Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: Russell Ball — An Eye for Glamour

Doris Kenyon
Doris Kenyon by Russell Ball, Motion Picture Magazine, 1928.

Motion picture still photography, just like any brand marketing, is all about creating a recognizable and attractive product appealing to consumers and leading to sales. Going a step further, stills photography’s aim is to fashion a fantastic dream world, taking people into the realm of fervid imagination. Russell Ball, one of the early masters of portraiture, composed alluring, glamorous images of stage and screen stars, accentuating a naturalistc romanticism in his work.

Born March 24, 1891 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Russell Earp Ball fell in love with photography as a twelve year old, shooting when he could. He worked as a Gas Light Manufacturing Co. salesman in 1910 supporting his mother after the death of his father, per the 1910 census. By 1912 Ball was working in New York as a newspaper photographer, and married his wife, Gladys Hall, later a famous movie magazine writer, on February 1, 1912. His World War I draft registration in 1917 lists him as a commercial photographer, and by 1920 he was shooting motion picture portraits, per the 1920 census.


Ernest Bachrach Defines RKO Glamour

Preston Duncan Shoots for Artistry

Bert Longworth and ‘Hold Still, Hollywood’

Mack Sennett stillsmen Albert Kopec and George F. Cannons

“Hollywood Celebrates the Holidays” by Karie Bible and Mary Mallory is available at Amazon and at local bookstores.

Continue reading

Posted in Film, Hollywood, Hollywood Heights, Mary Mallory, Photography | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Prof. A. Victor Segno: Los Angeles’ Greatest Charlatan



Prof. A. Victor Segno, my favorite Los Angeles charlatan, has surfaced on EBay. This envelope is addressed to the author of “How to Be Happy Though Married,” “How to Have Beautiful Hair” and many other books on self-improvement and mentalism at his HQ on North Belmont Avenue. The envelope undoubtedly carried the equivalent of $1, for which the sender could be sure of a “success wave.”

Segno’s “success wave” (artist’s concept). Note the beautiful hair.

More about Segno in a 2007 blog post.

And a column in the Los Angeles Times in 2012.

Bidding on this item starts at $4.99.

Posted in 1907, Found on EBay | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: Hollywoodland Sign Premieres November 1923

Jan. 6, 1924, Hollywoodland Sign
Jan. 6, 1924: The Times publishes a photo of an Oakland car that was driven up to the Hollywood sign.

Note: Here’s a post from November 2013 for those who wrongly assume that the Hollywood sign was unveiled on July 13, 1923. (Wikipedia, no surprise, has it wrong). Mary Mallory gives the real story.

In the early 1920s, developers began opening virgin tracts of land for construction all around Los Angeles. To help sell these new developments, real estate agents coined fancy names like Bryn Mawr, Outpost Estates and Whitley Heights, while also constructing large signs spelling out their names with individual letters in white and red.

The Beachwood Canyon development named Hollywoodland opened March 31, 1923, under the auspices of real estate developers Tracy Shoults and S. H. Woodruff, on behalf of landowners E. H. Clark and Moses Sherman, and partner Harry Chandler. They considered the best way to advertise their new planned community, as well as outshine the myriad other developments around the city.

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

Continue reading

Posted in 1923, Hollywood, Hollywood Heights, Mary Mallory | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)

This week’s mystery movie has been the 1952 picture “Jeux Interdits” (“Forbidden Games,”) based on the novel by Francois Boyer.  It was adapted by Jean Aurenche, Pierre Bost and director Rene Clement, with Georges Poujouly and Brigitte Fossey. The score is by Narciso Yepes.

Boyer began the project as a screenplay, but as the work languished, he transformed it into a novel. The book was translated into English as “The Secret Games” (New York Times book review by Charles Poor here, behind paywall). The novel was also reviewed in the New York Times by Katherine Anne Porter (also behind a paywall). The movie opened in New York in December 1952 and was reviewed in the New York Times on Dec. 14, 1952, by Naomi Barry (review also behind the paywall).

The movie received an Honorary Foreign Language Film Award at the 1953 Academy Awards.

