84, Charing Cross Road

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

84, Charing Cross Road
84 charing cross first.jpg
CountryNew York
PublisherGrossman Publishers
Publication date

84, Charing Cross Road is a 1970 book by Helene Hanff, later made into a stage play, television play, and film, about the twenty-year correspondence between the author and Frank Doel, chief buyer of Marks & Co antiquarian booksellers, located at the eponymous address in London, England.


Hanff was in search of obscure classics and British literature titles that she had been unable to find in New York City when she noticed an ad in the Saturday Review of Literature. She first contacted the shop in 1949 and it fell to Doel to fulfil her requests. In time, a long-distance friendship developed between the two and between Hanff and other staff members, as well, with an exchange of Christmas packages, birthday gifts and food parcels to help with the post-World War II food shortages in Britain. Their letters included discussions about topics as diverse as the sermons of John Donne, how to make Yorkshire Pudding, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the coronation of Elizabeth II. Hanff postponed visiting her English friends until too late; Doel died in December 1968 from peritonitis from a burst appendix, and the bookshop eventually closed in December 1970. Hanff did finally visit Charing Cross Road and the empty shop in the summer of 1971, a trip recorded in her 1973 book The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street.

The shop's site today[edit]

The five-story building where Marks & Co. was located during the events of the book still exists (51°30′49″N 0°07′45″W / 51.51365°N 0.12916°W / 51.51365; -0.12916). A circular brass plaque on a pilaster on the street frontage acknowledges the story and marks the site. The premises were occupied by a music and CD shop in the early 1990s, and later other retail outlets. In 2009 they housed a Med Kitchen restaurant; and now form part of a McDonald's restaurant. In New York, the apartment house at 305 East 72nd Street, near Second Avenue, Hanff’s home from 1956 and from where she wrote her later letters, has been renamed “Charing Cross House” in her honor.[1]



Hugh Whitemore adapted 84, Charing Cross Road for the BBC's Play for Today, a television anthology series. It was first broadcast on 4 November 1975, starring Frank Finlay and Anne Jackson.


In 1981, James Roose-Evans adapted it for the stage and it was first produced at the Salisbury Playhouse with a cast headed by Rosemary Leach as Hanff and David Swift as Doel. It transferred to the West End, where it opened to universally ecstatic reviews. It toured nationally and was performed by Miriam Karlin in 1990 and later by Rula Lenska and Bill Gaunt. It returned to the Salisbury Playhouse in 2015, running 5–28 February with Clive Francis and Janie Dee in the lead roles. It was also performed at the Cambridge Arts Theatre in 2018 by Clive Francis and Stefanie Powers, before embarking on a UK tour.[2]

After fifteen previews, the Broadway production opened to mixed reviews[3] on 7 December 1982 at the Nederlander Theatre with Ellen Burstyn and Joseph Maher. It ran for 96 performances.


Virginia Browns adapted the story for BBC Radio drama, and it was broadcast on Radio 3 on 15 January 1976, with Margaret Robertson as Hanff and Lyndon Brook as Doel. The play was produced by Christopher Venning.

James Roose-Evans again adapted the play for a 1992 BBC radio production starring Frank Finlay, who had played Doel in the 1975 TV production, and Miriam Karlin[4] and a 2007 production starring Gillian Anderson and Denis Lawson, broadcast on Christmas Day on BBC Radio 4.[5]


Whitemore returned to the project to write the screenplay for the 1987 film adaptation starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins. The dramatis personae were expanded to include Hanff's Manhattan friends, the bookshop staff, and Doel's wife Nora, played by Judi Dench. Bancroft won the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Dench was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and Whitemore for BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

The Chinese-Hong Kong film Book of Love or Finding Mr. Right 2 (Chinese: 北京遇上西雅圖之不二情書) (2016) references, and is loosely inspired by, 84, Charing Cross Road.


  1. ^ "A Brief History – Page 2". 84charingcrossroad.co.uk. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  2. ^ 84 Charing Cross Road Programme. The Salisbury Playhouse. 2015.
  3. ^ New York Times review
  4. ^ "frankfinlay.net".
  5. ^ John Plunkett. "X Files star Gillian Anderson to appear in Radio 4 play". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 August 2015.

External links[edit]