84 Charing Cross Road (film)

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84 Charing Cross Road
84 Charing Cross Road poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by David Jones
Written by Hugh Whitemore
Based on84 Charing Cross Road by James Roose-Evans adapted from the book by Helene Hanff
Produced by Mel Brooks
Geoffrey Helman
CinematographyBrian West
Edited byChris Wimble
Music by George Fenton
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date
  • February 13, 1987 (1987-02-13)(United States)
Running time
100 minutes
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States
Box office$2,538,291

84 Charing Cross Road is a 1987 British-American drama film directed by David Jones, and starring Anne Bancroft, Anthony Hopkins, Judi Dench, and Mercedes Ruehl. It is produced by Bancroft's husband, Mel Brooks. The screenplay by Hugh Whitemore is based on a play by James Roose-Evans, which itself was an adaptation of the 1970 epistolary memoir of the same name by Helene Hanff, a compilation of letters between Hanff and Frank Doel dating from 1949 to 1968. Several characters who are not in the play were added for the film, including Hanff's Manhattan friends and Doel's wife Nora. Bancroft won the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her portrayal of Hanff. The film has become something of a cult classic among bibliophiles and epistophiles.[ citation needed ]



The film begins in 1971. New Yorker Helene Hanff is on a plane heading for London. She is on a promotional tour of her book 84 Charing Cross Road, about her 20-year correspondence with a secondhand bookshop specializing in out-of-print books. By the time she arrives in London, the book shop has permanently closed, but she still visits it. To the sound of hammering and a builder's radio, Hanff recalls the first letter she wrote to the shop in 1949. The film cuts to a book store in 1949 New York. Hanff seeks obscure British literary classics and notices an advert in the Saturday Review of Literature placed by antiquarian booksellers Marks & Co, located at the titular address in London. She contacts the shop, where chief buyer and manager Frank Doel fulfills her requests. Over time, a long-distance friendship develops between Hanff and Doel and also the other staff members; even Doel's wife corresponds with Hanff. In gratitude for their extraordinary service, Hanff begins sending small gifts: holiday packages and food parcels to compensate for post–war food shortages in Britain. Their correspondence includes discussions about topics as diverse as the sermons of John Donne, how to make Yorkshire pudding, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the coronation of Elizabeth II.

Hanff intends to visit London and meet her bookseller friends but for various reasons has to postpone her plans. In January 1969 she receives word that Doel has died and the bookshop has closed. She finally visits Charing Cross Road and the vacant shop in the summer of 1971.

Principal cast


The film was shot on location in London and New York City. London settings include Buckingham Palace, Soho Square, Trafalgar Square, St James's, Westminster, White Hart Lane in Tottenham and suburban Richmond. Manhattan settings include Central Park, Madison Avenue, and Saint Thomas Church. Interiors were filmed at Lee International Studios and Shepperton Studios in Surrey.


Critical response

In his review in The New York Times , Vincent Canby called 84 Charing Cross Road "a movie guaranteed to put all teeth on edge . . . a movie of such unrelieved genteelness that it makes one long to head for Schrafft's for a double-gin martini, straight up, and a stack of cinnamon toast from which the crusts have been removed." [1]

Variety described it as "an appealing film on several counts, one of the most notable being Anne Bancroft's fantastic performance in the leading role... [She] brings Helene Hanff alive in all her dimensions, in the process creating one of her most memorable characterizations." [2]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times observed, "The film is based on a hit London and New York play, which was based on a best-selling book. Given the thin and unlikely subject matter, that already is a series of miracles. And yet there are people who are pushovers for this material. I should know. I read the book and I saw the play and now I am reviewing the movie, and I still don't think the basic idea is sound... Miss Fiske... was the librarian at the Urbana Free Library when I was growing up... She never had to talk to me about the love of books because she simply exuded it and I absorbed it. She would have loved this movie. Sitting next to her, I suspect, I would have loved it, too. But Miss Fiske is gone now, and I found it pretty slow-going on my own." [3]

Gene Siskel wrote in the Chicago Tribune : "Years ago, 84 Charing Cross Road would have been called a 'woman's picture' or a 'perfect matinee.' But it's that and more. It should be irresistible to anyone able to appreciate the goodness of its spirit and its spirited characters."[ citation needed ]

Box office

In its opening weekend in the U.S. the film grossed $24,350 at one theater. The total U.S. box office was $1,083,486. [4]

Awards and nominations

Anne Bancroft won the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Judi Dench was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, and Hugh Whitemore for BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. At the 15th Moscow International Film Festival, Anthony Hopkins was named Best Actor, and David Hugh Jones was nominated for the Golden Prize for his direction. [5] Whitemore and Helene Hanff shared the first USC Scripter Award for their contributions to the screenplay.

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  1. Canby, Vincent (1987-02-13). "Movie Review - 84 Charing Cross Road - FILM: BANCROFT IN '84 CHARING CROSS' - NYTimes.com". Movies.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2012-07-04.
  2. "Variety Reviews – 84 Charing Cross Road – Film Reviews". Variety.com. 1986-12-31. Retrieved 2012-07-04.
  3. Ebert, Roger (March 27, 1987). "84 Charing Cross Road". RogerEbert.com. Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved February 12, 2018.
  4. 84 Charing Cross Road at Box Office Mojo
  5. "15th Moscow International Film Festival (1987)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 2013-01-16. Retrieved 2013-02-21.