“Forbidden Games” was not shown in Los Angeles until March 1954 at the UClan in Westwood, receiving a review by Philip K. Scheuer in the Los Angeles Times.  Scheuer wrote: “”Forbidden Games” is one of those rare motion pictures that seem, by a miracle of unseen presence, to be caught happening.”

The Criterion Collection DVD is out of print,  but the disc is available in two Criterion box sets: “Essential Art House, Volume III”; and  the 50-DVD “Essential Art House: 50 Years of Janus Films.”

Continue reading

Posted in Film, Hollywood, Mystery Photo | Tagged , , | 26 Comments

Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: James Davies – Paramount’s Physical Culturist to the Stars

Search for Beauty Davies_crop

James Davies, left, gives Buster Crabbe a rubdown in “Search for Beauty,” with Robert Armstrong, right. Photo courtesy of Mary Mallory 


American culture has seen each decade popularize certain fashion styles and body types, some of which fade quickly into history and others which remain embedded in the zeitgeist. Much of these ideas and attitudes spring from the historical and social attitudes and events prevalent at the time.

The 1920s saw a drastic shift in consciousness following the upheaval of World War I. More women worked during the war while men where away at the front, learning they liked it. Females finally gained the right to vote in the United States in 1920. Many felt liberated to break from convention and try new things.


Hollywood Athletic Club Trains Filmdom’s Elite

Richard Kline: Physical Instructor to the Stars

“Hollywood Celebrates the Holidays” by Karie Bible and Mary Mallory is available at Amazon and at local bookstores.

Continue reading

Posted in Film, Hollywood, Hollywood Heights, Mary Mallory, Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)

July 9, 2016, Mystery Photo
This week’s mystery movie has been the 1944 Warner Bros. picture “The Doughgirls,” starring Ann Sheridan, Alexis Smith, Jack Carson, Jane Wyman, Irene Manning, Charlie Ruggles, Eve Arden and a large supporting cast of Warners players.  The screenplay was by James V. Kern and Sam Hellman, with additional dialogue by Wilkie Mahoney, adapted from the play by Joseph Fields. The film was photographed by Ernest Haller, with art direction by Hugh Reticker and set decorations by Clarence Steensen. The film was produced by Mark Hellinger and directed by James V. Kern.

The film is available on DVD from Warner Archive for $18.59.

Continue reading

Posted in Film, Hollywood, Mystery Photo | Tagged , , | 37 Comments

A Wartime Fourth of July: Los Angeles, 1942

July 3, 1942, Harry Rankin

Note: This is a post from 2015.

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.

Continue reading

Posted in 1942, Black Dahlia, World War II | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

L.A. Celebrates Fourth of July With Cricket Match, Bagpipe Contest

Note: This is a post from 2007.

July 4, 1907
Los Angeles

And how does Los Angeles celebrate Independence Day? With cricket matches and bagpipe contests.


Continue reading

Posted in 1907, Black Dahlia, Books and Authors, Fashions, LAPD, Music, Parks, Streetcars | Leave a comment

L.A. Celebrates the Fourth of July, 1889 – 1960


July 4, 1944: Uncle Sam in a cartoon by Edmund Waller “Ted” Gale for the Los Angeles Examiner and republished in the Milwaukee Sentinel.

Note: This is a post from 2014.

Here’s a look at how Los Angeles has celebrated Independence Day over the years.

Continue reading

Posted in 1863, 1907, 1910, 1947, 1957, 1960 | Tagged | Leave a comment

L.A. Fourth of July, 1863: Pic-Nics and Fire-Works

July 4, 1863, Los Angeles Star

Note: This is a post from 2013

The complete July 4, 1863, issue of the Los Angeles Star is available from USC, which scanned  a copy at the Huntington.

July 4, 1863: Los Angeles plans to celebrate the Fourth of July with a 34-gun salute and a fireworks display in the evening. A ball was planned at the Willow Grove House in the afternoon and another ball in town in the evening.

