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.
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.
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.
How a cafeteria owner took on the underworld and brought down a mayor.
The film adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s debut 1939 novel, The Big Sleep, began filming in October 1944 but didn’t begin its run in Los Angeles area theaters until almost two years later, in September 1946. The usual explanation for delay is that World War II was ending soon so the studio held it back in order to rush its war-related films into theaters, and in the interim Lauren Bacall’s bad reviews for Confidential Agent led Warners to reshoot some of her scenes. A closer look at the timeline: