Monday, April 04, 2016

30 Days of The Fade Out: Setting the Scene.

In The Fade Out, fictional characters are producing a fictional movie for a fictional studio, but their story is set in the very real world of Hollywood's Golden Age, specifically the fall of 1948 with its backdrop of the blacklist and big band music, movie-story magazines and stars coming home from the war.

Hollywood Memorial Cemetery

Familiar locales end up appearing quite often in the story.  We recognized the Brown Derby in the debut issue, and we surmised that many of the other settings were historical. 

Rereading the first eleven issues just before the finale was released, we found that the series seemed to evoke every major historical site except the Griffith Observatory and the Chinese Theater -- and the latter ended up in the last issue, for the movie's big premiere.

A map or travel guide to The Fade Out would be a fascinating thing, but it's more than we can provide in this humble blog.  Instead, we hope it's enough to point our readers in the right direction, with a list of locations that includes Wikipedia links and -- in brackets -- the issue numbers in which each location makes its first appearance or a significant subsequent appearance, either being shown or referenced.

Hollywood Brown Derby

We found that the Los Angeles Times has an excellent interactive map of modern-day Los Angeles county, which divides its 272 neighborhoods and 4,000 square miles -- a huge area, half the size of Wales -- into sixteen regions.  We'll use those regions to organize the locations found within the world of The Fade Out; we'll list those regions by proximity to central Los Angeles, and we'll alphabetize each neighborhood within a region.
  • Los Angeles County, California (neighborhood map)
    • Central LA
      • Downtown (Wikipedia)
        • Angel Flights incline or funicular railway in the Bunker Hill district - evidently next to Charlie's apartment; in operation in its original location from 1901 to 1969; compare Phillips' artwork with this image on a webpage about the railway [1]
        • The Bunker Hill district - location of Stevie Turner's house, from which he ran a photography lab; since his house was on "the other side of Bunker Hill,' it was presumably north of Clifton's Brookdale and Charlie's apartment near Angel Flights [4]
        • Clifton's Brookdale - cafeteria in Downtown LA, where Charlie sobered up over coffee before finding that Stevie Turner had died, supposedly in a house fire; this second location of a chain of eight restaurants opened in 1935, was renamed from "Clifton's Cafeteria" in 1939, and is the only location still in operation [4]
      • Elysian Park (Wikipedia) - a neighborhood north of Downtown LA that encompasses Chavez Ravine, which held three poor but socially cohesive Mexican communities in the 1940s, named La Loma, Palo Verde, and Bishop; Maya told her ex-husband Armando to go find a fight "somewhere in Chavez," and she later hid Charlie at her mother's house in Chavez Ravine, "the Mexican part of town;" Dodger Stadium opened in there in 1962 and is sometimes called Chavez Ravine [3,12] 
      • Hollywood (Wikipedia) - northwest of Downtown LA
        • The Broadway-Hollywood building - among other possibly famous signs, Charlie walks past the building's famous neon sign in the comic's last panel; built in 1927 at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine, the building housed The Broadway department store from 1931 through the 1970s, and the building now houses loft condominiums [12]
        • Grauman's Chinese Theatre - location of the star-studded premiere of Shadow of the Valley, attended by Charlie, Maya, Earl, Tyler, and Brodsky; opening in 1922 and now called TCL Chinese Theatre after the Chinese electronics corporation, the iconic theatre also features celebrity footprints [12]
        • Hollywood Brown Derby - evident location of Gil's encounter with Bob Hope; built in 1929 and closed after a fire in 1987; compare Sean Phillips' artwork of the restaurant with this Wikipedia image [1]
        • Hollywood Memorial Cemetery - evident location of Val Staples' burial; the only cemetery in Hollywood, it was founded in 1899 and renamed the "Hollywood Forever Cemetery" around 1998; The New York Times has an interesting article on the cemetery, published in '98, and the image in a website about hauntings may have been the reference image Phillips used at the beginning of the burial scene [2]
        • The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel - Brodsky staked out the hotel lobby on Halloween night, waiting in vain to catch Thursby's blackmailer; located across from the Chinese Theatre, this fixture of Hollywood lore opened in 1927 and remains in operation today [8]
        • La Brea Avenue - a prominent thoroughfare that runs through Hollywood, Gil tailed Thursby to "a side street off La Brea," arriving at the original Victory Street offices; Charlie Chaplin Studios is in Hollywood on La Brea, just south of Sunset Boulevard, and it is now the home of The Jim Henson Company [9]
        • Musso & Frank Grill - Site of an informal meeting organized by Dashiell Hammett, to raise money for victims of the Hollywood blacklist; Gil would find Sam Hammett there, to ask him for "hypothetical" advice about investigating Val's murder; founded in 1919 as "Francois," the restaurant adopted its more famous name in 1923, and it remains in operation today, maintaining its traditional décor and steakhouse menu [6]
      • Hollywood Hills (Wikipedia) - evident location of Earl Rath's estate [1] 
        • Hollywood Sign - visible from Earl's place; built in 1923 and facing south, it still displayed "Hollywoodland" until 1949; note the brief mention of Peg Entwhistle in the Wikipedia article
      • Koreatown (Wikipedia) - between Downtown LA and Hollywood, known as part of Mid-Wilshire (Wikipedia) before attracting South Korean immigrants in the 1960s
        • Ambassador Hotel - home of the Cocoanut Grove nightclub, where Tyler Graves and Maya Silver had their first public dinner date before heading to Ciro's; in operation from 1921 to 1989, and the site of the 1968 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy; compare Phillips' artwork of the nightclub's entrance to the door and sign visible in this photograph, from a webpage about the hotel [4]
      • West Hollywood (Wikipedia) - home of the Sunset Strip
        • Ciro's - scene of Dottie's PR stunt, with Tyler Graves punching a hired drunk while on a date with Maya Silver; a well-known nightclub in operation from 1940 to 1957, described as "one of 'the' places to be seen and guaranteed being written about in the gossip columns of Hedda Hopper, Louella Parsons and Florabel Muir" [4]
        • Formosa Café - restaurant and bar where Charlie waited for Maya, got in a fight, and seemingly encountered Drake Miller -- in reality, he met Tina, who left him a note about how they needed to talk; the café was founded in 1925 and is still in operation; Sinatra was reputed to be a frequent patron in the 1950s while he pined over Ava Gardner [7]
    • The San Fernando Valley (Wikipedia) - Franz Schmitt held a pro forma casting call to replace Valeria Sommers, evidently asking for every attractive young actress "in the valley" [3]
      • Studio City (Wikipedia) - location of Val Sommers' bungalow, which was within walking distance of Earl Rath's house and "only a mile" to the studio lot of Victory Street Pictures [1]
    • The Westside 
    • The Verdugos - named for the Verdugo Mountains, a small, rugged mountain rang
      • Pasadena (Wikipedia) - Val Sommers' hometown; Maya Silver evidently won Junior Miss Pasadena; incorporated in 1886, only the second city incorporated in the county, after Los Angeles in 1850 [2,3]
    • Santa Monica Mountains (Wikipedia)
      • Malibu (Wikipedia) - city near the southwest corner of the county, close to Val Staples' beachfront hideaway; the house is described as "up the road from Malibu" and "north of Malibu," but here the coast runs east-west, so the house is probably west of the city, on the unincorporated coast or even in Ventura County [7,11]
    • Northwest County

