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New York landmarks have been prominent in hundreds of films, but few apartment buildings have had the key role played by The Dakota in the1968 horror film Rosemary’s Baby, directed by Roman Polanski. “The vaguely haunting warren of high-ceilinged apartments,” read The Hollywood Reporter‘s review, “is fully utilized for dramatic value.” The 1884 building, at Central Park West and 72nd St., with its mix of German Gothic, French Renaissance and Victorian styles — and where resident John Lennon was shot in 1980 — was perfect for a film that mixed evil and pregnancy. “The Dakota had an aura of decadence,” recalls Bob Evans, who greenlighted the film during his second year as Paramount’s head of production. The film cost $2.5 million and brought in $33 million.
The building, designed by Henry J. Hardenbergh (who also did the Plaza Hotel), was used primarily for exterior shots, with the lead characters’ (Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes) apartment re-created on an L.A. soundstage — the Dakota’s hallways weren’t worn and dark enough for Polanski, and the co-op board wouldn’t allow interior shooting. (Evans says the crew nonetheless did some shots inside.)
The Dakota is now some of New York’s priciest real estate, with five units for sale, ranging from a two-bedroom (asking price: $4.395 million) to a nine-room, park-fronting residence ($29.6 million). Residents include Lauren Bacall, Jane Rosenthal, Roberta Flack and film critic Rex Reed, who lives in Boris Karloff’s former eighth-floor apartment.
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