Saturday, March 17, 2012

Noir Images in the Library’s Image Archives: Notes from “Bay City and Beyond”

-Cynni Murphy, Librarian III, Image Archives LibrarianRaymond Chandler's "Bay City" (read Santa Monica) locale in the Lady and the Lake inspired a search for noir images in the Library DIgitial Archives. Setting the scene included searching concepts such as: mystery, darkness, shadows and light, bandleaders, movie stars, and Santa Monica icons like beach estates, hotels, the Santa Monica Pier and yacht harbor. The time frame primarily was the 1930s through the 1950s, but earlier images also provided influence.

Nicholas Christopher in his book on American Film Noir, Somewhere in the Night : Film Noir and the American City, wrote - "every American city is always a tale of two cities : the surface city imbued with customs and routine, and its shadow, the nether city, rife with darker impulses and forbidden currents, a world of violence and chaos...a dark mirror reflecting a dark underside of American life."

American Crime Fiction writers, such as Raymond Chandler and hard boiled detectives, inspired the images of film noir. Searching a collection of images for a theme inspires a particular visual point of view. Looking for noir elements: corridors or stairwells, rooftops, blind spots or the "edge of something dangerous."
Images selected from the Archives are available in Imagine Santa Monica

Night view of the coastline looking south to the Santa Monica Pier, 1929 (Security Pacific Bank Collection)
Archives #C69

Looking North on Fourth street Hensheys and Central Tower Building in a daytime view 1928. Hensheys 1925-1992 (Bldg demolished 1994). Tower Bldg. Art Deco built in 1929, M. Eugene Durfee Architect
Archives #B26

Night view of street lights looking toward the Richfield Gas Hotel Carmel and Central Tower Building from Colorado Avenue and Third Street, March 31, 1955. Hotel Carmel built in 1928, Kenneth Macdonald Jr. Architect
Archives #N214

Pier & Miramar Biltmore Beach Club in the foreground from the edge of the Palisades bluffs (photographed by Adelbert Bartlett 1927). Photographer for the Santa Monica Publicity Commission until WWII
Archives #C255

Coast Highway and Santa Monica Canyon (photographed by Adelbert Bartlett, 1935). “Altair Street lay on the edge of a V forming the inner end of a deep canyon. To the north was the cool blue sweep of the bay out to the point above Malibu to the south the beach town of Bay City was spread out on a bluff above the Coast Highway” – Raymond Chandler
Archives #C159

Iconic Santa Monica Pier merry-go-round La Monica Ballroom and Twin Racer roller coaster – amusements escape (Adelbert Bartlett, 1930) Pier originally built in 1909 at the end of Railroad Avenue (now Colorado) rebuilt 1920; Ballroom 15,000 square foot dance floor opened July 24, 1924 torn down 1963, Hippodrome Carousel built by I.D. Loof in 1916
Archives #D63

Twin Racer roller coaster ride on the Santa Monica Pier at night (photographed by Kenneth Strickfaden 1915) who was a Santa Monica electrician and photographer worked with “Frankenstein” director James Whale
Archives #D34

Del Mar Club elegant façade and doorway (photographed by Robert Ferguson, 1940s) luxurious beach clubs such as this were part of the culture, opened 1925 south of the Pier
Archives #A83

Façade of the Associated Telephone Company (later General Telephone) in Ocean Park on Marine Street ( Fred Basten Collection 1930s) “I went to the telephone and looked up the number of the police department in the directory. I dialed and while waiting for an answer I took the little automatic out of my pocket and laid it on the table beside the telephone.” – Raymond Chandler
Archives #A152

Cummings Buick, 1501 Santa Monica Blvd. - Automobile dealership of the era owned by Willard L. Cummings Sr. (originally a sales manager for C.S. Howard, owner of racehorse Seabiscuit), opened in 1937 (Photographed by Pacific Press, 1940s)
Archvies #A2011

Hotel Miramar (Adelbert Bartlett Circa 1940) elegant resort opened 1921. Named for SM founder John P. Jones home also called Miramar
Archives #A213

Marion Davies Santa Monica beach home and the Santa Monica Gold Coast (n.d.) - celebrity beach homes including Cary Grant, Harold Lloyd, Mac Sennett among others
Archives #PST67

Bandleader Tommy Tucker popular in the 1930s and 1940s (William Kane Family Collection, n.d.) - with a dedication to Jean and Eddie Kane of Eddie’s Chili Villa in the Canyon 1930s until the flood of 1938
Archives #G57

Portrait of famous Actress Gloria Stuart born in Santa Monica known for Noir Films such as “The Old Dark House,” directed by James Whale in 1932
Archives #F310

Anonymous beauty behind dark glasses, 1947 (Gilda and Midge Clark Family Collection)
Archives #F333

California Incline (1930s-1940s). Access road originally created from the bluffs to the beach at the turn of the century from Santa Monica Founder John P. Jones home Miramar
Archives #RY27

Breakers, Edgewater and the Del Mar beach clubs (photographed by Adelbert Bartlett, 1930s) Eleven different beach clubs were built by summer of 1927
Archives #C165

Staircase and dining room at the Kennedy residence, 329 23rd Street (Atchison Collection, n.d.) “ The house seemed to be abnormally still. I went along the rug and through the archway to the head of the stairs. I stood there for a moment and listened again. I shrugged quietly and went down the stairs.” – Raymond Chandler
Archives #A2019
Archives #A2016

WWII Camouflage of Douglas Aircraft Company by landscape architect Edward Huntsman-Trout (Museum of Flying Collection, 1941-1945). Camouflage constructed to conceal the manufacture of C47 transports and A20 attack bombers
Archived #I76

Santa Monica Yacht Harbor (photographed by Adelbert Bartlett, 1935) Breakwater built 1934. “Bay City was a very nice place. People lived her and thought so. If I lived here I would probably think so. I would see the nice blue bay and the cliffs and the yacht harbor” – Raymond Chandler
Archive #D67

Aerial of the Santa Monica Pier and the City (Spence Air Photos, March 20, 1932)
Archive #D116