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Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: November 9, 2008 - November 15, 2008

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DVD revival -- Buster Keaton's The General



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1927_0312_general_review

I am unfamiliar with the reviews of Katherine Lipke, a movie critic for The Times from 1922 to 1927. (She also wrote a novel published in 1932, "Rain on the Roof"). Given her tepid review of Buster Keaton's "The General," it's probably not a subject I'm going to explore too much.

To be fair, Lipke had no idea she was seeing what we now consider one of the great movies of the 20th century. Beyond that, I'll let her speak for herself.

But let it be noted that "The General" is being released by Kino International in a two-disc DVD edition. The DVD offers a choice of three soundtracks: One by Carl Davis that I would expect to be pretty good; one by prominent movie organist Robert Israel; and another by Lee Erwin. It lists at $29.95. You can ferret out reviews of the DVD here.



 





Vintage Children's books -- Bullock's Wilshire, 1929



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J. Paget-Fredericks' "Miss Pert's Christmas Tree," 1929.
Here's someone's Christmas present from Bullock's Wilshire, listed on EBay. Bidding starts at $19.99.

A companion book sold by Bullock's Wilshire, Paget-Fredericks' "Green Pipes," is also listed for $17.99.


Our rural past -- farming in Torrance



Torrance1
By Russ Parsons

You would hardly know it today, when South Bay towns like Torrance and Gardena seem composed of little but suburbs and strip malls, but it wasn't so long ago that this broad, flat plain included some of the choicest agricultural land in California.

Beginning in the 1880s (even before if you count the cattle-running ranchos) and continuing until as recently as the 1950s, there were thriving farms producing strawberries, beans, sugar beets and dairy cattle, among many others.

Torrance author Judith Gerber beautifully captures this history in her new book "Farming in Torrance and the South Bay," part of the wildly popular "Images of America" series run by Arcadia Publishing.

Read more >>>

Film tells story of 1920s Jewish athletes



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Photographs from Laemmle/Zeller Films

A Jewish basketball team from 1921-22.

'First Basket' honors Jewish athletes

Film documents the early days of organized basketball.


By Gary Goldstein

November 9, 2008

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Inky Lautman of he Philadelphia SPHAS,
about 1939-40.
Did you hear the one about the Jewish basketball legends?

No, that's not the intro to a Jackie Mason joke or fodder for a Mel Brooks movie, but the basis of the perception-altering new documentary "The First Basket," opening Friday in Los Angeles.

Produced and directed by David Vyorst, the movie takes a comprehensive look at the early days of basketball and the profound influence that Jewish players, mostly sons of Eastern European immigrants, had on what is now considered the world's second most popular sport (soccer is first). As narrator Peter Riegert asks at the start of the film, "Who knew?"

The movie features a wide range of nostalgic archival footage and memorabilia, plus interviews with such "hardwood heroes" as original New York Knickerbockers Ralph Kaplowitz, Sonny Hertzberg and Ossie Schechtman (who is credited with shooting the first basket in the NBA). It also examines such key cultural issues as anti-Semitism; the social factors that led waves of inner-city Jewish kids to basketball and the sport's aid in their American assimilation; how suburban migration shrank the Jewish presence in basketball after 1950; and the sport's latter-day resurgence in Israel.

Vyorst, a policy and public relations specialist, committed to documenting this multilayered subject more than 10 years ago. "I was rediscovering my Jewish roots and my love of basketball at the same time and the two had become powerful motifs in my life," Vyorst said by phone from his Washington, D.C., office. "Then I heard a radio interview with the 1946 Knicks and some of the original NBA players, all of whom were Jewish, and I just knew there was an important story to be told."

The first-time filmmaker, however, didn't anticipate some of the ambitious project's inherent challenges. "I didn't realize how hard getting images for every detail in the film and licensing each image would turn out to be," Vyorst said. With the help of various researchers and consultants he employed a "by-all-means-necessary approach" to unearthing and securing the vast archival material, a lengthy process that contributed to the movie's six-year assemblage.

Tracking down the surviving former pro players and coaches was also time-consuming, although infinitely rewarding. "They were the nicest old guys in the world. I wish they would've adopted me as their grandson," joked Vyorst. He added, "Getting to know [ex-Boston Celtics coach] Red Auerbach was one of the greatest times of my life." (The irascible Hall of Famer died in 2006.)