The Star, a staunch supporter of the Confederacy, said: “This Declaration is being now reenacted. The same soil which sent forth its heroes to do battle for these fundamental truths is again called upon to endure a baptism of blood in their vindication.”

The Star also reports on a measure in Sacramento “requiring foreigners to show their papers before voting.”

Continue reading

Posted in 1863, Crime and Courts, San Francisco | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: The Bell & Howell Building Then and Now

617 N. La Brea via Google Street View
716 N. La Brea Ave., via Google Street View, from 2014.

Simple and elegant, 716 N. La Brea Ave. today remains little changed on the exterior as to how it looked when finished in 1931. It stands as a beacon to the power and success of Bell & Howell, as well as an exuberant look forward to the future, giving an patina of prosperity to whomever occupied it.

Bell & Howell, founded in 1907, was one of the top manufacturers of cameras and projectors serving the motion picture industry. Starting out with projectors in 1907, the company later began manufacturing perforators, cameras, and printing equipment required in the production and processing of motion picture film. Bell & Howell’s testing of technical equipment led to safer, more efficient, and diverse products.


“Hollywood Celebrates the Holidays” by Karie Bible and Mary Mallory is available at Amazon and at local bookstores.

Continue reading

Posted in Architecture, Film, Hollywood, Hollywood Heights, Mary Mallory | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)

July 2, 2016, Mystery Photo
This week’s mystery movie has been the 1928 MGM silent picture “West of Zanzibar,” with Lon Chaney, Lionel Barrymore, Mary Nolan, Warner Baxter, Jacqueline Gadsdon, Roscoe Ward, Kalla Pasha and Curtis Nero. It was directed by Tod Browning.

The film was adapted by Elliot Clawson from the play “Kongo,”  by Chester De Vonde and Kilbourn Gordon, which received 135 performances on Broadway.

The play starred Walter Huston in the Lon Chaney role as a man named Flint, “a bearded and towering white man who rules black natives with an iron hand” and is “paralyzed from the waist down and accordingly bound to a wheelchair (or else committed to the even more glamorous expedient of dragging himself across the stage),” according to the New York Times review of the play (March 31, 1926). Huston returned to the role in 1932 for the MGM film “Kongo,” with Lupe Velez Virginia Bruce and Conrad Nagel.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Chaney performed his own stunt in which he tumbled over a railing and fell 18 feet during a fight with Lionel Barrymore that left his character paralyzed at the waist.

Los Angeles Times film critic Whitney Williams said (Oct. 14. 1928):

The action is atmospheric to the extent of becoming, at times, gruesome, and a certain aspect of horror marks the scenes in which the things-of-the-jungle-that-crawl are pictured. Those who favor an element of weirdness, a suggestion of the grotesque, in their entertainment, will thoroughly enjoy “West of Zanzibar.” Even those audiences who prefer straight modern day settings will find a note of the unusual to satisfy their palates.

Mordaunt Hall of the New York Times wrote (Dec. 31, 1928):

It is a well concocted narrative and Mr. Chaney gives one of his most able and effective portrayals as he drags himself through scene after scene without using his legs. He descends from his sleeping quarters by means of a knotted rope, and in a curiously expert fashion succeeds time and again in climbing into a wheel chair by merely the use of his strong arms.


“West of Zanzibar” is available from Warner Archive for $15.19.


Continue reading

Posted in Film, Hollywood, Mystery Photo | Tagged , , | 38 Comments

Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: Steve ‘Broken Nose’ Murphy Slays Them in the Movies


Sherlock Jr Steven Murphy 04
Steve “Broken Nose” Murphy” in “Sherlock Jr.”




Some people succeed in films because of great notoriety, talent, or beauty. Others flourish because of unusual skill or looks, such as Steve “Broken Nose” Murphy. A stand out on screen because of his flattened proboscis, Murphy fashioned a career in entertainment in spite of his looks, gaining some recognition for his skill in acting.

