I’ve mentioned before about my appreciation for filmed on-location books. There’s something engaging about reading where something was filmed and knowing you can go visit it. Considering my location, I generally stick to reading location books set in California, but decided to venture further with the second edition of Hollywood on Lake Michigan. Even though I’ve never been to Chicago, or that part of America at all, I stuck with the book and hope to see a few of these sites at some point in the future.
The core demographic for Michael Corcoran and Arnie Bernstein’s book will be those who live in the Chicago area, and they’re a lucky bunch. The second edition of Hollywood on Lake Michigan explores not just modern films produced in the area like Stranger Than Fiction and The Dark Knight; there’s a lengthy opening section devoted to Chicago’s participation in silent film production and the early motion picture companies that cropped up like the Essenay Film Manufacturing Corporation and The Royal Gardens Motion Picture Company. The book adds another dimension in expanding to show the history of film production within the Chicago area, on top of being a guidebook for those looking to see where Christian Bale drove the Tumbler in the latest Christopher Nolan production. There are pictures of the locations, both then and now, to break up the text and there’s also subsections devoted to particular Chicago residents who work in the entertainment industry.
The authors are well-versed in their subjects and aren’t content to plop down addresses and a sentence on what was filmed there. Instead, they explore the history of the locations and cement their place within the production world. I’m sure much of this would delight readers in the Chicago area, which is really the only gripe I would have with this book (and even then I was well-aware of that when I started reading). Any book like this will grip readers who are either visiting the area, or live there and can see the locations in person, or saw the movies being filmed in real-time. For someone whose never been to Chicago, I’m fascinated by the history but had little connection to the locations. If this was a book about Hollywood or San Francisco, or even Sacramento, it would be perfect. Again, this wasn’t detrimental to the book at all, but could limit readers interest.
Hollywood on Lake Michigan does what it advertises: it truly encapsulates 100+ years of movies based and filmed in the Chicago area. If you’re a Chicago resident the book will certainly capture your attention and you’ll enjoy tracking down places you might pass everyday, or that you’ve never seen before. Fans outside the Chicago area will probably only read this if they’re a movie nut visiting the area, but if you want a more intimate analysis of movie history in a particular place, this is a great place to start!
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A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.