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Hollywood in San Francisco

Hollywood in San Francisco
Location Shooting and the Aesthetics of Urban Decline

This pioneering study of postwar feature films set in San Francisco tracks the transformation of Hollywood filmmaking as location shooting became the dominant production method in an era of urban anxiety.

Series: Texas Film and Media Studies

November 2018
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360 pages | 6 x 9 | 63 b&w photos | Hardcover has a printed case, no dust jacket |

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which filmmakers responded by developing a stark, realist aesthetic that suited America’s growing urban pessimism and superseded a fidelity to local realities.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.

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 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
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Tucson, Arizona

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.”


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