Black Dahlia: Halloween and Why Murder Victim Cosplay Is Wrong

Halloween is coming up, so I’ll issue my annual warning: Don’t dress up like “The Black Dahlia.” It’s not honoring the memory of Elizabeth Short. It’s not “Justice for Beth,” however you might define it. Just don’t do it.

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Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)

This week’s mystery was the 1965 film The Train, with Burt Lancaster, Paul Scofield, Michel Simon, Suzanne Flon, Wolfgang Preiss, Albert Remy, Charles Millot, Richard Munch, Jacques Marin and Jeanne Moreau.
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Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights – Campo de Cahuenga, California’s Birthplace

Campo de Cahuenga
A photo of the original museum at Campo de Cahuenga, courtesy of Mary Mallory.

Note: This is an encore from 2012.

Driving south down Lankershim Boulevard from Toluca Lake into Universal City, it’s hard to miss the skyscrapers, soundstages, and flashing billboard of Universal Studios on the south side of the street. On the north side of the street in Studio City, surrounded by the MTA Universal City subway station parking lot and hard to see, sits a small Spanish building called the Campo de Cahuenga. At this location on Jan. 13, 1847, Col. John C. Fremont signed a treaty with Andreas Pico, ceding California to the United States. Here, California’s Spanish past merged with America’s western expansion to help eventually create our bustling state.

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Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: Mabel Normand Studio Leads the Way

One of the first film studios constructed for use solely by a female performer, the Mabel Normand Studio still stands strong at the triangle intersection of Fountain Avenue, Bates Avenue, and Effie Street in East Hollywood, more than 100 years old. Although 4319 Effie St. was originally constructed as the Mabel Normand Studio, it soon evolved into a headquarters for various facets of entertainment production, an excellent example of how vintage structures can be adaptively reused for similar purposes. Mimicking the studio’s very triangular site, many of the building’s inhabitants possess connections with others.

Gaining recognition first as a gorgeous model for such illustrators as Charles Dana Gibson, vivacious Mabel Normand set the world on fire with her charismatic personality and doe eyed beauty as one of the first female superstar film comediennes and directors. First working as an extra in Kalem and later Biograph Film Company shorts, Normand found more success in a series of comic films as “Betty” before returning to Biograph. Continue reading

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Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: L.A.’s Hispanic History in Its Place Names

A detail of Ord’s 1849 survey of Los Angeles, showing street names in Spanish and English.

Hispanic Heritage and history have greatly contributed to the rise and evolution of California and Los Angeles from Spanish colonization through Mexican land grants to the rancho period and on to today. Many streets and cities in and around Los Angeles are named after significant people and places in this long Spanish history, though often corrupted or Anglicized over time. Edward O.C. Ord’s map in 1849 shows street names in English and Spanish, such as Calle Primavera and Spring, and Calle Principal and Main. The following is a small list of streets and place names that honor our Hispanic past. Continue reading

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Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)

Main Title over a row of Black children listening to jazz
This week’s mystery movie was the 1961 Paramount film Too Late Blues, with Bobby Darin, Stella Stevens, Everett Chambers, Nick Dennis, Vincent Edwards, Val Avery, Marilyn Clark, James Joyce, Rupert Crosse, Mario Gallo, J. Alan Hopkins, Cliff Carnell, Richard O. Chambers, Seymour Cassel and Dan Stafford.

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Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: Two Forgotten Women of Early Films

Lillian Greenberger with women who replied to a casting ad
Throughout the silent film industry, women took an active part in production, gaining more positions and power than women occupy now. Without women behind the screen, production companies could not have manufactured enough moving pictures to satisfy audience demand as popularity surged in the 1910s. By the second decade, even more women were working behind the scenes as production expanded. From major companies to small independents, women occupied a variety of positions, not just those considered more feminine, recognized for their skills.

As Alice Eyton wrote in the series Unknown Women of Filmland in Story World and the Photodramatist, “These women belong to various departments of the moving picture industry, and their work therein – it is as important, just as creative, and sometimes, more self-developing than the work of the stars, writers, supervisors, and directors…These silent workers form the real background of the profession.”

