A long lost jazz club of 1950s New York City comes back to life in the new Amazon Prime movie Sylvie’s Love. Set in 1957 Harlem, but filmed in modern-day Los Angeles, the film follows the complicated love story of aspiring television producer Sylvie Parker (Tessa Thompson) and jazz saxophonist Robert Halloway (Nnamdi Asomugha). Historic Los Angeles buildings and soundstage sets were used to recreate two iconic, New York City venues, Blue Morocco, a jazz club in the Bronx, and The Town Hall, a theater in Times Square. Read on to learn more about these two swinging sites, and discover more Sylvie’s Love filming locations here, on a brand new website dedicated solely to TV and movie filming locations from Untapped New York.
On the set of Sylvie’s Love. Photo by Nicola Goode courtesy of Amazon Studios.
In the movie’s opening scene, we are introduced to Sylvie as she stands outside The Town Hall. The Town Hall is a real venue located in Times Square, but as you can see from the behind-the-scenes photo above, the scene was actually filmed in front of the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles. The Orpheum’s triple marquee was cropped out of the shot, and other signs that would give away the real location were covered up.
The Town Hall is located in Times Square at 23 West 43rd Street. It was founded by The League for Political Education, a woman’s suffrage group, and meant to serve as a space for discussion. The venue opened on January 12, 1921, and hosted talks and performances by various influential speakers and artists. Speakers such as birth control activist Margaret Sanger, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and poet Langston Hughes have all graced the stage.
The Town Hall in 2018, via Cindy Byram
In the 1940s and 1950s, The Town Hall became a hotspot for jazz. Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, and Nina Simone are a few notable jazz artists who have played there. In the film, a sign on advertises upcoming performances by comedian Jackie “Moms” Mabley, jazz saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, and singer Nancy Wilson, all famous performers of the time in which the movie is set. The Town Hall continues to serve as both a music venue and a space for events such as book talks and interviews.
Aja Naomi King as Mona and Tessa Thompson as Sylvie Parker in Sylvie’s Love. Photo by Nicola Goode courtesy of Amazon Studios.
Blue Morocco is another important setting in the film, and a real New York City location. In the film, a summer gig at Blue Morocco is what brings Robert and his band, the Dickie Brewster Quartet, to New York from their home city of Detroit. For filming, the Cafe Club Fais Do-Do at 5257 W Adams Boulevard in Los Angeles stood in for the real Blue Morocco, which was located at 1155 Boston Road in the Bronx neighborhood of Morrisania. Founded by singer Sylvia Vanderpool, who opened the club using royalty earnings from her hit song “Love is Strange,” the club attracted big-name jazz talents like Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk.
Tessa Thompson as Sylvie Parker and Nnamdi Asomugha as Robert Holloway in Sylvie’s Love. Photo by Nicola Goode courtesy of Amazon Studios.
In addition to Blue Morocco, Morrisania was home to several popular nightclubs like Club 845 and Freddie’s. These South Bronx clubs served as musical melting pots where jazz blended with Latin music and new musical styles such as doo-wop, and ultimately hip-hop emerged. The Bronx is often overlooked for Harlem in New York City music history, but the nightclubs in Morrisania played just as vital a role in the evolution of music. After Blue Morocco closed, Sylvia Vanderpool and her husband started a record company that produced hip-hop albums during the 1980s, including the hit single “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Today, the site of Blue Morocco is an empty fenced-in lot, but stories of Morrisania’s music scene are being kept alive in the form of oral histories. Fordham professor Mark Naisson and the Bronx African American History Project staff have collected tales from locals who remember spending Saturday nights listening to music on Boston Road. The jazz scene is alive all over New York City where (in non-pandemic times) you can see live music in historic venues and new hidden spots.
Check out more Sylvie’s Love filming locations at FilmingLocationsGuide.com, the ultimate destination for filming locations as seen on TV and the movies, created by Untapped New York. If you want to learn more about the mid-century jazz clubs of New York City, you can check out Untapped’s talk with Jeff Gold, author of Sittin’ In in our Untapped New York Insiders Video Archive. Not an Insider yet? Become a member today to access the archive and upcoming live events. Get two months free with code JOINUS. After that, plans start at just $10/month.