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Author: Richard Koszarski
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Category: Performing Arts
The year 1955 was a watershed one for New York’s film industry: Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront took home eight Oscars, and, more quietly, Stanley Kubrick released the low-budget classic Killer’s Kiss. A wave of films that changed how American movies were made soon followed, led by directors such as Sidney Lumet, William Friedkin, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese. Yet this resurgence could not have occurred without a deeply rooted tradition of local film production. Richard Koszarski chronicles the compelling and often surprising origins of New York’s postwar film renaissance, looking beyond such classics as Naked City, Kiss of Death, and Portrait of Jennie. He examines the social, cultural, and economic forces that shaped New York filmmaking, from city politics to union regulations, and shows how decades of low-budget independent production taught local filmmakers how to capture the city’s grit, liveliness, and allure. He reveals the importance of “race films”—all-Black productions intended for segregated African American audiences—that not only helped keep the film business afloat but also nurtured a core group of writers, directors, designers, and technicians. Detailed production histories of On the Waterfront and Killer’s Kiss—films that appear here in a completely new light—illustrate the distinctive characteristics of New York cinema. Drawing on a vast array of research—including studio libraries, censorship records, union archives, and interviews with participants—“Keep ’Em in the East” rewrites a crucial chapter in the history of American cinema.