New York Film Locations

otsoNY in 2009: Celebrity

4 October 2019

Woody Allen is no stranger to New York, and in fact has made more New York based films than any other director. In 1988, he wrote and directed the comedy-drama ‘Celebrity’ featuring an ensemble cast. The entire film was shot in black-and-white on location in New York City by cinematographer Sven Nykvist, and was the last of four films shot by Nykvist for Allen. It also marked the end of Allen's long collaboration with editor Susan E. Morse, who had edited the previous twenty of Allen's films beginning with ‘Manhattan’.

Film Poster: Celebrity

Leading actor Kenneth Branagh played Lee Simon, an unsuccessful novelist turned travel writer who immersed himself in celebrity journalism following a midlife crisis and subsequent divorce from his insecure wife, Robin played by Judy Davis. As he stumbles his way through both professional encounters and sexual escapades with performers, models, and other players in the world of entertainment, Lee increasingly questions his purpose in life and ruins numerous opportunities due to his fame-seeking, insecurities and neuroses. “This is not a great film, but there are some great scenes,” said Mark Rogers, creator of “One scene in particular takes place on the Upper East Side outside The Cherokee at 517 East 77th Street and has Branagh pull up in a classic 1963 Aston Martin. Moments later, Charlize Theron, as a Supermodel, confidently struts to the front gates, a vision that is just a stunning as the gleaming DB5 and simply says ‘Nice Car!’.”

Scene from Celebrity starring Kanneth Branagh and Charlize Theron

Scene from Celebrity takes place outside The Cherokee apartment building on East 77th Street.

As the 19th century became the 20th century, the plight of tuberculosis patients started influencing housing in all sorts of ways. In New York City, it took the shape of a sanitary tenement. The idea, from Dr. Henry Shively of Presbyterian Hospital, was to create comfortable, healthy housing for poorer families with members who suffered from tuberculosis. Anne Harriman Vanderbilt provided the funds, and Henry Atterbury Smith designed the four interconnected six-story buildings. Construction began in 1909 and the East River Homes opened in 1912.

The entrance to The Cherokee at 517 East 77th Street

The Cherokee at 517 East 77th Street in New York City

Now called Cherokee Apartments, the complex occupies the space from 77th Street to 78th Street between John Jay Park and PS 158. Most of the windows are floor to ceiling and have three sashes, allowing for a lot of light and air to come in, both having been deemed crucial for TB sufferers. This also allows them to open wide out onto iron balconies, on which sleeping was encouraged. The pent eave roof was designed to hang over the balconies, protecting patients from the elements. “Though the actual scene didn’t give away too many references to the area, the fact that the road had a sharp left turn in front of what looked like a playground and was clearly in a residential area, lead me to believe that it would be located on the Upper East Side,” explained Mark. “Looking back, it probably wasn’t worth the effort!”

Click HERE for a full list of film locations from Celebrity

In the next article of this series, Mark talks about the film, ‘My Sassy Girl’ and the townhouse on the Upper East Side.


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