Virtually nothing is known of his life pre-cinema. Ship records in note his age as 51 in 1926. Census and birth records don’t seem to exist, but must somewhere. He did live at the Holly Arms, 1642 1/2 Cahuenga Ave., a boarding house, in 1926. Burial records state that he was born Stephen M. Clancey on December 25, 1876, and served as a private in Company L, 13th Regiment in the Spanish American War.

“Hollywood Celebrates the Holidays” by Karie Bible and Mary Mallory is available at Amazon and at local bookstores.

Continue reading

Posted in 1953, Film, Hollywood, Hollywood Heights, Mary Mallory, Sports | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Black Dahlia: Bizarre Outsider Art of Elizabeth Short on EBay

Fortunately, I saw this image before I had breakfast. This is a combo of a postcard of the Biltmore Hotel and an image of Elizabeth Short. It was done by Perry Johnson and is listed as Buy It Now for $16.99.

Correction: A previous version of the post said the photo of Elizabeth Short had been flopped.

Posted in 1947, Art & Artists, Black Dahlia, Found on EBay | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)


June 25, 2016, Mystery Photo

This week’s mystery movie has been the 1934 MGM picture “Sadie McKee,” with Joan Crawford, Gene Raymond, Franchot Tone, Edward Arnold and Esther Ralston. The movie was produced by Lawrence Weingarten from a screenplay by John Meehan, adapted from a story by Vina Delmar. It was directed by Clarence Brown with songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed. Photography was by Oliver T. Marsh and the film was edited by Hugh Wynn, and gowns by Adrian.

Mordaunt Hall wrote in the New York Times (May 19, 1934): “Miss Crawford assuredly does well by her part, but even so the incidents in which she appears often are hardly edifying. It is in fact an exasperating type of motion picture.”

The movie’s theme song, “All I Do Is Dream of You,” is a torch song that was used in “Singin’ in the Rain” under much different circumstances.

“Sadie McKee” is available on DVD in volume 2 of The Joan Crawford Collection.

Continue reading

Posted in Film, Hollywood, Mystery Photo | Tagged , , | 51 Comments

Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: Hollywoodland’s First House


2716 Woodhaven Drive

2716 Woodhaven Drive as shown in a Studebaker promotional brochure, courtesy of Steve Vaught’s Paradise Leased blog.


On March 31, 1923, publicists trumpeted the news that a great sub development known as Hollywoodland had begun operation at the top of Beachwood Canyon. Comprised of partners Eli P. Clark, Moses H. Sherman, Harry Chandler, Tracey E. Shoults and S. (Sidney) H. Woodruff, the development comprised approximately one fifth of the land purchased by Clark and Sherman in 1905 from Julia E. Lord. The eastern half of the land had been owned by the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1884 and sold to Lord in 1890. She acquired the western half in 1900 from the federal government. Clark and Sherman purchased the entire tract from her on July 8, 1905, per the December 22, 1968 Los Angeles Times.

Tycoons and brothers-in-law Clark and Sherman, Arizona transplants, virtually cornered the streetcar market in Los Angeles by the early 1890s. The shrewd businessmen purchased large swaths of land adjacent or near their routes to later subdivide into real estate tracts. Originally partnering with Los Angeles Times publisher Harrison Gray Otis, the men formed syndicates to develop such areas as what is now Playa del Rey, West Hollywood, and parts of the western San Fernando Valley like Sherman Oaks.

“Hollywood Celebrates the Holidays” by Karie Bible and Mary Mallory is available at Amazon and at local bookstores.

Continue reading

Posted in 1923, Architecture, Hollywood, Hollywood Heights, Mary Mallory | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Black Dahlia: A Crime Graphic Novel by James Ellroy, David Fincher, Matz and Miles Hyman

Black Dahlia cover

Take a close look: “The Black Dahlia ™.” Does that mean the publisher is trying to trademark “The Black Dahlia?”  Good luck with that.


I picked up a copy of the new graphic novel version of James Ellroy’s “The Black Dahlia,” and although I didn’t expect to like it, I ended up disliking it for entirely different reasons. Several pages had been posted online and it at least looked visually interesting, so I forced myself to read it. And this turned out to be quite a chore.

