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Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

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Changeling stories -- Part I


Police Capt. Jones and LAPD officers search the lake in Lincoln Park for the body of Walter Collins, Los Angeles Times, April 6, 1928.

The boy claiming to be Walter Collins poses with Christine Collins, Aug. 18, 1928

Several regular readers have asked to see the original stories that formed the basis of the current movie "Changeling," written by J. Michael Straczynski and directed by Clint Eastwood. The movie's website is here>>>

Alas, The Times published far more stories than I can ever upload to the Daily Mirror. Over the next few days, I'll try to post a few of them just to give a sample of the coverage--and of course the competition also filed stories that would only be available on microfilm at the Los Angeles Public Library.

The Times stories are available from The Times archive or via ProQuest from the Los Angeles Public Library (you will need a library card to sign in). 

Photo of the real Walter Collins

A Glendale service station attendant says he saw the missing boy in the back of a car.
Police suspect kidnapping is retaliation against boy's father, a Folsom inmate.
Missing boy found in DeKalb, Ill., refuses to identify "daddy."
"I do not think that is my boy," Christine Collins says.
Police insist boy is Walter Collins despite statements that he was killed.
Mother returns boy, saying he's not her son.
Handwriting expert says boy is not Walter Collins.

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Comments (42)

Just saw the movie, ugh, what a compelling story, but the movie is full of inaccuracies. It is interesting to read the truth, or at least the public version. The movie would have made a better documentary rather than to distort the story with a lot of mushy made up stuff. It is pretty hard to take, so I would not recommend the movie for those two reasons,

I loved the movie! Very interesting storyline. The fact that it doesn't follow the details exactly how they occurred is normal for a film. The facts were almost the same. Great story!

I disagree, Just saw the movie. And now have done some research online. I thought it was pretty accurate for the amount of time hollywood has to portray a lifetime story. It was well acted, well thought out. Disturbing as well.

In a case where truth is stranger than fiction this story has too many complexities to fit into one film. As it is the film is 2 hours and 20 minuts long. Many of the events needed to be eliminated from because they would distract from the main story which is acttually two stories that through whatever mystery is how a single woman brought down the hierararchy of vastly corrupt government by asking the single queston, "Where is my boy/" and the other is, of course, that of the gruesome murders. It looks at many unusual themes we have rarely or never seen .

We need to be grateful to the screenwriter, the director and the actors for saving this story from oblivion. I think Christine Collins, who never knew what really happened to her son, would be grateful, not for her story but for the fact that we can now help her memory of Walter live on.

What a movie! Sat on the edge of my seat. . . and cried for Christine Collins and what she had gone through. After seeing many movies this year, this is no doubt an Oscar winner, both for "Best Picture" and "Best Actress". Angelina Jolie was superb! Only a mother, could have played this part and she was amazing. I will keep my fingers crossed for her.

Wow. You folks sure out a lot of stock in media reports from the late 1920's.

If the media today is just a WEE bit on the biased/uninformed side, do you really think it wise to make a value judgement of Eastwood's work based on some old newspaper scans?

I'm not disagreeing with you, because I had the same thought, but age does not equal accurate, unbiased reporting.


I've seen the movie and it is nothing short of enthralling. Clint Eastwood is the master storyteller of our time. Additionally, he's unique in that his movies always offer more in terms of unexpected plot twists. He leaves the moviegoer with the feeling they've watched MORE than just one film. His films are multi-layered. "Million Dollar Baby" turned out to be a different movie than most people thought it would be at face value. Likewise, "Changeling" falls into the same category. Thank you, Clint, for bringing this gruesomely fascinating case to life. It's as complex as the Black Dahlia ever was. Powerful stuff.

Thought Eastwood did another great movie he is onw of the great story tellers of are time WAY TO GO CLINT

Just saw The Changeling so had to find out what happened to Christine Collins. Thought the film was very well done and although apprehensive initially about the length did not notice the time go by. Clint Eastwood, John Malkovich and Angelina Jolie did an excellent job bringing this disturbing story to the big screen and I highly recommend it. Oscars should be awarded.

I saw the film tonight, too and thought Angelina Jolie's performance to be superb. She really captured how a mother might feel in such a devastating situation. I was unnerved by the opening scenes as she looked for her son frantically and was incensed at the treatment leveled at women just because "it could be done." Very nice and considering the limitations of adaptation, very true and respectful of the spirit of the entire case.

I saw the movie on Friday night and am in complete agreement with everyone who said the movie is an Oscar winner, and also that only a mother could play this role. I have no doubt in my mind that Angelina was thinking of what she would do if faced with the same situation as Christine.

I have to also agree with the person who said that age of a news article doesn't necessarily mean accuracy, however in light of the fact that the press was out for LAPD blood I think that they might have been a little biased, but also that the truth about what happened to Christine at the hands of the LAPD was also sensational enough for the press to NOT inflate the story.

This is, after all, the case that cemented the LAPD's reputation as the most corrupt, incompetant and least trustworthy PD in the US.

As it stands now, I am thankful that we live in such a technologically advancded society where we have the "Amber Alert" system with which to keep children safe.

