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Thursday October 22nd 2020

The Royal Tenenbaums | 2001

Royal Tenenbaums location: Convent Avenue, Harlem
The Royal Tenenbaums film location: the Tenenbaum mansion: 339 Convent Avenue, Harlem, New York

Wes Anderson’s story of a decidedly dysfunctional family of over-achievers and their monstrously egocentric patriarch, Royal (Gene Hackman) exists in the strangely off-kilter Manhattan of a parallel universe but uses plenty of real New York locations.

The Tenenbaum house, at ‘111 Archer Avenue’ can be found up in Hamilton Heights – it’s the Charles H Tuttle Mansion, 339 Convent Avenue at 144th Street. Proposed renovations by new owners in 2001 were temporarily put on hold when Anderson rented the 1890 property for six months in order to film both inside and out. It's a private home and has now been restored to its original splendour.

The zebra wallpaper in playwright Margot Tenenbaum’s (Gwyneth Paltrow) room, by the way, is based on the striking patterns at the since-closed restaurant Gino, which stood at 780 Lexington Avenue at East 61st Street (you can see the real thing in Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite).

The Royal Tenenbaums filming location: Tier Street, City Island, Bronx
The Royal Tenenbaums film location: the Tenenbaum's summer house on 'Eagle's island': Tier Street, City Island, Bronx | Photograph: Google Maps

The family’s summer house on ‘Eagle’s Island’ is 21 Tier Street on the west coast of City Island in The Bronx. The turreted house is no stranger to the screen. It was the ‘Connecticut’ home of the Tyrone family in Sidney Lumet’s 1962 film of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night, with Katharine Hepburn and Ralph Richardson.

The Royal Tenenbaums filming location: National Museum of the Native American, Broadway at Bowling Green, Lower Manhattan
The Royal Tenenbaums film location: the young Tenenbaums camp out in the ‘City Public Archives’: National Museum of the Native American - previously the old US Customs House, Broadway at Bowling Green, Lower Manhattan

It's down to Lower Manhattan to find the ‘City Public Archives’ in which, in flashback, the young Tenenbaums camp out.

This is the familiar old Alexander Hamilton US Customs House, 1 Bowling Green at Broadway, now housing the National Museum of the American Indian. Apart from its permanent and temporary exhibitions, the museum hosts a range of public programmes, including music and dance performances, exploring the diversity of the Native people of the Americas.

You’ll have seen it on screen lots of times – as the ‘Ritz Gotham Hotel’ in Batman Forever, the 'NYPD HQ' in The Amazing Spider-Man, the site of the charity bash in Black Swan, the offices of the ‘Trask Company’ in Working Girl, the art museum in Ghostbusters II and as the ‘Social Services department’ in Adam Sandler comedy Big Daddy.

Just a little further south, Mr Pagoda (Kumar Pallana) meets with Royal on the waterfront of Battery Park on Manhattan’s southern tip, to let him know that Henry Herman (Danny Glover) has proposed to his yet-to-be divorced wife Etheline (Anjelica Huston).

The Royal Tenenbaums filming location: Waldorf Astoria, Park Avenue, Manhattan
The Royal Tenenbaums film location: the ‘Lindbergh Palace Hotel’, from which Royal Tenenbaum is finally evicted: Waldorf Astoria, Park Avenue, Manhattan | Photograph: Shutterstock / Tupungato

In this strange version of Manhattan, the address of the ‘Lindbergh Palace Hotel’, from which Royal Tenenbaum is finally evicted for non-payment after a 22-year stay, is ‘2100 North 30th Avenue’.

In fact, it’s the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, 301 Park Avenue, between 49th and 50th Street, seen also in Eddie Murphy comedy Coming To America, Woody Allen’s Hannah And Her Sisters, Scent Of A Woman, Analyze This and, briefly, in Nicolas Roeg’s Bad Timing. The hotel has been closed for major renovations since 2017 and is expected to reopen in 2021.

The Royal Tenenbaums filming location: 16th Street, South Slope, Brooklyn
The Royal Tenenbaums film location: Raleigh St Clair's modest home: 16th Street, South Slope, Brooklyn | Photograph: Google Maps

Margot has moved a little down the social scale after marrying the doggedly docile Raleigh St Clair (Bill Murray), living in a modest little home at 196 16th Street, near 5th Avenue in South Slope, Brooklyn. She’s clearly not happy and moves back to the family’s ‘Archer Avenue’ mansion.

