City That Never Sleeps

City That Never Sleeps: New York and the Filmic Imagination

EDITED BY MURRAY POMERANCE
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5hjb0f
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    City That Never Sleeps
    Book Description:

    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 asOn the Townhave shadowed the characteristic seedy streets in which desperate, passionate stories have played out-as inScandal SheetandThe 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.FromStreet SceneandBreakfast at Tiffany'stoRosemary's Baby, The Warriors, and25th 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4134-1
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-1)
    Murray Pomerance
  4. Prelude: TO WAKE UP IN THE CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS
    (pp. 3-18)
    MURRAY POMERANCE

    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 himself “as observer” than about the city (Blake 5). Although Baudrillard cannot really be said to inhabit the book you are about to read in the way his most adoring...

  5. Memory All Alone in the Moonlight:: City of Experience
    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 19-20)

      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 inManhattan. Here, strangers meet and lives are profoundly changed, as inRosemary’s BabyorThe King of Comedy. Here one is made increasingly sensitive to the sounds and sights of daily life, because the lights are so much brighter; because eventfulness seems to be exploding continuously all around, as we see in Robert Walker’s initial reaction to seeing the crowds at Penn Station in...

    • “I Love New York!”: BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S
      (pp. 23-31)
      PETER LEHMAN and WILLIAM LUHR

      Since its debut in 1961, Blake Edwards’sBreakfast at Tiffany’shas 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 Room, showed the film every Sunday for the run of its existence from July 1996 through October 2003.

      On one level, it is odd that this, among the thousands of films that have been set there, has achieved the “New York City...

    • A Day in New York: ON THE TOWN AND THE CLOCK
      (pp. 33-47)
      SCOTT BUKATMAN

      Whatcanhappen 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 endowed with swirling coherence. Louis Marin has explored the paradoxical spatial demands of utopia narratives, which must present a space both bounded and infinite. The map...

    • Paradise Lost and Found: A BRONX TALE
      (pp. 49-60)
      BARRY KEITH GRANT

      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 beginsThe 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 withPsychofifteen years later. After all, there were eight million stories in the Naked City, as the opening voiceover of the popular television series, based on the 1948 Jules Dassin film, informed us every week...

  6. There’s a Place for Us:: City of Characters and Spaces
    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 61-62)

      “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 mention Donnie Brasco, “Lefty” Ruggiero, Jerry Langford, Homer Flagg, Brenda Cushman, Mama Rose Lee, Deborah Fifer, Earl Janoth, George M. Cohan, and so on. This is where one dances in the Rainbow Room, dines at The Four...

    • Woody Allen’s New York
      (pp. 65-75)
      WILLIAM ROTHMAN

      Making his first and probably his last appearance at the Oscars in Hollywood in 2002, Woody Allen introduced a montage of New York films and made a plea for producers to continue filming their movies in New York after the 9/11 tragedy.

      Who more fitting?

      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...

    • From Mean Streets to the Gangs of New York: ETHNICITY AND URBAN SPACE IN THE FILMS OF MARTIN SCORSESE
      (pp. 77-89)
      PAULA J. MASSOOD

      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 Productions, and many of his films in the city. Scorsese’s career has been prolific and his films varied, ranging from documentaries to historical epics set at different points in the nineteenth and...

    • Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You: ANDY WARHOL RECORDS/IS NEW YORK
      (pp. 91-101)
      DAVID A. GERSTNER

      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 mechanicalflâneurextraordinaire 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 New York. Warhol, Patrizia Lombardo succinctly notes, was the “twentieth-century prolongation of the intoxication with the metropolis” (35). Most importantly, Warhol experienced the city phenomenon through an array of mediating devices, especially the movie camera and tape recorder. His films are a...

    • A Clean, Well-Lighted Place: HITCHCOCK’S NEW YORK
      (pp. 103-118)
      MURRAY POMERANCE

      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 were located. When I had a conversation with Americans, they would ask, ‘When were you over there last?’ and I’d answer, ‘I’ve never been there at all.’ Strange,...

