WHEN HOLLYWOOD CAME TO TOWN: A HISTORY OF MOVIEMAKING IN UTAH was first published a couple of years ago, my attention was immediately caught by the author's name.
James V. D'Arc, the book's author, is a cinema professor at BYU. He recorded what might be my single favorite DVD commentary track ever, for BRIGHAM YOUNG (1940), starring Tyrone Power and Linda Darnell. D'Arc provided a wealth of information on every possible aspect of the film's production as well as comparing the story to the historical record. The commentary truly provided "film school on a disc."
However, in May I had the chance to see the book in person in the gift shop at Goulding's Lodge, and I immediately had to own it! Yes, the book contains photos from films of more recent vintage, but the majority of the book focuses on the classic film era. Moreover, WHEN HOLLYWOOD CAME TO TOWN is a stunningly beautiful photographic record of the history of moviemaking in Utah, with an informative text to go along with the beautiful location shots, stills, and posters. There's at least one photo on virtually every page of this 304-page book.
There are enjoyable reflections by Utah citizens who worked on films as stand-ins, extras, or behind the scenes. Many of these reminisces reflect the author's extensive primary source research, conducting countless interviews which are footnoted at the back of the book.
One man remembered that locals were pleased to find George O'Brien and Irene Hervey "were just common people who mixed freely with employees at the swimming pool and evening programs," while Yvonne DeCarlo's double on BORDER RIVER (1954) had fond memories of going swimming and to lunch with DeCarlo on their days off.
CAN'T HELP SINGING (1944), George O'Brien and Irene Hervey lounging on the Zion Lodge diving board during a break filming THE DUDE RANGER (1934), Peggy Cummins, Lloyd Nolan and company eating on location for GREEN GRASS OF WYOMING (1948), a panoramic shot of the filming of WAGON MASTER (1950) which encompasses both covered wagons and a bus, color on-set photographs of the black and white Robert Taylor film WESTWARD THE WOMEN (1951), a gorgeous color photo of Arlene Dahl and her stand-in during filming of THE OUTRIDERS (1950), and Marie Windsor and Anne Bancroft in the pool at the Parry Lodge filming THE GIRL IN BLACK STOCKINGS (1957). That's just a sampling of the book's many visual pleasures.
An index to more easily find the pages on certain films would have been appreciated, but the omission is a minor inconvenience. I found a small number of minor random errors (i.e., Ann Blyth, Edmond O'Brien, and Coleen Gray's names were misspelled, and a photo was miscaptioned), but for the most part the book reflects that a great deal of care and research went into its production.
This book is a "must" for fans of Westerns. Highly recommended.