Black Dahlia: Hack Writing and the Birth of Urban Myths

Hollywood Citizen-News, Jan. 15, 1947.

I’m slowly digitizing my files on the Elizabeth Short killing for easier access, and yesterday I was going through the Hollywood Citizen-News, which is one of the lesser sources on the case.  And, of course, the unidentified reporter  did exactly what we see today: a few graphs down, the writer dives into the clips. (Remember, Aggie Underwood’s Red Manley interview is the only time anyone received a byline in the original stories).

This is a trick used by reporters (or more frequently these days, online editors) to pad out a story when there aren’t enough details.

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Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)

I wanted to do a Lloyd Bacon movie this week and “The Office Wife” (Warner Bros., 1930) is the earliest one in my collection, and as a bonus, it was the feature film debut of Joan Blondell (one of Friday’s mystery guests).   Based on a story by Faith Baldwin serialized in Cosmopolitan in 1929, “The Office Wife” starred Dorothy Mackaill and Lewis Stone,  with a screenplay by Charles Kenyon. It also featured Natalie Moorhead (Friday’s mystery guest), Hobart Bosworth (Thursday’s mystery guest), Blanche Friderici (Monday’s mystery guest), Brooks Benedict (Friday’s mystery guest), Dale Fuller (Tuesday’s mystery guest) and Walter Merrill (our mystery guest in the newsboy cap).

“The Office Wife” opened in Los Angeles at the Warner Bros’ downtown theater in September 1930 and was an immediate hit, according to film critic Edwin Schallert, who thought Lewis Stone was a bit too old for the part.

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Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: 4269 Lankershim Blvd: Evolution of an Address

Club Indigo Matchbook
Club Indigo matchbook courtesy of Mary Mallory.

While some proprietorships remain in business for decades at one address, most often, occupancy at the site frequently changes due to economic and cultural cycles. Following owners usually continue in the same vein or type of business, but occasionally something totally different fills the site. Over the decades, most businesses occupying 4269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, have continued along the same lines, providing food and entertainment to thousands of San Fernando Valley residents.

Little can be found regarding this address prior to 1938, when it shows up in newspaper advertisements as the Cafe Indigo. The matchbook reveals the establishment served American and Chinese food, as well as selling liquor and wine. Per the inside of the matchbook, intimate entertainment was also offered nightly.

Mary Mallory’s “Hollywood land: Tales Lost and Found” is available for the Kindle.

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Another Good Story Ruined: Senor Wences and ‘History Is Made at Night’



I received a couple of comments about my statement on the mystery movie “History Is Made at Night” regarding the appearance (or non-appearance) of ventriloquist Senor Wences – or at least the appearance/non-appearance of his left hand.

So I thought I would take a break from my sabbatical to dig into it.

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California Bans Women as Toll Collectors on Bay Bridge – They Are Unstable

July 22, 2015, Unstable Women

Feb. 1, 1947: I’m going through my clips on the Black Dahlia case and here’s an unrelated story from the Santa Barbara News-Press.

The state personnel board prohibits women from taking the Civil Service exam for Bay Bridge toll collector because they are “unstable employees” and can’t handle drunks and criminals.

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Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)

July 25, 2015, Mystery Photo
This week’s mystery movie was “History is Made at Night,” a 1937 Walter Wanger production released through United Artists starring Charles Boyer and Jean Arthur (Friday’s mystery guests). It also featured Leo Carrillo (Thursday’s mystery guest) and Colin Clive (Wednesday’s mystery guest), and was directed by Frank Borzage from a screenplay by Gene Towne and Graham Baker, with additional dialogue by Vincent Lawrence and David Hertz.

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Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: Junius Estep and Alfred Lindstedt, Early but Forgotten Stills Photographers

Bessie Eyton by Estep for Selig 1912
Bessie Eyton by Junius Estep, courtesy of Mary Mallory.

In the early days of silent film production, moving picture companies promoted their brand names to consumers, selling films around the quality and type of pictures produced by their individual companies. By the early 1910s, these companies quickly discovered that stars drew fans’ interest more than brands, quickly creating publicity building up the stars to the general public.

Beautifully produced images created by portrait photographers crafted the iconography and importance of stars, inaugurating a mass form of publicity practiced to this day. Fans clamored to buy new issues of magazines, postcards, pennants, or any type of product featuring the likeness of their favorite celebrities. These powerful photographs sold the glamour and importance of the film industry, helping to expand profits and audience reach. The images also lured ambitious young people to growing film center Hollywood, exponentially growing the city.

Mary Mallory’s “Hollywood land: Tales Lost and Found” is available for the Kindle.

