Read an extract from The hollywood Sign on Yale's blog" /> Read an extract from The hollywood Sign on Yale's blog" />

The Hollywood Sign Fantasy and Reality of an American Icon Leo Braudy

Icons of America
Publication date:
21 Feb 2012
Yale University Press
224 pages: 210 x 140mm
17 b-w illus.
Sales territories:

Hollywood's famous sign, constructed of massive white block letters set into a steep hillside, is an emblem of the movie capital it looms over and an international symbol of glamour and star power. To so many who see its image, the sign represents the earthly home of that otherwise ethereal world of fame, stardom, and celebrity - the goal of American and worldwide aspiration to be in the limelight, to be, like the Hollywood sign itself, instantly recognizable. How an advertisement erected in 1923, touting the real estate development Hollywoodland, took on a life of its own is a story worthy of the entertainment world that is its focus.

Leo Braudy traces the remarkable history of this distinctly American landmark, which has been saved over the years by a disparate group of fans and supporters, among them Alice Cooper and Hugh Hefner, who spearheaded its reconstruction in the 1970s. He also uses the sign's history to offer an intriguing look at the rise of the movie business from its earliest, silent days through the development of the studio system that helped define modern Hollywood.

Mixing social history, urban studies, literature, and film, along with forays into such topics as the lure of Hollywood for utopian communities and the development of domestic architecture in Los Angeles, "The Hollywood Sign" is a fascinating account of how a temporary structure has become a permanent icon of American culture.


Read an extract from The hollywood Sign on Yale's blog

Leo Braudy is among America's leading cultural historians and film critics. He currently is University Professor and Leo S. Bing Chair in English and American Literature at the University of Southern California. He lives in Los Angeles.

"Braudy offers a stimulating exploration of Hollywood's significance in Western culture."—Edward White, Times Literary Supplement

"Braudy's short, sharp-shooting social history of modern movie culture says 'hooray' for the Hollywood sign and the American Dream."—The Times

"A dazzlingly enjoyable exposition."—The Independent

"An entertaining history."—PD Smith, The Guardian

"A witty, lucid, far-reaching contribution to Yale’s Icons of America series." Philip French, The Observer