Monday, July 26, 2010

Ripped From The Headlines

"Every morning you open up the paper, there's another body found on a weed-covered lot."
—Paula (Eve Arden) in The Unfaithful

(Above: Black Dahlia investigation, January 1947)

Vincent Sherman's The Unfaithful was filmed in January and February of 1947. Much of the shooting was on location: in Beverly Hills, in West Hollywood (the pawn shop, miraculously, still stands at 7755 Santa Monica Boulevard), MacArthur Park, the Bradbury Building, and Angels Flight. One sequence that stands out, of course, is the footage of the Hotel Elmar in Bunker Hill.

(California State Library Photo Archives)

Eve Arden's dialogue, above, suggests that Sherman (or his screenwriters, James Gunn and (!) David Goodis) were particular receptive to the Zeitgeist. But there's another, less intentional, resonance with the news of the day. As historian Nathan Marsak noted in his excavation of a Los Angeles Times article, Peewee Lewis and Paul Allen were registered at the Hotel Elmar at this time. On February 21, Lewis attempted to rob Elmer Jackson, sitting in a parked car, with a machine gun. But Jackson, second-in-command of the LAPD Vice Squad, was armed--and shot Lewis in the face with his pistol. Then he tracked down Lewis' partner at the Hotel Elmar. Jackson got some attention in the papers as a hero.

(Above: Sergeant E.V. Jackson; Captain James Hamilton; Deputy Chief Thad Brown; Mayor Fletcher Bowron; Captain Jack Donahue; Chief William Parker; Lieutenant Grover Armstrong; Lieutenant Rudy Wellpot; from Los Angeles Examiner/USC Digital Archives)

Could that be Lewis, or Allen, lingering near Zachary Scott and Steven Geray in the Elmar lobby, enjoying last moments as free men?

What didn't come out until a couple years later—as an indirect result of recordings by wiretapper Jimmy Vaus—was that Peewee Lewis knew exactly who he was robbing. At the time of the holdup, the Daily News reported, Jackson was in the car with his girlfriend, Hollywood Madam Brenda Allen, with whom he had a nice little shakedown system going. Lewis was hoping to rob them of their shakedown money.

After Lewis was buried, and Paul Allen was imprisoned, news of Brenda Allen and the corruption of the police force was a big story in 1949—

—and Sgt. Elmer V. Jackson got his face in the papers once more.


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