Hollywood on Lake Michigan:
100+ Years of Chicago and the Movies,
Michael Corcoran and Arnie Bernstein
Chicagophiles and movie buffs will find much to enjoy in Hollywood on Lake Michigan, a detailed tour of the movies and television programs made in and around the Windy City.
Originally published in 1998, this updated edition remains a “must-read for local movie buffs,” as the first edition was proclaimed by the Chicago Sun-Times. Authors Michael Corcoran and Arnie Bernstein, both Chicagoans, have provided readers with a fun and lively reference full of detailed information about the local actors, producers, buildings, neighborhoods, and more that have featured in movies and television since the dawn of the silent era. From downtown to the north, south, and west sides, and even out to the suburbs, the authors cite the locations of scores of movies, making the book a veritable tour guide for movie buffs who yen to visit the local places where Hollywood stars have walked. The authors estimate that about 35 percent of the material in this edition is completely new, and much more has been revised and updated.
From well-known films such as The Blues Brothers, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and The Dark Knight to obscure indie films and limited-release pictures such as I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With and Hannah Free, Corcoran and Bernstein chronicle the people and places that have shaped movies and filmmaking in Chicago. Arranged geographically, the authors take the reader on a movie lover’s tour of the city, noting which films were made where, the studios that made them, and the players—from actors to directors to producers—who made them happen. The book opens with a detailed examination of the city’s role during the silent movie era, noting Chicago’s hometown status back in the day as one of the top movie-making cities in the world: “[I]n the late 1910s,” the authors note, “one out of every five movies in the world was produced by Chicago.”
Despite a dearth of Chicago-based movies during the reign of Mayor Richard J. Daley, scores of movies and TV shows have been filmed here, set here, or produced here before and since, and the authors do a fine job of highlighting a variety of them. At times, however, it seems the same movies keep popping up again and again: The Blues Brothers, The Fugitive, The Package, and Primal Fear are just a few of the films that appear repeatedly.
Corcoran and Bernstein make a point of noting that it would be nearly impossible to mention all of the shows and movies filmed or set here, but there are some obvious omissions. For instance, the 1970s classic The Bob Newhart Show isn’t mentioned, even in the discussion about Marina City, which features prominently in the show’s opening credits. And, although the short-lived Kelsey Grammer vehicle Boss is mentioned several times, the Emmy Award-winning show The Good Wife is left out despite its Chicago connections.
Of course, it’s likely that every reader will have a moment of “Hey! They didn’t mention _________!” But with nearly 1,500 films noted in the book or featured in the appendix—a handy reference listing films shot in Chicago and the surrounding area—most readers will find mention of just about every film they might be interested in.
Detailed sidebars, many of which feature in-depth interviews with film industry professionals who hail from Chicagoland, complement the location-by-location approach to the city’s history in film. In these asides—some of them rather lengthy and perhaps too much for the casual reader—Corcoran and Bernstein go beyond noting the bars, buildings, and bridges that feature in various movies and TV shows to describe various aspects of entertainment, including filmmaking technology, the evolution of the city’s theater scene, and the origins of the city’s beautiful old movie palaces. Black-and-white photographs complement the text, bringing to life many of the locales and individuals featured in the book.
It’s clear that Corcoran and Bernstein love movies, and their enthusiasm for the subject shines through. Hollywood on Lake Michigan expertly captures Chicago’s role in film and television during the past century. Movie buffs will love reading about the city’s role in their favorite films, and fans of the city will love learning how some of their favorite haunts have been featured in film.
June 2013, Chicago Review Press
$18.95, trade paperback, 336 pages
—Reviewed by Kelli Christiansen