The Clay Pigeon (1949)

It was October 1946. Twenty-four-year-old Army veteran William L. Bruce was shopping for a lawnmower with his wife and in-laws at the Sears store in Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights when he spotted the man who had until recently had made his life a living hell: Tomoya Kawakita, a former guard at the Osaka Camp at Oeyama, Honshu, Japan where Bruce had been held as a POW. He was better known to Bruce and his fellow prisoners of war as “The Meatball, so nicknamed for his rotund figure- the result of his stealing and eating their rations.

 

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Bugsy Siegel in Los Angeles Pt. II: Man About Town

Read Pt. I here.

As is now known, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel made a number of trips to Los Angeles in the early 1930s, often with his family in tow. This information comes not from secret gangster sources that can’t be revealed, but the plain old, dull documentary record.

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A Meeting At Hollywood And Vine Means Murder

On September 20, 1939 two women crossed paths at the busy corner of Hollywood and Vine. Though they hadn’t seen each other in 26 years, sisters Fanny Rapport and Ida Schachter recognized each other at once. They had lost contact after Rapport left New York and came to California in the ‘teens. In 1938 Schachter too, ended up in Hollywood with her husband. She lived just down the street, at 1804 Vista Del Mar Avenue. 

The chance reunion made it into the Los Angeles Times, a minor human interest item for a slow news day. Hollywood- a place where people came to start new lives, assume new identities perhaps- was full of such tales. To at least one reader, however, this story was positively riveting.

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The Gangster on Film

 

Gangster movies had been around almost as long as the motion picture industry itself but gained in popularity during Prohibition, when the violent exploits of real life gangsters made headlines daily. Then as the news shifted its focus to gangster chasers- the G-Men- the movies followed suit. Still later, the genre would overlap with what we now call film noir with its own ripped-from-the-headlines depictions of the modern day gangster.

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Who Was Mumsie McGonigle?

A typical reaction from anyone who reads Geoffrey Homes’ hard-to-find 1946 novel Build My Gallows High (basis for the film noir Out of the Past) is: how on earth did he come up with a name like Mumsie McGonigle? The short answer is: he didn’t. There was a real Mumsie McGonigle, and she was much in the news in early 1940s Los Angeles. Her story involves depravity and corruption to equal any hardboiled fiction plot.

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