Monday, August 4, 2008

84, Charing Cross Road

I have seen this movie many times, and in fact, I own a copy, but just
this weekend borrowed the book, 84, Charing Cross Road, by
Helene Hanff, from the branch of my local library. It is a collection of
witty and touching letters between a charmingly sarcastic New Yorker
and a straight laced, proper London book shop proprietor from the
1940's to the 1960's. What starts as a quest for obscure classic books
develops into an intimate relationship in the lives of the bookshop's
staff. The film, one of my very favorites, stars the talented Anne
Bancroft as Hanff and fabulous Anthony Hopkins as Frank Doel.
If you are passionate about books, bookshops and correspondence
as I am, you will love this book and movie. Here is a sample letter
from the collection:

14 East 94th St.
New York City
November 3, 1949

Marks & Co.
84, Charing Cross Road
London, W.C.2


The books arrived safely, the Stevenson is so fine it
embarrasses my orange-crate bookshelves, I'm almost afraid to
handle such soft vellum and heavy cream-colored pages. Being
used to the dead-white paper and stiff cardboardy covers of
American books, I never knew a book could be such a joy to
the touch.

A Britisher whose girl lives upstairs translated the 1/17/6
for me and says I owe you $5.30 for the two books. I hope he
got it right. I enclose a $5 bill and a single, please use the .70
toward the price of the New Testament, both of which I want.

Will you please translate your prices hereafter? I don't
add too well in plain American, I haven't a prayer of ever
mastering bilingual arithmetic.


Helene Hanff

I hope "madame" doesn't mean over there what it does here.


  1. Thanks for the reminder... I loved the film and especially the book. I always thought Anne Bancroft could have made a great Maria Callas in a biopic. In "An Audience with Mel Brooks" on British television years ago, Anne Bancroft asked him from the audience: "Isn't it true you're married to the most beautiful woman in the world?" and he came back with: "No, I'm married to Anne Bancroft." Then she came up to the stage and they did a number from "History of the World Part One"... I think. :)

  2. BPG, I totally agree...Anne Bancroft would have portrayed a feisty Maria Callas...she would have been perfect! She even looked a little like her. Cute story about Mel and Anne. :)

  3. Now I am going to have Husband put this on his NetFlix queue ...

    Here's another Mel & Anne story .. friends of mine attend every Broadway show ... one evening they sat down and next to my friend B was this man who nodded hello .. and B who has the world's worst memory was sure they knew one another or had worked together at one point. B's wife my friend D was sitting on the aisle and didnt see who was next to B. When the couple went out during intermission (exiting the row from the other end) B turned to D and said Damn I cant remember his name, do you recognize him or his wife? D stood and looked and said: Honey that's Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft .. and no you dont know him nor have you worked with him.

    D insists Mel was asking Anne the same thing.


  4. Sounds delightful! Which version did you find more intriguing? The movie or the book?

  5. Oh, Daryl, that is a great story! I love it!! :D

  6. Pat, the book is a compilation of just the letters. The film is a drama, taking place over 20 years, which includes the reading/typing of the letters. They actually go hand in hand.

  7. I discovered this delightful book about 11 years ago while driving on a turnpike somewhere in Pennsylvania. I had checked out a bag full of books on tape for our vacation. I was driving, kids were sleeping in the back and hubby was taking a rest from the wheel.

    From the opening line, " Gentlemen: Your ad in the Saturday Review of Literature says that you specialize in out-of-print books" I knew I was going to love this one.

    Have you read the sequel, "Q's Legacy?" It gives the story of how Helene became a student of all the books recommended by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, a don at Cambridge College. It also covers all that happened to her because of "84 Charing Cross Road." I think the movie incorporated this info.

  8. Stevie, I also want to read "The
    Duchess of Bloomsbury Street", which is her sequel to "84, Charing Cross Road". This and "Q's Legacy" are on my list! She's great.

  9. I also love that movie. And the last time I slipped off for a solitary beach week, I listened to the book on CD. Had a lovely drive!

  10. Your new header is beautiful!

    I'm excited about this book, and movie! I'm not familiar with them but your synopsis tickles my interest and makes me very happy to be going to the library later today!

  11. I have this on my netflix list AND continually browse for it at used bookstores. Maybe I'll just get it through inter-library loan. Thanks for the reminder. I've been wanting to read it for years. These Broadway reminisces are funny. When my son was in graduate school, he was involved in some program where he took freshman at CUNY to Broadway plays. At one, Mel & Anne sat in front of him!