Unknown Women of Filmland: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

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Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)

Main Title, Becky Sharp, elegant writing on a wallpaper background
This week’s mystery movie was the 1935 film Becky Sharp, with Miriam Hopkins, Frances Dee, Cedric Hardwicke, Billie Burke, Alison Skipworth, Nigel Bruce, Alan Mowbray, G.P. Huntley Jr., William Stack, George Hassell, William Haversham, Charles Richman, Doris Lloyd and Colin Tapley. Continue reading

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Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: Cinecon Returns After Two Years Online

After occurring online for two years because of the pandemic, Cinecon threw a live 58th Annual Festival Labor Day weekend at Hollywood’s beautiful Hollywood Legion Theater. A perfect way to spend time during a blistering hot holiday weekend, the festival featured entertaining films and the chance to reconnect with old friends, a perfect combination.

FOR THE RECORD, Sept. 16, 11:02 a.m.: A previous version of this post referred to the American Legion Theater.

Like any typical Cinecon, films ended up with various odd themes reoccurring over the weekend, some in odd ways. The festival saw such diverse themes as family feuds, homilies, abandoned babies, blindings, doubling, dogs, performing on stage, mashers or harassment, child abuse, kidnappings, heirs forced into marriage for inheritance, train travel, fake sanitariums, and multiple performances of people like Regis Toomey, Fred Kelsey, J. Carrol Naish, or Claire Trevor. Many films also featured the work of unsung women behind the scenes who helped make silent film art. While there were a few so so films, most of the lineup was truly entertaining. Continue reading

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Coming Attractions: ‘Man Behind the Curtain’ – Doug Laux’s Prize-Winning Documentary

Doug Laux.
Early in The Man Behind the Curtain, Doug Laux’s new documentary about revealing himself to family and friends as a former CIA case officer, we see him as a young boy telling a joke in a school auditorium. It’s a kid joke, corny and silly, recorded on a home camcorder. The video could have been done by any proud parent at any school in America in the 1980s. Growing up in an economically pressed farm town in the Midwest, Doug went off to college figuring he would pattern himself after the most successful man he knew – the local optometrist.

The Man Behind the Curtain at the Silicon Beach Film Festival, Sept. 15, at the TCL Chinese Theatres.

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Mary Mallory: Hollywood Heights – ‘The Loves of Pharaoh’


Photo: Dagny Servaes in “The Loves of Pharaoh.” Credit: American Cinematheque.

Note: This is an encore post from 2011.

To celebrate the 89th anniversary of the opening of Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre, American Cinematheque screened the 1922 restored Ernst Lubitsch film THE LOVES OF PHARAOH Tuesday night, October 18. Both revel in Egyptian decoration and mythology and look great in their renovated glory.

THE LOVES OF PHARAOH was the last film Lubitsch directed in Germany before immigrating to America to make films. Larger than life yet full of intimate detail, the film tells a moving story in glorious images. The story is basically a Greek tragedy, where actions set in motion by our lead characters bring destruction and death.

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Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)

Main Title. Lettering Over Clouds
This week’s mystery movie was the 1944 film Storm Over Lisbon, with Vera Hruba Ralston, Richard Arlen, Erich von Stroheim, Otto Kruger, Eduardo Ciannelli, Robert Livingston, Mona Barrie, Frank Orth, Sarah Edwards, Alice Fleming, Leon Belasco and Kenne Duncan.
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Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)

Main Title over a man's silhouette
This week’s mystery movie was the 1952 Paramount film My Son John, with Helen Hayes, Van Heflin, Dean Jagger, Robert Walker, Minor Watson, Frank McHugh, Richard Jaeckel and James Young. Continue reading

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Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights – The Hollywood American Legion: The House That Boxing Built


Hollywood American Legion Post 43, courtesy of Mary Mallory.

Note: This is an encore post from 2013.

World War I was a bruising, mentally jarring affair for returning American soldiers. Dazed, hardened, in pain, the men looked for an opportunity to gather together with like-minded individuals for camaraderie, comfort and counsel. The American Legion was formed in 1919 to give all veterans a place to congregate together in fellowship as well as memorial.

Hollywood formed its own post in 1919, chartered originally at Toberman Hall at 6416 Hollywood Blvd. Space was small in their rented facilities, so the group built a boxing arena called the American Legion Stadium at North El Centro Avenue and Selma Avenue to bring in a steady income and raise funds for constructing their own headquarters. Timing was perfect; boxing ranked among Americans’ favorite spectator sports and profits soared. Weekly, if not daily fights, occurred at the stadium, with boxing legend Max Baer and others throwing punches. Soon, Hollywood American Legion Post 43 ranked as one of the wealthiest branches in the country.

