Movieland Mystery Photo

Dec. 10, 2018, Mystery Photo

For Monday, we have a mystery woman.

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Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: Hollywood Sign Built and Illuminated November-December 1923


The Hollywoodland Sign, in a photo published in the Los Angeles Evening Herald, Dec. 8, 1923.

Note: This is an encore post from 2017.

riginally constructed as a publicity gimmick and branding symbol to help generate sales for a real estate development, the Hollywood Sign is now a worldwide icon just as powerful as Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, and the Statue of Liberty, signifying a land of glamour and opportunity. Myths have always existed about it, from the date of its construction to how the city of Hollywood obtained it. After in-depth research by both historian Bruce Torrence and myself, we can conclusively say the sign was constructed in late November and early December 1923, and illuminated in that first week of December.

Like me, a California transplant involved in history, research, and writing since I was child, Torrence has always been fascinated by Hollywood history, perhaps because his two famous grandfathers contributed much to it. His paternal grandfather, Ernest Torrence, starred in many classic silent films such as “Steamboat Bill Jr.” and “Peter Pan” after a successful career as an opera singer. His maternal grandfather C. E. Toberman could be called the builder of Hollywood for his construction of so many iconic structures around Hollywood Boulevard. Bruce began a photo collection of Hollywood in 1972 with thirty photographs, which has blossomed into thousands. He employed these photos in writing one of Hollywood’s first detailed history books in 1979 called “Hollywood: The First 100 Years.”
Hollywood at Play: The Lives of the Stars Between Takes, by Stephen X. Sylvester, Mary Mallory and Donovan Brandt, goes on sale Feb. 1, 2017.

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December 1947: ‘Taxi Army’ Saves Tel Aviv

L.A. Times, 1947

Dec. 9, 1947, L.A. Times

Note: This is an encore post from 2005 and originally appeared on the 1947project.

Quote of the day: “Dream Dress to dance into 1948—Young sorceress of the wand-waist, bouffant skirt school, whirls through the holidays in the luminous splendor of rayon taffeta, roman-striped from deep purple to pale gold. And for a fillip of jeune fille elegance, mantilla with a pleated edge, in plain contrasting color!”

J.W. Robinson Co.


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1920: Police Raid Party at Ex-Mayor’s Home, Arrest 7 Men in Drag

Note: This is an encore post from 2006.

Dec. 10,1907
Los Angeles

Mayor Arthur C. Harper happens to be in all sorts of trouble. He’s telling the newspapers that he has had enough of politics and won’t seek another term. The district attorney is trying to shut down the local red light district and eventually these efforts will reveal allegations of City Hall corruption involving Harper, Police Chief Kern, a police commissioner, a police captain named Broadwood and Nicholas D. “Nick” Oswald, one of the biggest leaders of the city’s underworld.

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Posted in 1907, 1909, 1912, City Hall, Crime and Courts, Downtown, LAPD, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dec. 2, 1938: California’s First Use of Gas Chamber Horrifies Witnesses; Hanging Is ‘Quicker and Better’

L.A. Times, 1938

L.A. Times, 1938
Note: This is an encore post from 2005 and originally appeared on the 1947project.


The Times editorialized:

Kessel and Cannon were two of five convicts who twisted a wire around the warden’s neck and dragged him into the prison yard, ordering him, on pain of death, to command the tower guards to throw down their rifles. Instead, Larkin shouted to the guards to pay no attention to him but to do their duty. As a result, the heroic warden was stabbed 12 times in the abdomen with knives made from rusty files. The time gained by his resistance was enough to muster the rest of the prison forces….

As against the 12 and 15 minutes Kessel and Cannon resisted death, Larkin lingered 108 hours. They were mercifully unconscious; their victim was conscious and in agony practically to the end. Their deaths were easy; his—from infected abdominal wounds—was horrible.

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Dec. 9, 1907: Black LAPD Officer Blames Firing on Racism, Rejoins Fire Department

Note: This is an encore post from 2006.

Dec. 9, 1907
Los Angeles

Mayor Harper has restored E.J. Bowen to his old job in the Fire Department after the rookie police officer was fired for allegedly being a coward—a charge that Bowen, who is black, blames on racism.

Bowen transferred to the Police Department almost six months ago and his probationary period was almost over when he was accused of cowardice in two instances. In the first incident, Bowen allegedly refused to enter a house where burglars had been reported and in the second, he would not enter an unlocked store until another officer accompanied him.

He gave the following accounts: Two daughters of an attorney named Sturgis [possibly Alonzo A. Sturgis] thought they heard burglars in their home on Chicago Street, which was apparently in Boyle Heights. They ran out of the house and told a streetcar crew, who reported the incident to Bowen. Bowen allegedly was afraid to go into the house unless a streetcar motorman accompanied him, but the officer said he went to the home at once and searched it. The motorman came along on his own initiative, Bowen said.

