Historical and vintage photographs of Los Angeles and Hollywood
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I am a Los Angeles based novelist writing a series of historical novels set in and around the real-life Garden of Allah Hotel which stood on Sunset Blvd from 1927 to 1959. The photos I pin here serve as research, inspiration, and verisimilitude for the lives I write about in a very special place during a very special place. For more information about my work, see: www.MartinTurnbull.com
The Spruce Goose on the move to Long Beach, California, mid June, 1946
I wish I’d been in LA in 1946 to witness this one-in-a-lifetime event. By June of that year, Howard Hughes’s $20 million Spruce Goose was ready to be transported in pieces from Playa Vista down to Long Beach, where it was reassembled for its sole test flight in the following year. The move took two full days; the aircraft was so big that 2100 power and telephone lines had to be raised or lowered to clear the way.
Cafe Trocadero, Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, exterior, 1936
One of my time travel destinations would be this place: the Cafe Trocadero at 8610 Sunset Blvd. It opened on September 18, 1934 by Billy Wilkerson, owner of The Hollywood Reporter. (The building had once been a warehouse where Wilkerson had stored his alcohol after the repeal of Prohibition.) It very quickly became Hollywood’s premier nightclub of the mid-to-late 1930s, and was where David O. Selznick chose to hold the post-premiere party for “Gone with the Wind” on December 28, 1939.
At the corner of 7th and Olive Streets, downtown Los Angeles, 1937
This is one of those slice-of-regular-life photos that I love to come across. In this one, we are able to catch a glimpse of life at the corner of 7th and Olive Streets, downtown Los Angeles, 1937. We’re treated to aspects of 1930s life that we don’t see anymore: all the women are in hats; all the men are in suits; and there’s a streetcar trundling along 7th Street whisking people in and out of the city, who are glad they won’t have to search for decent parking.
The first Highland Park segment of the Arroyo Seco Parkway in Los Angeles on its opening day, July 20, 1940
In this shot we get to see how the first Highland Park segment of the Arroyo Seco Parkway looked like on its opening day, July 20, 1940. I bet the drivers of these four motorcars were thinking, “Hey, is this is what it’ll be like getting around town on these new-fangled freeways, then sign me up. I’ll never have to deal with traffic jams again!” #FamousLastWords
Opening night of the Fox Wilshire Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, September 19, 1930
The Fox Wilshire Theater at 8440 Wilshire Boulevard was a flagship in the Fox chain, so this was an especially big night on September 19th, 1930. The film chosen to christen the place was “Animal Crackers” starring the Marx Brothers, who were fresh off the success of their previous film, “The Cocoanuts.” (1929) The theater is still around and is now known as called the Saban. On my website, I have more photos, including a shot of the stunning Art Deco interior: https://wp.me/p5XK3w-3N2
Ladies wardrobe department at MGM Studios, Culver City, California
If the walls of this place could talk, they’d tell us 10,000 stories—literally! This is the Ladies wardrobe department at MGM Studios, Culver City. It was three stories tall, which isn’t surprising because by the 1960s, it had around 300,000 costumes in storage, and that’s not counting the ones it had discarded over time. I can only imagine the complex system they had in place to keep a track of all these items!
Ocean Aquarium, Hermosa Beach, California, circa late 1940s/early 1950s
This photo of the Ocean Aquarium in Hermosa Beach, California has me worried. They felt the need to add a sign that says “ALL ALIVE!” Are we supposed to deduce that other aquariums features animals that are dead? Or fake? Or that they’d recently killed all their marine life but now they’re all alive? Either way, I am very suspicious...
Dolores Drive-in restaurant near Wilshire Blvd and La Cienega Blvd, Beverly Hills, 1957
This photo of the Dolores Drive-in near the northwest corner of Wilshire Blvd and La Cienega Blvd shows us LA’s drive-in restaurant culture as it was reaching its zenith. I would have loved the chance to wolf down a cheeseburger, slurp a chocolate thick shake, and shove a handful of Suzie Q fries while sitting in one of those roomy gas guzzlers we can see here!
Panoramic photograph looking north across Hollywood, California toward the Hollywood hills, circa 1930s
In this panorama photograph of Hollywood circa 1930s shows us a number of buildings that are still around. From left to right, we can see the Roosevelt Hotel, Grauman's Chinese Theatre, El Capitan Theatre, Hollywood United Methodist Church and the First National Bank Building with Highland Ave running between them, and closer to the camera is the Hollywood High School. That’s a pretty good tally for an 80-year-old shot of Los Angeles!
The California Incline, Santa Monica beach, California, 1916
The steep road that ramps from Ocean Avenue to the Pacific Coast Highway at the bottom of the cliffs along Santa Monica beach is known at the California Incline. It opened in 1896 and has been a boon to Angelean motorists ever since. This shot was taken in 1916, when any sort of motoring was still a novelty. I’m particularly envious of the driver in that little white convertible for being able to drive through a largely deserted Santa Monica in an open-top vehicle and park wherever he…
Production photo of the Yellow Brick Road set from MGM’s “The Wizard of Oz” (1939).
What??? You mean the Yellow Brick Road wasn’t real? Apparently not, Dorothy. It was all just a dream. This is a production shot from the set of MGM's "The Wizard of Oz" (1939) showing us the road where Dorothy met the Scarecrow. (The “1060” at the bottom refers to the films official studio production number.) It still amazes me that this movie didn’t even recoup its budget upon its original release: cost: $3,700,000, box office: $3,017,000.
A view from the stage of Ciro’s nightclub on the Sunset Strip, West Hollywood, 1950
While researching a scene at the closing night of Ciro’s (December 31st 1957) for my 9th novel in Hollywood's Garden of Allah series, I came across this photo. It gives us the view from Ciro’s stage in 1950. It’s what performers like Desi Arnaz, Ella Fitzgerald, Martin and Lewis, and Nat King Cole must have seen as they gazed out over the star-studded audience. The little patch of different-colored tile has me wondering though if that was the dance floor. I’d love to hear from anybody who…
Sunset House haberdasher and hairdresser in the Hollywood Reporter Building at 6715 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles
This photo shows us the signs for the haberdasher and hairdresser inside Sunset House, which was the Hollywood Reporter Building at 6715 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles. I wish I’d found this photo 10 years ago—one of my novels protagonists works at the Hollywood Reporter and I may have set a scene or two at the in-house salons. How terribly convenient it must have been for publisher Billy Wilkerson to have a haberdasher and a hairdresser in the same building!
A London street set from Paramount’s “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1931)
Before the days of CGI, old Hollywood sets were often grand and filled to the brim with cinematic contraptions. This elaborate setup from “Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was no exception.
Premiere of “The Floradora Girl” at the opening night of the Pantages Theater, Hollywood Boulevard, June 4, 1930
Here’s a bit of Hollywood history in the making. What we’re seeing here is the opening of the Pantages Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard on June 4, 1930. The crowds gathered six bodies deep are there to see “The Floradora Girl,” the movie was chosen to open the magnificent theater. Though hardly remembered anymore, it features a 7-minute finale filmed in 2-strip Technicolor, giving us rare color footage of its star, Marion Davies.