April 17, 2018

We never pass up an opportunity to visit Los Angeles, soaking up the atmosphere as we concoct further adventures for Lillian and Edith. Noir City Hollywood and a very special event at that film festival provided us with the perfect excuse.

But first, exploring! If you’re like us, you have Turner Classic Movies on all the time and are obsessed with the promos for the network’s Movie Locations Tour. On Friday afternoon we piled onto a bus and spent two and a half hours tooling around Hollywood, Downtown L.A., and other neighborhoods. The bus came equipped with a massive plasma TV—all the better to display clips from movies at the actual locations where they were filmed. It was a treat to stop outside Howard Hughes’ old office and watch a scene from 1951’s Cry Danger (restored by the Film Noir Foundation!) shot on that very spot, or to pull up outside Echo Park’s century-plus old Bob’s Market and see it remade onscreen as Vin Diesel’s café in The Fast and the Furious. Our TCM tour guide Mike had a great line of patter, quick with a joke or a trivia question. It was loads of fun, and we recommend the tour highly.

Amazingly, it’s the twentieth anniversary of Noir City Hollywood, and to mark the occasion every film in this year’s festival was shot in the City of Angels, providing a feast of vintage Los Angeles locales. We met our fabulous friend Christa Faust, who has attended every Noir City without fail and whose festival write-ups are not to be missed, at Hollywood Boulevard’s famed Pig ‘N Whistle for some Opening Night sustenance, and even managed to hand off our table to fellow festival veteran Leonard Maltin and his wife Alice like a well-trained Olympics relay team. Then it was off to the Egyptian Theater for The Blue Dahlia, with its costumes by Edith Head; followed by a courtyard party featuring live music and liquor from Bogart Spirits (yes, really, that Bogart); then a screening of the completely daft Raymond Chandler knockoff I Love Trouble (1948). It’s our third time through the movie and we still can’t follow the plot. Some great wisecracks, though, with none cracking wiser than our old pal Glenda Farrell.

(If you ask Vince, though, he’ll say Friday’s true highlight was Rosemarie buying this amazing Joan Crawford satin baseball jacket from her favorite store in the world, Golden Age.)

On Saturday afternoon we were at liberty, which meant finally writing a great wrong. For years we’ve been members of Hollywood Heritage, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the history of the movie capital. Yet we’d never visited their museum, housed in the original Lasky-DeMille barn. The structure is the birthplace of both feature-length films in Hollywood and of Paramount Pictures; DeMille’s 1914 The Squaw Man was shot there, and the barn was later relocated to the studio lot where it served a variety of functions until, on the verge of collapse, it was moved opposite the Hollywood Bowl and restored. It now holds an impressive array of early Hollywood memorabilia, including a three-strip Technicolor camera used on Gone with the Wind and Cecil B. DeMille’s office exactly as it looked in 1914. Afterward we strolled up into Whitley Heights, the glamorous neighborhood that cameos in Design for Dying.

Hollywood history clearly being the trip’s theme, we moved on to martinis at Musso & Frank Grill, the original Tinseltown watering hole, followed by a round at Boardner’s, another iconic bar off the Boulevard that has appeared in such films as Ed Wood and … well, the one we (now in the company of our friend Duane Swierczynski) were about to see.

Noir City Hollywood’s centerpiece was the presentation of the Modern Noir Master Award to novelist James Ellroy. We immediately spotted the guest of honor in the theater’s courtyard—and Duane, unlike us, had the presence of mind to take pictures.

Noir City compere, TCM host and all-around good egg Eddie Muller presented James with his richly-deserved honor. A wild and woolly Q&A for the ages followed, steeped in profanity and salacious verse. In the span of forty minutes, the man of the evening claimed he didn’t write noir fiction at all but epic historical romances; dismissed the collected oeuvre of Raymond Chandler; and bad-mouthed the movie a sold-out house had come to see, the Academy Award-winning 1997 adaptation of his novel L.A. Confidential. We’ve heard James praise the film in the past, so we took his trash talking as performance art. But it was fascinating to hear his dream cast. As brooding bruiser Bud White, smarter and more soulful than he looks: Sterling Hayden. Steve Cochran would stand in for Kevin Spacey as slick Hollywood cop Jack Vincennes. Playing political animal and daddy’s boy Edmund Exley? William Holden.

James Ellroy wrote the novel, so he’s entitled to his opinion of the film. We still think it’s easily the best studio movie of the past twenty-five years. Seeing an archival print on the big screen in the middle of Hollywood only confirmed that, and proved the perfect ending to a wonderful trip.

Don’t believe us? Here are some pictures as proof.

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