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Follies Theater’s 1927 ‘Hot Mamma’ Show Led Court to Overturn Law on ‘Indecent Shows’

A EBay vendor posted this photo of a woman named Aline or Alene Carberry, and I could not resist unleashing the hounds of research.

Bidding on the “Hot Mamma” photo is currently at $34.50.

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December 1947: Forget-Me-Nots for the Rose Queens of Yesteryear


L.A. Times, 1947 Note: This is an encore post from 2005 and originally appeared on the 1947project.

What has become of the Rose Queens of yesteryear?

What has happened to the girls who in the past have ruled over the glamour, excitement and pageantry of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses?

Did that cherished title start them on the road to fame and fortune or did it leave them just happy memories, a scrapbook and a pressed red rose?


In 1979, The Times surveyed former Rose Queens, finding that many of them lived in Orange County. One of the women interviewed by Lael Morgan was Patricia Auman, the Rose Queen for 1946, who selected an education at Stanford over pursuing a film career.

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Dec. 8, 1907: Jewish Refugees, Fleeing Russian Persecution, Come to L.A.

Note: This is an encore post from 2006.

Dec. 8, 1907
Los Angeles

I’ll apologize now, for this is an account with more questions than answers; a story of heartbreak and hope without an ending.

The Times features three members of the Schiffman family who are Jewish refugees from Baku, Russia (now part of Azerbaijan): Sigmund, the father; Benjamin, the 15-year-old son, and Emella [or Emelia], the 10-year-old daughter. The Schiffmans have been brought to Los Angeles as part of the Galveston Plan, in which Jews were taken to Galveston, Texas, for dispersal throughout the West because New York was overcrowded.

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Posted in 1907, Education, Immigration, Religion | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

L.A. Daily Mirror Retro Holiday Shopping Guide

Chavez Ravine, 1949

Note: This is a repost from 2013.

You might have to hunt a bit for Don Normark’s 1999 book “Chavez Ravine, 1949,” but your search will be rewarded. The photos are terrific and the residents’ recollections make the book even better. Copies can be found via

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Dec, 7, 2006: Note to "Dahlia Avenger" Fans

Note: This is an encore post from 2006.

Here’s a publicity still of “Maddy” Comfort from “Kiss Me Deadly” for sale on EBay. Her name is also spelled “Mattie” and “Mady.”

Comfort is referred to in the Los Angeles County district attorney’s files on George Hodel. Investigators checking on his possible involvement in the Black Dahlia murder discovered two photos of her, one by herself in which she is nude and another in which she and George Hodel are holding a cat.


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Posted in 1947, 2006, Black Dahlia, Books and Authors, Cold Cases, Crime and Courts, Found on EBay, Homicide, LAPD, Streetcars | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

December 1947: Police Bullets End Bull’s Run for Freedom

L.A. Times, 1947

Note: This is an encore post from 2005 and originally appeared on the 1947project.

Ferdinand is dead. He ran five miles in his flight for freedom before police bullets cut him down. He escaped at 3811 S. Soto, and lurched through traffic, pursued by three police cars and Officer R.S. Saveley on a three-wheeled motorcycle…

As he ran through downtown, he shoved Neda Feathersone against a building at 8th Street and South Spring. She was taken to the Georgia Street Receiving Hospital for treatment.

He went up Spring Street to 1st Street, by The Times Building, then turned right on 1st to Main and over to Alameda. Near Union Station, he hit William F. Willaims, who was treated by an ambulance crew.

Finally, police cornered Ferdinand on West Ann Street, north of downtown.

The 1,000-pound bull charged officers and Saveley shot him to death.


Quote of the day: “Christmas carols with reference to the nativity may not be sung nor any decorations include religions symbols of any faith.”

Letter sent out to schools in Brooklyn, N.Y., prompting protests in which the Board of Education left holiday celebrations up to the principals of individual schools. Of the 30,000 students in the Brooklyn schools, 20,000 are Jewish, The Times notes.

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Dec. 7, 1907: Morris Buck Hanged for Killing Mrs. Canfield, Former Employer

Note: This is an encore post from 2006.

Dec. 7, 1907
Los Angeles

“I asked if she received the letter. She said she had. I asked her if she would loan me a sum of money to be paid back monthly and I was going to open a bakeshop.

“She said that she had so many—several calls for money, that she didn’t see how she could loan me any and she says: ‘Why can’t you work?’