  7. Whispering Escapades Out on the D Train:: City of Moves and Traps
    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 119-120)

      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 and the limited physical space in which so many struggling people are confined lead to confrontations, border crossings, alienations, attacks, and a general state of instability. Thus, through both passage...

    • “When We See the Ocean, We Figure We’re Home”: FROM RITUAL TO ROMANCE IN THE WARRIORS
      (pp. 123-135)
      DAVID DESSER

      InAnnie 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 of 1975 (most ofAnnie Hallwas shot that year) and the refusal of the Ford administration to offer the city a bailout. New Yorkers took this very hard, with theDaily News...

    • He Cuts Heads: SPIKE LEE AND THE NEW YORK EXPERIENCE
      (pp. 137-149)
      DAVID STERRITT

      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 minds.

      For the other, the only African American filmmaker to sustain a major career in modern cinema is a New York City filmmaker to his bones. After his sophomore year at a southern college he returned to...

    • New York Class-Passing Onscreen in the 1930s
      (pp. 151-165)
      GWENDOLYN AUDREY FOSTER

      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 city’s famous night clubs—is to invoke the metaphor of social mobility. Arguably, there is no city more firmly established as a fantasy space, a liminal space, where social mobility, both...

    • Midtown Jewish Masculinity in Body and Soul
      (pp. 167-178)
      AARON BAKER

      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 other urban communities (Riess, “Tough Jews” 60). As young Jewish men found success in the ring, tolerance for boxing increased somewhat among older Jews, who began to accept its role in “combatting anti-Semitism and negative stereotypes.” By 1928 there were more Jewish than...

  8. Stayin’ Alive:: City of Danger and Adjustment
    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 179-181)

      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 typically mythic in proportion, the City appearing to augment the experience of those who inhabit it until it is iconic and representative in the extreme. The intensified anxiety lived out by Meg Altman inPanic Room, for...

    • City of Nightmares: THE NEW YORK OF SIDNEY LUMET
      (pp. 183-199)
      PAMELA GRACE

      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 also directed and produced several television programs, many of which also take place in New York.

      Lumet moved to New York with his parents a few years after his birth in Philadelphia in 1924. He grew up...

    • Urban Irrational: ROSEMARY’S BABY, POLANSKI, NEW YORK
      (pp. 201-213)
      JOE McELHANEY

      Near the end ofRosemary’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 some kind of evil sacrifice and that her husband, Guy (John Cassavetes), is complicit with them. She seeks refuge with Dr. Hill (Charles Grodin), her obstetrician prior to Sapirstein, and Hill promises to admit Rosemary into Mount Sinai Hospital. She...

    • The City That Never Shuts Up: AURAL INTRUSION IN NEW YORK APARTMENT FILMS
      (pp. 215-227)
      ELISABETH WEIS and RANDY THOM

      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 neighbors and the streets. (The most frequent complaint to New York cops is about noise, not crime.) How do New York films convey the sonic experience of apartment dwellers? And how are the city streets and the neighbors characterized by what we...

    • Wretched Refuse: WATCHING NEW YORK ETHNIC SLUM FILMS IN THE AFTERMATH OF 9/11
      (pp. 229-241)
      STEVEN ALAN CARR

      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 social problem film, and film noir as it is to the larger themes—alienation, the failure of the American Dream, protest—evoked by these forms. New York City is arguably the archetypal metropolis, but for the emotions inspired by the...

    • Night World: NEW YORK AS A NOIR UNIVERSE
      (pp. 243-258)
      WHEELER WINSTON DIXON

      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 functions as a literal and figurative zone of darkness, a place that must be illuminated so that we can see. In all “night/city” films, the...

  9. Works Cited and Consulted
    (pp. 259-266)
  10. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 267-270)
  11. Index
    (pp. 271-290)