The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

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Movieland Mystery Photo

  June 11, 2011, Mystery Photo  
  Los Angeles Times file photo  

You may recognize this photo because I ran it a few years ago. But it’s one of my favorites. This fellow was branded with a very certain stereotype that he played in countless films, so I like to see him out of character.

As some of you know, the Daily Mirror is being killed by The Times in a pruning of blogs with low traffic. I’ll post a longer farewell next week, but I wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone for participating in the mystery photos. They were my most popular feature.

Through the mystery photos, I got to know “the brain trust,” a corps of readers with a humbling knowledge of film. My first criteria in selecting mystery guests was that I didn’t know who they were, so in almost every case (aside from my two-week binge on Lucille Ball and a few other exceptions) I couldn’t identify any of them. And they proved to be a wonderful history lesson for me: Trixie Friganza … Jack Mulhall … Julian Eltinge … Pier Angeli. 

I had an agenda with these pictures, though I don’t think anyone ever realized what I was up to. Most people saw the pictures as a daily movie quiz that was (at least ideally) fairly challenging. And that was fine.

But the mystery pictures were actually a years-long photo essay on fame and forgetfulness. Nearly every image I posted was of someone who was once a prominent performer – and yet look at  how dimly most of them are remembered. 

In some ways,  the indignant responses were the most perversely rewarding:  “Am I supposed to know who that is?” No, you’re not. That’s the point: The stars of today are the obscure nobodies of tomorrow. Alas, that’s a lesson that some of Hollywood’s current problem children haven’t learned.

Thanks for reading.... Keep checking next week for a final farewell post that ties up all the loose ends from the last four years.

  March 19, 1941, Comic  

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Comments (59)

Joseph Schildkraut? This was before I started reading. In fact, it was Claire who got me involved when she forwarded me the photo of the Mary Astor divorce trial, and I immediately recognized what it was from. That got me hooked, and I then got the Hawkman hooked when I told him about the Jack Mulhall postings. You taught us an awful lot about how fame and fortune often change, as well as how history repeats itself. If only society would look back at the past so as not to repeat mistakes, but also to follow what was successful. I'm going to miss this so much. Please tell me the Times is going to maintain this blog on the web and not remove it, there's so much great information here.

Leaving? Say it ain't so, Joe. This column is a morning 'must'. The history, the memories, stuff you can't find elsewhere. The old Jim Murray columns, WWII, the past corruption in L.A., .......all I can think of is "Don't leave, come back Shane".

Larry, Larry, Larry, Molly was just kiddig when she asked you to stop running those mystery photos. Be careful of what you ask for, etc. Words cannot express how unhappy we are that your blog is ending it's glorious run. But we understand. We doubt you will have your "life" back for long, you'll find another torch to carry, another parade to march's in your blood. Take care.

Day after day, The Daily Mirror gave us a glimpse of the glamour that still is the brick and mortar of that place called 'Hollywood' and the layered lesson inherent in fleeting fame. We got to see both the image and the reality set in an ephemeral location that grew into the new Second City.

The Column had a soul of its own. And it was one unique to the time and place of Los Angeles and the mighty newspapers that once ruled. Sorry to see the LA Times lose a vital part of itself by cutting 'The Daily Mirror'. The cut may seem small but it greatly diminishes the paper's value.

Larry, Thanks for delighting and informing us in such engaging style.

It's Franklin Pangborn.....I think I got it the first time too.

Fame is fleeting, that is true, and not every one was a major "star," but in the world of blogs that melded my love of film, history and the newspaper industry, your blog was truly a star above all else. Each morning was started by reading your blog, trying to guess the mystery photo (one of the best uses of archival newspaper photos in existence, and being able to view the mastery of the re-toucher and airbrusher!), and learning about slices of vintage LA that made me long to have been alive during those times.

I am truly and deeply sad that your blog is ending...I wish there was some way to spare it, some petition to sign, some last minute reprieve. But rest assured that you have made many people very happy over these years, and that you, Larry Harnisch, and your other bloggers have made a loyal fan of your work, of which I will continue to follow in whatever steps you next take.

I am saddened that this activity has to end. I couldn't participate very often, and when I did, I rarely recognized anyone. But I delighted in the attempt. I searched the movie books that I have accumulated over the years, I surfed the net, and racked my old brain. I enjoyed the challenge. It was sometimes hard to wait until 6pm to see what Fibber Mcgee, Waldo Leidecker and others had to say.

I shall miss these evenings. I have had such fun, and learned so much. Thank you!

Margie McDuff, The Netherlands

I'll miss it. Thanks for sharing your knowledge of Los Angeles history.

First the guess...El Brendel. Now the regrets...that I only happened upon this feature a little over a year ago, now it's the first thing I go to. The website won't be the same, and will take less time to view. While I thought I knew a lot about "Old Hollywood," I learned a great deal (even guessed a few). Really enjoyed the other articles you posted (great to discover The Times stooped to sensationalistic journalism-think Thelma Todd-that would make The National Inquirer proud.

This has been, by far, one of my favorite blogs. It's a shame that the LA Times is dropping it. Mystery Photo has been a favorite feature as well, though I usually came up early, though I did nudge up a truffle every now and then (Chic and Ole). I hope that it will continue in some form or another, independent of the site.

