Los Angeles in Fiction

Helen Hunt Jackson novel Ramona (1884) about life in early California

Worked as screenwriters in Hollywood:
F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Saroyan, Norman Mailer

European writers who made their home in LA: Christopher Isherwood, Aldous Huxley, Bertolt Brecht, Thomas Mann (wrote Doctor Faustus in 1947 while living in Los Angeles)

D: Sunny in LA

Upton Sinclair
– ran for governor of California in 1934
– wrote Oil! (1927) inspired by the Signal Hill oil boom of Long Beach in 1921

William Faulkner
– first came to LA to write for the movies in 1932
– called Hollywood “a kind of purgatory, a place where it was necessary to come from time to time to do penance”
– worked on Howards Hawks films To Have and Have Not (1945) and The Big Sleep (1946)
Golden Land (1945)

James M Cain
– arrived in Hollywood in 1931 and worked as a screenwriter for Paramount
– novel The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934)
– other novels turned into films: Double Indemnity (“I drove out to Glendale…”), Mildred Pierce

Tennessee Williams
– lived in Santa Monica in the summer of 1943 after being fired from MGM as a screenwriter
– worked on his play The Glass Menagerie while in LA
– The Mattress by the Tomato Patch (“…pairs of young lovers have wandered the streets of Santa Monica, searching for rooms to make love in.”

Nathanael West
– screenwriters at Columbia Pictures, later at RKO
– novel The Day of the Locust (1939) the best novel written about Hollywood
“He reached the end of Vine Street and began the climb into Pinyon Canyon.”

Budd Schulberg
first novel What Makes Sammy Run? (1941) about the rise of Sammy Glick from office boy to studio head

Octavio Paz
– came to California in the late 1940s on a Guggenheim fellowship
– first essay in his The Labyrinth of Solitude (1950), he describes the Mexican-American community in Los Angeles (“pachuco”)

Raymond Chandler
the seven mystery novels he wrote were all set in Los Angeles
called the “Father of Los Angeles Noir”
archetypal private eye Philip Marlowe
scripts: Blue Dahlia (1944), Strangers on a Train (1951)
The Little Sister (1949)  “Malibu. More movie stars. More pink and blue bathtubs.”

Truman Capote
Local Color (1950)
also wrote for the movies

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