Synopses & Reviews
Celluloid Skyline tells the tale of two cities, both called "New York." One is a real city, an urban agglomeration of millions. The other is a mythic city, a dream city, born of that most pervasive of dream media, the movies.
We all know the films. 42nd Street, Rear Window, King Kong, Dead End, Naked City, Ghostbusters, Annie Hall, Taxi Driver, Do the Right Thing are only a few of the better-known movies made about New York over the past century. They have entertained and excited us. But Celluloid Skyline proposes they are something more: an extraordinary urban resource, with profound lessons about the shape of cities. At one level, the hundreds of New York movies -- made in Hollywood studios and on the streets of the city itself -- can be seen as a filmed urban history, a record of the city's changing face from decade to decade. At the heart of Celluloid Skyline is the notion that the movies created their own New York, a mythic city based on the real one but possessed of a life of its own. After all, a great city is far more than a geographic or economic entity: it is a distinct locus of image and style, memory and dreams. Because the real New York possesses this "other" city as a dream version of itself, it holds a true claim to urban greatness, one shared by only a few places in history: London, Paris, Rome, Venice, Troy, Babylon, Ur. They were once called the "storied" or "fabled" cities.
Today we tell our fables with celluloid.
Sanders has been researching and writing Celluloid Skyline for more than a decade. His extensive research into the design and production of American films has led him to archives and private collections in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, Paris,London, and Berlin, where he has located scores of rare and unusual images for the book, including production stills, location stills, art department sketches and models, frame enlargements, and views of standing sets, miniatures, scenic backings, process plates, optical and computer generated special effects, and other images that reveal how the "mythic city" of movie New York was created in the Hollywood studio and on the streets of the city itself.
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 Americas greatest metropolis, but cities the world over.
From the Hardcover edition.
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
, 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.
From the Hardcover edition.