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Issue: Issue Winter 2010-2011

Literary Hollywood - The Streets of Raymond Chandler and Beyond


 

 

Hollywood has been the setting for numerous novels |over the decades,  and some have actually used |local landmarks, buildings, neighborhoods, streets |and residences by name or under other names as  part of those stories.

 
Raymond Chandler

Some house different businesses than decades ago, while others haven't changed all that much other than a facelift and refit here and there. Literary enthusiasts can park just off Hollywood Blvd. and walk to many locales that have been named in numerous novels or were haunts  for regional writer.  Or, there are tours, especially the offerings of Esotouric Tours, whose sojourns in Hollywood and Los Angeles included sites referenced by authors, true crime and  rock'n'roll.

Esoteric began with 1947project Crime Bus, based the famous (or infamous) Black Dahlia murder and led to the series of tours launched by Richard Schave and his wife Kim.

Chandler's novels and short stories about detective Phillip Marlowe tap into Los Angeles history and atmosphere from the 1930s through the early '50s in books such as "The Big Sleep," "The Long Goodbye" and many others, with key settings than include Hollywood and the Santa Monica area, along with other parts of the city. Yet until recently, it seemed no one was doing anything extensive, tour-wise around town.

Esotouric now offers two Raymond Chandler tours. The "Bay City" tour covers his books mostly with settings in the East part of Los Angeles especially Santa Monica, part of which was "Bay City" in his tales. The "In A Lonely Place" tour travels the west side of town, including Hollywood, and not only covers his fiction, but his life working for movie studios as well.


Charles Bukowski

Some of the stops on the Raymond Chandler "Lonely Place" tour include the Hollywood Blvd. restaurant Musso & Franks, the Paramount Studio's gates and a Chandler-themed gelato stop in East Hollywood, Scoops (712 North Heliotrope Drive).

Esotouric followed its initial Chandler tour with a tour of sites from novels by author John Fante, his books generally in the downtown L.A. area, and then, Charles Bukowksi, the poet and novelist whose works spanned downtown to the regions of Hollywood where he lived.

"Once you write a John Fante tour, you really have no choice but to write a Charles Bukowski tour," Schave says. "Among pivotal Bukowski points are certainly his Hollywood bungalow at 5124 De Longpre Ave, which was named a historical landmark, and one of his haunts, Pink Elephant Liquor (1836 N Western Ave).

 
Pink Elephant Liquor

Now if ever there ever was a Chandler expert, it's Loren Latker, whose website includes a map of Chandler's Los Angeles and loads of facts, details and trivia. (Go to http://homepage.mac.com/llatker/)

Latker is encyclopedic about Chandler-related locales. "At 1824 N. Curson off Hollywood Blvd is the Wattles Mansion. The 7000 block of Franklin Avenue dead ends into the East side of the property and Wattles Gardens. There are lots of period mansions on that portion of Franklin as well, one probably the model for General Sternwood's from 'The Big Sleep.'"

Latker mentions the building at the northeast corner of Hollywood and Highland, across from the complex that now houses the Kodak Theater and shops, still stands from Chandler's period. Just west, south and north respectively as the Roosevelt Hotel and Grauman's Chinese Theater also from his time.

 
John Fante

And what about Marlowe's office in Hollywood?  That's still debated, since Chandler never said exactly where it was, though dropped bits and pieces through out his series of stories. His office  was, in 1936, originally on the 7th floor of an unnamed building, but then is at #615 on the 6th floor of the Cahuenga Building by March/April 1939, which is the date of "Farewell, My Lovely."

"Hollywood and Cahuenga has always been considered the location of Marlowe's office. Many consider the Cahuenga Building (4621 Cahuenga Boulevard) - the old Pacific Security Bank Building-  on the northeast corner to be his office," Lasker says. "Others, especially the Hollywood Heritage folks consider the Hollywood Building on the southwest corner to be the site of Marlowe's office. Both are at the intersection of Hollywood and Cahuenga, named  Chandler Square."

Chandler also had Marlowe living in Hollywood, too. In "The Big Sleep," he lived at the Hobart Arms (or the Solana in books, too) around the 5100 block of Franklin' Ave. near N. Kenmore Avenue, then moved to the Bristol Apartments, Apartment 428 ("The Little Sister).  By "The Long Goodbye" in 1950, he was renting a house on Yucca Ave.

At Franklin at Gramercy, he says, you would have found Chateau Bercy from "The Little Sister. As Chandler wrote,  "The Chateau Bercy was old but made over. It had the sort of lobby that asks for plush and india-rubber plants, but gets glass brick, cornice lighting, three-cornered glass tables, and a general air of having been redecorated by a parolee from a nut hatch. Its color scheme was bile green, linseed-poultice brown, sidewalk gray and monkey-bottom blue.  It was as restful as a split lip."

Lasker also notes between Wilcox and Cahuenga, the Hotel Padre (1924 North Wilcox) as the Senger Building from "The High Window" and at Santa Monica at Wilcox is the location of the pawn shop from the same story. And his list of Chandler-related places from his life and work  goes on and on. 

 
F. Scott Foitzgerald

Famous authors haven't just frequented places known for Hollywood nightlife and showbiz. F. Scott Fitzgerald lived in Hollywood 1403 Laurel Ave. in West Hollywood and later with Sheilah Graham at 1443 N. Hayworth Ave. where he wrote, but never finished "The Last Tycoon"; Writer Christopher Isherwood lived in Hollywood from 1929-33 and spent much time at the Hindu faith-based Vendanta Society of Southern California (1946 Vendanta Place).

But it's detective fiction especially that often gravitates to Hollywood and several modern-day writers maintain characters that travel the streets and live nearby. Robert Crais' Elvis Cole lives  off Laurel Canyon in an A-frame cantilevered house in the Hollywood Hills, and he's been said to be a neighbor to Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch (they've appeared, subtly, in each other's books - Cole in "Lost Light," Bosch in "The Last Detective"), who lives in a stilt house off Woodrow Wilson Drive In the early novels of the series is a detective with the Hollywood Division of the LAPD. The Bosch novels often navigate Hollywood, mentioning areas such as Beachwood Canyon and the Hightower Apartments and also the bar at Musso and Franks.

"Off Highland, just south of the Hollywood Bowl and across from the Hollywood Heritage Museum at 2100 N Highland is Camrose. Drive up a bit and you find Hightower, named for  the elevator tower that goes up to a cluster of 1930's Art Deco units. There is also a set of  stairs you can walk up. The tower is set back from the garages for the units above," Lasker says.  Connelly rented an apartment and wrote there when he first moved to L.A.  It was also the setting for a murder in a later novel,  "Echo Park," taking place one of the garages. DH