New York City has been harder hit by the coronavirus than any location in the world. The mean streets are silent in this hot zone except for the sounds of sirens and the 7pm celebration when people lean out their windows and make some noise in gratitude of the essential workers. All of it makes me, and obviously a lot of other people here and around the world, love the Big Apple now more than ever. In celebration of the City, I compiled a list of 10 of my favorite movies that made New York City and jewelry part of the plot.
Rear Window (1954)
Rear Window is my favorite movie of all time. I saw the movie first when I was a child growing up in the Midwest. When I found my apartment on 10th Street in the Village near the building James Stewart mentions in a scene that was once the Albert Hotel, I knew I was home. In the context of our current situation it’s interesting to note that Stewart was housebound in his Greenwich Village apartment from a broken leg and that is what transforms him into a nosey neighbor who peers into apartments across his courtyard from his perch. His girlfriend played by Grace Kelly brings jewelry into the storyline. The pieces she wears with her fashion editor ensembles are fabulous and jewelry is what convinces her a murder might have been committed. Read a full review of the movie here.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
One thing that always seemed astonishing about the iconic opening scene of Breakfast at Tiffany’s were the empty streets of Midtown Manhattan at the early hour when Audrey Hepburn steps out of a taxi as the sun is rising on store, wearing the iconic Hubert de Givenchy black dress. Now of course we have seen a lot of empty street images. Still, it’s a dramatic establishing shot when she pauses on the sidewalk and takes a long look at her favorite place in New York City before approaching the jewel filled window displays. As she lingers over the splendor Hepburn, rather pricelessly, pulls a cup of coffee and a pastry out of the paper bag she is holding and enjoys her breakfast at Tiffany’s.
It’s a surprise to many people that Hepburn didn’t wear one piece of Tiffany jewelry in the movie. In the end it didn’t matter because her character Holly Golightly’s rock solid faith in the store—“Nothing bad could ever happen to you at Tiffany’s”—made it a glamour icon for the ages. Read a full review of the movie here.
Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)
Made in 1985, the year I arrived in the Big Apple, Desperately Seeking Susan reminds me of so much that was fun and fashionable in downtown New York. It is also a five-star jewelry movie. Madonna, aka Susan, is a charming grifter who kicks off the action in the first scene of the movie when she takes a pair of Egyptian style earrings from the guy she had been with in Atlantic City. The seemingly petty crime becomes a big deal when someone, not the police, comes looking for the jewels that once belonged to Nefertiti and were originally stolen from a touring exhibit of the Cairo Museum’s ancient artifacts. All of this is unbeknownst to Madonna, I mean Susan, who heads back to Manhattan and changes at the Port Authority bus station from her pink sheer top to her black sheer top for her foray down to the East Village. During the course of the switcheroo all of Madonna’s ‘80s style is on display. The black rubber bracelets piled up her arm were worn by men and women alike in the city at the time. The popularity of the style is impossible to overstate. Madonna also has on layers of rosary necklaces. For her final outfit flourish, she puts on not two, but one of the Nefertiti earrings.
The film is fabulous fun with an early Madonna soundtrack. While the style of the clothes are textbook ’80s, it has a classic screwball comedy spirit. Read a full review here.
Our governor in New York, Andrew Cuomo, otherwise known as the acting president of the United States, has shared several anecdotes about what it’s like growing up in an Italian American family. You see more of what he is talking about in Moonstruck. Set in an Italian American neighborhood in Brooklyn, the comedy classic stars Cher, Nicolas Cage and Olympia Dukakis. Previously, I had never thought of it as a jewelry movie, but I realized it is when I recently re-watched it. The film opens with a proposal and a ring that figures in the plot and bookends the film. There is also a charm bracelet with a moon, bird and stars that’s a significant if misguided gift.
If these small jewels don’t convince it’s worth your time, consider it for the scenes of the city especially one at the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center. And the fact that Cher won Best Actress Oscar for her role in the production beating out Meryl Streep, Glenn Close and Holly Hunter and Sally Kirkland.
The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)
A seriously sexy art caper, The Thomas Crown Affair takes place mainly on the Upper Eastside of New York City and stars Pierce Brosnan as a financier and art thief and Rene Russo as an uber chic insurance investigator. The 1990s was an era when watches were still very much in vogue and it is worth noting Bronsnan wears a beauty. His Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso gets a couple of closeups in the film. He even flips the case once near the end.
Russo’s outfits in the movie by and large came from the Celine collection Michael Kors designed in 1997. There were also a few pieces by Halston including a black dress she wears to the black and white charity ball with Bulgari diamond cluster earrings. At the event, the band plays behind stands that say “Bvlgari Supports AIDS Research.”
In the same scene, model Esther Cañadas who has a small but significant role wears a glamorous costume necklace, earrings and bracelet Jose and Maria Barrera.