The ‘Cavendish Theatre’, where Margot’s The Levinsons in the Trees runs, for two weeks, is the frontage of the Belasco Theater, 111 West 44th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues, which you might remember from Woody Allen’s (again?) 1994 Bullets Over Broadway.

Pro tennis player Richie Tenenbaum (Luke Wilson) faces his own problems. The disastrous final match which ends his career was filmed on the Centre Court of the West Side Tennis Club, 1 Tennis Place, Forest Hills in Queens. This was also the club used for the tennis match in Alfred Hitchcock's 1951 Strangers On A Train.

After Royal’s feigned terminal illness is rumbled, he moves, with Pagoda, into a room at the ‘375th Street Y’. This is PS 171 Patrick Henry. Although the school’s address is 19 East 103rd Street, the pink deco entrance seen on screen is on 104th Street, between 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue, which looks like it’s spent its whole existence just waiting to appear in a Wes Anderson movie.

Royal pays his respects to his mother at the family’s ‘Plot 190’ at the fictitious ‘Maddox Hill Cemetery’.

This is Trinity Church Cemetery and Mausoleum, 770 Riverside Drive at 153rd Street, overlooking the Hudson River up toward Washington Heights (don’t confuse it with the other Trinity Church Cemetery on Broadway in Lower Manhattan). It’s the last resting place of such assorted luminaries as the John Jacob Astors (four of them in fact, including the one who went down on the Titanic), the ornithologist John James Audobon (The Birds of North America), Estelle Bennett of The Ronettes, former Mayor Ed Koch and actor Jerry Orbach.

Don’t go looking to pay your respects to the heroic ‘Nicholas Lundy’ at that impressively huge column. Nicholas Lundy is the film’s Production Designer.

When Raleigh hires a private detective to report on Margot, the dossier he compiles reveals that Margot escaped from her school at age 14. The ‘school’ is the WB Thompson Mansion, also known as Alder Manor, 1061 North Broadway in the town of Yonkers, about 20 miles north of New York City in Westchester County.

Alder Manor was also the newspaper owner’s estate in 1986 comedy Crocodile Dundee and the mansion where John Nash (Russell Crowe) leaves his top-secret code-breaking results in Ron Howard’s 2001 A Beautiful Mind. It was also seen in Mona Lisa Smile and the enticing-sounding Flesh For The Beast (from Terry M West, the acclaimed director of The Sexy Sixth Sense and Lord Of The G-Strings).

The distraught Richie attempts suicide and is rushed to hospital. Need I add that the medical facility has, yes, a gorgeous deco lobby. This really did used to be a hospital. It was part of the old Jersey City Medical Centre in Jersey City, New Jersey.

The complex closed in 1979 but the beautiful interior of its Paramount Building has been seen in Robert Redford’s 1994 drama Quiz Show, with Ralph Fiennes, and in Stanley Tucci’s 1998 The Impostors.

Not surprisingly, it’s finally been redeveloped as luxury apartments, known as the Beacon, 20 Beacon Way, just west of Downtown Jersey City.

Royal’s attempt to reconcile with adopted daughter Margot, over ice cream in an extravagant gilt restaurant, falls flat when she realizes he doesn’t even know her middle name.

Don’t rush to book a table here. The luxurious eaterie is no more than the landing at the top of the Grand Staircase in Grand Prospect Hall, 263 Prospect Avenue, Park Slope in Brooklyn.

It’s a huge Victorian banquet hall dating from 1892 and it played its own small part in the early days of silent pictures. In 1908, the hall and its gardens became the HQ and makeshift studio of the Crescent Motion Picture Company, though legal action from competitor Thomas Edison soon saw it closed down.

The Hall is also featured in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1984 The Cotton Club and John Huston’s 1985 Prizzi’s Honor, with Jack Nicholson and Kathleen Turner.

The Royal Tenenbaums filming location: Prospect Park West, Park Slope, Brooklyn
The Royal Tenenbaums film location: the home of Henry Herman: Prospect Park West, Park Slope, Brooklyn | Photograph: Google Maps

Trying to make amends, Royal finally delivers divorce papers to Etheline in front of the impressive home of her intended, Henry.

His house is the William H Childs House, 53 Prospect Park West, between 1st and 2nd Streets, Park Slope in Brooklyn, which now houses the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture.

This supremely photogenic neo-Jacobean property, overlooking Prospect Park, turned up again in 2014 as the ‘Upper West Side’ mansion robbed by Colin Farrell in Akiva Goldsman’s romantic fantasy Winter’s Tale.