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Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)

This week’s mystery movie was the 1931 Radio Pictures pre-code comedy “Peach-O-Reno” by Tim Whelan, starring Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey (Friday’s mystery guests) with Dorothy Lee (not shown) and directed by William A. Seiter. The film also featured Zelma O’Neal (not shown), Joseph Cawthorn (Monday’s mystery gent), Cora Witherspoon (Thursday’s mystery guest), Sam Hardy (Tuesday’s mystery guest), Mitchell Harris (Wednesday’s mystery guest), Arthur Hoyt (not shown) and Josephine Whittell (not shown).

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Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: Assistance League Scouts Film Locations

Motion Picture Magazine, 1925.

In the early days of the motion picture industry, no rules and regulations held down the field’s growth and development as companies basically made it up as they went along. There were no labor rules, no production blueprints, no permits required for much of anything. This free form independence allowed filmmakers the opportunity to let their imaginations go wild on story ideas, sets, even film locations. With small crews, a film company could easily sneak shots at virtually any public location without notifying police or gaining anyone’s permission.

This guerrilla style of filmmaking is obvious in primitive cinema, where dogs standing on the sidewalk run into the scene, or crowds can be glimpsed watching the filming or even joining right in. Moviemakers basically shot wherever they wanted, as many owners of possible locations just wanted to see stars or a film being made, and required no payment. Others were given cameos, and some possibly earned a fee for allowing filming, there is no historic paperwork to explain.
Mary Mallory’s “Hollywood land: Tales Lost and Found” is available for the Kindle.



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Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)

July 11, 2015, Mystery Photo
This week’s mystery movie has been the 1946 Paramount picture “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers,” starring Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin, Lizabeth Scott, Kirk Douglas, (Friday’s mystery guests), Judith Anderson (bonus mystery guest), Roman Bohnen (not shown) and Darryl Hickman (not shown). It was written by Robert Rossen from a story by Jack Patrick,  photographed by Victor Milner, with art direction by Hans Dreier and John Meehan, process photography by Farciot Edouart and set decoration by Sam Comer and Jerry Welch. Music is by Miklos Rozsa, costumes by Edith Head, and the film was produced by Hal B. Wallis.  Directed by Lewis Milestone.

“The Strange Love of Martha Ivers” is on Netflix, and is available on DVD and Blu-ray from several vendors on Amazon but be selective about the quality. It’s also going to be on TCM next week as part of the “Summer of Darkness” series, so you may want to set your DVR.

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Posted in Film, Hollywood, Mystery Photo | Tagged , , | 35 Comments

Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: Teddy the Dog, Mack Sennett’s Best Friend

Teddy the Dog and Bath Beauty
Teddy the dog with a Mack Sennett bathing beauty, courtesy of Mary Mallory.

Guide, guard, and constant companion, the friendly dog is man’s best friend. Unswervingly loyal and supportive, canines give much needed love and help when times are tough. Their sloppy kisses and wiggly tails bring oodles of smiles and a kick in the step to their human pals.

This same boundless energy and enthusiasm has also entranced decades of film fans at local movie palaces, where they have been entertained by portrayals of dogs’ friendly personalities and mischievous quirks. Natural hams, dogs easily upstage their fellow two-legged actors through their unpredictability and high spirits.

Mary Mallory’s “Hollywood land: Tales Lost and Found” is available for the Kindle.

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A Wartime Fourth of July: Los Angeles, 1942

July 3, 1942, Harry Rankin

Years ago, in researching Camp Cooke, I bought the diary of a soldier named Harry A. Rankin, who was stationed there in 1942 and early 1943 (and no, he doesn’t mention Elizabeth Short). Here’s his list of what he did on a pass to Los Angeles on July 3-5, 1942.

Among the places he visited were Clifton’s Cafeteria of the Tropics, 618 S. Olive.; Pershing Square, where a B-25 was on display; the Biltmore; Beverly Hills Hotel; the Hollywood Canteen; Grauman’s Chinese Theatre; the Pantages Theatre; Earl Carroll’s; and Temple Baptist Church at 5th and Olive – also known as Philharmonic Auditorium.  He also mentions the Platinium dance hall, which is a new one on me.

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Notes on AT&T’s ISB7500 – And an Important Warning

Behold the ISB7500. Notice the LINK light is lit. That means it’s connected to the gateway. If it isn’t, the DVR won’t play back movies you have recorded. 

We recently said goodbye to our latest VIP2250 DVR, which we burned up in about six months. Apparently AT&T is replacing lots of the VIP2250s because when we took the box to UPS, they had whole table of dead DVRs being sent back. As you may have noticed, AT&T recently pushed out a new version of the operating system which has landscape screen savers, etc.

We weren’t sorry to see the VIP2250 go because it was poorly designed – it has no fan and uses the mounting bracket of the hard drive as a heat sink for the CPU, although at least it had a bigger storage capacity than the previous model.