The book is credited to Ellroy, adapted by David Fincher – who was rumored for years to be directing a Black Dahlia movie — and Matz, and illustrated by Miles Hyman, with lettering by Deron Bennett. It is published by Archaia and lists for $29.99.

Continue reading

Posted in 1947, Art & Artists, Black Dahlia, Books and Authors, Cold Cases, LAPD | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)


This week’s mystery production has been the TV series “Johnny Staccato,” starring John Cassavetes, which aired 27 episodes on NBC in the 1959-1960 season. The mystery episode was “Fly Baby, Fly,” featuring Cassavetes,  Gena Rowlands (his wife), Howard Freeman, Dort Clark, Nesdon Booth, Ingrid Goude, Jan Brooks, Mike Steele and Dennis Sallas. It was directed by Robert B. Sinclair, written by Philip S. Goodman, with music by Elmer Bernstein and photography by Ray Cory. The series was produced by Everett Chambers and the executive producer was William Frye.

Other episodes feature such familiar faces famous character actors as Ted de Corsia, Elisha Cook Jr., Lloyd Corrigan and, according to IMDB, Snub Pollard.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times (Sept. 10, 1959), Cecil Smith said Johnny Staccato “is almost a carbon copy of  of Peter Gunn. The jazz blares, the liquor flows, the girls wait breathlessly for the slightest gesture of affection from Johnny Staccato.” Smith called Cassavetes “one of the best actors in television” and praised the show’s “great jazz music scored by Elmer Bernstein and played by such marvels as Red Norvo, Barney Kessel, Shelley Mann, etc.” (Note: Smith also disliked “Tightrope,” but praised Mike Connors.)

The TV series was made about the same time that Cassavetes was directing “Shadows,” which began as an improvised acting exercise and grew into a film shot over 12 weeks in New York.

Cassavetes told Charles Champlin (Aug. 27, 1984): “When I started making films, that was exactly what I wanted to do, make Frank Capra pictures. But I’ve never been able to make anything except these crazy, tough pictures. It’s not intentional. You just are what you are.”

“Johnny Staccato” is available on DVD from Amazon and random episodes are on

Continue reading

Posted in Film, Hollywood, Mystery Photo | Tagged , , | 39 Comments

Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: Julian Eltinge Says ‘I’m at Your Service, Girls’

I'm at Your Service Eltinge


One of the most famous female impersonators of all time, but now also one of the most forgotten, Julian Eltinge stood as one of the most successful headliners of the early 1900s, setting attendance records at vaudeville and theatre box offices. He entertained audiences as one of the best dressed and most hilarious women on stage for decades, with many shows written around his unique talents. For his 1915-1916 theatre musical, “Cousin Lucy,” he saw to it that a song was created that summed up his career, his audience, and his life.

Eltinge began performing on stage in the mid-1890s per historian Tony Slide in his book, “New York City Vaudeville.” The New York Tribune February 2, 1902, states that Eltinge is “well known to Boston, New York, and Newport society as a female impersonator of talent and stunning costumes.”

“Hollywood Celebrates the Holidays” by Karie Bible and Mary Mallory is available at Amazon and at local bookstores.

Continue reading

Posted in 1915, Film, Hollywood, Hollywood Heights, Mary Mallory, Stage | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Black Dahlia: Can You Identify the Black Dahlia? (Updated)

Black Dahlia animated gif

I thought an animated gif of the two images would make it easier to see the similarities or differences between the two photos.

Which woman in the above images is Elizabeth Short?

1. Woman No. 1 is Elizabeth Short.
2. Woman No. 2 is Elizabeth Short.
3. Both women are Elizabeth Short.
4. Neither woman is Elizabeth Short.

At the end of a week, we have 13 votes for woman No. 2 as Elizabeth Short and 2 votes for both women being Elizabeth Short.

Woman No. 1 is a photo that Steve Hodel says he found in his father’s belongings and is of Elizabeth Short. Woman No. 2 is a known photo of Elizabeth Short.

Posted in 1947, Black Dahlia, Cold Cases, LAPD | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments