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‘Always at the Carlyle’ (review)

Produced by Matthew Miele,
Justin Bare, Jennifer Cooke

Written and Directed Matthew Miele
Featuring George Clooney, Anjelica Huston,
Jeff Goldblum, Sofia Coppola, Jon Hamm,
Alan Cumming, Lenny Kravitz, Tommy Lee Jones,
Wes Anderson, Anthony Bourdain


The Carlyle Hotel in NYC is the home of opulence, prestigious and secrecy. It’s where the world’s one-percent stays to have their every needs tended to and their privacy maintained.

After 88 years, the hotel has opened its doors to share stories of the past, the life of glamour and a level of elegance that cost its guests over twenty thousand dollars a night.

Writer-director, Matthew Miele takes the helm once again pulling the best stories from his subjects that transports the audience to a world filled with fantasy, lust and greed.

In Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorfs, he took the audience inside dressing rooms of the elite where garments transform the lives of many. In Always at the Carlyle, he transports us to the sacred hotel rooms on Madison Avenue that were once graced by Princess Diana, Elaine Stritch, and many others who caused a stir with their antics (especially when Marilyn Monroe visited with John F. Kennedy as his wife ate the Cobb Salad at the hotel’s restaurant.

Through a series of highly entertaining interviews with George Clooney, Harrison Ford, Wes Anderson, Sofia Coppola, the late Anthony Bourdain, Roger Federer, Lenny Kravitz they explain why the Caryle is a magical place that makes them not only feel wanted but loved. From its food, architecture, art and even the pillow cases engraved with their guests names, the Caryle is a second home to those who can afford many.

Fortunately, Always at the Carlyle is more than then just stories of the rich and famous. Miele showcases the many men and woman who help the hotel function for forty years. No job is wasted or considered unimportant as everyone from the kitchen staff to doormen to elevator operators to housekeepers play an integral role in keep people safe and happy. Elevator operates keep unoccupied woman safe at when returning late at night while custom engraved pillow cases makes the guest feel appreciated. Housekeeping will even go out their way to find authentic sod for their guest’s animals to evacuate their bowels on since the guest didn’t want to take their dog outside.

What make this documentary so enjoyable is the level of pride the employees have for their jobs. While it’s hard for many of them to spill many of the hotel’s secrets, their personalities are infectious. Concierge Dwight Owsley was quickly accepted by the community despite his stutter, bellhop Danny Harnett and Tommy Rowles share stories of meeting presidents while tending bar at Bemelmans for fifty years. There’s even a wonderful segment about Ludwig Bemelmans, the artist who illustrated the Madeline books. His drawings are still on the hotel’s walls despite many attempted thefts. Then there’s the Café Carlyle, where celebrated singer-pianist Bobby Short entertained many for thirty-seven years. It still attracts performers including Alan Cumming who posed nude in front of the hotel for his album cover and Rita Wilson.

Always at the Carlyle is elegant, fun and insightful. Proving a building doesn’t a make a hotel, it’s the energy and passion for people and the embodiment of hospitality that turns a hotel into a home.


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