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Celluloid Skyline: New York and the Movies [Hardcover]

James Sanders
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Dec 2001
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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Product details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf; 1 edition (Dec 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394570626
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394570624
  • Product Dimensions: 26.2 x 21.1 x 3.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,385,431 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"It is a marvellous account by a practising architect with an encylopaedic knowledge of the movies" -- Phillip French, The Observer, Sunday September 1st 2002

"for those keen to understand New York's place in Western (or even global) consciousness, Sanders is this reader's guide of choice." -- Time Out, 25th September 2002

"one of the most important, and enjoyable, books about the effect of Hollywood on our perception of reality,
in particular, the reality of New York City." -- The Evening Standard, October 11th 2002 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

James Sanders, an architect, is the co-writer with Ric Burns of the 7-part Emmy-award-winning TV series New York: A Documentary Film and co-author of the companion volume, New York: An Illustrated History. He has written for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Vanity Fair and Interiors, and has produced exhibitions on New York architecture. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Celluloid Skyline 9 Mar 2013
An extraordinary piece of research which connects so much thinking about New York as template for twentieth-century urban experience and the fantasies surrounding it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and fascinating! 26 July 2002
By Michael S. Goldfarb - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If there was ever a book that really needed to be written, and was then executed nearly flawlessly, this is it. Documenting the multi-threaded releationship of New York City and Hollywood (the movie biz began in NYC, and the studios' financial offices remained there; much of the writing/directing/acting talent came to Hollywood from NYC; Hollywood's backlot NYC was the setting of thousands of films; the ideas of the Hollywood versions eventually changed the real thing; etc.), this is a heckuva fun and interesting read.
Among its most fascinating parts are information on the techniques used to create believable NYC settings by the studios (e.g., the most detail I've ever seen on Hitchcock's enormous Rear Window set), examples of the vast amount of architectural and local-color detail contained in the studio's art department photographic files (more than in some of NYC's museums!), and its general architectural analysis of NYC's major iconic structures: skyscrapers, rowhouses, tenements, train stations, nightclubs, etc.
But of even greater interest are the detailed treatments of how NYC was SHOWN in films (both well-known classics and obscure titles) of different genres and eras, and how the IDEA of NYC affected the world audience, and eventually changed the city itself as new generations flocked to their city of dreams... A flip through the photographs alone is a total pleasure.
This is a great book for film buffs, fans of NYC, architecture students, and those interested in 20th century social history. (I'm all of those things, and I LOVED it!)
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A loving, detailed treatment of a fascinating theme 20 Feb 2002
By Peter D'Epiro - Published on Amazon.com
This is a beautifully written book on the portrayal of New York City in the movies. The author is extremely knowledgeable about the architecture of NYC (in fact, he is a New York architect), about the geography and history of NYC, and about film, both in its historical and technical aspects. The writing is imaginative, lyrical, thoughtful, and intelligent--this is a labor of love that took 15 years to complete. If you have any interest at all in New York City or in film, do yourself a favor and buy this book. It made me want to go out and rent at least 60 of the films discussed in it, and it reminded me of many great films set in NYC that I've enjoyed in the past and will want to see again to note some of the characters, themes, landmarks, or stage sets that Sanders describes.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gem for your Personal Library 18 Oct 2003
By ctyankee - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you have an interest in films, architecture or New York City then the purchase of this film is a no-brainer. The book is packed with photographs of movies and film sets that feature the buildings of New York. Another reviewer mentioned the Alfred Hitchcock set shot from the film Rope. I would add the shots from Fountainhead and Week-end at the Waldorf as being special and stunning.
James Sanders said that he spent 15 years writing and researching this book and it shows. His points are well written and quite informative.
I would strongly suggest the hardcover edition for its slightly larger size and the quality of the Knopf binding.
First editions can be purchased used at a very attractive price. Like I said, no-brainer.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars complexly considered and captivatingly cosmopolitan 14 Feb 2002
By James E. Van Buskirk - Published on Amazon.com
This fascinating exploration of the interrelationship between the city of New York as an urban center and its portrayal throughout the history of moviemaking is filled with perceptive insight and thoughtful analysis. Highly recommended.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seeing NYC through the camera's lens 9 Jun 2004
By Rocco Dormarunno - Published on Amazon.com
How New York is seen (figuratively and literally) by the rest of the world has been influenced more by Hollywood than anything else. James Sanders brilliant "Celluloid Skyline: New York and the Movies" explores the relationship among Gotham, Hollywood, and the rest of the planet. There's a lot here, and a lot of material that has never been presented before.
Each section offers specific insights into the cinematic image of New York: its icons, its myths, its realities. What is also intriguing is how Hollywood's directors manipulated actual city locations to make it look "more like New York". One of my favorite essays has to do with the "domestic" look of New York: its mansions, row houses, and tenements. Also fascinating is the section called "Nighttown"--Hollywood loves the dangerous flavor of New York's streetlife.
This is a marvelous book with a marvelous look. Take one of the other reviewers' advice, however, and get the hardcover. The size makes a big difference.
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