The Hollywood Sign: Fantasy and Reality of an American Icon

The Hollywood Sign: Fantasy and Reality of an American Icon

by Leo Braudy
     
 

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Hollywood's famous sign, constructed of massive white block letters set into a steep hillside, is an emblem of the movie capital it looms over and an international symbol of glamour and star power. To so many who see its image, the sign represents the earthly home of that otherwise ethereal world of fame, stardom, and celebrity--the goal of American and worldwide

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Overview

Hollywood's famous sign, constructed of massive white block letters set into a steep hillside, is an emblem of the movie capital it looms over and an international symbol of glamour and star power. To so many who see its image, the sign represents the earthly home of that otherwise ethereal world of fame, stardom, and celebrity--the goal of American and worldwide aspiration to be in the limelight, to be, like the Hollywood sign itself, instantly recognizable.

How an advertisement erected in 1923, touting the real estate development Hollywoodland, took on a life of its own is a story worthy of the entertainment world that is its focus. Leo Braudy traces the remarkable history of this distinctly American landmark, which has been saved over the years by a disparate group of fans and supporters, among them Alice Cooper and Hugh Hefner, who spearheaded its reconstruction in the 1970s. He also uses the sign's history to offer an intriguing look at the rise of the movie business from its earliest, silent days through the development of the studio system that helped define modern Hollywood. Mixing social history, urban studies, literature, and film, along with forays into such topics as the lure of Hollywood for utopian communities and the development of domestic architecture in Los Angeles, The Hollywood Sign is a fascinating account of how a temporary structure has become a permanent icon of American culture.

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Editorial Reviews

San Francisco Chronicle

"Braudy, in this terrific book, is at home with the history of Hollywood."—San Francisco Chronicle
Los Angeles Review of Books - Joy Horowitz

“Deliciously quirky and intelligent . . . In his irresistible take on the famous sign, Braudy spins a larger metaphor for the culture and history of California itself.”—Joy Horowitz, Los Angeles Review of Books
Times Literary Supplement - Edward White
“Braudy offers a stimulating exploration of Hollywood’s significance in Western culture.”—Edward White, Times Literary Supplement
Washington Post - T. Rees Shapiro

"Braudy weaves an entertaining tale of the Hollywood sign’s various lives and incarnations."—T. Rees Shapiro, Washington Post
New Republic - David Thomson
“This is a magically brief book, written with wit and elegance, on the whole history of Los Angeles and the movies.”—David Thomson, New Republic
Los Angeles Times - Paul Brownfield
“A short, lively book . . . artfully distilled.”—Paul Brownfield, Los Angeles Times

San Francisco Chronicle - Geoff Nicholson
“Terrific . . . As I read the book, I marked passages that I thought were particularly interesting, surprising or well-written. Before long I realized I was marking just about everything.”—Geoff Nicholson, San Francisco Chronicle
Dana Polan

“A rich, far-reaching, gripping history . . . a pithy and sharp little study that is more than just an analysis of this one icon but a larger reflection on the movies in Los Angeles and the implications of that for the place of the movies in our lives.” —Dana Polan, New York University

Linda Williams

“Braudy pulls off the difficult feat of writing a substantive book about an elusive American icon. By unearthing the history of the sign--which turns out to be a rich history of real estate, roads, advertising, starlets and, of course, the movies themselves, The Hollywood Sign ends up exploring the enigma of an entirely mythic place.”—Linda Williams, University of California Berkeley

Kevin Starr

"What Carly Simon claims for James Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) is equally true of Leo Braudy. Nobody does it better, as this polymathic enquiry so clearly demonstrates in its fusion of erudition, insight, and panache."—Kevin Starr, author of the Americans and the California Dream series

Molly Haskell

“The story of Hollywood as a place and its evolution into the hub of the movie business is as fascinating as anything in the movies it produced. Using the sign as both protagonist and reflecting mirror, Leo Braudy provides a mesmerizing account of the shifting fortunes of Hollywood, from the early struggle between Puritans and pleasure-seekers to the emergence of the sign as a pop icon symbolizing the dreams and fantasies of millions. This is movie history from an utterly fresh and kaleidoscopic view.”—Molly Haskell, author of Frankly, My Dear: Gone with the Wind Revisited
Richard Schickel