The ISB7500 comes with Torx screws rather than the VIP2250’s Phillips screws, which discourages tinkering, at least among the amateurs in the crowd. Because it has a larger capacity drive, I said goodbye to about 70 movies rather than perform a hard-drive transplant. And no, you should never do a hard-drive transplant, although it is theoretically possible.

The ISB7500 also lacks a fan (which is why I have it elevated on little piles of Post-Its). But there is one important difference between the ISB750 and the VIP2250.


You should only do a cold boot of this DVR under a worst-case scenario. I did them all the time with the VIP2250 as it slowly died. This is done by pressing the power button and the OK button on the right for 10 seconds, so that you get three dots. If you do this three times, you get a gear and a line across the bottom of the screen as your DVR reboots and reloads your movies. This can take a long time (a long time being all day) if you are at 20% or less free space.

In the cold boot of the the ISB7500, you get the first gear and then another gear. And when it’s done, your DVR is all fat and sassy with all your movies gone.

Fortunately, I only lost one movie this way, but a warning to the hardcore DVR users: Do a cold boot of the ISB7500 at your peril. You will lose everything you have recorded.

And be sure to return your dead VIP2250 or you will be charged $150. And they won’t work unless they are connected to a gateway, so they are pretty much useless.

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Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)

July 4, 2015, Blazing Guns
This week’s mystery movie was the 1943 Monogram Pictures film “Blazing Guns,” starring Ken Maynard and Hoot Gibson, with LeRoy Mason, Emmett Lynn, Weldon Heyburn, Roy Brent, Eddie Gribbon, Lloyd Ingraham, Geo. Kamel, Kay Forrester, Robbie Kavanaugh, Frank Ellis, Charles King, Ken Duncan, Dan White, Chas. Murray Jr. Robert Allen and John Bridges. It was written by Frances Kavanaugh, and produced and directed by Robert Tansey.

Sorry, buckaroos, “Blazing Guns” is not generally available on DVD, but you may be able to find a VHS version on EBay.  I recorded it when TCM aired a series of Ken Maynard-Hoot Gibson “Trailblazer” movies in 2014.

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Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: Hollywood Athletic Club Trains Filmdom’s Elite

The Hollywood Athletic Club, Photoplay, 1924.

In the 1910s and 1920s, social clubs were all the rage in Los Angeles and surrounding communities. Many people immigrated to Southern California’s sunny shores pursuing new adventures. Most arrived friendless and eager to make new connections. Some joined clubs organized around the cities or states from which they had come, or single sex groups like women’s clubs or men only clubs. Others searched out social organizations, cultural opportunities, or sports leagues with more open policies.

The little farming community of Hollywood, founded around solid virtues and churchgoing, organized groups creating strong minds as well as strong bodies. Many offered educational, cultural, and social opportunities while providing community service. As the city grew and more artistic types arrived, cultural groups grew more diverse, like the Masquers or Lambs’ Clubs.

Mary Mallory’s “Hollywood land: Tales Lost and Found” is available for the Kindle.

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Finds ‘Husband’ Is Woman, 1909


In light of the Supreme Court ruling, here are some posts from the old Daily Mirror blog.

Clerk Refuses to Marry Chinese Man to White Girl, July 11, 1899.

Finds Husband Is a Woman, Nov. 15, 1909

Christine Jorgensen Tries to Marry, March 31, 1959.

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Black Dahlia: Tamar Hodel in Hospice


The ever-vigilant Eve Golden forwarded an article by Sheila Weller from reporting that Tamar Hodel, who accused Dr. George Hodel of molestation in the 1940s, is in a hospice. Tamar Hodel is the half sister of retired LAPD Detective Steve Hodel and figures prominently in the claims that Dr. Hodel killed Elizabeth Short and committed many other unsolved murders in Los Angeles.

I have already devoted a great deal of space to refuting Steve Hodel’s claims, – and I have posted the complete transcripts of the bugs placed in Dr. Hodel’s house by detectives, so I won’t go through it all again.

The George Hodel files Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17 | Part 18 |Part 19Part 20 | Part 21 |Part 22 | Part 23 | Part 24 | Part 25 | Part 26 | Part 27 | Part 28 | Part 29 | Part 30 | Part 31 | Part 32 | Part 33 | Part 34 | Part 35 | Part 36 | Part 37

The article recycles the same old scenario from the “Black Dahlia Avenger” franchise. Otherwise, there is nothing new except more information on Tamar Hodel’s troubled life.

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Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: It’s Time for the Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival

Fannie Ward in “The Cheat.”


For the 18th year in a row, the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum is holding their Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival in Niles’ historic 1913 Edison Theatre this weekend from Friday, June 26 to Sunday, June 28. They will be running silent rarities seldom seen on the big screen, including G. M. “Broncho Billy” Anderson Essanay shorts, a Baby Peggy feature, and Universal silents, all with wonderful live accompaniment by such pianists as Frederick Hodges, Jon Mirsalis, David Drazin, Greg Pane, and Bruce Loeb.

