The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: November 4, 2007 - November 10, 2007

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Theater raided



May 17, 1929
Los Angeles

While I'm on Main Street:

1957_0809_burlesk Twenty years after it was built in 1909, the Wonderland Theater, 315 S. Main, was repeatedly in trouble with the law for showing indecent movies. Unfortunately, it's impossible to tell exactly what was on the bill because the theater never advertised in The Times.

According to a 1909 story, the theater was a one-story brick building, 32 feet by 120 feet with a stamped metal front, marble lobby, tile floor and concrete floor in the auditorium, designed by A.C. Martin.

In 1928, theater manager Jamie A. Titus was fined $100 ($1,124.36 USD 2006) "for displaying pictures of indecent acts in front of his theater." The photos featured "partly clad women," according to The Times.

The next year, Frank L. Titus pleaded not guilty to charges that he showed the indecent movie "Bare Legs," a three-reeler that authorities said was "unfit for public gaze" and that he showed indecent photos in the Wonderland lobby.

On May 16, 1929, jurors deadlocked on indecency charges after a private showing of "Bare Legs." The prosecutor said he would seek a new trial, but The Times never reported further on the case. And no, there's nothing in imdb about "Bare Legs."

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Further information is here.

Byline: Norman Mailer

May 5, 1968



Main Street

Photography wasn't allowed in certain spots on the L.A. Conservancy's Mainly Main tour, so I didn't take many pictures. A crew was setting up for a private party in St. Vibiana's where all photography was banned, and the penthouse at the Pacific Electric Lofts was dressed for a shoot (I think it was "24") so no pictures were permitted. We also went into Edison, but the light levels were so low that I would never get decent pictures in there with my camera.

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Nov. 10, 1957



Plane crash kills 44


Nov. 9-21, 1957
Los Angeles

1957_1110_plane All that remained of the 42-ton aircraft fit into 14 cardboard cartons and two wooden crates that the sailors of the aircraft carrier Philippine Sea hauled ashore in Long Beach after the debris was plucked from the Pacific.

The broken bodies of 19 people were reverently removed from a refrigerated locker on the carrier, taken past an honor guard of six Marines and transported to Mottell's & Peek Mortuary for examination.

Pan American's "Romance of the Skies" Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, a military Stratofreighter modified for civilian use, had vanished Nov. 8, 1957, carrying 36 passengers and a crew of eight on a flight from San Francisco to Honolulu. The aircraft had passed the "point of no return" and last reported its position at 29 degrees, 29 minutes north, 141 degrees, 35 minutes west about 5:04 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, according to The Times. There was no further radio contact and no message of distress.

Coast Guard Cmdr. William E. Chapline noted that the crew should have been able to broadcast a distress message during the 20 minutes it would have taken the aircraft to descend from cruising altitude to the ocean. But there was nothing. The four-engine plane simply never arrived.

The Philippine Sea left Long Beach on Nov. 9, carrying Deke Houlgate, who filed stories for The Times. At first,  Houlgate and AP photographer Harold Filan intended to record a rescue mission, but lingering hope slowly faded as days of searching failed to find any trace of the aircraft.

Airline officials refused to speculate on what became of their missing plane. "You will hear rumors of an explosion or sabotage or whatever, but the plain fact is: We have no idea what might have occurred," a spokesman told The Times.

1957_1109_plane_google_4 Chapline said the Stratocruiser was a well-built aircraft that would have been able to float after being ditched. (In fact a Pan Am Stratocruiser on the same flight path had gone into the ocean Oct. 16, 1956, after losing the No. 1 and No. 4 engines, but the plane landed near a Coast Guard weather ship and everyone was rescued).

Unidentified civilian and military air authorities theorized that the plane might have crashed without sending a distress signal because of an explosion caused by broken fuel connection at a carburetor that sprayed gas on a manifold; an inboard engine threw a propeller through the flight engineer's position, cutting all power instantly; a time bomb exploded; an electrical fire knocked out the radio and forced the plane into the sea.

The debris was finally located Nov. 14, 1957, in a 30-square-mile area 955 miles northeast of Honolulu.

