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Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

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Blue movies

 

1957_1024_porn

Oct. 24, 1957
Los Angeles

1945_0404_ries The wages of sin was a hilltop mansion in Bel-Air for Donald De Munck, who according to The Times provided his home at 10689 Somma Way as a location to shoot stag films.*

The Times account of the pornography raid shows that by the 1950s the adult film industry had a heavy presence in the San Fernando Valley and that the ring operated much like a regular studio.

George W. Richter, 63, 9721 Lemona Ave., a North Hills man with a long history in the porn industry, provided the film processing lab while his sons George F., 13019 Bracken St., Pacoima, and Robert C. Richter, Northridge, operated the cameras, The Times said.

Distribution was handled by Jack Rappaport, 51, through his luggage store at 1734 S. Vermont Ave., and Lee La Beau, 42, of 5651 Melrose Ave. (an address belonging to Aldik Artificial Flower Co., according to city directories and newspaper ads), The Times said. 

And then there was the on-screen talent: Donald Harvey, 10660 E. Dorado Ave., Pacoima, and Barbara Jean Elliott, a.k.a. Kathryn Douglas.

Similar arrests five years earlier seemed to have little effect. In August 1952, vice detectives raided George W. Richter's lab at 1715 N. Mariposa and seized 100 16-millimeter reels of pornography, The Times said. 

Earlier that month, the vice squad also arrested Rappaport on charges of sale and possession of pornography, and a detective said that his business was "probably the main pornography supply house in Los Angeles." Noting that Rappaport had been arrested a year earlier, The Times said: "Rappaport's cluttered shop was piled high with trunkloads of obscene material. One batch of pictures was hidden under a dog's bed."

The Times never followed up on the story, so we don't know what became of the charges.

Rappaport's A-1 Handbag and Luggage Hospital was featured in a 1979 Times article. Three men named Jack Rappaport are listed in California death records, one of whom died in Los Angeles County on June 20, 1994, at the age of 88, the most likely candidate to be the man in the story.

Donald De Munck died Oct. 10, 1969, at the age of 51, according to California death records.

George Washington Richter died in Los Angeles County in 1958 at the age of 62, but it's unclear if this is the man in the pornography ring. Times clips show that In 1945, George W. Richter provided film processing for yet another pornography operation and was linked to one of the more significant people of the adult film industry in the first half of the 20th century: Frank Ries. (Photos of Vivian Stout, above, and Sonja Larday, at right, are from the 1945 raid).

1945_0404_larday_2 In 1947, before he and his wife, Barbara, committed suicide in a Chicago hotel room, Ries wrote a 10-page confession to the Los Angeles Examiner:

Sept. 14, 1947

City Editor
Los Angeles Examiner
Los Angeles, California

Dear Sir,

Here is a nice story that all Los Angeles will enjoy reading: "KING OF THE OBSCENE MOVIES KILLS SELF IN CHICAGO."

For the past 20 years, I, Frank Ries, have produced and distributed nearly 50 percent of all the 16 millimeter obscene movies in the United States.

My headquarters has always been in Hollywood, Calif. I used girls who came to Hollywood to be in the movies but failed.

In 1932, I was arrested for sending obscene matter through the mails, but the government failed to get any evidence as to what I was really doing.

I was arrested again, 1945, but still there was no evidence of my business. When arrested in 1945, the papers stated I was the key figure and that I supplied the district attorney's office with all the names of everyone that was arrested in "Smut Inc." as they called it. Through this, I lost all my distributors from San Francisco to New York. They all think I am a "stool pigeon" trying to save my own neck.

I got a year sentence in the county jail. The only thing they could get on me was contributing.

For the last year I have been traveling from San Francisco to New York trying to get outlets for my films, but no luck. No one will trust me. They think it is a frame-up, so that is why I am killing myself.

I am afraid to come back to Los Angeles because all of the ones that got caught are looking for me there. I have no other way of making a living. From 1929 to 1938 I had very good connections in the Los Angeles Police Department. When a stag party was raided, I would get my film back by replacing them with any kind of film just as long as they had some film to put in the property room.

Mr. Charles Hoy arrested me in 1932 but he was working from orders from Mr. Lowe, the U.S. postal inspector at the time. Mr. Lowe nearly found out what my business was. He found my address of my laboratory but he didn't know what it was; luck for me he didn't investigate it.

I had all my records and negatives there. If he would have found them he could have caught about 25 dealers in the U.S. alone. I had a post office box in Beverly Hills to get my C.O.D. returns from my express shipments. All my business was done over the telephone or by Western Union. I never used the mails in my business.

In my time, I produced about 40 films and had another 60 duplicate negatives of other films. I should say I sold about 100 prints of each one.

My best picture was one I made called the "Casting Directory." I also produced some in sound. They didn't sell very good.

I furnished films for Tijuana, Mexico; also for Havana, Cuba, for burlesque.

From 1931 to 1945 I had a photographic studio at 1605 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood. This was merely a blind. I made contacts with girls who came to me to be models. I later used them in my movies.

From 1925 to 1930, I worked for my brothers, but I also showed my pictures to stag parties. This is how I got started. In 1928 I made my first picture at 1154 N. Western Ave., Los Angeles, Calif. I used a prostitute and a studio truck driver for my cast. I made the picture for [blank] of San Francisco, who is dead now. I had the 35-millimeter negative of this picture. From this I had a 16-millimeter reduction negative made. I started to sell prints to friends of mine.

I met a Chinese merchant in Chinatown. I sold him about 60 prints of this picture. Some of them went to China, so I was told. Then a Mr. [blank] came out to the coast from New York. He brought with him some new pictures. We traded back and forth. Then I sent two men to tour the country to make contacts for me. They were [blank] and [blank].

They made connections and would telephone me the orders. I would send them by express or Greyhound bus. They would always collect in advance for the orders. This is how I got my connections all over the country.

Most of my agents were 16-millimeter camera stores, magic stories and bookstores. I will not tell you where my 16-millimeter laboratory is, nor where my 100 negatives are, but when the district attorney's investigations broke in my house I had prints from over 100 negatives there. I led them to believe I had them to show to my friends only.

During my time, I guess I made about $50,000 a year. I spent it as fast as I made it, on women and liquor.

You can check with the Chicago police as to my death and the police records as to my arrests.

Very truly yours,

Frank Ries

Email me

*Bonus fact: In 1959, De Munck was convicted of violating city building codes for regrading his property and causing mudslides at the homes of his neighbors, who included Maureen O'Hara.  I am unable to locate this property in the county assessor's records.

 
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Comments (2)

Fascinating. Rappaport was also a bit of a local jazz impressario, who recorded local musicians on his own label in the 40s/50s. He put out stuff during the recording ban too. A master of underground economies.

--Hey thanks for sharing!

--Larry

Almost unbelievable the depths society allowed the cops to go to police the props of their lust, and the damage the policing created to the innocents exercising their libidos. Today, i can't see the direct damage the porn industry makes, as opposed to the pedophile one, in selling the modern product, disgusting to some as it may be, to consenting adults at home and in the most luxurious hotels in every city, so i'm told.

It makes you wonder when a few other "crimes" without victims are intelligently abridged, how society in future will look back at our relatively retarded times, and why, knowing that, we make little attempt to abort the completely unnecessary aspects of this gargantuan multi-trillion-dollar taxpayer-financed police state, sooner than later.


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