husband Morty (Dan Hedaya) and her slim young replacement Shelly (Sarah Jessica Parker) is the store’s downtown branch at 101 7th Avenue.

It’s in the King Cole Bar of The St Regis Hotel, 2 East 55th Street at 5th Avenue, that Hollywood actress Elise drowns her sorrows after learning she’s not expected to play the lead on a new project but the grotesque mother’s role. The bar is also featured in Woody Allen's Radio Days and Hannah And Her Sisters, as well as The Devil Wears Prada.

The film toys playfully with New York ethnic stereotypes when Brenda bumps into shady Sicilian Uncle Carmine (Philip Bosco) at her son’s barmitzvah. He helpfully reveals that Morty’s business has been built on not-entirely-legal foundations.

The synagogue is the decidedly upscale Park Avenue Synagogue, 50 East 87th Street at Madison Avenue.

Banding together, the First Wives are aided in their quest for justice by the much-divorced Gunilla Garson Goldberg (Maggie Smith), now one of Manhattan’s style-setting movers and shakers. Her rather nice home is the 1901 Benjamin N Duke House, 1009 Fifth Avenue at East 82nd Street opposite the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art (its entrance is around the corner on East 82nd Street).

Their powerful ally turns out to be crucial in getting the dirt on Morty as ditzy Shelly is convinced to allow Gunilla’s pretentious interior decorator Duarto (Bronson Pinchot) to spend an hour alone in their apartment “to bond”.

Unfortunately, Morty and Shelly arrive back unexpectedly and the three snoops are forced to make an undignified exit via the window cleaners’ cradle.

Remaining on the swanky East Side, this apartment overlooks the rear of the Met (you can see the huge sloping windows of the Sackler Wing) – it’s 1056 5th Avenue and East 87th Street.

On the East Side too Elise’s apartment, where she keeps the Oscar that supposedly says ‘I beat Meryl’, is 635 Park Avenue, at East 66th Street.

Elise is about to be divorced and wisely impounds all of her husband’s property, selling it for peanuts to Annie, who promptly auctions the whole lot off at Christie's, 20 Rockefeller Plaza 6 and West 49th Street. Gunilla is instrumental in ensuring that every piece is bought at an inflated price by the gullible Shelly.

As all the pieces fall into place, Elise advances her career taking to the stage in Of A Certain Age by Larry Cochran at the Plymouth Theatre, which was renamed in 2005 to become the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 West 45rd Street and 7th Avenue (Gerald Schoenfeld was chairman of the Shubert Organization from 1972 to 2008).

What began as simple revenge turns to positive action when the Club converts its base into the 'Cynthia Swann Griffin Crisis Center for Women' in memory of their lost friend.

There are reconciliations, retribution and loose ends tied up at the opening party for the Centre, 4 Bond Street at Lafayette Street, NoHo.