Tuesday, March 18, 2014

LA Noir: The Bryson

A place where Philip Marlowe would feel at home:

Mike's Historic Buildings: LA Noir: The Bryson: "He drove down to Wilshire and we turned east again.  Twenty-five minutes brought us to the Bryson Tower, a white stucco palace with fr...

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Johnny Depp to Play Whitey Bulger After All

Whitey as the godfather.
You've heard it all here before. So, Johnny Depp is going to take another shot at playing a famous gangster.

The money was finally right, according to Deadline Hollywood

How do you think this one will stack up next to "The Departed," the other Whitey picture that was made before he was captured?

Paramount signed on to partly finance the deal and the shooting begins in Boston in eight weeks. Does anyone know of any Boston locations that are being lined up for themovie? I'm guessing the courthouse on the waterfront where the actual trial took place would be a prime location for exterior shots.

Scott Cooper is set to direct and Joel Edgerton plays disgraced FBI agent, John Connolly.

It's all based on a very good book titled "Black Mass" by Dick Lehr and Gerald O’Neill. 

The Whitey Bulger story is solid stuff -- it even has a third act now that Whitey's behind bars. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014


The sidewalk in front of the Hotel Cecil bears its name.

I stumbled upon the Hotel Cecil yesterday while walking downtown, and as it happens, this month is a grim anniversary for the Main St. hostelry.
The Hotel Cecil opened in 1927.
It’s probably not overdoing it to say that the Cecil is one of L.A.’s spookiest buildings. At least two bona fide serial killers – “Night Stalker” Richard Ramirez in 1985 and Jack Unterweger in 1991 – called it home, and the 87 year-old hotel, built in 1927, has had several murders and its share of leapers who went out the higher windows and hit the sidewalk below or the hotel’s marquee. One leaper landed on a pedestrian and killed him as well as herself.

The Night Stalker
But one of the truly strangest stories is that of Canadian tourist Elisa Lam.  She went missing from the hotel Jan. 31, 2013, and a year ago this month, was found drowned in one of the Cecil’s rooftop water tanks. She had been dead in the tank for two weeks and wasn’t discovered until guests complained about the smell and taste of the hotel’s drinking water, and low water pressure in the showers. A maintenance man went up to the roof to investigate and made the grisly discovery.

Security video shot inside a Cecil elevator captured Lam just before she went missing. She appears to be frightened, pushes buttons for all of the floors and seems to be hiding inside the elevator. She steps off of the elevator and makes strange gestures, as though she’s speaking with someone. See video, below.

Some observers say that it would have been nearly impossible for her to make her way to the roof and somehow get inside the water tank unassisted. Below, a local news reporter explains how difficult it would have been for Lam to get inside the water tank.

Police ruled her death an accidental drowning. We’ll probably never know for sure what actually happened that night on the roof of the Cecil.  Below, see Cecil guests’ reactions to drinking, bathing and brushing their teeth in the tainted water from the rooftop tank. L.A. historian Kim Cooper also comments on the Cecil’s dark past.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Smile For the Camera: A Mugs Gallery From the 1920s

There are mug shots, and then there are mug shots. They've become a standard feature on gossip websites, such as TMZ, where actors, pop singers and other Star Trailer trash get their dirty linens aired.
But mug shots from the olden days tell a different, more engrossing story. Here are some tough characters in the 1920s who got their pictures saved for posterity. It may be just the primitive photographic technology of the day that brings out each subject's most sinister characteristics, but these hombres look like they'd kill you for a Hershey's Candy Bar. Speaking of primitive, the police photographers of that era seemed to take a casual approach to their jobs. There are just a couple of standard poses -- standing and sitting; hat on and hat off.
Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any information about these perps. Just use your imagination and assume the worst. Chances are you'll be pretty close to the mark.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Behind the Scenes of 'The Conversation'

I first saw "The Conversation" at the Brattle Cinema in Cambridge, Mass., and I remember it was one of those landmark films that stood out even among the Fellini, Kurosawa and Bergman works that the theater routinely scheduled. The Watergate-era film had Gene Hackman's astonishing performance as Harry Caul, the electronic surveillance expert who finds himself in hot water, and Francis Ford Coppola's spare script and spot-on direction. Check out some little seen production pictures that were snapped at San Francisco locations where the film was shooting.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Crime Writer Ripped Hitch for ‘Flabby Mass of Clichés’

Farley Granger, left, and Robert Walker in Strangers on a Train.

Alfred Hitchcock at work.
A number of celebrated writers have had a tortured relationship with Hollywood. Take Raymond Chandler, the writer whose work is closely associated with Los Angeles (he detested the city), and whose crime fiction elevated the genre to an art form.
Chandler was lured to the screen trade during a brief period in movie history when the studios thought that great novelists could automatically write great scripts. Some did, but the majority failed and soon slunk back to the burgs from whence they came.
Others hung around L.A., growing increasingly despondent and bitter toward the philistines who run the movie business. That was certainly the case with Chandler, who gave us outstanding crime novels, including “The Big Sleep,” “Farewell, My Lovely” and “The Long Goodbye.” He also helped knock off one of the all time greatest film noir scripts, “Double Indemnity.” Then he lost his touch and his life and career did a slow fade. Before the frame went black, Chandler crossed paths with Alfred Hitchcock and worked on the screenplay for the British director’s “Strangers on a Train.”
Raymond Chandler
It was six years after Chandler’s collaboration with director Billy Wilder on “Double Indemnity,” which proved to be a fine, if difficult, partnership. But Chandler’s pairing with Hitchcock was a marriage made in hell.
Below is a letter Chandler sent to the director out of frustration over changes made to his script. A heavy drinker who years earlier lost his job as an oil company executive over his excessive use of alcohol, Chandler could be blunt and thin skinned, as his letter to the director suggests. Clearly, working in a collaborative medium was not his thing.

Source: The Raymond Chandler Papers (2000)
Dec. 6, 1950

Dear Hitch,

In spite of your wide and generous disregard of my communications on the subject of the script of Strangers on a Train and your failure to make any comment on it, and in spite of not having heard a word from you since I began the writing of the actual screenplay—for all of which I might say I bear no malice, since this sort of procedure seems to be part of the standard Hollywood depravity—in spite of this and in spite of this extremely cumbersome sentence, I feel that I should, just for the record, pass you a few comments on what is termed the final script. I could understand your finding fault with my script in this or that way, thinking that such and such a scene was too long or such and such a mechanism was too awkward. I could understand you changing your mind about the things you specifically wanted, because some of such changes might have been imposed on you from without. What I cannot understand is your permitting a script which after all had some life and vitality to be reduced to such a flabby mass of clichés, a group of faceless characters, and the kind of dialogue every screen writer is taught not to write—the kind that says everything twice and leaves nothing to be implied by the actor or the camera. Of course you must have had your reasons but, to use a phrase once coined by Max Beerbohm, it would take a "far less brilliant mind than mine" to guess what they were.
 Regardless of whether or not my name appears on the screen among the credits, I'm not afraid that anybody will think I wrote this stuff. They'll know damn well I didn't. I shouldn't have minded in the least if you had produced a better script—believe me. I shouldn't. But if you wanted something written in skim milk, why on earth did you bother to come to me in the first place? What a waste of money! What a waste of time! It's no answer to say that I was well paid. Nobody can be adequately paid for wasting his time.

Raymond Chandler