A Window on the Past – Downtown Los Angeles in the 1940s

As a longtime center of the film industry, Los Angeles has served as backdrop and central character in countless movies. This rich celluloid history helps us understand what Los Angeles and its environs were like in decades past.

Recently The Atlantic published a short piece about some fascinating stock footage made available by the Prelinger Archives that gives us a glimpse of the Bunker Hill area post WWII. While this particular footage was apparently never used in a motion picture, similar scenes were incorporated into numerous movies, preserving moments in Los Angeles’ development.

To see the route traveled in the film, take a look at this map produced by John Bengtson. Click to enlarge.

While the film presented above was shot for a talking picture, it documents a part of the city that was used extensively in movies made during the silent era. To learn more about Los Angeles locations during the early days of American cinema, I highly recommend you check out John Bengtson’s work on the subject. He has written several excellent books about Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd, each of which document the “historical settings preserved in the background of their classic films, and the changes wrought by the ensuing decades.” Bengtson also runs a blog that contains a wealth of information that he can’t incorporate into his books, such as videos, PowerPoint presentations, and tours.

You can purchase his books here.