Walk A Crooked Mile - Red Scare
Walk A Crooked Mile is a communist-spy-hunt thriller filmed during the post-war red scare era. It is mostly set in San Francisco but it begins in Southern California …
Then … As the movie opens, a narrator (Reed Hadley) intones in a stern authoritarian delivery meant to deter all of us from ever breaking the law. His stentorian cadence informs us that this is Lakeview, California. Note the Thomas College sign across the street which threw CitySleuth off in hunting down this place until fellow location sleuth John Bengtson I.D.’d it for him).
… and Now, Lakeview was a fictitious name; this was actually filmed looking north on Brand Boulevard between Broadway and Wilson Avenue in the central business district of Glendale, California (map). In this shot only the end building down the block on the right on the Wilson Avenue corner has survived as it was.
… a vintage photo … here’s a photo taken in the same decade of the same block, and then some. It reveals that the Thomas College sign in the movie view referred to a beauty college, not to an establishment of higher education. The wide thoroughfare accommodated the Pacific Electric Red Car trolley lines that passed through town beginning in 1902. Here, car number 667 is seen heading toward its subway terminal destination in downtown Los Angeles.
Sadly the rapid growth of automobiles and freeways brought about a decision to close down this efficient mass transportation system. Dumb, in retrospect. The iconic cars ended up on the scrap heap, literally so in this 1961 image.
The narrator next introduces us to the Lakeview Research Laboratory of Nuclear Physics , a top-secret government facility where each worker “must be first an American of proven loyalty”. A view of the entrance and another in the opposite direction are seen, shown below.
CitySleuth is still searching for this location. It looks like an energy plant of some kind. So far he has drawn blanks with the Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power and with Southern California Edison, both of whom ran many energy plants in the 1940s. Any suggestions, dear readers?
Then … The voiceover continues over a shot of the recently built (1940) Los Angeles Federal Courthouse and Post Office, telling us that the task of guarding projects at such top-secret facilities is entrusted to the FBI. In an timely coincidence, shortly after this movie was filmed, the House Un-American Activities Committee met here to gather information on Hollywood personalities suspected of Communist involvement.
… and Now, the building is still there, at at 312 N. Spring Street (map), now used as a County Superior Courthouse. Farther south down the road is the Art Deco styled City Hall .
And finally we are introduced to the special agent in charge of the Lakeview security detail, Daniel F. O’Hara (Dennis O’Keefe). We are assured that he works long after regular hours, night after night, vetting anyone connected to the LakeView Research Laboratory, especially those with a suspicious past.
Then … During a call from one of his agents tailing a known communist party member he hears shots fired, and races through the city, here passing an auto dealer, only to find the agent has been shot point blank in the telephone booth. Killing an FBI agent? This is serious stuff.
The 1940 Los Angeles city directory provided two locations for this auto dealer of which the 1220 - 1234 S. Figueroa address is the one seen in the movie.
… and Now, the auto dealer is long gone and a modern building with a parking garage sits on the site. On the other hand the building farther down the block appears to be the original. Note too the absence of the tram tracks. All too familiar in many cities today, what once was a bustling downtown street is now a lonely shadow of its former self.