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Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)

Main Title: Lettering against a steep staircase
This week’s mystery movie was the 1949 film Black Magic, with Orson Welles, Nancy Guild, Akim Tamiroff, Frank Latimore, Valentina Cortese, Margot Grahame, Stephen Bekassy, Berry Kroeger, Gregory Gay (later Gaye) and Raymond Burr.

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Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: 58th Annual Cinecon Honors Mitzi Gaynor, George Chakiris

Cinecon poster, a movie facade with elephants like the Babylonian set of Intolerance
After two years online due to the COVID pandemic, the 58th Annual Cinecon Classic Film Festival returns to in-person screening September 1 through 5 at Hollywood’s American Legion Theatre at 2350 Highland Ave. in Hollywood. Besides offering films not available on DVD, streaming, or television, the festival will feature educational presentations, special celebrity guests, opening night reception, and opportunity to visit the Hollywood Heritage Museum, making this a don’t miss proposition. Full festival passes or day passes are available online, since programs can only be accessed with day or full feature passes.

The festival kicks off Thursday, September 1 with a grand opening reception offering a great way to reconnect with long missed friends or meet other cinema lovers. Besides enjoying food and greeting fellow cineastes, festival goers will get to experience the lush Hollywood Legion Theatre, renovated and opened just over three years ago.

Full festival passes are $299; day passes are $65 to $75. Visit the Cinecon EventBrite link to purchase tickets. A van will transport guests to and from the Ovation Mall in the evenings during the dinner break. Guests should park at the Ovation Mall, or can park at the Hollywood Legion for a fee each day. Continue reading

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Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: Yutaka Abe, ‘DeMille of Japan,’ Started in U.S. Silent Films

Jack (Yutaka) Abe in an ad for Mystic Faces in Film Daily, Sept. 1, 1918.

Virtually unknown today, young Yutaka Abe gained fame in the American silent film industry after immigrating to the United States in 1912. While not as successful as fellow Japanese immigrant Sessue Hayakawa, Abe received excellent reviews for his film work, even writing for the screen. When the country became increasingly intolerant in the early 1920s and added Japanese immigrants to the harsh dictates of the Exclusion Act, originally written to handcuff the Chinese in the United States, Abe returned to his home country, becoming a successful director.

Born February 2, 1895, in Yamato, Miyagi, district, Abe and his younger brother, Toshinaka, immigrated to the United States with their father from Japan’s Sensai district, arriving in San Francisco on June 3, 1912. Later newspapers would claim that he was the son of the renowned Japanese ship builder. They arrived the year before California passed an alien land bill against the Japanese in 1913, preventing them from purchasing land or working certain professions.

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Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)

Main Title, bold yellow letters against an African sunset
This week’s mystery movie was the 1959 MGM film Watusi, with George Montgomery, Taina Elg, David Farrar, Rex Ingram, Dan Seymour, Robert Goodwin, Anthony M. Davis, Paul Thompson and Harold Dyrenforth.

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Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)

Sudden Fear Main Title. Type over a clock.
This week’s mystery movie was the 1952 RKO film Sudden Fear, with Joan Crawford, Jack Palance, Gloria Grahame, Bruce Bennett, Virginia Huston and Touch (Mike) Conners.
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Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights — ‘Spirit of ’76’ as Propaganda

"Spirit of '76"
A still from the lost film “Spirit of ‘76” from Moving Picture World.


Note: This is an encore post from 2013.

he United States’ Espionage Act was ratified in 1917 to punish those abetting the enemy, promoting military insubordination, or interfering with recruitment. Over the years, it has been amended to include punishing for the disclosure of secret information. For good or ill, such individuals as Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Daniel Ellsberg, and Bradley Manning have been convicted under its statutes. One of the first people to be ensnared after its creation was filmmaker Robert Goldstein, producer of the 1917 patriotic film, “Spirit of ’76.” A film he intended to unite Americans in pride instead became a tool for destroying his life.

Born in San Francisco, Robert Goldstein was the son of Simon Goldstein, the owner of one of the United States largest costume and wig making businesses. This connection enabled young Goldstein to meet many early moving picture performers, like D. W. Griffith, Lillian and Dorothy Gish, Henry Walthall, Mae Marsh, and others. Motion pictures thrilled him so much that he moved to Los Angeles in 1912 and established a branch of the family’s costume businesses, providing wardrobe for the film industry.

Mary Mallory’s “Hollywoodland,” a collection of her posts from the L.A. Daily Mirror, is available from Amazon.

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