New York Film Locations

otsoNY in 2009: You’ve Got Mail

17 October 2019

Principal photography for the 1998 romantic comedy film ‘You’ve Got Mail’ took place primarily in New York City's Upper West Side, and reunited Tom Hanks with Meg Ryan, who had previously worked together in the New York-based films ‘Joe Versus the Volcano’ and ‘Sleepless in Seattle’.

Film Poster: You've Got Mail

The storyline followed struggling boutique bookseller Kathleen Kelly played by Meg Ryan, who takes a disliking to Joe Fox played by Tom Hanks, the owner of a corporate Foxbooks chain store that had just moved in across the street. When the two meet online, however, they begin an intense and anonymous Internet romance, oblivious of each other's true identity. Eventually Joe learns that the enchanting woman he has been involved with is actually his business rival, and must now struggle to reconcile his real-life dislike for her with the cyber love he has come to feel. “This was a remake of the 1940 film, ‘The Shop Around the Corner’ starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan, and involved two employees at a leather goods shop in Budapest,” explains otsoNY’s creator, Mark Rogers. “The original storyline had the two main characters hating each other at work, but were unknowingly falling in love through the mail as anonymous pen pals.”

Scene from You've Got Mail featuring Meg Ryan

106 West 69th Street was used in You've Got Mail as Meg Ryan's little book shop

Many of the New York locations used in the film had already been documented on various websites. Mark explains, “What I was noticing whilst doing my film location research before my first trip to New York was that there were many online sources giving reference to this film, and I remember seeing Lindsay Blake from posing in front of the small bookshop owned by Meg Ryan’s fictional character, which of course was not as it seemed.” Mark adds, “In 2009, the shop front at 106 West 69th Street had the signage ‘Maya Shaper's Cheese and Antique Shop’.

The filmmakers had wanted to use the antique shop because it had the quaint, homey feel they were going for and so they agreed to send the owner of the antique shop on vacation for a few weeks and while she was gone they turned the store into a children's bookstore. After filming was finished, they put everything back the way they had left it, and it became an antique store once again.” Kathleen Kelly's bookshop in the film was based largely on Manhattan's Books of Wonder in Chelsea on 18th Street, where Meg Ryan had worked the counter for a day as part of her preparation for the role.

Scene from You've Got Mail starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan

Cafe Lalo at 201 West 83rd Street in New york City

Over the past 10 years, ‘You’ve Got Mail’ has been revisited several times with additional film locations to bring its total to 23. Besides the bookshop, Mark’s attention was also focused on Kathleen Kelly’s home at 328 West 89th Street, which he noticed did not have a door entry intercom as seen in the film. For opening credits, director Nora Ephron wanted an animated version of Broadway's Boogie-Woogie, a representation of New York City by Piet Mondrian. When animator Mirko Ilic and his staff animated Mondrian's painting, Ephron wanted something more ‘realistic or romantic’ so they photographed all of the buildings along Broadway on the Upper West Side, from 72nd Street to the brownstone where the film begins, as a guide for the computer graphic animation.

Scene from You've Got Mail as Meg Ryan leaves her apartment building

328 West 89th Street was the fictional residence for Meg Ryan's character

West 89th Street on New York's Upper West Side

The other location that Mark was interested in was the cafe at 201 West 83rd Street, where Meg Ryan’s character had planned to meet her mystery date, only to be disappointed, and then frustrated by the arrival of Joe Fox. “Cafe Lalo is on the Upper West Side and has an old traditional style,” says Mark. “As soon as I walked through the door, the scene from ‘You’ve Got Mail’ came rushing back to me, and I was tempted to sit where the actors had once, much like I did when I had breakfast at Katz's Delicatessen, and sat under the ‘When Harry Met Sally’ sign, but in the end I opted for a corner table, more so to observe and take the odd photograph.”

Click HERE for a full list of film locations from You've Got Mail

In the next article of this series, Mark talks about the film, ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’ and the vintage clothes shop that no longer exists.


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