Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Los Angeles

From: Schooley (
Date: 07 Sep 2001

Kevin Burton Smith wrote:

> Such was the force of his writing and the almost mythological world
> that he created, that had Chandler settled in Newark or Kansas City
> or Chicago or Vancouver, we may very well be asking what it is that
> makes those cities inherently hard-boiled.

Not to under-rate Chandler, but you're not giving LA its due either. LA is the end of the road mythology and the link to English roman noir, that is the gothic noir link between evil and landscape and the American attempt to outrun corruption by lighting out for the territories in hope of finding a fresh, clean place to begin again. Didn't work for the Pilgrims, and didn't work for the early pioneers' but each time the evils of civilization caught up, the struggle moved further west. Everywhere people went, corruption soon followed because as all hb and noir fans know, they brought it with them. California and LA were the last hope, where the mythology dies hard, the way it died for Steinbeck's depression era Okies, and the way it died for Mosley's post-war industrial migration of southern blacks. For my generation the sixties California rock mythology of endless summer, surf, and hot cars is looking more than a little shabby now. No doubt there'll be another dream, in outer space maybe. For the dominant culture on earth, there's no place else to go. California is where Route 66 ended.

> The other factor, of course, is Hollywood. Why set the film 3000
> miles away when you can film it a few blocks away? Interestingly,
> radio eyes didn't seem as LA-obsessed. But then television came along
> and more than made up for it.

Sure, but why did these media end up in LA? Neither started there. They went west to escape union wages and high real estate prices. Film makers needed big back lots and year-round good weather to achieve their dreams. Later, their big sound stages and trained labour pool provided cheaper production for television networks based on the east coast. Remember when My Three Sons and Johnny Carson went to California? It's still the accepted mythology that if you don't like where you are now, move. Now that's the corporate argument for globalization, but at one time people preferred to relocate to the relatively wide-open spaces of the American West. Wasn't that the land of opportunity for a young man fresh from the European wars looking or a fresh start in a new business? When those dreams for commercial success crumbled during the world-wide depression of the 30's, Chandler did what the film and television industries did later. Finally unable to find an incorruptable location simply by moving further west, they reflected the inevitable corruption of human societies back on their own nation. They held up a mirror from the end of the rainbow.


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