John Bengtson, who has researched and written so much about early movie locations in Los Angeles, sends this Spence Air Photo of the Civic Center and weighs in on “While the City Sleeps.”
Hi Larry – thank you for the City Sleeps posts. I too was puzzled by those cityscapes with City Hall in the background, and came to a similar conclusion that it must have been a special effect. For one thing, City Hall was the tallest building in town. You can see the Harper & Reynolds sign on Main Street in this photo.
The Harper & Reynolds sign in “While the City Sleeps,” with Lon Chaney, left, showing City Hall in the background.
Those towers in the background of the movie frames are reminiscent of Manhattan towers, but with the image quality it’s difficult to tell whether they are copied after true buildings, or are just an artistic approximation of what Manhattan would look like.
Either way, as shown by this photo, there would have been only low buildings in the background of that shot without the special effect.
I’ll take time to point out that another part of the photo shows the state office building under construction (this is vacant lot on 1st between Broadway and Spring), the third Los Angeles Times Building with the tower at 1st and Broadway and in the lower left-hand corner, the Hotel Nadeau, the current site of the Los Angeles Times.
Here’s a better look at 1st and Spring. Notice how narrow 1st Street is west of Spring. Once the old Times Building and the adjoining storefronts were demolished, 1st Street was widened. I mention this because traffic congestion in Los Angeles isn’t new. It’s a 100-year-old problem.