On Mr. Pangborn: Sagging jowls would prove to be the elixer for a long character career. Though Richard Nixon couldn't pull off the same trick.

i just want to echo the sentiment of all the others. you will be truly missed. i only hope the times staff read these comments and maybe change their minds. your blog in my opinion brought back many happy memories of the past when l.a. was l.a. i look at some of the other news articles and blogs and think of what a waste of a tree. thanks for all the wonderful nostalgia.

Franklin Pangborn.

I, too, will miss the Movieland Mystery Photo, and am sad to see it go. :-(

Franklin Pangborn returns.

The Movieland Mystery Photo blog catered to my love of trivia as well as my love of simplicity. No flashy graphics or gimmicks, just a simple challenge... actually, more often than not, not so simple.

Your "social experiment" was as much a statement on our fascination with the meaningless minutiae spouted by the sensationalistic media of the day as it was about the fleetingness of fame. And yet, what a thrill when, with a murky nugget of memory and a little online research, you've solved the mystery and achieved as empty a glory as any other.

It is the only blog I read on a regular basis and, aside from a personal friend's, the only blog I ever read. Period. I will miss it.

Fare thee well.

This is just too sad! Hope whoever is in charge of whatever remains of once-great LA Times realizes they are penny wise, pound foolish and are eradicating one of few things that made site distinctive. A million places to find opinions of late-breaking news, NONE like this. Truly a loss! --30--

Golly, you really have to look hard to find Franklin Pangborn in that photo.
We will certainly miss this blog and thank you for all the fun and frustration you have given us.

dammit. i loved coming here, even if i rarely knew anyone.
thanks for all you effort.


I got hooked on movies when I got my first library card from the Regency Square branch of the Jacksonville (Florida) Public Library. I liked the "big books" - they made me feel important (what was I...7...8?). Some of the "big books" were pictorial histories of films, and I fell into that world with wonder and it started a love that's never waned.

I've always felt a little dopey about knowing a lot of what to others must be silly and arcane and mundane - I think dedicated fellow trivialists of all stripes can understand this feeling. Your site gave me a chance to actually *use* those many years of film books and decades of movie viewings to test my mettle against people with the same "affliction", and I'll be darned if I didn't measure up a good portion of the time!

Your point lesson is a good one, but I have to take exception. As an old broad who's turning 50 on Tuesday, I have to say that the current crop of "celebrities" is so unlike the people you p0sted that it's not even funny. Paris Hilton may be famous for being famous, but you know what? ZsaZsa Gabor did the same thing - but with so much more elan and elegance and wit and style. She'll be remembered long after Paris is gone. We'll remember the DelRubio triplets a lot longer than the unholy triumvirate that is Kim, Khloe and Kourtney.

I hope the Times reconsiders; your blog has brought together a most unique group of intelligent, witty and eclectic readers and I'm all the better for having made their - and your - acquaintance.

Fondly -

Pamela Porter

Whoa, nelly! My boy Franklyn Pangborn.

I too will miss The Daily Mirror terribly. I have already let those in charge at the L.A. Times know what I think of their lack of concern about L.A. history. Larry, I do hope you will start your own site/blog/message board, that your loyal followers may trail after you there!

Somebody should tell Pamela Porter she is not, in her words an "old broad," but a Spring Chicken, a young whippersnapper. Remember, the French think a woman only really starts to get interesting at 40. And, let's see, Zsa Zsa is Paris Hilton's former step grandmother if I remember it right. Birds of a feather. Gee willikers, this blog is fun.


Although I didn't participate in your mystery photos as much as I wanted (simply because I didn't have the answers), I did learn a lot from your old Los Angeles, old Hollywood, old history blogs and I looked forward to your blog each and every morning.

I understand the demographics involved in the Times' making a decision, "but that don't make it right." I guess the Times is reaching out to a younger readership than what we represent.

Oh well, amigo, you'll be sorely missed by this born and raised Angeleno. I give you permission to keep to take and keep my email address for any future related endeavors.

It really, REALLY sucks that your blog is being discontinued. It has always been informative and entertaining, the one thing I really looked forward to reading everyday. It will be greatly missed.

Larry, there are so few good conduits into Los Angeles History. You have provided some fabulous insights. And you are totally right about "the Fame Thing." Daily Mirror has always been one of my "first reads" in the morning. You will be missed, believe me. Mike Botula.

Larry, you already know how I feel, but to make it public: I am absolutely heartbroken. I can't remember how I stumbled across this blog in the first place, and I was never any good at the mystery guests -- in fact, I was so bad that I got the distinct impression some people were insulted if I guessed right before they did. Fair enough. But it was fun, I learned a lot more about film than I would have otherwise, and I really enjoyed all the other articles. The Nuestro Pueblo feature is so terrific, too. I loved going to Google Maps and seeing if the buildings were still there -- sometimes they were!

I hope that, at the least, this allows you to free up some time for projects you've had to put on hold, and I hope so much that they keep this site up as an archive. Thank you for everything, Larry, and take care.

I hope that, at the least, this allows you to free up some time for projects you've had to put on hold, and I hope so much that they keep this site up as an archive. Thank you for everything, Larry, and take care.

Posted by: Stacia | June 12, 2011 at 03:28 AM

I concur on both counts. Sorry to hear the news.



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