Here's another amazing discovery from the good folks at the Internet Archive. This May 1946 night time process shot through Downtown Los Angeles was filmed by Columbia for the Rita Hayworth vehicle Down to Earth. In the picture, the actress portrays the ancient Greek Muse Terpsichore, who visits 20th century America to torment the Broadway producer who dares put on a show portraying the muses as man-crazy sluts, and Terpsichore herself as "just an ordinary dame." Sacrilege!
It's a fitting theme for us here at 1947project. For while perturbed Terpsichore was no human female, we think she'd sympathize with the posthumous plight of Beth Short, Black Dahlia murder victim, brutalized before death by unknown assailants, and ever after subject to vile, false rumors. (No, she wasn't a prostitute. Our offshoot Esotouric offers a bus tour explaining who she really was.)
Now thanks to Down to Earth, we have this gorgeous footage of the heart of Beth Short's post-war city, a bright, populated and thriving Downtown that is as lost to us as the cultures of the Inca or the Toltec. Click "play" and enter a place that positively thrums with energy. Marvel at the neon lights, the late-night coffee houses, the fur shops, the airline offices, the swimsuit-clad manikins, the drug stores, the theaters of Broadway (some open all night), the street life. Gasp at Clifton's Pacific Seas (demolished 1960, now a parking lot) and Clifton's Brookdale (still with us, but indefinitely closed for renovations), boggle at Alexander & Oviatt's bright-lit windows packed with the hautest of gentleman's couture, and laugh when you spy unmistakeable evidence of just how huge a star Miss Rita Hayworth was in the spring of 1946.
Beth Short spent the last half of 1946 living in Los Angeles, bouncing from cheap hotel to friends' couch and back again. Her social life centered on the nightspots of Hollywood and Downtown. This process footage contains a near-exact recreation of her final steps on the night she vanished: south along Olive Street away from the Biltmore Hotel, then left on Eighth Street, where we are rewarded with two astonishingly rare views of the Crown Grill, the last place she was seen alive.
Knowing what we do, the stylized crown above the bar's entrance looks an awful lot like a death's head, doesn't it?
As a time travel portal, this clip rates among the finest. Blow it up big on your screen, sit back with a cup of something soothing, and be transported.
Join us, gentle reader, this Sunday March 18, at the glamorous and seldom open Los Angeles Theater (1931) in the heart of downtown for the Saving LA preservation event. There will be speakers in the main hall and tables hosting representatives from local publishers and historical organizations, including 1947project. Stop by to see one of the most beautiful theaters in the city and to connect with others who care about preserving signs of the past. Linger to hear my visionary husband Richard Schave speak in the 3 o'clock hour about the vast possibilities for community building that can be accessed using free web tools.
Event details: Los Angeles Theater, 615 S. Broadway, 10am-4pm, free.
More info and a full schedule are at the Saving LA blog, http://savingla.blogspot.com/
Feb. 22, 1907
Here’s how The Times weather stories read a century ago:
“For all the daylight hours yesterday, the rain drizzled down, much of the time like a heavy Scotch mist, but toward nightfall the storm deepened and the rain began to fall in earnest. For two hours in the early part of the night there was a constant downpour that soon set the gutters running full and brought about the usual results to the streets near the hill district.
“The wash from the highways intersecting the hills poured down onto the streets of the business section and deposits of sand and gravel caused much inconvenience to electric cars. At several of the intersections on Broadway and Hill streets, men were stationed with shovels to keep the tracks passable for cars.
“The rain disarranged schedules for several of the car lines and much trouble was experienced on both the Belt line and the Brooklyn Avenue line to get the cars around the numerous curves overwashed with gravel.”
“No special damage was done by the storm in Garvanza, although the streets were cut up in some cases. At Highland Park, a swift current flowed down Pasadena Avenue, cutting that street badly in several places.
“Right in the midst of yesterday’s rain, a water pipe on Broadway in front of the Ville de Paris broke and when workmen made excavations to mend the pipe, the water got beyond control and shot up into the air on a level with the fourth story of the building. Hundreds of pedestrians stopped in the rain to watch the great fountain play and it added much to the waters rushing down the street.”
Normally, I don’t like to merely copy what ran in The Times, but sometimes it’s impossible to rewrite the stories and preserve the original flavor.
E-mail: lmharnisch (AT) gmail.com
Feb. 5, 2007
Here’s an architectural drawing of the O.T. Johnson Building, which burned in yesterday’s fire.
