Hollywood: Raymond Chandler
Image by Samantha Decker under Creative Commons License.

California, Los Angeles Guide (A): Hollywood: Raymond Chandler

Follow classic hardboiled crime novelist Raymond Chandler through the heart of Hollywood, where he set his novels The Big Sleep, Farewell My Lovely and The Long Goodbye. Chandler’s cynical, witty detective, Philip Marlowe, tracked down grifters, blackmailers and murderous dames on the hard streets of Hollywood, and you can visit the buildings-some in their original condition-which still resonate with the grit and glitz of iconic noir Hollywood.
This article is featured in the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" on iTunes App Store and Google Play. You can download the app to your mobile device to read the article offline and create a self-guided walking tour to visit the attractions featured in this article. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Walk Route

Guide Name: Hollywood: Raymond Chandler
Guide Location: USA » Los Angeles
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 2.0 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.0 km
Sight(s) featured in this guide: Musso & Frank   Geiger's Rare Books   Chinese Theater   The Villa Bonita   Marlowe's Residence   Marlowe's Residence: Long Goodbye   Whitley Terrace Steps   Marlowe's Cahuenga Office   KFDK Radio   Hollywood Bungalows   Hollywood Chronicle  
Author: Julie Grist
Author Bio: Julie Grist and Molly Maguire offer fresh, hip, intriguing snapshot tours of Hollywood and Los Angeles that feature the music, fashion, literature, art and film of this wildly creative city. Julie is a photographer, author and social animal who has trekked through Hollywood for 20 years. Molly is co-owner of an international book distribution company, SCB, and a publisher of Literary Maps, recognized by the Library of Congress in two national tours.
Author Website: http://under construction
1
Musso & Frank

1) Musso & Frank

Philip Marlowe drops into Musso's in The Long Goodbye while trying to untangle the web of murder and deceit at the core of the 1953 novel featuring the shifty Englishman Terry Lenox, the drunk writer Wade, his seductive wife Eileen, and a bevy of corrupt cops and Mexican wiseguys. Marlowe orders his signature gimlet (a gin and lime juice cocktail) which is a clue to the resolution of the story. Musso & Frank, the longest-running open eatery in LA, dates to 1919 and was also frequented by Raymond Chandler himself. It was once a classy neighborhood place where writers, screenwriters and luminaries nursed their Scotches during the Golden Years of Hollywood. Step inside and you can almost picture Marlowe at a booth awaiting the platinum presence of Eileen Wade. The waiters and the menu are reminiscent of days gone by, making Musso & Frank a great place to start or end your walking tour, with a toast to Raymond Chandler, who made mystery into literature. Open Tues-Sat, 11 am – 11 pm, closed Sundays and Mondays. “Alcohol is like love, he said. The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, and the third is routine. After that you take the girl’s clothes off.” (The Long Goodbye, 1953.)
2
Geiger's Rare Books

2) Geiger's Rare Books

Chandler enthusiasts believe he used this location, The Outpost Building, as a model for Geiger’s Rare Books in The Big Sleep. In this 1939 novel full of double-crossing dames, debauched heiresses and cold-blooded murder, the bookstore is a front for a pornography lending library – allowing owner Arthur Geiger to blackmail his clients, including the daughter of the powerful General Sternwood who Marlowe eventually discovers, doped and nude, with Geiger's dead body not far away. The Outpost Building was originally an apartment building that hosted several small shops below. Today, the building’s lobby showcases some fine B&W photographs of Hollywood in the 1920s-1950s, and still houses small businesses below.

“A.G. Geiger’s place was a store frontage on the north side of the boulevard near Las Palmas…There was a lot of oriental junk in the windows. I don’t know whether it was any good, not being a collector of antiques, except unpaid bills.” (The Big Sleep, Chapter 4)
3
Chinese Theater