A search plane reported: "Highly probable wreckage... Six bodies in the water... One still strapped in the seat... No rafts or life jackets visible... Three more bodies spotted... One appears to be in a life jacket."

The pilot later reported: "Tenth body sighted... Debris appears to be brown and yellow objects, possible seat covers and one life raft cover."

1957_1110_crew_listSailors reported shark attacks in their area and The Times said that one shark had to be shot before a body could be recovered.

Houlgate wrote: "The bodies floating on the surface... made at best a poor target on radar and were nearly invisible from the air. If it were not for the systematic search plan executed by this carrier the bodies might never have been found and the question of what happened to the airliner never answered." He reported that two victims' watches were stopped at 7:25 and another was stopped at 5:25, apparently set to coincide with Honolulu time.

"The first body recovered earlier today from the sea was that of a man wearing dark clothing and a yellow life jacket," Houlgate wrote. "The body was without shoes as were many of the others recovered later.

"All the bodies had external injuries and multiple fractures. Cause of death was considered to be from extensive injuries rather than exposure or drowning."

Coast Guard Capt. Donald B. MacDairmid, a search-and-rescue expert, told The Times that "the description of the wreckage and condition of the passengers indicate that the plane 'definitely went into the water in a bad or uncontrolled ditching' with the passengers warned of a state of emergency."

Houlgate cataloged the recovered debris, which was laid out in 50-foot square on the carrier's hangar deck under Marine guard:

  • A piece of yellow sheet metal reading "944 FW-R-SIDE COCKPIT" in grease pencil.
  • A wide seat "ravaged by flames " that was "blackened and grooved."
  • A ladies washroom door with printing in English and some Oriental language.
  • An emergency exit sign and light fixture, probably from the cabin.
  • Pillows, some with white covers.
  • Several gas tank floats.
  • The snapshot of a man.
  • A cabinet that could have been used to hold glasses or paper cups.
  • A woman's wool suit.
  • A paper sack marked "Rubber Gloves."
  • A white toy dog made of fabric with a ribbon around its neck.
  • Three cases for 35-millimeter slides.
  • An orange squeezer.
  • A gray and black checked wool suit.
  • Three oil-splotched serving trays.
  • Half of a blue suitcase and one side of another.
  • Two leather, fur-lined gloves.
  • A woman's white purse and a green one, both smudged with oil.
  • Several pieces of a cigarette flip box.
  • A Christmas card reading "Greetings from our house to your house" with the picture of a baby.
  • A notebook charred on the edges, with Oriental writing in pencil.
  • Another story says packets of letters were discovered, presumably air mail that the plane was carrying.

1957_1110_mcgrath_2 Air crash investigators flew out to the carrier to begin examining the debris before the ship landed in Long Beach, but they refused to discuss their findings.

The recovered victims, The Times said, were:

Robert Alexander, Pan Am co-pilot on vacation
Margaret Alexander, his wife
Judy Alexander, their 9-year-old daughter

Yvonne Alexander, flight attendant

Mrs. Tomiko Boyd, wife of Master Sgt. Robert Boyd, stationed in Korea.
Capt. Gordon H. Brown, the pilot.

Mrs. Anna Clack
Scott Clack, her son, 6

Lt. Cmdr. Gordon Cole.
Eugene Crosthwaite, the plane's purser.

William Deck, en route to marry a Japanese woman in Tokyo

Edward Ellis, Hillsborough, Calif.

Robert Halliday/Holliday of New South Wales, Australia

Dr. William Hagan, Louisville, Ky.

Nicole Madeline La Maison (or Lamaison), wife of Renault executive Robert La Maison, who was also on the plane

Thomas McGrail, Department of State, cultural attache in Burma

Phillip Sullivan, Department of State, Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs

Toyoe Tanaka

Casiana Soehartijah van der Byl, a history teacher in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Subsequent investigation revealed carbon monoxide in the victims' body tissue. According to a report on the crash, "the board has insufficient tangible evidence at this time to determine the cause of the accident."

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Read about crashes of Boeing 377s.