Looking north on Broadway at 4th Street. The burned structures are at the right.
And here are some snaps of the damaged structures:
E-mail: lmharnisch (AT) gmail.com
April 20, 1907
Pity Miss Alice Chevallier, native of this city, who took too powerful a sleeping potion a few evenings past, and now lays rotting in her grave in New Calvary. She follows her mother and her brother, but unlike them, her death brings with it unwelcome notoriety.
Alice was a longtime cashier at the Ville de Paris dry goods emporium on Broadway, between 2nd and 3rd Streets. At some stage in her career, she developed a system by which she could bring home with her a portion of the day's receipts. In recent months, it is believed this was as much as $300 a day. A clever girl, she invested her takings in real estate, and built a handsome portfolio.
But her ingrained nervousness and peculiar disposition--she did not care for men, and perhaps not coincidentally suffered ovarian tumors, neuralgia and insomnia--proved the thief's undoing. She found it necessary to escape to Catalina to rest following an operation, although she must have realized that her absense from the place of her crimes would make discovery likely. And that is precisely what happened.
Alice returned to her home at 226 West Jefferson, distraught from a sustained bout of sleeplessness and the anxiety of meeting the Ville de Paris' lawyers. Although her real estate holdings were now sufficiently valuable to cover any restitution required and more, she languished in a state of abject horror.
On Sunday evening, Alice told her sister-in-law that she intended to take a sleeping powder, but in fact she took laudanum and chloroform, two drugs with which she had significant past experience. This time, the dose was too much for her weakened system, and the girl lingered until Wednesday before expiring. Her doctors stress that although it might look like a suicide, the true cause was congestion of the brain--the same organic disorder that lead her to steal in the first place.
As I began to write my grand opening about Los Angeles in 1907, I felt a ghostly hand pluck ever so gently at my sleeve.
“Promise me, dear boy, you’ll remember to say that women couldn’t vote in 1907.”
“Yes, of course.”
Now where was I? Ah yes. The street names are deceptively familiar: Broadway, Spring Street and Main. But stand up on Bunker Hill and look at the city below and you might pick out the Bradbury Building and the Alexandria Hotel. Maybe the Pan American building at Broadway and 3rd Street, kitty-corner from the Bradbury and currently undergoing loft conversion, and the Rosslyn Hotel on Main.
Nothing remains of the old City Hall on Broadway but the parking lot between the Los Angeles Times garage and Victor Clothing, otherwise known as the Hosfield Building, erected as an annex for city offices in 1914 and opened in 1915 as City Hall South.
There are no freeways in this alien city. No television, no radio (or “wireless” as it was previously known) and no movie theaters. There aren’t even any comic strips in The Times, let alone crossword puzzles. Luckily, the operatic repertoire hasn’t changed greatly; Angelenos in 1907 could hear “Carmen” and “La Traviata.”
The ghostly hand intruded again, a bit more forcefully.
“Dear boy, remember about women not being able to vote?”
“I’ll get to that.”
There are a few automobiles (or “machines” as they were called) sold by dealers who set up shop on South Main around 12th Street. Reo, Rambler, Jackson, Pope-Toledo, Stevens-Duryea and Overland. Buick, Cadillac, Oldsmobile and Packard are the only familiar names. But machines seem only a bit more common than Segways are today. There are no more than 30 cars listed for sale in The Times classified ads for March 14, 1907, far outnumbered by horses; buggies and wagons, streetcars and bicycles appear to be the main modes of transportation.
POPE-TOLEDO 24-H.P. TOURING CAR
with touring car body, canopy top and run-
about body. This car has just been thoroughly
overhauled and is in first-class condition.
The BIGGEST bargain offered in
$1,000 ($20,523.57 USD 2005)
Western Motor Car Company
415 S. Hill
Patent medicine, séances, licensed saloons and something called a blind pig. The pages of The Times are brimming with vintage malfeasance.
“Ow! You don’t need to pinch me.”
“Dear boy, women’s suffrage?”
Women in Los Angeles couldn’t vote until 1911, when a new law allowed them to cast ballots in the local elections. The 19th amendment, granting women’s suffrage, was ratified by California on Nov. 1, 1919, and proclaimed by the secretary of State on Aug. 26, 1920. (Not passed by Mississippi until March 22, 1984? Are you serious?)
“I’ll even mention suffragette Rachel Foster Avery’s visit in August 1907. How’s that?”