3) Chinese Theater

Grauman's Chinese Theater opened in 1927 and is designed to look like an enclosed Chinese temple garden resplendent with obelisks, a pagoda and stone dragon. It was a focal point of Hollywood Blvd in Chandler's time, and he must have passed it often enroute to his favorite Hollywood watering holes. Marlowe used the Chinese as a feint in The Big Sleep so that Bernie Ohls, the D.A.’s chief investigator wouldn’t learn that Geiger’s Rare Books, just a couple blocks east, was where Marlowe was truly headed in his own investigation of the Sternwood family. Ohls drops Marlow off at the Chinese after they dragged out General Sternwood’s dead chauffeur from the deep waters off Lido Pier. Still the centerpiece of Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, the Grauman Chinese Theatre screens current movies and is often the site of major Hollywood premieres. The courtyard cement displays over 200 handprints, footprints and autographs of celebrities, the oldest being those of movie mogul Sid Grauman and actors Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, who were also original investors. They made their marks in the wet cement in 1927. The courtyard is usually busy with costumed film and cartoon characters who are happy to pose for photos with tourists, often for a small fee.
4
The Villa Bonita

4) The Villa Bonita

This six-story bay-windowed apartment is the type of building Marlowe frequented often while investigating secondary characters like the Big Sleep's Joe Brody, who commandeered the pornography left behind after Geiger’s death. The ill-fated Joe is shot to death by Geiger's gay lover at the Villa. Just blocks north of the seedy side and dark corners of Hollywood Boulevard, one can almost picture Marlowe scoping out the comings and goings at the demure Villa Bonita from the shadows of Pinehurst Park, just across the road.

Upon entering Joe Brody’s place, Marlowe noted its simple elegance: “It was a cheerful room with good furniture and not too much of it. French windows in the end wall opened on a stone porch and looked across the dusk at the foothills.” (The Big Sleep, Chapter 14.)

The Villa Bonita is still valued today by both old and new Hollywood residents for its classic 1929 Italian Renaissance architecture. It has been designated an architectural landmark in the National Registry of Historic Places.
5
Marlowe's Residence

5) Marlowe's Residence

This woodsy bungalow, perched on the side of an overgrown hill and accessed by a steep stairway to the front door, is a perfect example of Philip Marlowe's Yucca Ave residence as described in The Long Goodbye and Playback. Chandler located the bungalow in Laurel Canyon, a ravine two miles west of this home, but the similar foothill ecosystem replete with fragrant eucalyptus trees and shaggy landscaping, as well as Chandler's description, are a dead-on match for this locale.

"I was living that year in a house on Yucca Avenue in the Laurel Canyon district. It was a small hillside house on a dead-end street with a long flight of redwood steps to the front door, and a grove of eucalyptus trees across the way." (The Long Goodbye, Chapter 1)

From here you'll have to hike up the hill a bit, but its well worth the views of 1920s and '30s homes that cluster on the hillsides, many of which were present during Chandler’s time in Hollywood.
6
Marlowe's Residence: Long Goodbye

6) Marlowe's Residence: Long Goodbye

Fans of Robert Altman's 1973 film version of The Long Goodbye starring Elliot Gould will recognize this iconic structure as Philip Marlowe’s residence in the film. In the first scene, Marlowe leaves his apartment on the east wing and takes the elevator down to buy a certain brand of canned food for his very discriminating cat. Across the way, a bevy of young Hollywood beauties preen and sun on the terrace, teasing Marlowe even as gangster Marty Augustine and his thugs barge into Marlowe’s apartment and rough him up. Altman’s 1970s film modernized the wise-cracking, tough Marlowe of the film noir era, and changed many plot elements and locations, notably placing the Wades' home in Malibu.

The Italianate High Tower was built in the 1950s for residents to access the warren of small streets and homes above which are not reachable by road. Broadview Terrace, featured in the film, is a cluster of 1936 buildings in the Streamline Moderne style reminiscent of a steamship.

Walk through the winding streets of the Hollywood Hills before heading back to Hollywood Boulevard. Begin by turning your back to the High Tower and find the small walking street on your left, Los Altos Place. Walk down the steps and follow the hairpin turn of Rockledge Road, take a left on Camrose Dr and pass the Hollywood Bowl at 2101 N Highland. Cross at the light and walk straight till you see the small street sign for Whitley Terrace Steps.
7
Whitley Terrace Steps

7) Whitley Terrace Steps

Walk up the Whitley Terrace steps and soak in the charm of Whitley Heights, a Mediterranean style hillside village nestled between Hollywood Blvd and the Hollywood Bowl, finished in 1928. Seemingly remote, but actually very close to all the action, the area was home to Hollywood stars Rudolph Valentino, Tyrone Power, Gloria Swanson, Rosalind Russell, Judy Garland, and Marlene Dietrich. The Spanish, Mediterranean and Tudor homes look much as they did back in Chandler’s time, and are protected by national, state and local preservation laws.

