Monday, November 10, 2008

L.A. NOIR-chitecture

Yesterday we went on the L.A. Conservancy's hard-boiled tour through the historic City! It was all about locations read in classic noir mystery novels and seen in movies of the same genre. Here's an explanation from the tour brochure:
Noir fiction, also called hard-boiled crime fiction, is a uniquely American style of writing that was established and pioneered by authors such as Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler in the 1930s and '40s. Often associated with detective short stories and novels, classic noir fiction portrays the world with gritty realism and a dark and unsentimental viewpoint. Many consider historic preservation a noir exercise at times -- full of drama and sometimes, tragedy. historic buildings provide the authenticity craved by authors and filmmakers alike, alive with the city's past, often glorious and sometimes shady.
Los Angeles is home to some of the greatest noir fiction and film, classic and contemporary. the juxtapostion of our sunny climate and "tinseltown" glamour with the corruption and crime of an urban metropolis provides fertile ground for creativity, and the city's rich historic fabric serves as another character in these dark dramas. We hoe you enjoy this jaunt throug the literary and cinematic landscape of noir L.A.
We met up with Madge and Tom at the Formosa Cafe in West Hollywood, which appears in the film "L.A. Confidential" based on James Ellroy's novel. Our docent also told us tales of various mobsters and stars hanging out there in the old days.
Next stop, the Villa Primavera Apartments in West Hollywood. This is a lovely Spanish Revival style courtyard apartment building from the 1920's near Fountain and Crescent Hts. That area is just full of beautiful apartment buildings...worth walking around. This was the spot where writer Dorothy Hughes placed her novel "In a Lonely Place," also featured in the film, directed by Nicholas Ray (1950). Many stars lived here on their way up, including Katherine Hepburn, James Dean and more.
We drove east back toward Hollywood to the Parva-Sed-Apta Apartments on Ivar Street. Parva-Sed-Apta means small but suitable in Latin. Yes, these apartments were small, but quite tidy. Usually, one room with a Murphy wall bed, kitchenette and bath. Many of the apartments have been combined today to make one bedroom units. This building is in the English Tudor Revival style with touches of Spanish Revival thrown in. Author, Nathaniel West lived here in the 1930's where he penned "Day of the Locust." West supposedly based many of the characters in his novel on the residents of the Parva-Sed-Apta. Here, I ran into my SnB friend, Leah.
We walked down Ivar, past the Knickerbocker Hotel and a great view of the Capitol Records Building, one block over, to Hollywood Blvd. and the Security Trust and Savings Building (1921). This is in the Beaux Arts style and was the first high-rise in Hollywood. It is said that Raymond Chandler modeled the office of his character, Philip Marlowe, after one in this building. The views were spectacular from the upper floors!
Back in the car...short drive up to the Mulholland Dam and Hollywood Reservoir. I had never been to this site, built in 1924. It's absolutely beautiful and was my second favorite site on the tour. This location was featured in Michael Connelly's book "The Overlook." The area is open to the public every day, no charge. It's quite a peaceful and restful place right in the center of Hollywood. The view of the Hollywood sign is magnificent.
After all that touring we were extremely hungry. Our next stop was the Warner Bros. Studio Lot in Burbank, so we zoomed through the Cahuenga Pass over the hill to Bob's Big Boy in Toluca Lake for burgers. The place was packed. We didn't want to wait, so we walked across the street to Papoo's Hot Dog Show and had a delicious lunch.
Warner Bros. Studio tour was short. We only got to see New York Street and Brownstone Street. "The Maltese Falcon" was shot here. We had an excellent docent and we also received a deluxe DVD edition of the movie, with lots of extras.
Our last stop was the most impressive stop for me. We drove to Glendale to see the Glendale Southern Pacific Railroad Terminal. Wow! This is a little architectural gem of a building! It's built in the Spanish Revival style. It's still in use as a train station and it is most beautifully restored. A few scenes from "Double Indemnity" (1944) were shot here. There was a mystery bookseller at the station and many of the docents dressed in 1940's attire.
All in all, it was a wonderful tour with good friends, great weather and interesting information. Yes, I love Los Angeles!



At 9:21 PM PST, Blogger Leah said...

I was also blown away by the Glendale train station, who knew!
Loved both the Parva Sed Apta and the Primavera Appts.
Did the docent tell you that the big yellow building beyond the Parva, is the the Alto Nido, the building Elizabeth Short, aka the Black Dahlia lived in.
Going back some time to have drinks at Formosa Cafe. I hope the conservancy has more tours like this one.

At 9:36 PM PST, Blogger Ellen Bloom said...

Hi Leah!

Yes, our docent told us about the Alto Nido Apts. too. Hollywood is really full of all sorts of history!

I haven't been to the Formosa to eat in over 20 years. I remember the food being so-so, but the drinks are great....of course, the atmosphere is legendary!

Hmmm? Maybe we should have a Knit in Public at the Glendale train station? I just love that bulding!

At 8:59 AM PST, Blogger Madge said...

Heh. There's Tex. Anyhoo, great tour! And great spending the day with you and Larry walkin' these mean streets of Los Angeles. The Glendale Southern Pacific was my fave stop, too. Beautiful building.

At 10:12 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the interesting info on noir. Too Shy to Stop writer Peter Ricci just did a piece on Chandler's contributions to crime fiction. You can read the full article here.

At 7:58 PM PST, Blogger Natalie said...

The Glendale Train Station...who knew? It is so beautiful. Awesome tour. Thanks for sharing. It's almost like being there.

At 2:59 PM PST, Blogger tmp00 said...

I think my friend and I had the same itinerary, except we bailed on the airport since we had spent so much time at the others. Great photos and description!

At 10:38 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just happened to run across your comments on The Hot Dog Show on La Cienega.
Brought back a bunch of I worked there as a waiter for close to a year back
in the early 50's before I went in the Air Force in 1953.

Al Melcher was the owner and originator. He watched the operation closely and would be there most every night to count the cash and make up his deposit for the next morning. He had ceramic plates on display made by an artist friend.

I can still recite everything that was on the menu... The dogs were made by Hormel (50 to a box)...Al said that they made him special just for the Hot Dog Show...but I never got confirmation of that from
the deliver man. Remember? There were 6 different dogs The Mutt ...(25 cents with carrot sticks and chips in the basket) the Dachsund w/ sauerkraut and mustard) The Chihuahua, The Hound, The Boston Bull , and The Beagle, with Cheddar Cheese melted on top in the broiler oven. What fun it was...and very hectic on Saturday and Sunday afternoons... when we serve many hundreds of hot dogs. Quite a business.

Al opened up several additional was on Riverside Drive in Toluca Lake, right across from Bob's Big Boy...and also one down in Long Beach...I worked at both of those also.

Norm Silvers,
Anaheim, Ca


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