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Posted in 1907, 1908, 1911, Crime and Courts, LAPD, Streetcars | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

L.A. Daily Mirror Retro Holiday Shopping Guide

Los Angeles in Maps

Note: This is a repost from 2013.

Glen Creason’s book on maps of Los Angeles shows the many ways people have viewed the city over the years. I interviewed him for The Times in 2012 and fortunately for all concerned, the column was seen by a real estate agent who was getting ready to sell off a rather curious home in Mt. Washington that had been owned by a man who had a mania for maps. The result was the discovery of the “map house,” one of the great (and strange) stories of Los Angeles.

“Los Angeles in Maps,” published in 2010, is in many local bookstores and available online.

Posted in 2010, Books and Authors, Libraries | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

December 1947: Powerful Blast Destroys House, Injures Fumigation Crew, Kills Neighbor

L.A. Times, 1947

Before the introduction of Vikane, also known as Sulfuryl Fluoride, pesticide companies relied on hydrocyanic gas, a compound used to exterminate termites—and in California’s lethal gas chamber.

That’s what a crew from Guarantee Fumigating Co. was pumping into the home at 2002 Virginia Road. They told arson investigators that they had turned off the electricity and gas so they had no explanation for the spectacular explosion that reduced the home to tiny bits, caused heavy damage to the surrounding homes and shattered windows for a block in every direction.

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L.A. Mirror Retro Holiday Shopping Guide

Holly. Cel. Holidays Cover hollywood_at_play_cover
hollywoodland_mallory_cover living_with_grace_cover

Note: This is an encore post from 2017.

Mary Mallory’s posts are one of the L.A. Daily Mirror’s most popular features, so we are happy to recommend “Hollywoodland”; “Hollywood Celebrates the Holidays,” written with Karie Bible; “Hollywood at Play,” written with Donovan Brandt and Stephen X. Sylvester; and “Living With Grace.”

The books are available at Vroman’s in Pasadena and Book Soup in West Hollywood. “Hollywood Celebrates the Holidays” and “Hollywood at Play” are also available from Amazon.

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Shout Out to Nathan

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December 1947: It’s Curtains, Rocky! MPAA Bans Gangster Pictures

L.A. Times, 1947

L.A. Times, 1947

Note: This is an encore post from 2005 and originally appeared on the 1947project.

NEW YORK, Dec. 3. (AP)—The board of directors of the Motion Picture Association of America today voted to cease distribution of new and old pictures glorifying gangster names and criminal practices.

The association, which includes all of the nation’s leading film producers, also banned the use of salacious and obscene titles.

Eric Johnston, chairman of the board, who recommended the changes in the association’s codes, announced the film companies had agreed to drop immediately 25 titles deemed objectionable, adding that distribution of films produced with these titles will be stopped.

In some cases the banned titles were for films not yet produced.

Titles of already produced films whose further distribution is banned include:

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Posted in 1947, Film, Hollywood | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dec. 5, 1907: Man Accused of Scheme in Selling Daughter to Gypsies

Note: This is an encore post from 2006.

Dec. 5, 1907
St. Louis

A Los Angeles couple have a novel way of making money: Antonio Thompson and his wife sell their daughter Marie to the Gypsies, then go to court to get her back. According to statements taken in St. Louis, Marie has been sold off several times as a Gypsy princess.

The girl’s father obtained a writ of habeas corpus to get custody of Marie, 16, who was living with “King” Peter Adams, 17, in a local Gypsy encampment, The Times said. Thompson claimed that a Gypsy named Leon Lehan eloped with Marie when she was 12 and sold her to man named Elihi. The father says that as soon as Marie eloped, he and his wife set out after her and have traveled thousands of miles trying to get her back.

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Posted in 1907, Crime and Courts, LAPD | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

L.A. Daily Mirror Retro Holiday Shopping Guide

Nuestro Pueblo

Note: This is a repost from 2013.

Whenever I’m asked about my favorite books on Los Angeles, my first recommendation is “Nuestro Pueblo,” a selection of features by Times artist Charles Owens and writer Joseph Seewerker that appeared in The Times. I went through all of them when the blog was at, so I won’t repeat them now, but if you’re a fan of Rediscovering Los Angeles, which was illustrated by Owens with commentary by Timothy Turner, you may enjoy “Nuestro Pueblo.”  Unfortunately, Rediscovering Los Angeles was never published in book form and has languished in obscurity.

“Nuestro Pueblo” is long out of print and the prices have gone up since I started writing about it, with some dealers asking more than $100 for a copy. A patient shopper can still find a copy for less than $20, however. One of my favorite tools for finding out of print books is, which shows wide price range on copies of “Nuestro Pueblo.”

And what are your gift recommendations for this holiday season?

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