TV writer and producer Julian Fellowes, 72, had a major hit on his hands with Downton Abbey, and this month he returns to the small screen with HBO’s The Gilded Age, which premieres on January 24. For this new period drama, Fellowes is crossing the pond and going a few decades back in time to the boom years of 1880s New York City, when robber barons were king and the nouveaux riches were nipping at the heels of the city’s old-money elite. Christine Baranski, 69, and Cynthia Nixon, 55, play Dutch-American socialite sisters who feel threatened by the arrival of an ambitious railroad tycoon’s wife (played by The Leftovers star Carrie Coon). The show features a thrilling supporting cast that includes Jeanne Tripplehorn, 58, Nathan Lane, 65, and Audra McDonald, 51.
Want to luxuriate more in America’s Gilded Age? We’ve gathered 10 resplendent films and series that will take you there. Plus, we’ve even tucked in a few filming locations and historic sites where you can take a real-life dip into the past.
The Age of Innocence (1993)
The premise: Quintessential New York City novelist Edith Wharton became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in Literature for this 1920 tale about a Gilded Age love triangle. Another Big Apple creator, Martin Scorsese, 79, helmed the lush 1993 adaptation. Wealthy attorney Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis, 64) is engaged to the young socialite May Welland (Winona Ryder, 50), but their relationship is upended when her unconventional cousin, the Countess Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer, 63), arrives from Europe after a failed marriage to a Polish count. The film was nominated for five Oscars, winning one for best costume design.
Locations you can visit: Scenes at the opera, though set in New York, were filmed at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music, which features appropriately gilt interiors.
The Bostonians (1984)
The premise: Based on the 1886 Henry James novel, this Merchant-Ivory production is set against the backdrop of the early suffragette movement in 1870s New England. Boston feminist Olive Chancellor (Vanessa Redgrave, 84) and chauvinistic Southern lawyer Basil Ransome (Christopher Reeve) compete for the attention — and affection — of a progressive young orator named Verena Tarrant (Madeleine Potter, 63). Jessica Tandy costars as the elderly abolitionist Miss Birdseye, with Linda Hunt, 76, stealing scenes as her companion, Dr. Prance.
Locations you can visit: Filming locations in the namesake city include the Gibson House Museum and the Boston Athenaeum, one of the country’s oldest independent libraries.
Hello, Dolly! (1969)
The premise: Barbra Streisand, 79, stars as widowed matchmaker Dolly Levi in this classic musical set in 1890s New York City, in which she tries to find a wife for the Yonkers “half-a-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder (Walter Matthau). The film, which won three Oscars, features all the requisite trappings of the Gilded Age. Big decorative hats? Check. Parasols? Check. A high-society restaurant serving mock turtle soup and roast pheasant under glass? Check and check. In fact, there may not be a more sumptuous, over-the-top restaurant in cinematic history than the Harmonia Gardens, where the staff greets Dolly with the title song.
Locations you can visit: While many of the famous NYC set pieces were filmed on very expensive specially built sets, you can still check out the Hudson Valley town of Garrison, New York, which stood in for Yonkers; the climactic “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” takes place at the town’s historic train depot.
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The Buccaneers (1995)
The premise: A coproduction of the BBC and PBS, this five-episode Masterpiece Theater miniseries is an adaptation of Edith Wharton’s unfinished final novel, set in the 1870s, when the author was a child. The story follows four wealthy American girls, played by Carla Gugino, 50, Mira Sorvino, 54, Alison Elliott, 51, and Rya Kihlstedt, 51, who travel to London to participate in the social season and land husbands — and, preferably, aristocratic titles.
Locations you can visit: Before the girls head off to Europe, that ultimate Gilded Age seaside playground, Newport, Rhode Island, serves as a backdrop, with scenes filmed at Chateau-sur-Mer, Marble House and the Cliffside Inn.
The Portrait of a Lady (1996)
The premise: Jane Campion, 67, directed this adaptation of the 1881 Henry James novel, originally released in installments in The Atlantic Monthly. American heiress Isabel Archer (Nicole Kidman, 54) travels to Europe to find herself, but soon becomes entangled in a trap set by Madame Serena Merle (Barbara Hershey, 73) and the devious art collector and con artist Gilbert Osmond (John Malkovich, 68). Think of it as a Gilded Age take on Dangerous Liaisons, with an acclaimed supporting cast that includes Christian Bale, Viggo Mortensen (63), Shelley Winters and John Gielgud.
