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216 × 156 × 35 mm
336 pages
147 illustrations
01 Apr 2012
  • £25.00

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Hollywood Cinema and the Real Los Angeles Mark Shiel

Hollywood cinema and Los Angeles cannot be understood apart. Hollywood Cinema and the Real Los Angeles traces the interaction of the real city, its movie business, and filmed image, focusing on the crucial period from the construction of the first studios in the 1910s to the decline of the studio system fifty years later.

As Los Angeles gradually became one of the ten largest cities in the world, the film industry made key contributions to its rapid growth and frequent crises in economic, social, political and cultural life. Whether filmmakers engaged with the real city on location or recreated it on a studio set, Los Angeles shaped the films that were made there and circulated influentially worldwide. The book pays particular attention to early cinema, slapstick comedy, movies about the movies and film noir, which are each explored in new ways, with an emphasis on urban and architectural space and its representation, as well as filmmaking style and technique. Including many previously unpublished photographs and new historical evidence, Hollywood Cinema and the Real Los Angeles gives us a never-before-seen view of the City of Angels.

‘Winner 2014 Jane Jacobs Urban Communication Foundation Book Award’ — Award

‘A Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2013’ — Award

‘The strength of Shiels study is its range and breadth: his knowledge of the films featuring Los Angeles is staggering . . . As a work of inter-disciplinary scholarship, it is impressive, mastering not just film history, but also the sociological study of urban development, while integrating both within a broader conception of American history. It is ambitious, wide-ranging and intelligent, full of interesting facts and figures . . . It will be indispensable to students of American film history and representations of Los Angeles’ — New Statesman

‘[Shiels] sharp analysis, buttressed by illuminating frame enlargements, period photographs, satatistical charts, graphs and other sources, reveals the vast extent to which city officials, local boosters, studio moguls and the players themselves helped to create the potent and enduring mythology of Hollywoodland.’ — TLS

‘From silent slapstick comedies to 1940s films noir, Shiel shows how Hollywood movies refer in visually precise ways to varying aspects of the Los Angeles urban landscape. He also shows how Hollywood production from studio architecture to labor disputes relates to contemporaneous discourse about industrial design and practice. Beautifully researched, carefully theorized, and supplemented with plentiful illustrations and useful maps and charts, Shiels book is cultural history at its finest. Essential.’ — Choice

‘Shiel is to be commended for his impressive scholarship. He ranges widely in his choice of supporting materials, relying not merely upon close analysis of film stills but invoking as well contemporary photographs, maps, advertisements, brochures, and internal film industry memos. His theoretical underpinnings Baudrillard, as noted, and Walter Benjamin, primarily hold his arguments soundly aloft without obtruding. The authors prose is clear, direct, almost nostalgic for a Los Angeles that will never return and perhaps never was . . . As often happens with a truly enjoyable film, one hopes for a sequel.’ — Film & History

‘Who can make sense of Los Angeles? The title of Mark Shiels new book points to the contradictions and tensions that give the region its unique character the mythical Hollywood motion picture industry versus the actual, inhabited city. Shiel attempts to see both sides of the same coin in this welcome addition to the expanding body of work on cinema and urban spaces’ — Film Comment

‘In this fascinating book, Mark Shiel centres his study upon the importance of geographical location in the making of the North American film industry, rather than upon the usual methods of film studies. By doing so, he is able to offer fresh insights into the relationship between the American film industry and the city that is synonymous with film . . . a very detailed and impressive book . . . The book is rich in insights and demonstrates the value and importance of research and its dissemination in film studies and in the wider arts and humanities.’ — Cercles

‘an extraordinary book which can be useful not only to film historians, but also to those interested in cultural history, ethnography or even architecture. Shiels publication can also be recommended to other researchers studying interactions between cinema and urbanism who might use it as an inspiration and a theoretical frame of reference. This brilliant book, almost devoid of errors and flaws, is a must-read for anyone seriously studying the history of Hollywood and/or Los Angeles.’ — 25fps film blog

‘a thoughtful, integrated portrait of the cultural history of one of the most mythologised cities on earth and the industry that has been synonymous with it for over 100 years’ — HeyUGuys

‘Mark Shiels brilliant book provides a sweeping vision of the ways in which the film industry provided viewers a means of conceiving of the urban built environment, and particularly that of Los Angeles. But, what is even more innovative is the ways in which he integrates that discussion with a related consideration of how that industry actually rebuilt the city. This study is a landmark synthesis of film and cultural history.’ — Stanley Corkin, Professor of English and author of Starring New York: Filming the Grime and Glamour of the Long 1970s

‘The history of film and the history of Los Angeles have been richly explored in all stages and varieties of their development. Yet never before have they been so deftly analyzed as an integrated phenomenon. Mark Shiels excellent study is a significant contribution to urban and cinematic cultural history.’ — Thomas S. Hines, Professor of History and Architecture, UCLA, and author of Architecture of the Sun, Los Angeles Modernism, 1900-1970

‘Los Angeles engages landscapes of a geographic, geologic, cultural, economic, and political kind. It is a place one finds on a map and on the big screen . . . a sprawling American place captured complexly and completely here in Mark Shiels suitably sprawling cultural history. Focusing on a century of interactions and disjunctures between the city and the cinema produced there, Shiel introduces something of a new urban ecology of the movies, one in which the landscape and built-environment resonate with enduring American dreams of space and place, of life, leisure and a setting (a location) on which to act it all out.’ — Jon Lewis, Professor of English, Oregon State University, and author of books including Hollywood v. Hard Core: How the Struggle over Censorship Saved the Modern Film Industry and American Film: A History

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Mark Shiel is Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at King’s College London. He is the author of Italian Neorealism: Rebuilding the Cinematic City (2006), and co-editor of Cinema and the City: Film and Urban Societies in a Global Context (2001) and Screening the City (2003).


1. The Trace
2. Navigation
3. The Simulacrum
4. Geopolitical Pressure Point

Select Bibliography
Photo Acknowledgements