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City That Never Sleeps

New York and the Filmic Imagination

Edited by Murray Pomerance

Publication Year: 2007

New York, more than any other city, has held a special fascination for filmmakers and viewers. In every decade of Hollywood filmmaking, artists of the screen have fixated upon this fascinating place for its tensions and promises, dazzling illumination and fearsome darkness. The glittering skyscrapers of such films as On the Town have shadowed the characteristic seedy streets in which desperate, passionate stories have played out-as in Scandal Sheet and The Pawnbroker . In other films, the city is a cauldron of bright lights, technology, empire, egotism, fear, hunger, and change-the scenic epitome of America in the modern age. From Street Scene and Breakfast at Tiffany's to Rosemary's Baby, The Warriors, and 25th Hour , the sixteen essays in this book explore the cinematic representation of New York as a city of experience, as a locus of ideographic characters and spaces, as a city of moves and traps, and as a site of allurement and danger. Contributors consider the work of Woody Allen, Blake Edwards, Alfred Hitchcock, Gregory La Cava, Spike Lee, Sidney Lumet, Vincente Minnelli, Roman Polanski, Martin Scorsese, Andy Warhol, and numerous others.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

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pp. ix-x

Nellie Perret and Ariel Pomerance inspired and supported this project of mine, as they have so many others, with patience, love, and—most importantly of all— quick wit. My knowledge of, and feeling for, New York City began in December of 1958 and over almost fifty years has been cultivated and tended by the best of...

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Prelude: To Wake Up in the City That Never Sleeps

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pp. 3-17

Writing of New York as “cinema city,” Richard A. Blake points to Jean Baudrillard’s “amazed” insight that New York seems to have been engendered by its image on the big screen, that to grasp it “you should not . . . begin with the city and move inwards to the screen; you should begin with the screen and move outwards to the city.” Such a commentary, he notes, says more about Baudrillard...

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Memory All Alone in the Moonlight: City of Experience

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pp. 19-22

New York onscreen is a locus of special, exhilarating, transcendent, oneiric experience. Here, the world is reduced to a galvanizing glow of black and white, while fireworks seem to explode irrepressibly into the heavens, as in Manhattan. Here, strangers meet and lives are profoundly changed, as in...

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“I Love New York!”: Breakfast at Tiffany's

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pp. 23-32

Since its debut in 1961, Blake Edwards’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s has been considered one of the preeminent films celebrating New York City. Its first image of Audrey Hepburn as the elegantly dressed Holly Golightly standing at dawn before Tiffany’s on Fifth Avenue defines carefree New York sophistication for many. In acknowledgment of this, one Manhattan cinema, The Screening...

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A Day in New York: On the Town and The Clock

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pp. 33-48

What can happen in a day in New York City? Plenty. A day in the life of the city is a trope familiar in both the journalism of the nineteenth century and the city symphony films of the 1920s. The city is anthropomorphized, given a life, and it is at the same time delimited and made manageable. Boundaries are drawn, rhythms are established, and the myriad comings and goings of the urban multitudes are...

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Paradise Lost and Found: A Bronx Tale

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pp. 49-60

It would require a statistician of the cinema on the order of Barry Salt to count the number of Hollywood movies that begin with an aerial shot of Manhattan to set the story. Billy Wilder begins The Lost Weekend (1945) with the camera panning across a New York cityscape, selecting one window, tracking in and penetrating its secrets rather as Hitchcock would in Phoenix with Psycho fifteen years...

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There's a Place for Us: City of Characters and Spaces

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pp. 61-64

“There’s a Place for Us” presents essays about particular characters and spaces of filmed New York. This is the city where one meets the Godfather, Serpico, Alvy Singer, Broadway Danny Rose, or Tommy DeVito, Paul Cicero, Johnny Roastbeef, Frankie the Wop, “Johnny Boy” Civello, Teresa Ronchelli, Bill “The Butcher” Cutting, and thousands of other denizens of the world of Martin Scorsese; not to...

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Woody Allen’s New York

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pp. 65-76

Nearly all of Woody Allen’s films are set in New York City. Manhattan is the place where Woody Allen lives and works, as do the characters he plays in his films. It’s the only place where we—and he—can imagine Woody thriving, or, perhaps, even surviving, at least on his own recognizance. Our sense that Woody Allen feels at home only in New York is reinforced by his character’s disastrous trip...

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From Mean Streets to the Gangs of New York: Ethnicity and Urban Space in the Films of Martin Scorsese

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pp. 77-90

Martin Scorsese is almost as famous for being a New Yorker as he is for being a filmmaker. Along with other New York directors such as Woody Allen and Spike Lee, Scorsese maintains strong links to the city of his birth and, except for a decade-long residence on the West Coast in the 1970s, he has lived and worked constantly in New York, locating his production company, Cappa...

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Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You: Andy Warhol Records/Is New York

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pp. 91-102

Andy Warhol was truly modern. And urban. To be precise, Warhol was New York City urban and, more specifically, Manhattan modern. Warhol was New York’s mechanical flâneur extraordinaire of the twentieth century since he embraced the city, art, artist, and the machine as one and the same. Warhol strolled through, looked at, and relished the prurient delights of...

