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The Ultimate Chinatown Filming Location Map of Los Angeles
June 20, 2014 1:01 PM   Subscribe

The Ultimate Chinatown Filming Location Map of Los Angeles "The movie was released 40 years ago tomorrow, on June 20, 1974, and to mark the day we've mapped out all of its real-life locations, with help from this old LA Times article, The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations, and Filming Locations of Chicago and Los Angeles. Take the Chinatown tour this way..."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (19 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Weird to think that Chinatown itself is now older than the events in the movie were in 1974.
posted by octothorpe at 1:11 PM on June 20 [8 favorites]




A big part of my push to visit Downtown LA (I LOUDLY INSISTED) was to see all these Chinatown movie shooting locations. And the Bradbury Building (and then drive three hours to see Sunnydale High shut up)
posted by The Whelk at 1:32 PM on June 20


Currently streaming on Netflix until July 1, apparently.
posted by curious nu at 1:41 PM on June 20 [1 favorite]


Thanks very much for this, I love these things and it's one of my favorite movies.
posted by languagehat at 2:14 PM on June 20 [1 favorite]


octothorpe, of course, one of the key aspects of the film (and I see this mentioned in the linked site) is a deliberate time shift of the events depicted forward to 1937, when the acquisition of the Owens Valley water for the aqueduct took place mainly in the 19-aughts. There's an interesting interview with Mulholland's daughter as a special feature on the Blu-Ray (which looks fantastic you should know) where she both interprets the plot through her father's reality and objects to the characterization for the very same reason.

In any case, to be sure, few movies have loved Los Angeles as Los Angeles the way this film did.

It's quite fascinating that Towne actually felt the production was a disaster [extensive inteview] and likely to result in a flop.
posted by dhartung at 2:24 PM on June 20 [2 favorites]


Also very related: Why Californians Will Soon Be Drinking Their Own Pee. Just like the astronauts!
posted by dhartung at 2:27 PM on June 20


octothorpe, of course, one of the key aspects of the film (and I see this mentioned in the linked site) is a deliberate time shift of the events depicted forward to 1937, when the acquisition of the Owens Valley water for the aqueduct took place mainly in the 19-aughts

I did not know that. I took the 1937 time frame at face value and never read about the actual history. It all seems very alien to this east-coaster who's used to months of rain.
posted by octothorpe at 2:40 PM on June 20 [1 favorite]


Towne had very deliberate artistic intentions in choosing 1937. (Another time shift is that the San Fernando Valley was annexed to L.A. in 19-fifteen, although full development took place over a long period. The city had long had intentions of expanding.) Some of the very knowledgeable and careful mixing of history and fiction can be found in that Boom magazine article (which is linked by one of the Curbed articles, to be sure). Towne did his homework and at one point had a whole shelf full of books to work from. He wanted to get at some basic truths about the city's precarious water supply and its resultant dependence on power brokers, but wanted to connect that to the Hollywood and noir interpretations of the city, wherein motivations are complex and suspect and allegiances often obscured.

The later 1970s would see a severe drought (I was there visiting my grandparents during part of that, the days of "If it's yellow let it mellow; it's brown flush it down" water conservation (and that was in the Bay Area!), but the city had experienced some panicky droughts during Towne's younger years, and yet all of that is nothing compared to what is happening this year (at least in terms of alarming water wonks, not necessarily the populace).
posted by dhartung at 2:58 PM on June 20 [1 favorite]


What movie made *this* creative writer start paying attention to screenwriting as a great artform? Perhaps (say it with me) it's Chinatown, Jake.
posted by NorthernLite at 3:30 PM on June 20


Wait, was there really valet parking in the 30s?
posted by Sara C. at 5:15 PM on June 20


Another time shift is that the San Fernando Valley was annexed to L.A. in 19-fifteen

The San Fernando Valley is not the valley the water was taken from. That's the Owens Valley. The "valley" where all the malls and sprawl and kids who talk like Moon Zappa live has nothing at all to do with either the film Chinatown or Mullholland's water wars.
posted by Sara C. at 5:22 PM on June 20




Took advantage of streaming and decided to finally check this out.

Man, this movie is not at all what I've been imagining for years. I thought it was police detectives in rainy, misty SF Chinatown in the 70s or 80s, hunting down some kind of morally ambiguous villain while working for morally ambiguous bosses.

