! Senoritas y Senores ~ Vaya con Dios Siempre !

Forget it Jake, It’s Only Chinatown ~ Fact or Fiction? A Film Noir View of L.A. • 1947 – 2010

In the movie Chinatown,

there’s a reference made to the

Hollenbeck Bridge…

Morty: Yeah, he drowned too.

Gittes: Come again?
Morty: Yeah, he got drunk. Passed out in the bottom of the riverbed.

Gittes: The LA River?
Morty: Yeah, right under Hollenbeck Bridge. What’s wrong with that?

Gittes: It’s dry as a bone, Morty.
Morty: It’s not so completely dry.
Gittes: Well, he ain’t gonna exactly drown in a damp riverbed no matter how soused he is.

Morty: We got water out of him…He drowned…

7th Street Viaduct ~ L.A. 1910

There is no Hollenbeck Bridge in Los Angeles, as referenced in the film ‘Chinatown.’ The only bridges over the Los Angeles River are on Broadway, 1st, 4th, 6th, 7th and Olympic. 6th Street once had a bridge that spanned Hollenbeck Park, but that would not be the bridge in ‘Chinatown’ because that film specifically remarks ‘on the meager amount of water existing in the Los Angeles River, too low to drown a human.’ The producers of the film Chinatown most likely used poetic license to provide a ‘more Los Angeles’ allusion in describing the scene, rather than simply calling it a numbered street bridge. The producers of the movie used the 7th and Olympic Bridge as the ‘Hollenbeck’ Bridge.

Trapped and Desperate in L.A. ~

Evelyn Mulwray pulls her Pistol to Escape her Fate on the Mean Streets of Chinatown..

Faye Dunaway ~ Chinatown, 1974

Directed by Roman Polanski, now exiled  from returning to Calfornia to escape a statutory rape charge, Chinatown is easily one of the best films ever to depict period L.A. a la 1947.

Raymond Chandler would have approved.

In a Ironic ‘Film Noir’ real-life twist of fate, A Foreign Director makes one of the best films ever about L.A., only to be exiled by that same city, having endured the Torture of having his pregnant wife, Hollywood actress Sharon Tate, brutally murdered by the Manson Family in the Hollywood Hills 5 years before. Then raping a 13 year-old girl a few years later, convicted in absentia for the offense, only never to return and living in exile 40 years later because of it…

Only in Hollywood.

L.A. Chinatown-setting for the final scene in "Chinatown"

Downtown L.A looking north ~ 1951

Downtown L.A. looking north, 2010

HOLLYWOODLAND ~

The Hollywoodland sign was built by Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler as an epic $21,000 billboard for his upscale Hollywoodland real estate development, the Sign soon took on the role of giant marquee for a city that was constantly announcing its own gala premiere. The “billboard” was massive. Each of the original 13 letters was 30 feet wide and 50 feet tall, constructed of 3×9′ metal squares rigged together by an intricate frame of scaffolding, pipes, wires and telephone poles.

A giant white dot (35 feet in diameter, with 20-watt lights on the perimeter) was constructed below the Sign to catch the eye. The Sign itself featured 4,000 20-watt bulbs, spaced 8 inches apart. At night the Sign blinked into the Hollywood night: first “Holly” then “wood” and finally “land,” punctuated by a giant period. The effect was truly spectacular, particularly for pre-Vegas sensibilities. Originally intended to last just a year and a half, the Sign has endured more than eight decades – and is still going strong…

The original houses are still there as well, in Beechwood Canyon. They look just the same and are some of the the most well-preserved 1920′s homes in Hollywood today…

1951: Looking toward Hollywood. The four-level interchange, with the new Hollywood Freeway leading away from it, can be seen. The Hollywood sign is on the hill at center background. The Hollywood Sign took on the role of a town constantly announcing it's own Gala Premiere, Then and Now.

In 1932, Peg Entwistle, a New York stage actress, became the symbol of the dark side of the Hollywood dream. Emboldened by her Broadway success, the ambitious young actress soon set her sights on the silver screen. She packed her bags for Hollywood and moved in with her uncle on Beachwood Drive – virtually in the shadow of the Hollywood Sign.

Unfortunately, Peg failed to make a splash, and she spent most of the brutally hot summer of ’32 hanging around her uncle’s house, waiting for a phone call that never came. Finally, on the evening of September 18th, Peg told her uncle that she was going to meet some friends at a nearby drug store, but this was a sad lie.

Peg instead made the arduous hike up the canyon hill to the Hollywood Sign, her one-time beacon of hope but now a symbol of failure and rejection. She climbed 50 feet up a workman’s ladder to the top of the “H” and plunged to her death. Peg Entwistle – dubbed by tabloids as the “The Hollywood Sign Girl” – was only 24 years old.

In Yet Another cruel Hollywood twist of irony, a letter to Peg arrived the day after her death from the Beverly Hills Playhouse. She was offered the lead role in a play … about a woman driven to suicide. Moral of the Story ~ Always Wait One More Day Before Killing Self…

Hollywood Sign on the Hill ~ 2010

L.A. 1947 0r 1997 ? The Film L.A. Confidential

Kim Basinger 1997 • Veronica Lake 1947

Another great movie to depict L.A in the Day is the film L.A. Confidential

Set in essentially the same ‘Noir’ period, the early 50′s as in the L.A. photos above, the film outlines the Seedy Pulp Fiction-style underbelly of  L.A. Filmed almost entirely on Location in L.A. in 1997, it illustrates how little some scenes in the City Have Changed and Remain the Same…Now as Then.

Dubious Character Pierce Patchett from " L.A. Confidential"

In the Film a Dubious ‘businessman’, Pierce Patchett, lives in a Groovy Post-Modern Pad high in the Hollywood Hills, Drives a Stylish 50′s Red Jaquar roadster & Lives a Little too Large for his Own Good…and That Pad is Actually…

The Lovell House, Richard Neutra, 1927 ~ One Cool Pad


I'll Take it, Who Do I make the Check to..? Lovell House Interior

Site Plan • Lovell House, Richard Neutra

The Lovell House is the first steel-frame house in the United States. The steel frame was erected in just over a month. The Pre-fab panels were built off-site & trucked to the site. Good Design is Timeless...the Lovell House was added to the list of Registered Historic Places in Los Angeles in 1971. It is nearly 85 Years Old.

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2 responses

  1. Phil

    Just want to clarify something — we never see the Hollenbeck Bridge in the movie Chinatown, it’s only referenced in the above quotes. Meanwhile the bridge that Jake visits while trailing Mulwray never gets named but is in reality located in the northeast corner of the San Fernando Valley (Sunland, to be exact). Follow this link for visual identification: http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showpost.php?p=5637958&postcount=6957

    PS great post!

    June 22, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    • Hi Phil ~

      Thanks for your comments…Chinatown is one of my favorite movies about L.A.

      Having many many family scrapbook pictures from that time & era in L.A., (see the about Federico page),
      I always felt Polanski did a better job than anyone depicting that accurately. As I live near Santa Barbara
      now, there are a couple shots in Ventura County in the film I recognize as well…all in all on of THE
      great L.A. movies. Another great one filmed in L.A. from that era is Mildred Pierce, with Joan Crawford, 1940

      June 22, 2012 at 8:54 pm

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