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A Clean, Well-Lighted Place: Hitchcock’s New York

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pp. 103-117

It was in his imagination that Alfred Hitchcock first visited New York, and his was a meticulous imagination. “I . . . was completely familiar with the map of New York,” he told François Truffaut. “I used to send away for train schedules—that was my hobby—and I knew many of the timetables by heart. Years before I ever came here, I could describe New York, tell you where the theaters and stores...

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Whispering Escapades Out on the D Train: City of Moves and Traps

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pp. 119-122

In “Whispering Escapades Out on the D Train,” we discover New York as a city of moves and traps. If modernity is characterized by new, heightened patterns of geographic and social mobility, New York is the topos in which the vehicles clash and thunder, race in all directions, head toward an uncertain and starkly desired future. At the same time, the intensity of the ethnic variation in the city’s culture...

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“When We See the Ocean, We Figure We’re Home”: From Ritual to Romance in The Warriors

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pp. 123-136

In Annie Hall (1977), Woody Allen’s alter ago Alvy Singer complains, “The failure of the country to get behind New York City is antisemitism. . . . Don’t you see the rest of the country looks upon New York like we’re left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers? I think of us that way sometimes and I live here!” These sentiments are very much au courant, referring to New York’s fiscal crisis...

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He Cuts Heads: Spike Lee and the New York Experience

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pp. 137-150

The title of the movie that put Spike Lee on the cinematic map in 1983, Joe’s Bed- Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads, contains two clues to the shape of Lee’s career. For one, Lee cuts heads—not in the barbering sense but in the sense of working to expose and excise the received ideas, regressive fantasies, and unexamined prejudices we carry around within our...

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New York Class-Passing Onscreen in the 1930s: Gwendolyn Audrey Foster

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pp. 151-166

To invoke the plethora of historic and iconic images of New York City—Grand Central Station, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, the Washington Square Arch, the modern skyscraper, and the hordes of people who gather at Bryant Park outside the New York Public Library, shop on Park Avenue, shuffle off to work on the massive public transit system, or dance and mingle at any one of the...

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Midtown Jewish Masculinity in Body and Soul

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pp. 167-1781

From the 1890s until the Second World War, Jews played an important role in American prizefighting. Although first-generation parents considered it “antithetical to their religious teachings and cultural traditions,” boxing had a strong appeal to impoverished second-generation Jewish-American youth, as a way to make money and to measure up to a physical notion of masculinity prominent in...

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Stayin' Alive: City of Danger and Adjustment

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pp. 179-182

In “Stayin’ Alive,” we find essays approaching New York as a city of danger and adjustment. From Sol Nazerman to Tony Manero and Spider-Man; from Linda Seton to Francine Evans and Margot Tenenbaum, the characters we meet in New York films are subject to extremes of threat and transform themselves in prodigious adjustments of philosophy and lifestyle. The New York drama is therefore...

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City of Nightmares: The New York of Sidney Lumet

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pp. 183-200

Sidney Lumet’s New York is a city of multiple ethnicities, sympathetic oddballs, idealists, criminals, and many, many cops. Lumet’s films examine the city’s neighborhoods and institutions, with special interest devoted to the justice system. As of the beginning of 2006, Lumet has directed forty-two feature films, a large percentage of them set in New York City. Between 1948 and the present, he has...

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Urban Irrational: Rosemary's Baby, Polanski, New York

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pp. 201-214

Near the end of Rosemary’s Baby (1968), a terrified and extremely pregnant Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) is on the run from her obstetrician, Dr. Sapirstein (Ralph Bellamy), and her elderly New York City neighbors, Minnie and Roman Castevet (Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer). She believes that these people are witches who want to take possession of her as-yet-unborn child for...

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The City That Never Shuts Up: Aural Intrusion in New York Apartment Films

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pp. 215-228

When most people refer to New York City, the borough that they imagine—and which stands for New York—is Manhattan. Even residents of New York’s “outer boroughs” call Manhattan “the City.” Whatever their neighborhoods, most Manhattanites share the experience of dwelling in apartments, a lifestyle that almost always includes being subjected to excessive noise from both the...

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Wretched Refuse: Watching New York Ethnic Slum Films in the Aftermath of 9/11

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pp. 229-242

Within American popular culture, the image of the city traditionally has expressed the displaced fears and desires of a society undergoing rapid economic and demographic transformations. The image of the city is as central to muckraking journalism, social realism in literature and art, much of early American photojournalism, and such film genres as the screwball comedy, the crime film, the...

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Night World: New York as a Noir Universe

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pp. 243-257

The night holds promise and the night holds danger. If we view the domain of the night as a zone in which our inhibitions are loosened, we can also see it as a place without rules, where restrictions are relaxed, where people can pass us by, unnoticed in the dark. In cinema, the night can serve as a visual metaphor for gaiety and abandon, or despair and resignation. But above all, the night in film...

Works Cited and Consulted

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pp. 259-266

Notes on Contributors

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pp. 267-270


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pp. 271-289

E-ISBN-13: 9780813541341
E-ISBN-10: 0813541344
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813540313
Print-ISBN-10: 0813540313

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 20 photographs
Publication Year: 2007