A Room in History: The Fitzgerald Suite, The Plaza New York

The movie season is upon us, with a host of movie awards coming up shortly, and no other hotel in the world perhaps reminds us of the big screen like The Plaza Hotel in New York. One of America's most celebrated hotels, The Plaza opened its doors on October 1, 1907, amid a flurry of impressive reports describing it as the greatest hotel in the world. Located at Fifth Avenue and Central Park South, this luxury hotel was constructed in the most fashionable residential section of New York City. It was once said, "Nothing unimportant ever happens at The Plaza", and doubtless, The Plaza Hotel has bags of history. Designated a New York City Landmark in 1969 and listed on the Register of Historic Places as the only New York City hotel to be designated as a National Historic Landmark, it has played host to kings, presidents, ambassadors, stars of stage, screen and sports, as well as business executives and travellers from all around the world. The Plaza has carved such a special place in history that it is rumoured Ernest Hemingway once advised fellow novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald to give his liver to Princeton and his heart to The Plaza.

The-Plaza-Hotel-New-York With strong fictional ties, the Plaza played host to its most famous fictional character, Eloise, a young girl who lived at the hotel, the protagonist of children's books published in the 1950s. The 1956 TV film Eloise, starring Evelyn Rudie as Eloise, the child who lived "on the top floor", with cameo appearances by Conrad Hilton and Eloise author Kay Thompson. Truman Capote threw his famous Black and White Ball here; in North by Northwest, Cary Grant was captured by spies in the hotel's famous Oak Bar; F. Scott Fitzgerald staged part of The Great Gatsby here; on their first visit to the States, The Beatles took up an entire wing on the 15th floor. And last but not least, Crocodile Dundee pitched a tent on those 400-thread-count bed sheets. And much like any landmark with a past, The Plaza also boasts a long standing presence on the big screen. Although The Plaza appeared fleetingly in earlier films, this Manhattan luxury hotel’s true movie debut was in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 classic North by Northwest – the first time a crew, director and cast assembled on site to make a picture. Before then, movies were shot almost entirely on Hollywood soundstages and rarely on location. The Plaza has provided the location for other motion pictures such as Plaza Suite, The Way We Were, The Great Gatsby, Barefoot in the Park, Funny Girl, Cotton Club, Crocodile Dundee I and II and Home Alone II: Lost In New-York. In the final scene of The Way We Were, Katie (Barbara Streisand) and Hubbell (Robert Redford) meet out front, where Katie’s famous words “your girl is lovely, Hubbell,” are later echoed by Carrie in an episode of Sex and the City. The Plaza also appears in the Hitchcock thriller North by Northwest where in a case of mistaken identity, advertising executive Thornhill (Cary Grant) is abducted from his Plaza hotel room. 40 odd years on from Eloise, in 1992, Kevin(Macaulay Culkin) in Home Alone II: Lost In New-York was another fictional child who enjoyed the creature comforts of The Plaza. The then-owner of The Plaza Donald Trump has a cameo in the film, directing the main character Kevin to the lobby. In one of the film's more memorable scenes, when the hotel staff accuse him of credit-card fraud, Kevin eludes them by sliding through the Plaza's lobby into a waiting elevator. To make the scene logistically possible, the film crew had to remove the wall-to-wall carpeting, exposing the original tiles. When Trump saw the beautiful mosaics, he instantly fell in love with the look and insisted it remain that way after filming, which it did until renovations in 2005 began. Kevin stayed in Suite 411, The Kevin Suite, one of the Central Park Suites at The Plaza.

Most recently, The Plaza featured prominently in the Baz Luhrmann's glitzy 2013 adaptation of The Great Gatsby. As The Plaza featured in the original novel as well as author Fitzgerald's life, there was no doubt that the penultimate scene of the film, which features dramatic, emotionally charged confrontation between Daisy Buchanan’s husband, Tom, and her lover, Jay Gatsby, would be set at The Plaza. For this particular scene, production designer Catherine Martin had to recreate the suite as it would have looked in the '20s. "With The Plaza as our partner, we did extensive historical research into what the suites would have looked like at the time just after the 1920s renovation," Martin said, "We noticed that they were very light, bright rooms, and we collectively agreed that this would not give the oppressive, heavy feeling that the scene needed to play out. So we looked to the woodiness of The Oak Room and 1920s wood-paneled libraries and adapted the decor of the room to underline the drama of the scene. You will note, however, that when we see Nick and Gatsby shot from the exterior of the building, we have perfectly recreated the 1922 exterior. Also featured in the film is a digitally created wide shot of The Plaza at the time, with accompanying surrounding buildings and Central Park in front. Nothing from our film was shot on location at The Plaza, but we did do extensive reconnaissance and planned much of our staging there. We shot views that you will see from the windows of the suite from a private apartment on the residential side of The Plaza, and also shot across to The Plaza from the Sherry-Netherland."

If you wanted the real Great Gatsby experience though, fear not; in April 2013, to celebrate The Great Gatsby film, The Plaza unveiled its new Fitzgerald Suite. Located on the 18th floor of the building, the 900sq ft suite decorated by Catherine Martin includes various Art Deco flourishes and pieces of period furniture, in addition to pictures of the author and his wife, and photos of the cast of the 2013 film taken by Douglas Kirkland. More unexpected additions to the décor include gramophone-shaped iPhone-compatible speakers and vitrines that will house sporting trophies supposedly won by Tom Buchanan, a prominent character in the film. The-Fitzgerald-Suite-at-The-Plaza-designed-by-Catherine-Martin-Living-Room The-Fitzgerald-Suite-at-The-Plaza-designed-by-Catherine-Martin The-Fitzgerald-Suite-at-The-Plaza-designed-by-Catherine-Martin-Bedroom The-Fitzgerald-Suite-at-The-Plaza-designed-by-Catherine-Martin-Bathroom If, however, literature is not exactly your thing, but you'd like to stay in an NYC hotel, why not check out our room suggestions here?

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