One of the country’s most picturesque cities and conveniently located just a few hours’ drive from Hollywood, San Francisco became the most frequently and extensively filmed American city beyond the production hubs of Los Angeles and New York in the three decades after World War II. During those years, the cinematic image of the city morphed from the dreamy beauty of Vertigo to the nightmarish wasteland of Dirty Harry, although San Francisco itself experienced no such decline. This intriguing disconnect gives impetus to Hollywood in San Francisco, the most comprehensive study to date of Hollywood’s move from studio to location production in the postwar era.
In this thirty-year history of feature filmmaking in San Francisco, Joshua Gleich tracks a sea change in Hollywood production practices, as location shooting overtook studio-based filming as the dominant production method by the early 1970s. He shows how this transformation intersected with a precipitous decline in public perceptions of the American city, to which filmmakers responded by developing a stark, realist aesthetic that suited America’s growing urban pessimism and superseded a fidelity to local realities. Analyzing major films set in San Francisco, ranging from Dark Passage and Vertigo to The Conversation, The Towering Inferno, and Bullitt, as well as the TV show The Streets of San Francisco, Gleich demonstrates that the city is a physical environment used to stage urban fantasies that reveal far more about Hollywood filmmaking and American culture than they do about San Francisco.
Joshua Gleich is an assistant professor in the School of Theatre, Film, and Television at the University of Arizona. His work has appeared in Cinema Journal, New Review of Film and Television Studies, and The Velvet Light Trap.
Hollywood in San Francisco is valuable for its wide-ranging historical scholarship on the golden age of location shooting in San Francisco.
This thoroughly researched book depicts a faithful account of the practice of decentralization of location shooting to the north of Los Angeles in the postwar era....We have come to know Joshua Gleich as a knowledgeable, prolific, and engaged commentator on film and television history, and on connecting various disciplines in urban and media studies, and this book is part of that universe... At a time when records and archives are under threat of simply being thrown away, an account this dense as Gleich’s book is more than timely.
~Historic Journal of Film, Radio and Television
Chapter 1. Postwar Location Shooting, the Semi-Documentary, and Dark Passage
Chapter 2. The Cine-Tourist City: From Cinerama to The Lineup and Vertigo
Chapter 3. “Sick Tales of a Healthy Land”: Blake Edwards in San Francisco
Chapter 4. Countercultural Capital: Hollywood Chases the Summer of Love
Chapter 5. The Manhattanization of San Francisco: Dirty Harry and The Streets of San Francisco
Chapter 6. Hollywood North / Hollywood Resurgence: The Conversation and The Towering Inferno
Conclusion: Hollywood’s San Francisco
Appendix. Films Set and/or Shot in San Francisco between 1945 and 1975
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