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Talking with Christian Blauvelt about 'Cinematic Cities: New York'

"Turner Classic Movies Cinematic Cities: New York" (Running Press) by Christian Blauvelt looks at the movies shot in the five boroughs. Credit: Running Press

As a teen, Christian Blauvelt believed New York City would not only be a nice place to visit, but he really would like to live there. Growing up in St. Petersburg, Florida, his visits to New York were only through the movies, but that was enough. He was easily seduced by the sights and sounds and hustle and bustle of New York in films like "The Naked City," "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and "Manhattan."

Eventually he got his wish: Blauvelt, who works as managing editor at IndieWire, has called Manhattan home for the past 11 years, and in that time, his affection for the city has only blossomed. The culmination of Blauvelt's romance with the Big Apple is his new book "Turner Classic Movies Cinematic Cities: New York" (Running Press, $20), a love letter to the five boroughs and the hundreds of movies that have been shot there, including "On the Town," "The Seven Year Itch," "Barefoot in the Park" and "Do the Right Thing." The book's charm is its ability to appeal to both movie buffs and sightseers.

Blauvelt, who lived in Roslyn for a year and a half before moving to the city, recently spoke by phone about his book and what makes New York City so photogenic.

How did the idea for "Cinematic Cities" come up?

The concept for the book emerged from a series of discussions with Running Press. We wanted to do something that would combine elements of cinephilia and elements of a travel guide. We came up with a few different outlines, but ultimately it was my idea.

We could have done this as just a pure history book … but it made more sense to go neighborhood by neighborhood because that's how people who visit New York experience the city. And people who live there enjoy learning new things about the places that they see every day.

You're only 33, so I love that you're young and into classic movies. How did you get interested in them?
I was mostly introduced to classic films by my mom. She and I together watched TCM once I was in high school. …That's really where my familiarity with New York City came from — through the movies. "Manhattan Murder Mystery" was a favorite of mine and also "North by Northwest." The first time I was in New York City, I went to the Oak Bar where Cary Grant has a drink in "North by Northwest." It was like being in the movie screen.

Of all the cities you could have chosen, why New York?


New York City lends itself so perfectly. There are hundreds and hundreds of films you can draw on from every decade. And it’s where American film production began, not Hollywood. It was clustered in New Jersey [Edison Studios in West Orange] and Biograph was an early studio on the southwest corner of Union Square. It's where D.W. Griffith cut his teeth as a filmmaker making one-reelers. …

New York is also a place for dreamers, it's where stories begin. If you want to make your mark, start you career, you come to New York, whether it's in business, Broadway, academia, diplomacy. It's the only city on Earth that looks even better in person than in postcards. There's something so lustrous and luminous about the city. It has one of the most stunning skylines in the world. … And there's the diversity of uptown Manhattan and Queens, which is a United Nations in itself. Every ethnic group is represented there. It's incredibly photographable and there are 8 million people in the city. That’s mean there are 8 million stories.
 

The cover with a scene from "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is striking. How involved were you in deciding on a cover?

We put so much thought into that cover. "Breakfast at Tiffany's" seemed like the perfect cover. Holly Golighty [Audrey Hepburn's character] is the quintessential New Yorker. She has no prospects whatsover in Texas and runs away to New York City and reinvents herself from scratch. Ultimately, the best New Yorkers do that, they create themselves. It's also a film with so much glamour of the city and sophistication. New York is where styles are set and trends are introduced. And Audrey Hepburn’s style is so iconic, she’s a perfect fit.

Are there plans to make a series of "Cinematic Cities" books? And if so, what city would you like next?

First, we have to see how well this book does. I would love to do a "Cinematic Cities" book on Chicago, even though it’s a little quieter than New York.

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