84 Charing Cross Road (1987) 720p

Movie Poster
84 Charing Cross Road (1987) bluray - Movie Poster
Biography | Drama
Frame Rate:
23.976 fps
English 2.0  
Run Time:
100 min
IMDB Rating:
7.4 / 10 
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Directors: David Hugh Jones [Director] ,

Movie Description:
When a humorous script-reader in her New York City apartment sees an ad in the Saturday Review of Literature for a bookstore in London that does mail order, she begins a very special correspondence and friendship with Frank P. Doel (Sir Anthony Hopkins), the bookseller who works at Marks & Co., 84 Charing Cross Road.


  • 84 Charing Cross Road (1987) bluray - Movie Scene 1
  • 84 Charing Cross Road (1987) bluray - Movie Scene 2
  • 84 Charing Cross Road (1987) bluray - Movie Scene 1

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The Most Charming Film for Bibliophiles, Readers and Book Collectors

For many years, Charing Cross Road in London was a nucleus for book enthusiasts, particularly for book collectors and bibliophiles. Rare and second-hand bookselling is not one of the more glamorous areas of collectibles trading, as many aspects involve lower-end as well as higher-end selling. Unlike auctions of master paintings and collectible jewelry which often receive much press coverage, antiquarian bookselling often occurs in quiet library-like shops. Customers and proprietors alike speak in low tones amid dimly-lit corridors. "84 Charing Cross Road" brings viewers into the world of antiquarian bookselling and purchasing as no other film does.

Anne Bancroft (who played Mrs Robinson in "the Graduate") is a writer habituating the exciting world of the New York scene. To quench her ever-present thirst for reading, she decides she wants to acquire books of an "antiquarian" nature, fine editions which have a bit more elegance than cheap mass-market editions. She also wants to read books of classic English literature rather than simply the latest NY Times Bestseller. She visits her local second-hand bookshops in New York, and none of the proprietors carry the books she seeks because, she is told, they do not have enough demand among NY book buyers. She then hears about a rare and second-hand book firm in London on Charing Cross Road and writes them, hoping they might have the kinds of books she seeks. One of the main purveyors, although not one of the owners of the firm, is Frank Doel, played with an understated civility by the incredible Anthony Hopkins.

Thus begins a correspondence between a humble book firm in London and an informal "client" in New York. As the correspondence progresses, she begins to learn more about and understand better the people whose livelihoods center around books. The scenes are mainly split between the contemplative world of the London bookshop and the loud and raucous city that is New York. Even the interactions between characters on each side are quite different. Helene the American is often smoking and boozing with friends while those at the shop quietly but seriously go about their business.

Helene the American and Frank the Brit correspond in English, but almost immediately we sense the wide difference in their respective letter-writing styles, their palette of colors quite diverse. The American is direct, blunt, and easily conveys her frustration if a book arrives which does not please her. On the other hand, the Englishman Doel writes in an overtly congenial tone, very low-key and almost formal, and courteous to the point of near-humility. He is never upset or put-off at the occasional brashness of his counterpart's letters but always attempts to make things right if his client is not entirely pleased with her purchase.

Then, in an interesting turn, Helene learns of the food rationing that is occurring in Britain largely as a result of the war. She resolves to help the struggling employees of the book through a black market coming out of Denmark. The employees become elated when a special package arrives for them. As a result, Helene and Frank become close in ways almost like a reader and a book, their images and understandings of each other only through words on paper, never through voices or body language. However, although they learn much about each other's lives throughout the correspondence, they never meet, but only can imagine each other's worlds.

"84 Charing Cross Road" is almost like a play with the correspondence, often spoken in voice-over, as the driving catalyst of the story. The piece is more a character study of the participants rather than having a real plot. But it is one of the few films I know of which celebrates the world of antiquarian booksellers and their prospective book buyers. Unfortunately, since the rise of the internet and the struggling economies in both America and Europe, the presence of second-hand and antiquarian bookshops have been markedly reduced in many urban areas. Charing Cross Road which used to boast many booksellers now has only a handful, which is strangely predicted by the film at the end.

If you read books, this film is for your soul.