  12. This is too funny! Seems everyone has a Mel and Anne story today!

  13. Willow, I'll have to put the book on my very long reading list. So many books, so little time.

  14. David, it's a very easy read. Under 100 pages and it's just the letters of correspondence.

  15. Oh, Anne Bancroft has always been a big fave of mine...and Anthony Hopkinds, well...need I say more. I've not seen this, but have read the book. Good to learn it's good--I'll have to try to find it! I'll never forget the goofy skit she did once where she sat on a shrink's chaise and recounted a dream she had where she hosted a dinner party and had to introduce all the guests to each other--their names where a loooong string of folks, like: Oona O'Neill, Aba Eban, Idi Amin, Yoko get the gist of it! It was hilarious--I have no idea how she got them all without flubbing it up once. I still smile thinking of it...

  16. Very funny on the money exchange. Have a good day.

  17. I love the book. As a matter of fact, it's arms length from me as I type. :)

    The movie almost had me, except where....I don't want to say and spoil it for those that haven't seen it.
    Still highly recommended.

  18. Except where...? Hey, you're leaving us in suspense here! ;)

  19. If I remember right, towards the end Anne turns and looks into the camera and talks to the viewer.

    But no matter! I have good news....

    TCM is showing this Thursday, the 7th(Late late Wednesday night) at 4:00 a.m. as part of Anne Bancroft Day on the 6th.

    Check your local listings as they say. ;)

  20. Drifter, thanks for the heads up on TCM's tribute to Anne Bancroft. 4:00 am is a little late/early for me, but I'll watch for some of her other films.

  21. I'm such a fan of both of these great actors....Anything they do apart or together has to be worth the watch. I hope to see it soon..

  22. One of my favorites the book and the film! We were recently in London, and 84 Charing Cross Road is no longer a bookshop, sadly, but there are still many secondhand book shops in the area, which was very reassuring! Thank you for sharing this gem! Hapy Days :o) Oh, stop by again if you get a chance--I'm having some gift giveaway fun at my place this week!

  23. I have an award for you over in Marrakesh!!

  24. Ah ha! This is (now) on my list of books to pick up at the library.

    Loved the sample letter...thanks!

    Have you ever read The 3000 Mile Garden by Leslie Land & Roger Phillips? It too is a collection of letters between an American and Englishman....loved it.

  25. Tracy,'ll pop over and take a peek!

    Elizabeth, you are so nice! Thank you; I'm very honored. On my way over to Marrakesh...

    Diva, I just added "The 3000 Mile Garden" to my book stack that is starting to resemble The Leaning Tower of Piza!

  26. All of this talk about books "should" bring back some pleasant memories. I have belonged to a number of book clubs over the years and one or two were classic clubs or the books were leather bound, gold edged, names tooled in gold...things like that.

    I really enjoyed those books but for the life of me I can't remember a single book name or an author name.

    What was once so important is not even a memory nowadays. I remember giving them to my grown children.

    Abraham Lincoln
    —Brookville, Ohio

  27. I loved the film, unfortunately I haven't read the book. I am looking for books to take in hospital with me, to pass away the hours. I'm going to take this one, have you any others you could suggest???

  28. Dearest Willow, thank you for recalling the joy of a.) gobbling up the book and b.) thoroughtly enjoying the gentleness and gentility of the film. Both Tony and Anne were real gems in it. He was sooooo English and she so American, no sex, no violence, just lovely gentle sentiment.

  29. Queenie, I am in an "Old West" mode right now. I'm enjoying "Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey" by Lillian Schlissel and just finished "My Antonia" by Willa Cather. Both are good, but I'm not sure exactly what your taste is in books.

    High Desert Diva just suggested "The 3000 Mile Garden" also the correspondence between a Brit and an American. I'm adding this one to my list, since I really enjoyed "84, Charing Cross Road".

  30. Arija, hello welcome to Willow Manor! I totally agree with you one hundred percent! :)

  31. Thanks Willow, I have a wide range that I enjoy depending on where and what I'm doing. For instance at the moment an ex-colleague has dropped me off six books that go from rearing to god forbid slaughtering hens.
    Also trying to finish The Enchantress of Florence- SALMAN RvSHDIE. I think whilst I'm in hospital. pure escapism would be good......

  32. Oh, Willow, as you know, this is in my top 3 all time favourite movies, if not my absolute favourite. Would love to read the book too. How do you like that compared to the movie?..Oh never mind, I se you answer that above. OK, a compliment. I will have to read it and then re-watch the movie. I winder if they could ever remake it again but in a modern setting? Maybe it could start with some tie in to UK's loss felt from 9-11 too? It could be quite intriguing but I bet they'd ruin it with cheap sex and such. Oh well, one can always wonder.

  33. Mmm, the book is the collection of letters and almost all of them are quoted in the film. So, if you are a big fan of the film, like I am, you have basically already read the book! I think the film is very well cast with Bancroft and Hopkins.


Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)