Travel: New York: Following in Woody Allen's footsteps

Manhattan - you saw the film 20 years ago, now visit the locations. But only in black and white. By Donald Hiscock
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The Independent Culture
"THIS WAS still a town that existed in black and white" is how the hero of Woody Allen's Manhattan describes New York at the start of the film. The screen matches sharp monochrome images with a grand rendition of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. Twenty years on, the film's opening sequence still accurately reflects the seductive and beguiling montage of street life in one of the world's most visited - and filmed - cities.

As the succession of beautifully framed images showed, black and white is the perfect medium to represent the city's architecture. To appreciate the locations that Woody Allen used for his prophetically autobiographical film about the relationship between a writer, Isaac Davis (played by Allen) and 17-year-old Tracy (Mariel Hemingway), you need to adjust your set view. Turn down the colour and walk into a wide-screen world. Seen through monochrome spectacles, little seems to have changed.

For a tour of most of the film locations, start halfway up the eastern side of Central Park, beside the improbable-sounding Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. Take in the panoramic skylines that rise above the park's tree-line, and cross Fifth Avenue to the Guggenheim Museum.

The Guggenheim captures a unique corner on the city's Museum Mile. Its white bands of concrete give Frank Lloyd Wright's creation a startling, wrapped-bandage look, but the museum has undergone a face-lift and extension since Allen and his teenage lover were artistically humiliated by his best pal's mistress in one of its galleries.

Walk east from Fifth Avenue into the Upper East Side, heading towards Second Avenue along 89th Street. In this swish neighbourhood, tall apartment blocks huddle next to older, low-rise townhouses. Joggers are let into vestibules by men in tasselled jackets and caps, while children stride out in smart uniforms that suggest private schools.

Continue along 89th to the Dalton School, between Park Avenue and Lexington. This is the school that Tracy attended. As you walk east, the rarefied neighbourhoods give way to the noisy strip of Second Avenue. Heading south, you pass Elaine's restaurant, where Manhattan's action begins. It is still favoured by the rich and famous, who get dropped off here by taxi. This area, Yorkville, is a muddle of the posh and the humble; Elaine's is fiercely shuttered against its daytime neighbourhood. Across the street is a thrift shop. Close by is a butcher's, then a boot-mender's and a dry-cleaner's.

Wander south, pulled along by the tide of fast-walking Manhattanites. Find yourself a corner coffee shop with a window seat to people-watch, before cutting across to Third Avenue.

Carry on to Bloomingdale's, home of the famous brown carrier bag. The appeal of the store and its reputation as a desirable place in which to be seen are as strong as ever. The perfume counters are a perfect location for New Yorkers embroiled in liaisons, mostly of the dangerous kind. They did it in Manhattan and I guess they are still doing it now.

It is only about four blocks from here to the East River and Sutton Place Park at the end of 58th Street. This is the classic view of Queensboro Bridge, admired by Woody Allen and Diane Keaton from a bench. Today it is a relatively tranquil spot in another upmarket neighbourhood where smart women walk (or carry) small dogs; Keaton's was a dachshund.

Across from Sutton Place is flat, business-like Queens, separated from haughty Manhattan by the swirling eddies of the river. Turn back towards Central Park and follow 57th Street, full of big shops and crowds. Along here is the Russian Tea Room, another famous New York eatery, where Isaac Davis informed his son that it was a good place to meet beautiful women. It is still closed for renovation after nearly two years, but the new owner is promising that it will be restored to its former splendour (with prices to match, no doubt).

A few blocks up, Central Park starts its magnificent sweep north. The horse-drawn carriages wait for the tourists and the romantics while the locals frown upon the horses' harsh urban setting. Arriving back in Central Park, you will have had a very good walk.

There's another set of Manhattan locations lower down the city, in Greenwich Village and SoHo, but keep that for another - Technicolor - day.

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