A literature teacher with a flair for old English-literature starts running low of readable stock, alas! of all places in New York. Even empties public libraries, and there was no IMDb-similar in those days... so she finally finds the address in England to mail-order the delicacies she expected: 84 Charing Cross Road in London. Being a bibliophile myself, then comes the most sublime part of the film, when she receives the first batch of books, previously owned and mastered editions, gosh of all goshes my own emotions as being raised with the best Classics ever printed, is really like kissing your first love! Ahhh, Anne Bancroft awed by the mail order service starts asking for more and rarer editions, but at the same time asks herself about the knowledgeable people behind the business and establishes a Pen-Pal relation with a typical London bookstore, of which I visited many back in 1986. She starts getting involved with their feelings and different way of life, what starts urging her desire to meet these distant friends...Eventually, her professor wage allows for the trip and...Oh, is an end that also happened to me looking for war-surplus stores.

Luscious, Intelligent, Delicate Epistolary Love Story

"84 Charring Cross Road" is a luscious, intelligent, delicate, epistolary love story.

It isn't for everybody. Viewers who require movies to shovel piping hot, sex-and-violence-drenched plot down their gullets won't get this movie; it will pass right over their heads.

If you are the kind of observant, sensitive person who can see someone sitting on a park bench and intuit their biography from the way they wear their scarf, hold their bodies, and read their newspaper, you will *hear* all that this movie is saying, and it will move you to tears.

Helene Hanff (Anne Bancroft), is a single New Yorker, of mixed Jewish and Christian family. She is a no-nonsense lover of life, cigarettes, hard liquor, and books. She is the kind of reader that every writer dreams of writing for -- she is like a sponge, soaking up every word; she is like a bell; when an author's words strike her, she rings. She is like the very best of interlocutors. Writers dream of having a reader like this to interact in dialogue with their works.

When Hanff can't find a book she needs locally (and that she can't find a book she needs locally tells you something about her expansive tastes -- she lives in Manhattan, after all, not a shabby place to book shop), Hanff begins writing to a London book shop, Marks and Cohen, staffed by one Frank Doel. Doel meets her needs. That's in 1949. Their exchange of letters lasts decades into the future.

The film lovingly and deftly chronicles the decades' changes in fashion, not just in clothing, but also in architecture. Both Helene and Frank are living in distinctly 1949 dwellings when their exchange begins, and are living in more modern dwellings toward the end of the story. Hair styles, current events, the sound of rock music heard from a passing radio, act like clocks to remind the viewer of the passage of time in this relationship.

That chronicling, via visual cues, of the passage of time is just one of the many ways this movie communicates that may be too subtle for many viewers. What the film is saying in these details is this: these two people and their acquaintances and colleagues who participate in this correspondence, are investing time in each other in a drastically changing world. As the world spins precariously around them, from the post-WW II rationing in Britain to the introduction of the miniskirt, Helene and Frank continue to be there for each other.

There are so many other ways in which this movie tells a wondrous, rich tale that have nothing to do with conventional ways that films communicate. There are no conventional "love" scenes, or fight scenes. What there are are scenes that, in painstakingly crafted detail by painstakingly crafted detail, build up a story as rich as full fat cream.

By the end of this movie, the observant viewer will *know* Helene and Frank in a way that very few movies allow viewers to know their characters. The observant viewer will have participated in these people's real lives in a way that feels almost like watching a home movie.

Watch Frank react to being asked to participate in a conga line. Watch the joie de vivre that Helene brings to ordering gifts from a Danish catalogue. Listen to Helene talk about books. Watch Frank as he goes about the business of meeting his customer's needs.

The two "loudest" scenes in the movie are the scene in which Helene goes to a movie theater and watches "Brief Encounter," a classic film about a brief, extra-marital affair. While watching this movie, Helene fantasizes about finally visiting London. That scene, and that choice of movie, tells you much about how Helene feels about Frank. Similarly, carefully watch a scene in which Frank reads, aloud, a Yeats poem which ends, "Tread softly because you tread on my dreams." There are so many movies about people who are nuts about sports. Movies about people who love guns, or war, or cars.

"84 Charring Cross Road" is the best movie I know about unbridled passion for books, for words, and the kind of intimacy that can take place when one person who loves words makes contact with another who shares, or at least appreciates, that passion.

If you don't get this movie, I really think you can become a better, more sensitive, more aware person by watching it again, and trying to "hear" all it says. To the person who really listens, "84 Charring Cross Road" is one of the richest movies I know.

PS: the film is perfectly cast, and every performance is spot on. Anthony Hopkins has never been more sympathetic. Anne Bancroft was born to play Helene Hanff. Judi Dench, Mercedes Ruehl, Oscar winners all around -- how can you go wrong?
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