Friday, September 2, 2011

The W.E. Couple of the Century

Long before the invention of the celebrity power couple and 24/7 scandals, the controversy of the W.E. couple of the century occupied the news and rocked the British monarchy during the 1930s. The W.E. couple in question is none other than Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII, the American socialite/divorcee and the man who would be king. In the event an explanation is needed, the Prince of Wales was in line for the throne and had an affair with the very married Mrs. Simpson and abdicated his title....all in the name of love. They eventually married and lived out their days as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

The saga has been told in countless books and Wallis has been portrayed on both the small and big screen by everyone from Faye Dunaway, Jane Seymour, Joely Richardson and even Gwyneth Paltrow in an episode of Glee. Most recently, the couple was featured in the Academy Award winning film The King's Speech (Guy Pearce played a wonderful Prince Edward) in scenes that left audiences wanting more.

Guy Pearce as Edward in The King's Speech....
and Eve Best as Wallis Simpson 

Enter the Material Girl turned director who just debuted her latest entry on the subject at the Venice Film Festival. W.E. (Weinstein Company) tells the story of the "greatest love story of the century" and marks the former Mrs. Sean Penn/Guy Ritchie's second directorial effort. Perhaps she picked up a thing or two from her former director/husbands.

Riseborough and Madonna at the Venice Film Festival
The film tells the story of Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish), a New Yorker obsessed with the love story in l998, intertwined with tales of the glory days of the Duke and Duchess (James D'Arcy and Andrea Riseborough) and spans six decades. W.E. debuts December 12th and has already received its share of reviews -- ranging from mixed to damning. On a lighter note, the style obsessed will enjoy lots of eye candy (Portofino and Cap d'Antibes), Schiaparelli gowns and Cartier jewelry. The film does offer one of my favorite quotes of the day when Wallis says, "Your Majesty, you know your way to a woman's heart," and he replies, "I wasn't aiming that high."

No word yet if Madonna sings the title song:)

Happy Labor Day and end of the summer to all.

Photo Credits: Weinstein Company

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Barefoot in the Park

For some, the Plaza Hotel conjures film images of Hubbell and Katie's chance meeting (The Way We Were, 1973), Roger Thornhill's bar of choice (North by Northwest, 1959), young Kevin McAllister's New York adventure (Home Alone 2, 1992), the chosen venue of brides Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson (Bride Wars, 2009or perhaps my particular favorite, the honeymoon site for newlyweds Corrie and Paul Bratter (Barefoot in the Park, 1967). And for children (and adults old enough to remember), the famed location plays  home to author Kay Thompson's beloved Eloise, a six year old who lived in the hotel's penthouse.

Redford and Fonda in Barefoot in the Park

"The Only David X. Cohen in the book" - star crossed lovers in The Way We Were

Cary Grant at the Oak Bar in North by Northwest -
exterior and interior are real and the bar was shot on the soundstage

Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson duke it out in Bride Wars
Macauley Culkin in Home Alone 2

Walter Mathau and Jean Stapleton in 1970's Plaza Suite 
Opened in 1907, the hotel has been the home to dignitaries, celebrities, well-heeled travelers and host to many a wedding (Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones) and the social event of the century, Truman Capote's Black and White Ball in 1966. It was even the occasional playground of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald in the twenties. Imagine if those walls could talk.

Truman Capote at the Black and White Ball

Candice Bergen sans bunny mask
I was fortunate to be a guest at the iconic landmark this past month and with the exception of the Oak Bar (now under renovation), I had not visited the Plaza since the sale and renovation. The hotel (now owned by Fairmont Hotels) underwent a major renovation in 2007 and while the rooms with the park view are primarily for those who purchase a residence, the hotel is still majestic and you cannot beat the Central Park South/Fifth Avenue location. (The apartment residences start at $2.5 million). The Palm Court is still open for formal tea and pastries under the 1800 square foot stain glass while a portrait of Eloise watches from the hallway. I particularly enjoyed the Assouline book boutique on the lobby's second floor as well and the one-of-a-kind Royal Plaza Suite comes equipped with a library from the store's selections in the event money is no object.

A portrait of Eloise resides in the hallway

The Eloise Suite
The Palm Court

Beaux Arts Design of the guestroom
Gilt and white mosaic tiled bathroom. Leaf pattern is said to be inspired by Central Park

It's safe to say the Plaza Hotel is perhaps one of the most popular hotel locations for Hollywood as noted by its resume -- The Great Gatsby, Cotton Club, Arthur, King Of New York, Funny Girl, Love at First Bite, Almost Famous, and Crocodile Dundee just to name a few. Gossip Girls and Friends featured the location on the small screen and fans of Sex and the City no doubt recognize the homage paid to The Way We Were (Mr. Big's engagement party) or Samantha picking up a "senior citizen" in the Oak Bar.

And thanks to the wonderful staff at the Plaza -- I enjoyed being a grown up Eloise for a couple of nights.

For more about the Plaza Hotel and its illustrious history, see the website here.

Hotel lobby and bar
Royal Plaza Suite boasts a state of the art Viking kitchen, dining room for twelve and a grand piano 

Royal Terrace Suite

Photo Credits: Columbia, Universal, 20th Century Fox, Plaza Hotel