Marlowe may have trudged up steps just like these, persuing his next lead in the 1940 book, Farewell My Lovely: “There were 280 steps up to Cabrillo Street…. The handrail was as cold and wet as a toad’s belly.” (Farewell, My Lovely)

At the top of the steps take a right and stay on Whitley Terrace, (don’t turn off on Bonair) until you come to Whitley Ave. Turn right on Whitley Ave. and walk down the hill back toward Hollywood Boulevard. As you descend, look for the Dutch Colonial Whitley Courtyard Apartments at 1734 Whitley Ave (on your left). This is a fine example of the modest homes, built around a courtyard, in which Chandler places his secondary characters.
8
Marlowe's Cahuenga Office

8) Marlowe's Cahuenga Office

Chandler scholars are so certain that this stately pink granite monolith was Chandler’s inspiration for Marlowe’s 6th floor office that the City of LA designated the intersection of Hollywood and Cahuenga as Raymond Chandler Square in 1994. It’s easy to look up at the top floor windows and imagine Marlowe, opening the deep bottom drawer of his desk, pulling out a bottle of Old Taylor Whiskey and downing a slug, before moving to the window to scan the street below.

The building was designed in 1921 by the father-son architectural team who also designed Los Angeles City Hall and Bullocks Wilshire. (117 words)
9
KFDK Radio

9) KFDK Radio

The swanky blonde, Mrs Grayle from Farewell My Lovely, told Marlowe she met her gigolo companion Lin Marriott at the radio station owned by her millionaire husband. This 1930s corner building, with its second story offices that once housed a radio station, could be the model for KFDK Radio, where the lovers met. By the end of Farewell My Lovely, Marlowe finds that the strikingly gorgeous Mrs Grayle, who was really the red-haired Velma, is responsible for a number of murders while trying to protect her identity.
10
Hollywood Bungalows

10) Hollywood Bungalows

Small wood-framed California bungalows, like these few remaining homes on Hudson Ave., used to be prevalent throughout Hollywood and Los Angeles, and Chandler often described his middle-class characters as living in these modest homes. Marlowe may have stood on a porch such as this in Farewell, My Lovely, attempting to track down bar owner Jesse Florian, but ultimately ended up tangoing with his beautiful, and very drunk, widow.

"Los Angeles was just a big sunny place with ugly homes and no style, but goodhearted and peaceful. It had the climate they just yap about now. People used to sleep out on porches.” (The Little Sister, 1949)
11
Hollywood Chronicle

11) Hollywood Chronicle

In Chandler's The High Window, Marlowe chases down the priceless Brasher Doubloon, a rare coin that his client, Mrs. Murdock, wants back. He follows a series of suspects, all of whom have had their hands on the coin, and all of whom get dead. One of these is George Anson Phillips, a two-bit private eye so inept he needs the counter girl at the Chronicle newspaper on Hollywood Boulevard to create a personal ad to launch his career as a P.I.:

“Why worry? Why be doubtful or confused? Why be gnawed by suspicion? Consult cool, careful, confidential, discreet investigator, George Anson Phillips." (The High Window.) Chandler must have smirked as he wrote this description of the hapless investigator Philips, now dead in a pool of blood who was obviously no match for Marlowe.

This Streamline Moderne building with clean, sweeping lines was home to the Hollywood Reporter from 1936-1999. You can just imagine a flurry of fedoraed reporters and Girl Fridays entering the once-posh building to crank out copy for the Hollywood business newspaper. The LA Weekly occupied the building for a number of years after that, but this lovely and historic building, full of Hollywood gossip and memories, lies vacant today.

Head back the way you came along Sunset Blvd for a short half block and turn left toward Hollywood Boulevard and you’ll soon find yourself back at Musso & Frank, where you began. Stop in and order another gimlet. Chandler, and Marlowe, would approve.

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