More L.A. Noir

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.

Cars1Lordy, 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.

Zelda2Zelda: 100 years ago, it was one half of the country’s most famous literary couple, now, it’s best known as a videogame princess.

Ladies3Whoa, 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.

Courts4Those 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.

Shell Station5I just liked this gas station, even if it has a bit too much glass for my taste. Hey, gotta let all that SoCal sunshine in.

VictorianHouses6Some lovely Victorian houses. No doubt they’ve been torn down.

Drug Store7Best Drugstore Sign Ever.

Car Care8

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.”

Mechanical Light9I love the old fashioned street lights with the mechanical sign. Notice the dude in the truck waving to the camera.

Pershing Square8That’s the Biltmore Hotel, which I photographed here, in the background.

Sign in Street10Before traffic lights were designed to arch over the road, they just plunked signs in the middle of the street.

Richfield11That building on the right with the tower on top is the Richfield Oil Company Building, which was torn down in 1969. Here’s what replaced it.

Mac12See that guy on the far left? How much you wanna bet he said to the dude carrying the crate, “Ya need any help with that, Mac?”

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.



New Arrival

About Blowhard, Esq.

Amateur, dilettante, wannabe.
This entry was posted in Architecture, Movies, Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to More L.A. Noir

  1. Fabrizio del Wrongo says:

    Great post. It reminds me: One of the great things about movies is their basic documentary function. Ours is the only culture in history with the ability to “go back in time” like this and SEE precisely how the past looked and moved. It’s a wonderful (and sometimes heartbreaking) thing.

    “Shockproof” is a pretty interesting movie, BTW. And I love “Crime Wave.” De Toth could really be something. Check out his “Day of the Outlaw.”


    • Definitely wonderful and heartbreaking. I worked for years in the Glendale neighborhood where “Crime Wave” was shot and, although it’s a pleasant place in comparison to many L.A. neighborhoods, today it’s far more sterile and bland compared to the mid 50s.

      Thanks for recommending “Day of the Outlaw.” Dangit, it’s not on Netflix and the DVD is $22 on Amazon. Is it just me or are these old DVDs getting more expensive? What’s up with “Since You Went Away” being $45?


      • Fabrizio del Wrongo says:

        “Since You Went Away” is probably out of print, though Netflix still has it for the time being. I’m showing “Outlaw” as being over $30 on Amazon. Crazy. No idea why Netflix doesn’t carry it. Get it from your local library!

        In general, as the market for DVDs grows smaller, older films are becoming harder to find in the format. Virtually nothing old and interesting gets released anymore, unless it’s via a burn-on-demand line. Hopefully, more outlets for streaming older material will emerge in the next few years.


  2. chucho says:

    Nowhere near as pleasing to watch, but this is a walk through Manhattan in 1968. I believe this was an experimental film and its true, wild speed is X times what is shown in this video, but someone slowed it down frame-by-frame for documentary purposes. The amount of available parking on the streets makes this block-circler drool.


  3. ironrailsironweights says:

    Angels Flight Pharmacy is named after the Angels Flight funicular railway, which opened in 1901 and is in a slightly different location today.



  4. Callowman says:

    Additional awesome detail: the hot rod with rumble seat that comes into frame at 1:48.


  5. Nice post. Your knowledge of the buildings, and what has replaced them, is always impressive. BTW, that photo at the end kind of looks like my mom.


  6. BenSix says:

    Man, that was beautiful. I hate to drag the tone down but can anybody tell what the billboard with the dude and dame at 4.28 is advertising? It looks mildly obscene.


  7. Pingback: Movie Du Jour: “The Naked Kiss” (1964) | Uncouth Reflections

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