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Sunday June 23rd 2024

Jungle Fever | 1991

Jungle Fever location: Sylvia's Restaurant, Lenox Avenue, Harlem
Jungle Fever location: Flipper and Angie get attitude from the waitress: Sylvia’s Restaurant, Lenox Avenue, Harlem

It would be comforting to think that the world has moved on since 1991 and Spike Lee’s excellent, if depressing, film about the complications of an inter-racial relationship. Wesley Snipes stars as Flipper Purify, a New York architect who has an affair with Italian-American temp Angie Tucci (Annabella Sciorra).

Purify’s neighbourhood is one of Harlem’s middle class enclaves, Strivers’ Row, around West 138th and West 139th Streets. Built as houses for upper-middle class white families in the Harlem real estate boom of 1919, they became the focus for well-to-do African Americans – the ‘Strivers’ – who included the likes of jazz and blues musicians WC Handy, Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake.

Purify’s home is 252 West 139th Street, near Frederick Douglass Boulevard / 8th Avenue. And you need to do a serious amount of striving to live here now. The house is valued around a cool $2million.

Before his world is turned upside down by the extra-marital relationship, Flipper walks his daughter to school at PS129, 425 West 130th Street, at Convent Avenue, in Manhattanville.

Angie’s neighbourhood is supposedly Bensonhurst, South Central Brooklyn. Traditionally an Italian-Jewish community, it was here that Yusuf Hawkins, a young black man, was beaten to death in August 1989. Lee determined to film in Bensonhurst despite intense local animosity, including bomb threats and disruption, during which cinematographer Ernest Dickerson was hit by a rock. The Tucci family house is pretty close, though a little to the east, at 1478 East 57th Street, Brooklyn.

The restaurant where Flipper and Angie get attitude from the waitress is Sylvia’s Restaurant, 328 Lenox Avenue at 125th Street, Harlem’s legendary soulfood restaurant, here since 1962.