  • Ventura County, California (maps, Adobe Flash map, the entire county is visible in the LA Times map)
    • Ojai (Wikipedia) - site of Al Kamp's ranch; the production moved "north to Ojai," but the idyllic city is more accurately about 75 miles northwest of Hollywood, nestled against the Los Padres National Forest which dominates the northern half of Ventura County [5]
Cocoanut Grove, the Ambassador Hotel

Locations outside of southern California are also mentioned in the story, most notably Pearl Harbor, England, France, and Germany because of World War II.  In issue #8, Tina tells Charlie that she's leaving for a gig in Atlantic City, and we learn about Charlie's familiarity with heroin abuse growing up in Kansas City.  At the story's conclusion, we learn that Drake Miller has been recalled to back east, ostensibly to find "Commies on Broadway."

Not all local scenes are so easily identified as what we list above.  I don't believe we're ever given any strong indication of where Gil lived or where Charlie and Maya saw the Desi Arnaz Orchestra perform.  We see Charlie pass a Ralphs supermarket, but I couldn't pin down the specific location, and we see the nightclub where Charlie and Gil ran afoul of gangster Bugsy Seigel, but that club's identity isn't made clear.

Angel Flights, Bunker Hill District

Even without a comprehensive list, we can see the grand sweep of the story in its real-world locations.  Less than ten miles separate the mansions of the Hollywood Hills and the shacks of Chavez Ravine, but they're worlds apart in terms of wealth, if not in their capacity for depravity and corruption.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts