Hollywood on the Hudson: Film and Television in New York from Griffith to Sarnoff

Hollywood on the Hudson: Film and Television in New York from Griffith to Sarnoff

Hollywood on the Hudson: Film and Television in New York from Griffith to Sarnoff

Hollywood on the Hudson: Film and Television in New York from Griffith to Sarnoff

Synopsis

Richard Koszarski rewrites an important part of the history of American cinema in this book. As he reveals, many writers, producers, and directors continued to work in New York, especially if their independent vision was too big for the Hollywood production line.

Excerpt

At the beginning of King Kong (1933), perhaps the greatest New York film ever made in Hollywood, Robert Armstrong is prowling the streets of Manhattan, a director of documentaries in desperate need of “a pretty face” for his new jungle epic. It is the bottom of the Depression, and the streets of the city seem as threadbare as the inhabitants. The lineup at the local soup kitchen has nothing to offer, but Armstrong is in luck when he spots Fay Wray stealing an apple from Paul Porcasi’s fruit stand. It seems she is not just any unemployed New Yorker but an out-of-work movie actress. “I used to do extra work now and then over on Long Island,” she tells him. “The studio’s closed now.” Indeed.

This bit of dialogue is one of the only references to the New York motion picture industry ever made in a Hollywood film. And with more than the usual vindictiveness, it recalls an especially bleak moment during the winter of 1932, when Paramount finally pulled the plug on its massive Long Island studio operation. That day seemed the final triumph of Hollywood in its twenty-year production rivalry with the East Coast studios. There would be no more sharing of budgets, contract talent, or bragging rights, no more invidious comparisons between East and West Coast lifestyles or production methods. The studio system had taken a long time to die in the East, even if the rest of the local motion picture business had refused to die with it.

The winter of 1932 was indeed a bad time for East Coast production, but the date marks a cyclic low point, not the end of an industry. Moviemaking in New York had always been a seasonal activity, responding first to changes in the weather, then to . . .

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