1933. The toothbrush mustache was in, Prohibition was on the way out. The nation was in its third year of the worst economic depression in US history. The Stock Market crash of October 1929 had caused banks to fail, and depositors lost their savings. There was mass unemployment and homelessness. On taking office in March 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established a series of federal recovery and relief programs to try to address the crisis. One of the programs was the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) created under the Federal Emergency Relief Act of May 1933. The Federal Transient Service (FTS) was a division of FERA created in July 1933, designed to provide transients arriving in a new city with food and shelter and, if possible, a job- at no cost to the state or local governments. On August 10, Los Angeles’ new mayor Frank Shaw restored James E. Davis to power as Chief of Police. Continue reading
The film Lady in the Lake was based of on Raymond Chandler’s novel The Lady in the Lake. If you read on, note spoilers follow- about the novel, the short stories Chandler cannibalized for it, and the film adaptation.
The Sniper is a disturbing serial-killer themed film noir from 1952. To Los Angeles audiences, the film’s theme- a lone male stalking female victims at random and shooting them from a sniper’s vantage point- must have seemed awfully familiar. The city had just caught its own “phantom sniper” who had had local women on edge since the previous summer.
“Filmed under police protection!” “Based on facts!” “The inside story of the $8,000,000,000 gambling syndicate and its hoodlum empire!”
Producer Frank Seltzer started doing research for 711 Ocean Drive, originally known as Blood Money, in November 1948, intending to expose the race wire service as a new industry for hoodlums who lost out through the repeal of Prohibition. The final screenplay, credited to Richard English and Francis Swann, is a fictionalized but recognizable depiction of the late Bugsy Siegel and his former minion, Mickey Cohen.
He Walked By Night is a documentary-style film noir. The opening credits (overlaying a street map of LA metropolitan area) and opening montage establish that we’re in Los Angeles. A voice over tells us that the story is based on a real case:
Hollywood loved boxing. It loved watching boxing matches. It loved making movies about boxing. Both of these passions converged in the fight film. From the earlies days of motion picture technology, fight fans could see bouts from all around the country in local theaters- even though, for more than a quarter of the 20th century, transportation of such films across state lines was a violation of federal law.
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.