Upgrade to the Flash 9 viewer for enhanced content, including the ability to browse & search through your favorite titles.
Click here to learn more!
Available September 2003
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.
“In Celluloid Skyline, James Sanders sets out to define a dualism particular to New York—that between the real city and the mythic city, or movie city, and how the two “reflected each other, changed each other, taught each other”… [H]is exhaustive research is supported by a multifaceted understanding and love of the city. . . . The ample movie stills are refreshingly unpredictable and perfectly illustrate Sanders’s fresh ways of thinking and seeing.” —Michael J. Agovino, New York Times Book Review
“James Sanders[’s]… wonderfully informed and informative Celluloid Skyline… is virtually without precedent… 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. . . . [B]rilliantly acute. . . . with unflagging energy and attention to detail on literally hundreds of movies, through the decades, through every imaginable genre. . . . As [Sanders] observes, New York remains… 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.” —Richard Schickel, Los Angeles Times
“What a marvellous—miraculous—book! I don’t know whether I’m more bowled over by the pictures or the text; of course it’s the two together, and the intelligence and thought guiding both.” —Jane Jacobs, author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities
“Sanders, who co-wrote Ric Burns’ TV documentary series, ‘New York,’ has a rich and deep understanding of the ways movies about New York have beamed out a siren song to people around the country. . . . This is a massive project, and yet Sanders’ efforts do not flag. . . . Sanders does justice to the people who have raised up this creation on the silver screen.” —John Freeman, Chicago Tribune
“[Sanders’] enthusiasm is well calibrated, with nicely timed, wow-inducing excursuses throughout, on art history, politics, architecture, or the technical details of film production. And hundreds of photographs—beautifully reproduced, many of them previously unpublished—are often rivaled for interest by their corking captions. . . . [A] brilliant synthesis of film history, architectural criticism, and the politics of artistic production… ” —Michael Joseph Gross, Boston Globe
“[A] wealth of images and a detailed filmography… can be found in James Sanders’ engaging book, which is as big and shiny as its subject, and with snappy prose to match. In its enthusiasm for its subject, Sanders’ book seems to tell us virtually everything there is to know about Hollywood’s long-standing relationship with the Empire City… [W]e come away from this book grateful to its author for heightening our understanding of how the fabled and filmic New York has stolen our imagination.” —Jenna Weissman Joselit, The New Republic
“In these densely illustrated pages, Sanders proposes that there have been two New Yorks throughout the twentieth century—the real city where we live, and a dream, or movie, city, made up of images and models and sets and mattes. . . . To his great credit, he 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—his analysis between the Manhattan of “Annie Hall” and the Manhattan of “Manhattan,” two years later, is worth the price of admission—and, to judge by the movies he praises… he is also sound.” —The New Yorker
“The illustrations include beautiful production drawings, demonstrating how studio talents designed dance floors, nightclub interiors, Art Deco apartments, polished penthouses and sprawling skylines. Fact-filled photo captions add to the entertaining and educational text, making this work a delight throughout. . . . ” —Publishers Weekly