Slaves of New York
Slaves of New York is a 1989 comedy-drama Merchant Ivory Productions film. Directed by James Ivory and produced by Ismail Merchant, it stars Bernadette Peters, Adam Coleman Howard, Chris Sarandon, Mary Beth Hurt, Mercedes Ruehl, Madeleine Potter, and Steve Buscemi.
|Slaves of New York|
Poster for Slaves of New York
|Directed by||James Ivory|
|Produced by||Ismail Merchant|
Fred Hughes (associate)
Vincent Fremont (associate)
|Written by||Tama Janowitz based on her stories|
|Music by||Richard Robbins (score)|
Boy George (theme song: Girlfriend)
Michael Butler & Johann Carlo
Les Rita Mitsouko
|Edited by||Katherine Wenning|
|Distributed by||TriStar Pictures|
The story follows Eleanor, an aspiring hat designer, and a group of artists and models in the "downtown" New York City art world. Eleanor lives with her younger boyfriend Stash, an unknown artist, who is unfaithful and treats Eleanor with careless indifference. Eleanor expresses her feelings for Stash when she tells him that she was once attracted to him because he was dangerous. She stays with him despite the crumbling relationship because she has nowhere else to live—she is, in effect, a "slave."
When a clothing designer, Wilfredo, discovers her hat designs and offers to use them in a fashion show, Eleanor gains the self-respect—and money—to leave Stash. There is an elaborate fashion show sequence.
While buying food for a celebratory party, she meets Jan and invites him to the party. After the party, Eleanor and her new friend talk, and then ride off into the morning sunrise.
- Bernadette Peters as Eleanor
- Chris Sarandon as Victor Okrent
- Mary Beth Hurt as Ginger Booth
- Madeleine Potter as Daria
- Adam Coleman Howard as Stash
- Nick Corri as Marley
- Charles McCaughan as Sherman
- John Harkins as Chuck Dade Dolger
- Mercedes Ruehl as Samantha
- Joe Leeway as Jonny Jalouse
- Anna Katarina as Mooshka
- Bruce Peter Young as Mikell
- Michael Schoeffling as Jan
- Steve Buscemi as Wilfredo
Tama Janowitz had written a script for Andy Warhol, based on the Eleanor and Stash stories in her 1986 collection of short stories, Slaves of New York. When Warhol died, Merchant-Ivory bought that script. The real graffiti artist from New York City named STASH, who is a friend of Janowitz, was the influence for the name of her lead character and can be seen as an extra in many of the party scenes.
The fashion show in the movie had costumes by designer Stephen Sprouse.
In discussing casting the role of Eleanor, James Ivory commented: "...but out of 100 girls, there was not a single one with Miss Peters's originality. We wanted someone unusual and different but also ingenuous and not too knowing."
Slaves of New York was shot on location in New York City, in the Lower East Side, a downtown gallery and a club. Shooting started on April 4, 1988, with a 10-week shooting schedule. There was a "modest" budget—$5 million—that meant there were no lengthy rehearsals. There was one read-through before shooting began.
There are several cameos in this film: for example, Producer Ismail Merchant, lyricist Betty Comden and Adam Green, son of her writing partner, Adolph Green, and Tony-Award winning actress Tammy Grimes appear in party scenes.
Slaves of New York received mostly unfavorable reviews at the time of its release. Janet Maslin wrote that the film "...simply drifts from situation to situation" and is "never terribly involving". Roger Ebert, who gave the movie a half-star rating, opened his review with the statement "I detest Slaves of New York so much that I distrust my own opinion."
Slaves of New York became a cult classic amongst the gay communities in the United States. It is notorious for a scene that features a very convincing drag act performing "Love Is Like an Itching In My Heart" by The Supremes while making their way down a street in full evening gowns.
Performed on screen
Soundtrack album selections
- "Some Guys Have All the Luck"
Written by Jeff Fortgang
Performed by Maxi Priest
- "Tumblin' Down"
Written by Ziggy Marley and Tyrone Downie
Performed by Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers
- "Admit It"
Written by Arto Lindsay and Peter Scherer
Performed by Ambitious Lovers
- "Buffalo Stance"
Written by Neneh Cherry, Cameron McVey, Phillip Ramacon and Jamie Morgan
Performed by Neneh Cherry
Written by Boy George, Vlad Naslas
Performed by Boy George
- "Change Your Mind"
Written by Camper Van Beethoven
Performed by Camper Van Beethoven
- "Good Life"
Written by Kevin Saunderson, Paris Grey and Ray Holman
Performed by Inner City
- "Fall in Love with Me"
Written by Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Hunt B. Sales and Tony Sales
Performed by Iggy Pop
- "Tongue Dance"
Written by Catherine Ringer and Frederic Chichin
Performed by Rita Les Mitsouko
(from 9 1989)
Written by Allan Dias, Lu Edmonds, John Lydon, John McGeoch and Bruce Smith
Performed by Public Image Ltd
- "Am I Blue?"
Written by Grant Clarke and Harry Akst
Performed by Billie Holiday
- "Dad, I’m In Jail"
(from What Up, Dog? 1988)
Written by David Was and Don Was
Performed by Was (Not Was)
- "The Grand Tour"
(from The Grand Tour 1974)
Written by Carmol Taylor, George Richey and Norris Wilson
Performed by George Jones
- "Glück, das mir Verblieb"
From Die tote Stadt by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Performed by Carol Neblett
- "Love Is Like an Itching in My Heart"
(from The Supremes A' Go-Go 1966)
Written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland
Performed by The Supremes
- "I Need a Man"
(from Savage 1987)
Written by Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart
Performed by the Eurythmics
- "O ruddier than the cherry"
From Acis and Galatea by George Frideric Handel
Performed by John Ostendorf
- James, Caryn."In a Change-of-Pace Production, Merchant and Ivory Film on Mott St."New York Times, April 5, 1988
- Abeel, Erica."Merchant and Ivory Traffic in 'Slaves of New York'"New York Times, March 12, 1989
- Maslin, Janet."James Ivory's Version Of Janowitz's 'Slaves'"New York Times, March 17, 1989.
- Ebert, Roger. "Review, 'Slaves of New York'"Sun Times, March 24, 1989
- Boxofficemojo ""Slaves on New York' domestic gross boxofficemojo.com. Retrieved March 20, 2010.