..basically I just figured it was Blade Runner, but without the robots, I guess?
posted by curious nu at 8:16 PM on June 20


Chinatown is one of my all time favorite American movies. I just watched it again a few weeks ago for the umpteen time.
posted by growabrain at 8:49 PM on June 20


this movie is not at all what I've been imagining for years

Watched it once, never understood the fuss - no Chinatown, no LA really (well, yes, City Hall and the Brown Derby), just dry characters arguing about water in the Southland along with some weird incest and a knife up Jack Nicholson's nose. Suppose I should give it another chance but IMO the good 70s movie set in vintage LA (with a scene filmed in the actual Chop Suey restaurant in Little Tokyo) is the Robert Mitchum Farewll My Lovely.
posted by Rash at 12:45 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


The San Fernando Valley is not the valley the water was taken from. That's the Owens Valley. The "valley" where all the malls and sprawl and kids who talk like Moon Zappa live has nothing at all to do with either the film Chinatown or Mullholland's water wars.

Ah, but Sara C., in the film "the" Valley is fictionalized as the Northwest Valley (and the town of Alto Vallejo). It's the location of the orchards and the land deals -- where Jake looks up the property records. As I noted, this was ahistorical for 1937, because it had been in the city for two decades at that point. Nevertheless, at the time, it was very much a part of the Water Wars:

But the residents of the Owens Valley were not the only ones out-maneuvered by Mulholland and Eaton. Mulholland in particular had portrayed the acquisition of the Owens River as a life or death matter for Los Angeles. In reality, however, much of the water was to be used for irrigating the nearby San Fernando Valley, where a syndicate of private investors, many the personal friends of Mulholland and Eaton, had been furiously buying up land with the assurance that its value would skyrocket. This same group of investors was critical in securing passage of the 1905 bond issue that would pay for the Owens River diversion.

The film somewhat simplifies things by conflating the orchard growers with the Owens Valley farmers, having them cheated out of their land through the Albacore Club scheme. It was, however, very much the case that the property owners cleaned up as the (San Fernando) Valley was developed, and this is the key moral question about the graft.
posted by dhartung at 5:07 PM on June 21


And to underline that graft, here is the official site (at CSU Northridge) of Mulholland's granddaughter's family archive:

William's eldest son and Catherine Mulholland’s father, Perry, established and managed a 640-acre ranch for himself and his four siblings on land in the San Fernando Valley. Known as the Mulholland Orchard Company, the ranch remained in operation until 1965 and encompassed large portions of what are now the communities of Northridge and Canoga Park.

It's really mind-boggling how out in the open it all was, but it's mind-boggling to see such "socialization of the losses, privatization of the profits" in many cases today being done out in the open, with an uphill battle to convince people that there's something at all the matter. (In my personal experience, I found that running a Facebook page criticizing the political activities of a local billionaire who gave half a million dollars -- legally -- to the Scott Walker recall effort put me in the crosshairs of her local claque. How dare I criticize her after all she has done for the community! I would always reply that she has billions of dollars and all I have is a free Facebook page. But just wow.) For LA, the people were thirsty and needed their water, so they seemed not to care about anybody's ... siphoning a little off the top, you might say.
posted by dhartung at 5:15 PM on June 21


Wait, was there really valet parking in the 30s?

It's a good question, and it turns out there's an answer: Yes.

Citrin didn't quite invent valet parking, but he gave it a name and fine-tuned it. He "teethed in the business" with his father, William, who in 1937 parked celebrities' Packards and LaSalles at the Swing Club in Hollywood. When Lawry's the Prime Rib opened in 1938 on La Cienega, the elder Citrin had his second account.

Young Citrin, just short of 16, was parking cars at Lawry's six nights a week after school and in summers, working three nightly shifts for his dad, starting at Lawry's, then driving his old Ford to Studio City, where the show broke at midnight at Grace Hayes Lodge, before dashing back to the Swing Club, which was open until 4 a.m.

Valet parking and L.A. appeared to be made for each other, but by 1942, the young men William Citrin had hired had gone off to war and he decided to close his five concessions. That August, Herb joined the Navy Submarine Service.

Discharged in the fall of 1945, he had a wife, a baby on the way, two years of college and an iffy future. He knew polishing cases at a jewelry store and occasionally being allowed to "wait on a customer who wanted a cheap watch" wasn't it.

One day in 1946, his father said, "Everyone at Lawry's knows you. Why don't you see if you can get the parking concession?" He did, and spent his $1,000 savings to hire two men, outfit them in surplus military uniforms and buy claim checks and liability insurance.


So maybe that's yes, sort of, because it was sort of a loose thing at a few places, but became professionalized after the war.
posted by dhartung at 5:20 PM on June 21


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