Watch this side-by-side video of Los Angeles in the 1940s and today


#21

The lack of pedestrians means that the modern footage was a shot during a weekend. For example, the section from about 2:00 to 2:30 (with the AT&T mural on the modern side) shows driving down S. Grand St. and then turning right and going west on 5th St. past the Central Library. That is right smack in the middle of the downtown business district and is pretty crowded during the week. (People may remember that stretch of 5th St. from the climactic bank robbery shootout in Heat).


#22

I absolutely agree about the cars. There’s something magic about the late 40’s GM products.

and a Delahaye is incomparable


#23

stuff changes over time, who knew?


#24

Raymond Chandler on (contemporaneous) Bunker Hill, from The High Window:

Bunker Hill is old town, lost town, shabby town, crook town. Once, very long ago, it was the choice residential district of the city, and there are still standing a few of the jigsaw Gothic mansions with wide porches and walls covered with round-end shingles and full corner bay windows with spindle turrets. They are all rooming houses now, their parquetry floors are scratched and worn through the once glossy finish and the wide sweeping staircases are dark with time and with cheap varnish laid on over generations of dirt. In the tall rooms haggard landladies bicker with shifty tenants. On the wide cool front porches, reaching their cracked shoes into the sun, and staring at nothing, sit the old men with faces like lost battles.

In and around the old houses there are flyblown restaurants and Italian fruit stands and cheap apartment houses and little candy stores where you can buy even nastier things than their candy. And there are ratty hotels where nobody except people named Smith and Jones sign the register and where the night clerk is half watchdog and half pander.

Out of the apartment houses come women who should be young but have faces like stale beer; men with pulled-down hats and quick eyes that look the street over behind the cupped hand that shields the match flame; worn intellectuals with cigarette coughs and no money in the bank; fly cops with granite faces and unwavering eyes; cokies and coke peddlers; people who look like nothing in particular and know it, and once in a while even men that actually go to work. But they come out early, when the wide cracked sidewalks are empty and still have dew on them.

Beautiful.


#25

But, as European cities show you can change your city and retain it’s own personality and history.


#26

Though a large part of the trick is not changing very much at all:

(The Hauptplatz / Main Square of own home town of Graz, Austria pre-WW1 and now)


#27

Yeah… that sounds just like mom described it (though not in such gorgeous Chandleresque prose of course).

Time hauls ass in L.A. Chandler’s saying Bunker Hill’s prime was “long ago,” yet he wrote that in 1942, when those big old run-down houses were less than 50 years old.


#28

Any time we watch old movies or older TV shows that were filmed in L.A., we try to figure out the areas and streets where they filmed. We started re-watching Emergency! recently, and have been saying “hey, that looks familiar”, “I know what’s there now!” and “what did that sign say?”, figuring out the landmarks along the way.
It’s fun to see how much has changed since the 70s, and how different that was from the 40s.


#29

I found the most interesting thing is how much clearer the air is now.


#30

Yep

Adam-12 is priceless in this regard.

The whole point is that they were beat cops, so they are constantly going places.

I love doing this.

A little wider afield, “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” is also great for this. The opening scene where Jimmy Durante “Kicks the bucket” is now an interstate. The climactic scene with the fire truck ladder is Long Beach. The plane crashes through the billboard in what is now Irvine. and so on.


#31

As a European it’s odd seeing old footage from a city in the 40s that looks so peaceful and prosperous.


#32

Between this and the wonderful L.A. theatre photos shared by @Donald_Petersen, I really, really need to find an excuse to visit L.A.


#33

A city with way more character 70 years ago. Sure you gots the smog but look at all those independent shops and business and folks walking around. A lot can be discussed about our cold sterile modern American culture. Maybe newer isn’t better?


#34

I’m surprise to see there is much more trees now…


#35

If your American culture is cold and sterile, you need to get out more.

American culture is vibrant and exciting and pedestrian and weird, NOW, in the very places where that film was shot.

Heck, even my far-away suburb has much more going on than just 20 years ago.

There are definitely some neat things about the the old Los Angeles we should fight to preserve.

But the new Southern California is better.

Especially if you’re not white.


#36

…and the '40s were nowhere near the worst part. The early-to-mid 50’s had some genuinely hellacious smog attacks until they instituted regular municipal trash pick-up and banned the formerly standard disposal method of burning trash in backyard incinerators.

It’s been a long road (and there’s been a bit of backsliding lately), but the air quality in LA is better today than it’s been since the mid '30s.


#37

Now someone needs to head up to San Francisco and shoot a reenactment of the chase scene from “Bullitt.”

Some of the Chicago-area scenes from “The Blues Brothers” would look a whole lot different today as well. Back in 1989, if you got off the train at LaSalle St. Station, walked up to Van Buren St., and looked east, it would have looked almost exactly as it did in the movie. These days, it would look almost nothing like it.


#38

In all fairness, today’s Bunker Hill can seem sterile and cold on weekends, since it’s an urban-renewal high-rise office-tower cluster, and it’s pretty empty when the weekday warriors go home to the suburbs.

But just down the hill, in the historic core that was hollowed out by all the cheap modern office space available on Bunker Hill, there’s a really promising revival going on, as adaptive reuse turns old deserted offices into modern residential lofts, surrounded by neighborhoods well-suited to the walking/biking/transit-riding young urbanite lifestyle.

“Cold and sterile”, it’s definitely not.


#39

…but when I started that reply, I meant to say, “Thanks for that post!”

Anyone who thinks LA had “more character” 70 years ago is simply not paying attention. I’ve lived in LA for almost 40 years, and the city is so much better and the culture so much more vibrant than it once was (especially, as you note, if you’re not white!).

I love LA because it always seems to be improving (not that you’d know it to listen to all the half-baked TV-nostalgists who moved here three years ago) and constantly rewards exploration and attention, because things change so fast and so frequently that yesterday’s eyesore is often today’s charming new cafe.

But you gotta get out and actually see it yourself. (-: The impression you’ll get of LA from the media is little more than a moldering pile of outdated clichés.


#40

You really do. A lot of the most interesting, most charming, most eccentric, and most beautiful parts of the city are kinda hidden away, or off the well-beaten tourist track. I learned a long time ago that when friends come to visit and want to see the city, I’d better know exactly where I’m going, because random cruising won’t take you anywhere particularly interesting unless you know exactly where to go.

There’s a whole lot of great stuff to see, but the sprawl and the strip malls hinder accidental discovery unless you invest a lot of time and effort.