Read more >>>


A plan for Dodger Stadium



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Photograph by Ray Graham / Los Angeles Times

Dodger Stadium under construction in a photo published April 22, 1961. (No, this image hasn't been Photoshopped. It's a large print so I had to scan it in two pieces and paste it together--lrh).

By Keith Thursby

Dodger_stadium_1958_1211_crop
Photograph by Ray Graham / Los Angeles Times
Project manager Ted Little stands at the edge of the bowl being excavated in Chavez Ravine, Dec. 11, 1958,
Turns out the Dodgers considered some Space Age concepts when building Dodger Stadium. Anyone for a ride on the Dodger monorail up to the ballpark? George Jetson would have been right at home.

Dick Walsh, a former Angels general manager who was director of stadium operations for the Dodgers during the stadium's construction, has a revealing interview with Robert Schweppe on walteromalley.com that includes details about what might have been.

How wild were some of the ideas? Several involved transportation--along with the monorail the Dodgers considered a bridge overpass and a stadium tram. And don't forget the drive-in ticket window.

Inside the ballpark, they considered placing advertising on the outfield fences and infrared heating for seats on the field level. According to Walsh, outfield ads were rejected because Walter O'Malley decided, "We're going to keep the stadium pure."

Putting some seats on rollers to accommodate football was another idea. Walsh told Schweppe that Rams owner Dan Reeves "had talked to us about having his football club play in the stadium. Big discussions about that went on. Walter's position was that 'it was a baseball stadium. I'm not going to do that.' "

How about a series of Dodger monuments similar to the tributes in Yankee Stadium? Location and visibility problems made that difficult, Walsh said.

It's fun to think of the possibilities, but one of Dodger Stadium's best assets has been its simplicity. I'm showing my age here, but I've never been a fan of ballparks that bombard you with everything but the ballgame. But I sure would have liked that monorail.

Here's a link to the story. http://www.walteromalley.com/feat_walsh_index.php


Movie star mystery photo


2008_1110_mystery_photo
Our mystery guest has nearly 50 credits on imdb.  Update: Yes, she's Jean Porter ... "she has just completed 'Abbott and Costello in Hollywood' and 'Early to Wed,' " according to the caption information on the back of the photo.

Dewey Webb is the first to guess the identity of our mystery actress. Stay tuned for more photos!
2008_1112_mystery_photo
Los Angeles Times file photo
Many people have correctly guessed our star's identity: Claire Lockhart, Steven Bibb, Jeff "jjm332," jimlib1900 (calling himself "Waldo Lydecker," obviously a fan of "Laura") and Alexa Foreman. Congrats! 
2008_1113_mystery_pix
Los Angeles Times file photo
Here's our mystery guest with a second mystery guest.... Update: As many people guessed, this is Jean Porter and Virginia Weidler from "The Youngest Profession."
2008_1114_mystery_photo
Los Angeles Times file photo
Jean Porter, shown at left in "Till the End of Time," directed by her future husband, Edward Dmytryk, one of the Hollywood 10.

Vintage architecture -- Richard Neutra

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Photograph courtesy Crosby Doe Associates

Richard Neutra's Leon Barsha Residence, 302 Mesa Road, Pacific Palisades, CA 90402

From the Realty company's website
:

The Leon Barsha Residence, 1938. Originally saved from destruction by the Hollywood Freeway expansion with its relocation to Santa Monica Canyon, the Barsha Residence has been saved once again by designer Scott Lander. Museum-quality 1930s interiors showcase Neutra’s panache for simplicity, sophistication and sheer elegance during this earlier part of his storied career. Fully restored, including all major systems, the residence now incorporates three bedrooms, two bathrooms, an open living room with restored window fenestration and a two-car garage with direct entrance into the walled, landscaped grounds. $2.495 million.

Found on EBay -- From Silverwood's

Silverwoods_ebay Now here's a vintage cashmere jacket from Silverwood's, a longtime men's store in Los Angeles that folded in the early 1990s, that might come in handy if you're playing Nathan Detroit. On EBay with bids starting at $14.99.
            

Lasorda's Dodger forecast, November 13, 1968

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Above, "Therese and Isabelle," 1968.

1968_0701_therese

"Reminds us anew that there's nothing quite so puritanical as a dirty picture."
-- Kevin Thomas

Some clips on YouTube for the curious.,,,


1968_1113_sports Part of the pleasure in plowing through old sports stories is reading about the future and knowing how things really turned out.

