Blowhard, Esq. writes:
Via the Facebook group Vintage Los Angeles, I came across this old video of a trip through downtown L.A. According to comments, it’s process footage shot in 1948 for the movie Shockproof, directed by Douglas Sirk and co-written by Sam Fuller. Set YouTube to full screen and check it out.
Pretty wonderful, no? I took some screenshots so we can look at a few details.
Click on the images to enlarge.
Lordy, those cars. They all basically have the same streamlined-boxy-big-fender look, but what they lack in diversity they more than make up in personality and panache. Yeah yeah, they were also smog-spewing deathtraps that always broke down. I don’t care. I could be wrong, but I’m fairly certain future generations will not thrill to the design of my Focus.
Zelda: 100 years ago, it was one half of the country’s most famous literary couple, now, it’s best known as a videogame princess.
Whoa, ladies, not so fast! Quick, someone whistle at them to get their attention. They won’t mind, dames love that. That’s of course L.A. City Hall in the background. The building right below it is the headquarters of the L.A. Times.
Those buildings I’ve flagged still stand. The one on the left is the L.A. County Hall of Justice, which was where Marilyn Monroe and RFK’s autopsies were performed. The building is currently abandoned, it was damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, and the city is still deciding what to do with it. The one on the right is the U.S. Federal Courthouse where the Hollywood HUAC investigations and Pentagon Papers trial were held.
The sign on the left says parking is 25¢ for two hours, which is $2.30 in 2011 dollars. I’m not quite sure where that intersection is, but assuming that lot is still there, I guarantee you it’s more than $1.15/hour to park there. Re: the building on the right, “Auto Laundry” sounds way classier than “Car Wash.”
That’s the Biltmore Hotel, which I photographed here, in the background.
The video brought to mind the great noir film Crime Wave, which makes excellent use of L.A. exteriors, in particular the nearby city of Glendale. This blogger does an excellent job of taking stills from that film and showing what the same area looks like today. My ambition is to get ahold of a GoPro or some other camera and replicate this video so we can do our own compare-and-contrast.
- Some of my favorite art and architecture books about the city are Sins of the City: The Real Los Angeles Noir by Jim Heimann, DECO LAndmarks: Art Deco Gems of Los Angeles by Arnold Schwartzman and Bevis Hillier, Southern Californialand: Mid-Century Culture in Kodachrome by Charles Phoenix, and Googie Redux: Ultramodern Roadside Architecture by Alan Hess.
- The Wall Street Journal offers its own tour of L.A. noir.
- This is probably my favorite image from that era.