“A deftly told and delightfully detailed account of how a humble real estate promotional tool was transformed over the years into an American icon. Leo Braudy's book is not just the story of a bold bit of signage, but of the community and the industry it came to symbolize. It's a must read for anyone interested in the history of a place and a dream. Hooray for The Hollywood Sign."—Richard Schickel, Author of Clint and Conversations with Scorsese
Tom Lutz

“Leo Braudy, one of our most astute cultural critics and film historians, has produced a wonderful history of this pregnant icon, an analysis of its “metaphysical life,” and an examination of its dissemination as the triumphant yet decadent symbol of America and its dream factory. In doing so he has given us what is perhaps the best single essay ever written on not just on the sign, but on Hollywood itself.”—Tom Lutz, author of Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers and Bums in America
Richard Meyer

“Though we’ve all seen the Hollywood sign, no one has ever looked at it more beautifully or to better effect than Leo Braudy. With Braudy as expert guide, ‘a word on the side of a steep hill’ opens onto a dazzling social history of Los Angeles in the 20th century. Like the landmark on which it focuses, The Hollywood Sign is irresistible.”—Richard Meyer, author of Outlaw Representation
Jewish Journal - Jonathan Kirsch

“An artful, illuminating and absorbing meditation on a place, an era, an industry, a cast of unlikely characters and a zeitgeist. . . . An instant classic.”—Jonathan Kirsch, Jewish Journal
Commercial Dispatch - Rob Hardy
“Amusing, astute and informative . . . not just about the sign but about Hollywood itself.”—Rob Hardy, Commercial Dispatch (Columbus, Mississippi)

The Times
“Braudy’s short, sharp-shooting social history of modern movie culture says ‘hooray’ for the Hollywood sign and the American Dream.”—The Times
Bleeding Cool - Greg Baldino

“An excellent guidebook”—Greg Baldino, Bleeding Cool
Los Angeles magazine - Wendy Witherspoon

"Explores the remarkable story of the hillside icon that began as a 1923 advertisement."—Wendy Witherspoon, Los Angeles magazine
The Independent
“… [A] dazzlingly enjoyable exposition.”—The Independent
The Guardian - PD Smith
“…[an] entertaining history.”—PD Smith, The Guardian
The Observer - Philip French

"A witty, lucid, far-reaching contribution to Yale's Icons of America series."—Philip French, The Observer
Sight and Sound - Philip Kemp

"Braudy's witty, allusive study… uses the famous sign… as a framework on which to string the history of Hollywood itself."—Philip Kemp, Sight and Sound
T. Rees Shapiro
Braudy's biographical account of the nine-letter mountainside monument is deeply researched…[he] weaves an entertaining tale of the Hollywood sign's various lives and incarnations.
—The Washington Post
Washington Post

"Braudy weaves an entertaining tale of the Hollywood sign’s various lives and incarnations."—T. Rees Shapiro, Washington Post

— T. Rees Shapiro

Bleeding Cool

“An excellent guidebook”—Greg Baldino, Bleeding Cool

— Greg Baldino

Los Angeles Review of Books

“Deliciously quirky and intelligent . . . In his irresistible take on the famous sign, Braudy spins a larger metaphor for the culture and history of California itself.”—Joy Horowitz, Los Angeles Review of Books

— Joy Horowitz

Los Angeles magazine

"Explores the remarkable story of the hillside icon that began as a 1923 advertisement."—Wendy Witherspoon, Los Angeles magazine

— Wendy Witherspoon

Jewish Journal

“An artful, illuminating and absorbing meditation on a place, an era, an industry, a cast of unlikely characters and a zeitgeist. . . . An instant classic.”—Jonathan Kirsch, Jewish Journal

— Jonathan Kirsch

Los Angeles Times
“A short, lively book . . . artfully distilled.”—Paul Brownfield, Los Angeles Times

— Paul Brownfield

Abraham Hoffman

There are many stories to be told about the Hollywood sign and how it exemplifies the entertainment industry well beyond the borders of the original subdivision . . . Braudy tells these stories in engaging, conversational style, providing generous helpings of move and community trivia.”—Abraham Hoffman, Los Angeles City Historical Society

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300181456
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
01/31/2012
Series:
Icons of America Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
645,814
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.70(d)

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