New York Film Locations

Week-End at the Waldorf Film Locations

14 September 2012

Week-End at the Waldorf finally comes to OTSONY this month. The 1945 comedy drama was directed by Robert Z. Leonard and starred Ginger Rogers, Lana Turner, Walter Pidgeon and Van Johnson.

The film focuses on various guests staying at New York City's famed Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Among them are lonely screen star Irene Malvern played by Ginger Rogers, in town with her maid Anna for a childhood friend's wedding and the premiere of her latest movie; war correspondent Chip Collyer, mistaken for a jewel thief by Irene but playing along to catch her attention; flyer Capt. James Hollis, wounded in World War II and facing perilous surgery in three days; wealthy shyster Martin X. Edley, who is trying to sign the Bey of Aribajan to a shady oil deal; Oliver Webson, a cub reporter for Collier's Weekly hoping to expose Edley; and bride-to-be Cynthia Drew, whose upcoming wedding is endangered by her belief her fiancé Bob is in love with Irene Malvern. The hotel's stenographer hopes to escape her low income roots by marrying Edley, and reporter Randy Morton, who loiters in the lobby hopes to stumble upon a scoop for his newspaper. The film pays homage to its source by including a scene in which Chip Collyer recreates a scene from the 1930 play based on the Vicki Baum novel, and Irene Malvern identifies it as an excerpt from Grand Hotel.

(Film: Week-End at the Waldorf)

Waldorf-Astoria management wanted the film shot in colour in order to show the hotel at its best advantage, a demand that almost led MGM executives to switch the locale to San Francisco and change the title to Palace in the Sky. Mrs. Lucius Boomer, wife of the president of the Waldorf-Astoria Corporation, served as a technical advisor on the film, as did Ted Saucier, who handled public relations for the property. Some interiors and exteriors of the hotel were filmed on location, but the lobby, Starlight Roof, guest rooms, and other public spaces were recreated on the backlot of the MGM Studios in Culver City, California.

(Film: Week-End at the Waldorf)

The Waldorf Astoria has been housed in two historic landmark buildings in New York City. The first, designed by architect Henry J. Hardenbergh, was on the Fifth Avenue site of the Empire State Building. The present building at 301 Park Avenue in Manhattan is a 47-story, 190.5 m (625 ft) Art Deco landmark, designed by architects Schultze and Weaver and dating from 1931. Lee S Jablin, Harman Jablin Architects, fully renovated and upgraded the historical property to its original grandeur during the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s. The Waldorf Astoria New York is a member of Hilton's Luxury and Lifestyle Brands along with Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts. The Waldorf Astoria was the first hotel to offer room service, making a huge impact for the future of the hotel industry. The hotel was branded as The Waldorf=Astoria, with a double hyphen, but originally a single hyphen was employed between "Waldorf" and "Astoria," as recalled by a popular expression and song, "Meet Me at the Hyphen." The equal sign was chosen to signify the equality between the Waldorf and Astor families. It also visually represents "Peacock Alley," the hallway between the two hotels that once stood where the Empire State building now stands today. This branding was discontinued shortly after its introduction.

The modern hotel has three American and classic European restaurants, and a beauty parlour located off the main lobby. Several boutiques surround the lobby. A boutique "hotel within a hotel" housed on the upper floors is known as The Waldorf Towers. The hotel has its own railway platform as part of Grand Central Terminal, used by Franklin D. Roosevelt, James Farley, Adlai Stevenson, and Douglas MacArthur, among others. An elevator large enough for Franklin D. Roosevelt's automobile provides access to the platform. Its name is ultimately derived from Walldorf in Germany and the prominent German-American Astor family that originated there.

(Waldorf Astoria 1904-1967)

The investigation into the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 was held at the old Waldorf-Astoria. John Jacob Astor IV, who built the Astoria Hotel, which became part of the old Waldorf-Astoria, died on the Titanic. His second wife Madeline, seven months pregnant, survived the sinking. During the 1950s and early 1960s, former U.S. president Herbert Hoover and retired U.S. General Douglas MacArthur lived in suites on different floors of the hotel. A plaque affixed to the wall on the 50th Street side commemorates this. There is also a recreation of one of the living room of Hoover's Waldorf-Astoria suite in the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. In 1955, Marilyn Monroe stayed at the hotel for several months, but due to costs of trying to finance her production company "Marilyn Monroe Productions", only being paid $1,500 a week for her role in The Seven Year Itch and being suspended from 20th Century Fox for walking out on Fox after creative differences, living at the hotel became too costly and Monroe had to move into a different hotel in New York City.

(Waldorf Astoria in 2011)

The Waldorf Astoria has also featured in several films. In the 1970 movie The Out-of-Towners, Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis make their way to the Waldorf-Astoria on foot past tons of garbage in a torrential downpour, to discover their reservation - guaranteed for a 10:00pm arrival - has been given away, and the hotel - like every other one in the city - is booked to capacity due to the strikes. In the 1988 movie Coming To America, the king of Zamunda played by James Earl Jones and his family stayed at the Waldorf-Astoria in the final New York–based scene in the movie; disgusted at the squalor in Queens in which his son and his servant Semi are living, the King "punishes" the latter by ordering him to confine himself to the hotel's royal suite, where he is to be "bathed thoroughly" by the King's young female attendants. In the 1992 movie Scent of a Woman, Lt. Col. Frank Slade played by Al Pacino and his traveling companion stayed at the Waldorf-Astoria. In the 2001 film Serendipity, a number of scenes take place between the two main characters in the hotel, and in the 2009 film remake of The Taking of Pelham 123, Garber played by Denzel Washington follows the train hijackers through the emergency exit underneath the Waldorf-Astoria in his attempt to pursue these men before they escape with the hostage money.

(Waldorf Astoria in 2011)


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