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.
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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.