Festivities kick off Friday with an opening reception, followed at 8 pm by the tinted1924 Dorothy Devore romantic comedy, “The Tomboy.” Devore runs a boarding house for her eccentric father when a new handsome boarder, Herbert Rawlinson arrives. Two 1915 Essanay shorts precede the film, “Broncho Billy and The Claim Jumpers,” and the Snakeville Comedy, “When Slippery Slim Went For the Eggs,” featuring the comic antics of Victor Potel, Harry Todd, and Margaret Joslin.

Saturday morning kicks off with an informative walking tour of the little town of Niles, now part of Fremont, strolling down Niles Boulevard past former Essanay Film Company locations, and visiting quaint little bungalows. A $5 donation covers the walking tour, which begins at 11:30 a.m. at the Museum.

At 1 p.m. that afternoon, Cecil B. DeMille’s sensational 1915 feature, “The Cheat,” screens, starring the intense Sessue Hayakawa and the lovely Fannie Ward. Vain, selfish stockbroker wife Ward finds herself in debt to Hayakawa, with desperate results.

The 3pm show features Essanay film shorts shot in and around the little town of Niles, featuring Broncho Billy, Ben Turpin, Harry Todd, Margaret Joslin, and Victor Potel. The comic, cross-eyed Turpin appears in two films: “Broncho Billy Steps In” (1915), and “Snakeville’s Champion” (1915), in which he plays a boxer squaring off against Lloyd Bacon. During the short, the Niles’ Edison Theatre can actually be glimpsed in the distance.

That evening at 7:30, the Ray Hubbard Award will be presented to a special honoree, followed by a salute to Universal Pictures Centennial with the screening of “Skinner’s Dress Suit” (1926) and two shorts, “Behind the Screen” (1915) and “City of Stars” (1925), which present tours of the Universal City lot. “Skinner’s Dress Suit” stars Reginald Denny and Laura La Plante.

Sunday morning, guests are invited to ride the train through historic Niles Canyon before afternoon screenings. Kicking off Sunday afternoon screenings at 1 p.m. is a showing of the Library of Congress’ recently restored Baby Peggy feature, “The Family Secret” (1924). Baby Peggy (Diana Serra Cary) stars as a child of a secretly married couple who are separated by her rich grandfather. Schedule permitting, Cary herself will appear at the screening.

The Festival closes at 4 p.m. with a presentation of Helen Holmes and Helen Gibson action-packed adventures. Holmes, one of the great serial queens, stars in the short, “In Danger’s Path” (1915), directed by her husband, J. P. McGowan, and the feature, “Mistaken Orders” (1925), also directed by McGowan. Gibson appears in the short 1920 short, “The Ghosts of the Canyon.”

Festival passes cost only $65 for nonmembers, with different ticket prices for individual screenings. Passes and tickets can be bought online through the Museum’s website, or at the door.

Come enjoy the little town of Niles, the main western headquarters of the Essanay Film Company, and a pleasing small town atmosphere!

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Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)

This week’s mystery movie has been “After Office Hours,” a 1935 MGM picture starring Constance Bennett (Thursday’s mystery woman), Clark Gable (Friday’s mystery fellow), Stuart Erwin (Friday’s mystery guest), Billie Burke (not shown), Harvey Stephens (Wednesday’s mystery guest) and Katharine Alexander (Tuesday’s mystery guest). The screenplay was by Herman J. Mankiewicz from a story by Laurence Stallings and Dale Van Every, and directed by Robert Z. Leonard.   It is available on DVD from Warner Archive.

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Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: Max Ree Adds Fine Design

Max Ree , in an undated photo.

Mostly forgotten today thanks to his short film career, Danish architect turned costume and set designer Max Ree fashioned elegant artistry in the motion picture field from the mid-1920s through the mid-1930s. He served as a respected consultant, teacher, mentor, and commentator for his erudite comments on design as well as serving the industry on various councils. Neither flashy nor forward, Ree followed the dictum that form followed function, allowing easy access, mobility, and cost.

Born October 7, 1889 in Copenhagen, Denmark, Ree studied law and philosophy before earning his degree in architecture from the Royal Academy of Copenhagen. He worked as an architect for several years, designing fine homes around the country before discovering theatre and the great German theatre producer, Max Reinhardt. The two men began a long collaboration producing such influential stage works as “The Miracle,” “Orpheus,” and “The Midsummer Night’s Dream” in Berlin and Vienna during the late 1910s-early 1920s, with Ree serving as costume and set designer. Ree was renowned around Europe for his elegant lines and subdued but striking design obtained through deep research and study.

Mary Mallory’s “Hollywood land: Tales Lost and Found” is available for the Kindle.

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