Later in the movie, Bronsnan gives Russo a choker necklace in a restaurant and serves the line “You are not going to say I couldn’t possibly.” The sassy investigator who is draped in layers of pearls says “No, I wouldn’t say anything that boring.”
Sex and the City
Sarah Jessica Parker often said that New York City was one of the main characters in the Sex and the City tv series and I’m sure she felt the same way about the 2008 and 2010 movies. While the series was running on HBO from 1998 to 2004, it alone ignited jewelry trends and I am not just talking about the name plate necklaces. The costume designer Pat Field and her team went all over town to find baubles for all the stars to wear. It was a wonderful eclectic mix from labels ranging from Bulgari to Fred Leighton to Solange Azagury-Partridge, Yossi Harrari and Kenneth Jay Lane. In retrospect, the show was a major help in turning the page on the minimalist 1990s and bringing jewelry back into the forefront of fashion. A review of the best jewels in the series and movies is here.
Devil Wears Prada (2006)
I used to say when I worked at a fashion magazine it wasn’t quite like the experience in the Devil Wear Prada. Now in retrospect, I look back and think it was exactly like the editorial meetings in the movie. Styling-wise the Devil Wears Prada is the companion piece to Sex and the City. Pat Field was responsible for the costume design in both. The movie is shot all over New York City and there are countless jewelry looks on Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep.
Streep wears more important and imaginative jewelry than any fashion editor has ever sported in real life. Perhaps the closest one would be Diana Vreeland who had a pretty sensational and eclectic collection of jewels. For a studio visit, Streep wears a vintage Hancocks necklace in the Egyptian revival style that was purchased by the Prince of Wales for his mistress Lillie Langtry around 1870. In the same scene and throughout the movie Stanley Tucci wears big rings from Stephen Dweck. (I loved when I heard Sotheby’s Frank Everett explain in a Zoom talk recently that his big ring from David Webb was inspired by the look.) When they go to Paris for fashion week Streep sports a pair of vintage Cartier hoop earrings in a style that was beloved by the Duchess of Windsor.
Anne Hathaway wears any number of emerging and independent jewelry designers in the movie. In the picture above, she has on pieces from Me & Ro.
American Hustle (2013)
In the wildly entertaining American Hustle starring Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, New York City is the main scene of the crimes. The hustlers in the movie are not stealing jewelry but a bracelet with charms of jazz great Louis Armstrong is what initially attracts Bale’s character to Adams. Throughout the rest of the film, Adams is a glam con artist who wears gold Gucci horsebit jewels with her sexy ensembles.
Ocean’s 8 (2018)
Filmed all over New York City, the jewelry heist in Ocean’s 8 focuses on the Met Gala but also features scenes in Cartier. The big diamond necklace that is worn by Anne Hathaway and coveted by Sandra Bullock’s crew of thieves Cate Blanchett, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, Awkwafina, Helena Bonham Carter and Sarah Paulson has a spectacular story true story behind it. The jewel was not something that was whipped up by the costume department or a prop master, which was honestly pretty obvious from first glance at the stunner. It was made on the rue de la Paix in Paris at Cartier by craftsmen in the High Jewelry department who are among the best and brightest talents in the field. Read all about it here.
The big necklace is far from the only amazing jewel worn in the movie. During the scene at the Met Gala, the stars are decked out in all kinds of various Cartier jewels. In other parts of the movie there are jewels from various designers. Sandra Bullock sports a long vintage Cartier zodiac pendant from the Mahnaz Collection. Rihanna plays the Caribbean hacker Nine Ball and sports big black hoops and a peace sign choker. The jeweler Amita, portrayed by Mindy Kaling, dons classic Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra pieces. Cate Blanchett’s nightclub owner Lou who is the number one sidekick to Debbie is the most bejeweled character in the film. She is totally decked out in layers of necklaces, bracelets and a handful of rings. Lots of it was chosen from Turkish master Sevan Biçakçi. Find out more about Cate’s jewelry in the movie here.
Uncut Gems (2019)
If you are in the jewelry business in New York, at one point or another, you have found yourself on 47th Street, the heart of the jewelry district. Uncut Gems captures a certain side of The Street to absolute perfection. The adrenaline-fueled film from directors Josh and Benny Safdie, stars Adam Sandler as Howard Ratner, a 47th Street dealer, who is running countless schemes simultaneously and doing major gambling on the side. His main hustle involves an uncut Ethiopian opal and the Celtic’s Kevin Garnett (playing himself). Through the transaction the film lifts the veil on how dealers without cash can get it. There is a lot of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul or in the case of Sandler’s character there are about 10 Peters and Pauls.
One of the most astonishing elements of the anxiety inducing plot is how the Safdies used authentic aspects of life on 47th Street to tell the story. Read a full review of the film here.