Downtown Los Angeles, 1946: Beth Short's last walk

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?

Screen grab, 1946 "Down To Earth" process shot

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.

The Female Driver

December 21, 1907
Los Angelesminnieheadline

Hey, enough you, with the cracks about the lady driver.  Let’s see you make a long tour over hairpin turn-filled mountain roads replete with sharp ascents and descents.  Such a journey requires skill and judgement, “and yet,” writes the Times, “woman drivers are giving as good account of themselves in this work as men.”  

During the dear Edwardian days, the more daring element among our fairer sex would, on such tours, more often than not content themselves with presiding at the wheel on smooth stretches, leaving the real driving to the patriarchy.  Snorting a hearty pshaw at convention, Minnie Roberts of Madera shipped her 1905 White steamer touring car to Los Angeles to have it rebuilt as a runabout.  Here they also painted the auto a bright red.  She came down to LA to see how her car was coming, and, on visiting her pals Mr. and Mrs. H. D. Ryus, announced she was going to drive the beast home herself.  Mr. Ryus loaned her a mechanic in case the car should break down, but otherwise, Minnie was at the wheel.


The two days, and 315 miles, were full of hills, fords, bends, sand, ruts, desert, canyons and thick woods—and few towns.  The Tejon pass summit, where they were caught in a brief but fierce rain, is 4280 feet; Mint Cañon has a 3850 foot summit.  Minnie and the mechanic donned leather-covered laprobes during the inclement weather, since Minnie “does not believe in” glass fronts or canvas tops.

Whence came Minnie’s love of hard driving and speed?  It seems the week previous, Minnie had been taken for a ride in her pal “Wild Bill” Ruess’ fifty-horse-power Pope-Toledo (“that he uses to scare the life out of would-be motorists”) which, when it reached fifty-five miles and hour and could get no more speed, Minnie asked sweetly of Wild Bill, “Is this all the fast you can go?”












(A 1905 White, above, indicating the proper placement of ladies within an automobile, an image I snatched from here.)

Angelenos and Their Cars

June 28, 1907 Los Angeles Give cars to a bunch of wealthy Los Angeles residents and what do they do? Race them, of course. Not on a track this time, but in an endurance test from Los Angeles to Lakeside. And yes, it's a bit warmish for an endurance race, especially once the drivers get further inland--100 degrees.

So far, all 62 cars that began the race arrived intact at Lake Elsinore. Note that the drivers didn't have the advantage of maps.google.com and went via Upland and Riverside.

For a while, it looked as if the machines were going to be stranded in Lake Elsinore because there was no gasoline, but a freight train arrived in time with two carloads of gas. One driver, George Kowonto, suffered heat prostration, The Times noted.

So far, most of the cars have fared well. Forty received perfect scores, while several had points deducted for problems with the coil or the carburetor. "There were a few complaints of road hogging, but not many," The Times said.



Route 66 Begins

June 23, 1907 - Los Angeles

The Auto Club of Southern California has begun posting white enamel signs with blue lettering along Foothill Boulevard between Los Angeles and Riverside. Spending about half a day, auto club President George Allen Hancock and Charles Fuller Gates, who is in charge of the county's signage, staked the route through Highland Park, South Pasadena and Pasadena, Lamanda Park, Baldwin's ranch, Monrovia, Azusa, Glendora, Claremont, Uplands, Cucamonga, EtiwandaStalder (34.0119/117.3125 to folks with GPS) to West Riverside.

To protect the signs, a $200 reward ($4,104.71 USD 2005) was offered for anyone caught vandalizing them. "For a while the motoring public did not understand these signs," The Times said, "but gradually their value dawned upon them and then the rest of the highway traveling public understood them too. After that, very few were destroyed. Now it is seldom that any are molested."



Syndicate content