Last night, I watched again one of my favorite movies. It’s probably been ten years since I last saw it and yet it remains a beloved as it was the first time I saw it (so often, I find a movie disappointing the second time around). 84 Charing Cross Road is a movie for bibliophiles, for writers, for Anglophiles, for romantics. Charming, funny, touching, heartbreaking the story documents the 20-year epistolary friendship between New York writer, Helene Hanff and London bookdealer Frank Doel (played beautifully by Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins).
In 1949, Helene is exasperated that neither the smaller bookshops nor the larger bookstores have the out-of-print books she wants. Now why not just get them out of the library? Please! If you love books you know that the library does serve a purpose as a sort of smorgasboard for you to taste without yet purchasing (and this is exactly the way Helene feels–she claims to have never bought a book she hadn’t read first). She also is compelled to write in the margins (as am I). When she finds the advertisement for Marks & Co. (the bookshop Doel manages) she writes to them with her list of books she is looking for. They send her back two of the most beautiful books she’s ever seen and from there friendship is born.
Of course, Helene is not always pleased with Frank’s choice and she is not afraid to tell him. Even though she chastises Frank, he remains dogged to satisfying her desires. She is as much the wonderfully abrasive and outspoken New Yorker as Frank is the polite, quietly wry and reserved Englishman. The fact is, they like each other. For all of their differences they are so alike in humor and intellect. They are kindred spirits, then.
I don’t want to spoil the whole thing for any potential watchers, so all I will say is that if you love books, you will likely love this movie. I should note that this movie is based on Hanff’s bookof the same title, which I have not read, but intend to.