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Movie-Made Los Angeles

John Trafton

Published: October 2023
ISBN: 9780814347768
Pages: 256 Size: 6 x 9
Illustrations: 18 b&w illus.
Published: October 2023
ISBN: 9780814347775
Pages: 256 Size: 6 x 9
Illustrations: 18 b&w illus.
Published: October 2023
ISBN: 9780814347782
Pages: 256 Size: EPUB
Illustrations: 18 b&w illus.

Los Angeles was a cinematic city long before the rise of Hollywood. By the dawn of the twentieth century, photography, painting, and tourist promotion in Southern California provided early filmmakers with a template for building a myth-making business and envisioning ideal moviegoers. These art forms positioned California as a land of transformative experiences and catapulted the dusty backwater town of Los Angeles to the largest city on the west coast by 1915. Photography aided the Southern Pacific Railroad Company in opening the region to the rest of nation. Painters gave traditions that were fading in Europe a new lease on life in the California sun, with signature colors and techniques that would be adopted by L.A. real estate companies, agribusiness, and health retreats. Tourism infused the iconography and signature styles of art with cultural mythology of the state’s colonial past, offering proto-cinematic experiences to those who ventured west. Author John Trafton explores how Hollywood, an industry based on world-building, was the product of these art forms in the land of sunshine. A more complete story of the American film industry’s ascendency in Los Angeles emerges when one considers how the City of Angels cultivated its self-image through pre-cinema narrative art.

A native of Southern California, John Trafton is an instructor in film and media history at Seattle University and the Seattle International Film Festival’s Education program. His research in film history, visual culture, and American history has appeared in publications including Rethinking History, Film International, and Journal of War and Cultural Studies. He cohosts a film and culture podcast called This Movie Saved My Life, and he has been an invited speaker and panel organizer at several academic and industry conferences.

One of the central contributions of Movie-Made Los Angeles is John Trafton’s attention to a varied array of visual media—photography, painting, and architecture, among them—that helped define the Southern California region in the public imagination during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Buoyed by extensive research into the area’s imagistic past, his insights will prove of immense interest to those wanting to understand how Los Angeles became a cultural touchstone.

– Charlie Keil, Cinema Studies Institute, University of Toronto

This rich visual history closely examines the intermedial connections of painting, photography, theater, advertising, and architecture that shaped cinema and collectively produced the mythic and real historical space that is Los Angeles. A compelling rewriting of Southern California’s pre-cinematic and cinematic histories that unveils their dynamic interrelationships.

– Kirsten Moana Thompson, professor and director of film and media, Seattle University