Locations you can visit: You can follow in Isabel’s footsteps to the kinds of spots an American traveler might have visited in the 19th century, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Colosseum and the Palazzo Farnese in Rome.
Watch it: The Portrait of a Lady on Amazon Prime
Daisy Miller (1974)
The premise: Another Henry James adaptation, another tale of a plucky American woman taking Europe by storm. In this comedy of manners, directed by Peter Bogdanovich, Cybill Shepherd (71) plays an American nouveau riche who visits Switzerland with her mother and brother. While there, she meets the wealthy expat Frederick Winterbourne (Barry Brown), who is charmed by her bright disposition but suspicious of her innocence and naivete.
Locations you can visit: Bogdanovich shot the film in the actual locations mentioned in the book, across Rome and the Swiss spa town of Vevey.
The Alienist (2018-2020)
The premise: Despite its name, the Gilded Age wasn’t all about glittering high society. In this gritty TNT psychological thriller, new police commissioner Teddy Roosevelt (Brian Geraghty) hires criminal psychiatrist Dr. Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Brühl) and newspaper cartoonist John Schuyler Moore (Luke Evans) to investigate the murders of boy prostitutes in 1896 New York. It’s grim stuff. Dakota Fanning tags along as Sara Howard, the first woman employed by the NYPD, who joins in their search for the killer.
Locations you can visit: Production designers reproduced 1890s New York on a back lot in Budapest, but you can still take in the real-life locations that inspired the sets, including Washington Square Park and Castle Clinton in Battery Park.
The premise: Ethan Hawke, 51, stars as the Serbian-American inventor and futurist opposite Kyle MacLachlan, 62, as Thomas Edison in this avant-garde biopic. Despite being set in 1880s New York, the movie has characters pulling out laptops and iPhones, talking to the audience and breaking into musical performances. Tesla even sings a mean “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” The film is narrated by J.P. Morgan’s daughter Anne, who’s played by Eve Hewson — the daughter of Bono.
Locations you can visit: At Thomas Edison National Historical Park in New Jersey, you can tour the inventor’s laboratory and residence, which were designed in 1887. Tesla’s lab in Colorado Springs was sadly torn down to pay his debts.
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
The premise: Based on Booth Tarkington’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1918 novel, this Orson Welles masterpiece charts the decline of the Amberson clan, once the wealthiest family in their Midwestern city (a thinly veiled Indianapolis), in the final decades of the 19th century. As the country rapidly industrializes, new-money robber barons begin to supplant those old American aristocrats, who can’t quite keep up with the times. Agnes Moorehead earned an Oscar nomination (one of four for the film) for her supporting role as Aunt Fanny, and in 2015, the BBC listed the movie at number 11 on their list of the greatest American films.
Locations you can visit: While the film was shot in Southern California, you can explore the Indianapolis neighborhood that inspired Tarkington’s novel. Now designated a historic district, Woodruff Place was developed in the 1870s and is filled with elegant Victorian mansions.
The Toast of New York (1937)
The premise: Edward Arnold stars as the real-life stockbroker and robber baron James Fisk in this Wall Street biopic. A scathing symbol of the nouveaux riches, he graduates from conning folks at medicine shows to smuggling cotton across the Mason-Dixon Line to eventually becoming a power player on the stock exchange. Soon, he and his partner Nick Boyd (Cary Grant) are fighting over the actress Josie Mansfield (Frances Farmer) as they plot against Cornelius Vanderbilt in hopes of cornering the gold market. What could go wrong?
Locations you can visit: You can feel like Fisk with a visit to the New York Stock Exchange, which moved to its current location in 1903, just after the heyday of the Gilded Age.
Nicholas DeRenzo is a contributing writer who covers entertainment and travel. Previously he was executive editor of United Airlines’ Hemispheres magazine and his work has appeared in the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Sunset and New York magazine.