It's like the familiar movie plot where the character time-travels with a handy newspaper so he can bet on last year's big game. Of course, no money was waged in researching this post.

John Hall's column in The Times devoted a section to Tom Lasorda, then a manager in the Dodgers' minor league system, who called the columnist to defend the organization's prospects. Lasorda had been working in the Arizona instructional league.

"Remember these names," he told Hall. "Ted Sizemore, Billy Buckner, Steve Garvey and Bob Valentine. They're all eventually going to be tremendous hits in Los Angeles."

How'd Lasorda do? All four had a big impact on the Dodgers. Three of the four were involved in big trades.

Sizemore was rookie of the year in 1969 but was traded with another player a year later to St. Louis for Dick Allen. Buckner was traded to the Cubs in 1977 in a deal that sent Rick Monday to the Dodgers. Valentine was part of a big swap with the Angels in 1972 that included Andy Messersmith, Frank Robinson and Ken McMullen, among others.

Garvey had the longest career with the Dodgers, leaving in 1982 to sign as a free agent with the Padres.

To be fair, Lasorda didn't pitch a perfect game with his predictions. "Besides the kids, I've also got Bill Sudakis, Willie Crawford and Paul Popovich with me in Arizona and they've been looking great," he said. "Sudakis is for real."

-- Keith Thursby

Found on EBay -- Batchelder tile


Batchelder_ebay_02
Here's a piece of Batchelder tile listed on EBay with bids starting at 99 cents. (Yes, there is a reserve). It's signed "Batchelder Los Angeles."
           

Teenage hitchhiker killed, November 12, 1958



1958_1113_kelch_photo

1958_1112_cover Daryle Kelch was one of the most popular seniors at William S. Hart High School. He had a good friend, Douglas Austin, and a girlfriend, Karen Deadmon. And he was a dependable boy, according to the eulogy delivered by the Rev. Fred Dawson of Foursquare Gospel Church in Newhall.

He was from a big family, The Times said, with four sisters and two brothers. His parents were separated and he lived with his mother, Gladys.

For all the good things about Daryle, the 17-year-old had one bad habit: hitchhiking. And however many times he caught a ride with some stranger, it was once too often.

On Monday, Nov. 10, 1958, Daryle and Douglas decided to hitchhike to Los Angeles to see Douglas' friend, Nancy Rogers, whose parents had a vacation home in Saugus. For those who are unfamiliar with Los Angeles geography, that's about 32 miles and although that area of Santa Clarita is developed today, it would have been remote in the 1950s.


View Larger Map
A map of locations in the Daryle Kelch case.
The young men evidently spent the day at the Rogers' home, 10550 Butterfield St.

Daryle left about 5 p.m., saying that he was eager to get home for his date with Karen. About 6:40 p.m., he called Karen from a gas station at Santa Monica and Sepulveda boulevards, about two miles from the Rogers' home, to cancel their date.

About 5:30 p.m., Mrs. Rogers gave Douglas a ride to Sunset and Sepulveda boulevards. They looked for Daryle on their way, but didn't see him.

Douglas said friends picked him up and gave him a ride home. But Daryle never arrived. His mother assumed he was spending the night with his father, who figured Daryle was staying with his mother.   

A rock hunter named John Brualdi, 7661 Wish Ave., Van Nuys, found Daryle's nude body the next day under a pile of rocks on Grimes Canyon Road, about three miles south of Fillmore. He had been sexually attacked and shot three times with a .25-caliber semiautomatic, once from each side and once in the throat. He was identified by the William S. Hart High School class ring he was wearing.

Investigators made plaster casts of tire tracks at the crime scene and searched the area for his clothes, but evidently never found anything. The Times said that scrapings were taken from under Daryle's fingernails to see if he had scratched his killer, but the results were never reported.

Unfortunately, the trail quickly grows cold. The Los Angeles Police Department booked Charles Watts Jr. on suspicion of murder after finding stains on the seat of his car, but further investigation showed that it was blood from an animal. The Ventura County Sheriff's Department questioned Jack Blume, a "canine hairstylist," about what appeared to be bloodstains in his car, but it was only rust.

The killing evidently remains unsolved. 

About 150 classmates attended Daryle's funeral. He was buried at Eternal Valley Memorial Park in Newhall.

Voices -- Jay Fiondella




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Above, Jay Fiondella sets off to look for World War II planes
that crashed in Greenland.

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"My Holy Grail."
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"Adventure is out there."


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