Celluloid Skyline: New York and the Movies

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9780394570624: Celluloid Skyline: New York and the Movies

A tale of two cities -- both called "New York."

The first is a real city, an urban agglomeration of millions. The second is a mythic city, so rich in memory and association and sense of place that to people everywhere it has come to seem real: the New York of such films such as 42nd Street, Rear Window, King Kong, Dead End, The Naked City, Ghostbusters, Annie Hall, Taxi Driver, and Do the Right Thing — a magical city of the imagination that is as complex, dynamic, and familiar as its namesake of stone and steel.

As James Sanders shows in this deeply original work, the dream city of the movies — created by more than a century of films, from the very dawn of the medium itself — may hold the secret to the allure and excitement of the actual place. Here are the cocktail parties and power lunches, the subway chases and opening nights, the playground rumbles and rooftop romances. Here is an invented Gotham, a place designed specifically for action, drama, and adventure, a city of bright avenues and mysterious side streets, of soaring towers and intimate corners, where remarkable people do exciting, amusing, romantic, scary things. Sanders takes us from the tenement to the penthouse, from New York to Hollywood and back again, from 1896 to the present, all the while showing how the real and mythic cities reflected, changed, and taught each other.

Lavishly illustrated with scores of rare and unusual production images culled from Sanders's decade-long research in studio archives and private collections around the country, Celluloid Skyline offers a new way to see not only America’s greatest metropolis, but cities the world over.

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From the Back Cover:

"Wonderfully informed and informative . . . Celluloid Skyline is virtually without precedent in this lackluster field, given its depth of research, the richly detailed elegance of its critical argument and, most important, its ability to expand and redirect the way we think about movies . . . [Sanders] is brilliantly acute. He performs this analytical work with unflagging energy and attention to detail on literally hundreds of movies . . . As [Sanders] observes, New York is . . . the single greatest locus not just of California dreaming, but of American dreaming. Sanders is the Freud of that dream, its hugely informed and gracefully civilized interpreter. And his great work causes us finally to think afresh not just about his particular subject, but also about the whole vast movie enterprise."
--Richard Schickel, Los Angeles Times Book Review
"To his great credit, [James Sanders] sees the dream city not as a myth in need of deconstruction but as a commentary in need of explication-a kind of parallel universe, neither more nor less fantastic than the subject it mimics and enlarges . . . He is subtle . . . and, to judge by the movies he praises . . . he is also sound."
--The New Yorker
"Fascinating . . . Ambitious . . . A magnificent book, a searching and intelligent account of how the city shaped the movies . . . [Sanders's] knowledge of movies and filmmaking is profound, and his approach to the movies through his professional discipline is unique and revelatory."
--Charles Matthews, New London Day
"Mr. Sanders's book [is] an invaluable tour guide to several cities, each going under the name New York."
--Tom Shone, New York Observer
"The perfect Valentine to . . . two of our greatest loves, the City of New York and the movies . . . Celluloid Skyline chronicles New York as seen in the movies and doesn't miss a single iconic beat."
--Daily Candy
"An opulent tribute to Hollywood's Big Apple . . . Sanders's valentine to New York provides a tonic reminder of the power of its mythic images to outlast their own roots in reality."
--Kirkus
"Entertaining and educational . . . A delight throughout."
--Publisher's Weekly

About the Author:

James Sanders, a practicing architect, is the cowriter, with Ric Burns, of the award-winning public television series New York: A Documentary History, and the coauthor, with Burns and Lisa Ades, of the companion volume, New York: An Illustrated History. He has written on architecture and cities for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Vanity Fair, Interiors, and Architectural Record, and has completed design and development projects for the Port Authority, the Parks Council, the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and other civic groups and commercial clients in New York and Los Angeles.

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