A San Francisco Chronicle story features Ken Fortenberry, whose father was navigator on the plane, and Gregg Herken, whose favorite elementary school teacher, Marie McGrath, was a flight attendant on the plane.

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Nov. 9, 1957



'-30-' revisited

Speaking of "-30-," (see previous post) here's a still of Jack Webb and William Conrad that I dug out of the archives.



I'm especially fond of this picture. For many years, there was a huge enlargement of it by the Metro news desk.



For comparison, here's an undated photo of the Herald Examiner staff I borrowed from somebody's desk at The Times.  Newspaper lore held that "-30-" was filmed in the Examiner Building. Like many wonderful myths, it wasn't true. Research revealed that Webb built a duplicate of the newsroom on a sound stage.

Front row, from left: Paige Owens, Mary Braswell, Joe Eckdahl, Darce Infante,  Dave Barton, unknown.
Back row, from left: 1-3 unknown, Les Dunseith, unknown, Jeanne  Pedersen, Mike Castelvecchi, Cees Kendall,  Warren Wolfswinkel, Tim Lynch  and Arnold Paradise.

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Location sleuth

Twentieth Century Fox goes to Main Street, Los Angeles. The work of cinematographer Joseph MacDonald:


I had an opportunity to tour the Regent, 448 S. Main St. (yes, it's still standing) during the Los Angeles Conservancy's recent Mainly Main tour. The theater, built in 1914, was never a movie palace, so there's nothing opulent about it. The seats have been removed and the floor, though raked, is poured concrete. The ceiling appears to be mostly intact, as is the proscenium.   There's no stage to speak of and no orchestra pit. This theater was strictly intended for showing movies.


Photograph by Larry Harnisch / Los Angeles Times

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More old movie theater information on the runover:

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Nov. 8, 1957


Budweiser boycott



Nov. 7, 1957
Los Angeles
1957_0226_budweiser Here's a story that white Los Angeles will never see: An NAACP boycott against Anheuser-Busch because it refused to hire African American truck drivers, plant workers and office staff.   

According to the California Eagle, a weekly serving the local African American community, the NAACP was calling on 350,000 blacks in Los Angeles to stop drinking Budweiser until the company ended its biased hiring practices. African American owners of liquor stores and bars were also urged to stop serving the beer.

The story noted that although blacks constituted 8.5% of the local population, they accounted for 18% of the beer sold in Los Angeles. The businesses taking part in the boycott represented about 2,000 cases of Budweiser a month, the Eagle said.

The boycott was called after the Urban League failed to attain equality in hiring despite years of efforts, the story said. The NAACP's labor and industry committee had tried to confer with a West Coast representative of the brewer, but was also unsuccessful.

According to William Pollard of the labor and industry committee, "It is ridiculous that in their entire Los Angeles operations only two Negroes are employed by Budweiser," the Eagle said.

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Jean Spangler

Here's our mystery guest with a couple of fine looking collies. The photographer (this is a handout shot) went for an arty look that left her hair buried in deep shadows, so the picture couldn't be used in the paper without lots of retouching by the art department. Our mystery guest was an actress and appeared on stage and in films.


Jean Spangler

  • Lassie and a stand-in with some model? No.
  • Andie MacDowell's mother? Oh, interesting guess! But no. At least I don't think so. (If that were true, it would be really bizarre).
  • Virginia Hill? No.
  • Kathleen Freeman? No.
  • Jean Spangler. Absolutely right!

Here's another picture of our mystery guest, taken in 1948. Her life has been discussed in several books about Los Angeles.   You have most definitely heard of this actress.


Photograph by Bruce Cox / Los Angeles Times

Yes, this is Jean Spangler, the actress who mysteriously vanished in 1949. Her purse, with a cryptic note, was found in Griffith Park.


Here's another photo of her, a still from "Wabash Avenue," 1949.

And, as a special bonus for Daily Mirror readers, here is The Times' photo of Spangler's purse and the note (which was retouched, by the way, so it would be readable in the photograph) found in Griffith Park. Nobody can say the Daily Mirror doesn't deliver goodies.

Photograph by Jack Carrick / Los Angeles Times

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Nov. 7, 1957



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