Filming Locations for Sylvie’s Love, Set in Harlem in the 1950s


Sylvie’s Love from Amazon Studios and streaming on Amazon Prime Video is set in 1957 Harlem with an aesthetic that aims to evoke the filming of the time period, retro title cards, music and all. But surprise! The filming locations for Sylvie’s Love are primarily created on a set in Los Angeles or in buildings in downtown Los Angeles, not in New York City. In some ways, the disconnect also feels nostalgic in itself, harkening back to the days when New York City wasn’t quite the filming hotspot it is now (thanks to a healthy policy of tax credits instituted in the Bloomberg mayoral administration) and the city was often shot on the big screen in Los Angeles or Toronto. Here’s the filming locations for the movie and how the production of Sylvie’s Love transformed Los Angeles into 1950s New York City.

1. The Town Hall

On the set of Sylvie’s Love. Photo by Nicola Goode courtesy of Amazon Studios.

The opening credits of Sylvie’s Love feature vintage footage of New York City, showing Times Square‘s theater district and cuts to Sylvie Johnson, played by Tessa Thompson, in a blue dress waiting outside what is supposed to be The Town Hall, a real Times Square venue founded by suffragettes. She happens to meet her old love, a saxophonist Robert Holloway (played by Nnamdi Asomugha).  This scene is filmed at the Orpheum Theater located at 842 S. Broadway in Los Angeles. The recognizable triple marquee was hidden from the shot and one of the lower signs that usually says Orpheum in a script font was covered over to say “The Town Hall.” The behind-the-scenes image above shows more detail on how they filmed it, putting in Town Hall billboards and a yellow cab.

The Orpheum Theater was designed by architect G. Albert Lansburgh, who graduated from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and went on to helm the creation of not only the Orpheum but also the Palace Theater El Capitan Theatre, the,Wiltern Theatre, and the Shrine Auditorium.

2. Robert’s Recording Studio

Director Eugene Ashe on the set of Sylvie’s Love. Photo by Nicola Goode courtesy of Amazon Studios.

In the same opening montage, we also see Robert wrapping up a recording session playing saxophone with his band, the Dickie Brewster Quartet, and walking out the doors of a building with the sign “Associated Musicians of Greater New York. Local 802 A.F. of M. Please show your membership card!” The Dickie Brewster Quartet also includes Chicago “Chico” Sweetney, played by Regé-Jean Page, recently seen as the main man in Bridgerton.

This is filmed at the Ninth & Broadway Building at 850 S. Broadway and you can see the director of Sylvie’s Love, Eugene Ash, above in this behind-the-scenes photograph. The Art Deco Ninth and Broadway building was designed by Claud Beelman in 1930 and features decorative elevator banks, some remnants of WPA murals on the walls of the lobby, and two US mail letter boxes in an Art Deco style.

3. Mr. Jay’s Records

Photo by Nicola Goode courtesy of Amazon Studios

Mr. Jay’s Records is the record store owned by Sylvie’s father, Mr. Jay (played by Lance Reddick) where Sylvie and Robert meet for the first time. It’s a fictional location filmed on a studio backlot in Los Angeles. The elaborate backlots at both the Paramount Studios and Warner Brother Studios form much of the streetscape scenes you see in Sylvie’s Love. (A big giveaway that it’s not New York City is the lampposts in the street scenes and how empty the streets and sidewalks are!)

Photo courtesy Amazon Studios

4. Blue Morocco

Photo by Nicola Goode courtesy of Amazon Studios

Robert is playing with the Dickie Brewster Quartet at the Blue Morocco, a club that once existed in the Morrisania neighborhood in the Bronx that was a veritable hotspot of jazz. Morrisania was home to a number of popular night clubs like the Blue Morocco at 1155 Boston Road and Club 45 at 845 Prospect Avenue. Musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Nancy Wilson played at these jazz clubs. The Blue Morocco was founded by singer Sylvia Vanderpool, who opened the club using royalty earnings from her hit song “Love is Strange” (perhaps most famous in the more recent era for being on the soundtrack of Dirty Dancing). The actual filming location for the Blue Morocco is the Cafe Club Fais Do-Do at 5257 W Adams Boulevard in Los Angeles.

5. The Countess’ Mansion

Photo by Nicola Goode courtesy of Amazon Studios

The Countess is played by Jemima Kirke, who meets Robert and Dickie Brewster at the Blue Morocco and invites them to her uptown mansion for a jam session on the next Friday night. The exterior of the mansion is filmed on a studio backlot, made to look Harlem. In the behind the scenes shot above, you can see the exterior of the Harlem townhouses juxtaposed incongruously with southern California palm trees.

Behind the scenes with Nnamdi Asomugha and Sylvie’s Love director Eugene Ashe on the backlot set of Sylvie’s Love. Photo by Nicola Goode courtesy of Amazon Studios.

Other vintage footage of New York City is interspersed through the film, including scenes of Union Square and Park Avenue.

Sylvie’s Love is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

By Michelle Young

Michelle Young is the founder of Untapped New York. Michelle is a graduate of Harvard College in the History of Art and Architecture and holds a master’s degree in urban planning from Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, where she is an Adjunct Professor of Architecture. She is the author of Secret Brooklyn: An Unusual Guide, New York: Hidden Bars & Restaurants, and Broadway. She has worked as a film location scout for VICE Media.