I have to be honest I had no desire to see Changeling. As much as I like Eastwood I've never been a big Jolie fan. And the story looked way to melodramatic to me.
But the previews don't reveal the serial killer side of the story at all. I've loved reading these clippings and I'm now interested enough that I'll have to see this movie.

This is an Oscar worthy film. Saw it Friday night. There is no doubt that Eastwood and the writers had to combine the events into a feature film. This was not easy to do. While they had to "twist" a few facts to fit the story, they kept true to most of the basic true events. If someone starts to research a movie immediately after seeing it, it speaks to the movie's affectiveness I think.

I saw the movie today and I agree with the rest of the comments, it's a fine film.
I do have problem with the portrayal of Los Angeles and in particular Lincoln Heights. As a resident of Lincoln Heights and a fourth generation Angelina, I am quite familiar with the way my neighborhood looked during this era from my research of Los Angeles history and my own family photos.

This area of Los Angeles is surrounded by hills and street curves. The scenes in Lincoln Heights didn't feel like this area. Most of the streets in the movie were grid-like and dense, more representative of downtown. The scene where she leaves the Lincoln Heights precinct and walks out to what looks like Spring St was particularly annoying. It was a very straight road of non-ending 3 story buildings with City Hall in the distance.
North Broadway and Main Street curve and cross the river and neither of these streets had the kinda New York density the movie portrayed.

Also, they were very few Mexican-Americans in the film despite the fact that there were many Mexican-American police officers at this time (see your photo of Ybarra, Sepulveda etc in the other post). Lincoln Heights by this time also had many Mexican-American residents. I know this for certain as my grandmother lived in Lincoln Heights for a short time in 1935.

Perhaps this may seem as quibbling to some. I know it's impossible and impractical for films to be 100 percent accurate but these glaring discrepancies did affect my viewing of the film. I expected more from Clint Eastwood.

One more thing, I loved that you mapped out the places where Christine Collins lived. When she mentions her address in the film, I was quite surprised as I knew the street she mentioned. I have to say though, I really doubt even back then, that Ave 23 looked as idyllic as it did in the film. Thanks for digging up all the info!

Saw the movie today and thought it was outstanding. I stayed to watch all the credits, but never saw anything about where the movie was filmed. I'm sure the exterior shots of the train station were not filmed in LA, but in San Bernardino, CA. That is where I grew up and my family frequently visited the depot. The station is still standing, but in very poor condition today. The exterior looks much the same as it did in the 1940's and 50"s. Anyone else out there agree?

ok first off i just want to say the movie to me was boring but the story of the boy and his mother and the guy killing the kids that was interesting it was a good thriller but i dont like the mushy gushy stuff...and does any one know if walter was ever found just wondering....

Daniel - the 'gushy mushy' stuff u talk about is a story of an unbelievable pain and suffering endured by a woman who lost her child and was let down and treated inhumanly by the authorities - has any of this came to your mind when you said the story was 'boring' and ' gushy mushy'?! Its about real people, have some respect!!!

I have just seen the film in England - a very tragic case and it must have been an aweful experience for Christine. I commend Clint for making such a thought provoking film, rather than a quick buck typical H'wood blockbuster, which appears to be the norm these days !!!!!

As an English criminal barrister I found the film fascinating and compelling. Well acted well directed I came away from the film extremely moved by what I had seen to such an extent that it has made me want to investigate further the truth of the story. Admittedly for dramatic reasons much has to be truncated and edited but the basic story lines particularly the power of the state to incarcerate those believed to be 'nuisances' resonate even today!

I just saw the movie and thought it was great. I live in nearby Cypress Park which is next door to Lincoln Heights. Well I wanted to see if the house that she lived in still existed, but it does'nt. I wrote down the addresses that I got from this page. Thank you! I found 3 out of 5. I also found the theatre where Walter went the day he was kidnapped. Its located at 3232 N.Figueroa St. The building exists but its now a sandwich shop. I'ts very sad to think something like this happened in the late 20's. I, too would like to know what happened to Christine Collins. Where and when did she die and where is she buried? Also, Lincoln Heights did not look like it did in the movie just go under Historical Lincoln Heights L.A

Great movie, as usual Clint does an excellent job of directing and should get the acadamy award for it.Sorry to say this Clint, but I do not remember women wearing all that eye make up. Jolie was excellent, although I normally do not care for her.
Congratulations to the whole cast, they all did an exellent job.

my great grandfather was names walter collins, i do not know much about him... which made the movie more interesting. my family tree is a little hard to get, but if anyone knows christine collins' maiden name that would be great

This is one of the most touching movies that I have seen in years and one I will never forget. I am still shocked at how the people you are supposed to put your trust in, will allow a mother to suffer like Ms. Collins.
I hope that she and her son are together tonight.

great story . I really enjoyed the movie but this blog is even better ! After reading that Christine Collins husband was in jail, is it possible that Collins and Northcott were in the same prison ? Does anyone know what happened to Walter's father ?

This movie was definitely a truly beautiful movie and definitely oscar material. props to Angelina! However, researching the truth and finding out unshown material, it makes me really think. Were there really 20 boys killed? Did Christine Collins really go to the psychopathic hospital?



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