Friday, July 05, 2013

Book Review: When Hollywood Came to Town

When the book 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."

I was nonetheless a bit hesitant about investing in purchasing the book, as virtually all of the films pictured on the cover are "newer," and I wasn't sure how much of the book would prove to be relevant to my interests.

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.

The book is divided into sections covering filmmaking, from silents to modern films, in six geographical areas of the state.

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.

The aspect of the book I appreciated most were the many behind-the-scenes photos, including shots such as Deanna Durbin and crew filming 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.

WHEN HOLLYWOOD CAME TO TOWN was published by Gibbs Smith. The book's 304 pages include extensive footnotes and a chronological list of movies filmed in Utah. The book was printed on high-quality heavy, glossy paper so the many photographs are reproduced to best effect.

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.


Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

Very much liked your review Laura! I wish there was a book like this for Boston.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks, Raquel, I appreciate you stopping by to read my review -- and also appreciate the encouragement to try to read more of the film books on my shelves this summer!

Best wishes,

5:48 PM  
Blogger Vienna said...

Sounds a great book. I fear I may be tempted,

12:24 AM  
Blogger James Corry said...

Author Jim D'Arc and I were undergrads at BYU in the mid-70's. I can tell you authoritatively since I've known him for nearly 40 years now that he is a man of the highest integrity and intelligence. His knowledge of film and all things filmic is encyclopedic and on top of all that he is just a darn nice guy! I can't recommend this book highly enough.


7:18 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Vienna, I think you'll find it worth the investment!

Brad, how cool is that?! Thank you so much for sharing your firsthand knowledge of the author with me and my readers.

If you have the opportunity please let him know how much I've enjoyed his commentary track and book. :)

Best wishes,

8:43 AM  
Blogger SimpleGifts said...

Hi, Laura - Thanks, I'll have to check out this book. Here's a fun story that Wyatt McCrea told the Deseret News about Joel on location in Kanab, Utah: "He and my grandmother would go into town in the evening, and just walk around. Six or eight kids started following him, and he stopped and bought them all ice cream. That caught on, and the next time, more kids came. He still bought them all ice cream." When Wyatt was in Kanab recently for a Western Legends Round-up, one of those kids, now an older man, told him that story. -- Best, Jane

4:03 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Jane, what a fantastic story from Wyatt, and it sounds so typical of Joel and Frances!!

I hope you have the chance to see the book -- there are some wonderful photos of Joel in it so Wyatt might want to read it as well if he's not already familiar with it; maybe it was on sale when he was in Kanab!

Best wishes,

4:10 PM  

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