The City That Spoke

The City That Spoke

Since 1969, the American Film Institute has held an ongoing series of conversations—nearly three thousand of them—with people who work in the film business: producers, directors, actors, technicians, and artists of every kind.  

Their careers spanned an astonishing range of eras, from nickelodeons to silent films to the studio age to the independents to whatever you’d call the current chaotic time.

Now, film historians Jeanine Basinger and Sam Wasson have compiled and presented excerpts from those conversations in a big, fat, wonderful book, Hollywood: The Oral History.  

In it, we encounter virtually every film and production star you’ve ever heard of, plus dozens who have labored behind the scenes.

As I read, I had the oddest sensation. Yes, the comments were by Judy Garland and Sidney Poitier and Hal Roach and George Lucas. But because the words were edited so skillfully, with the speakers finishing each other’s stories and sometimes sentences, I began to feel that Hollywood itself was talking.

I couldn’t help but think of the wizard whom Dorothy met in Oz, who first was an image projected on a giant screen and, finally, was revealed to be nothing more or less than a person, with a life and stories and dreams.  

Thanks to Basinger, Wasson, and AFI for sharing those with all of us.


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