If you don't mind peeking through the embellishments, LA Confidential is a great way to see Los Angeles. By embellishments I mean the trappings (like vintage cars) imposed on the city by the filmmakers to create a Fifties crime drama. The movie is named after the city. It's steeped in it. And it was filmed almost entirely on location, with only a few actual sets created for the movie.
An LA native, director Curtis Hanson was determined to show the city off and to make the movie less of a period piece than might have been expected. So, although the movie is set in the Fifties, the style is contemporary, almost timeless, and the city is still very recognizable.
Before they started filming, he brought Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce to LA for two months to immerse them in the city. He also saturated the cast and crew with movies from the time period, films that captured the sleazy glamor of Fifties Hollywood.
His techniques worked well, with LA Confidential scooping up Oscars and fans in droves. The movie doesn't show you traditional LA hotspots like the Hollywood sign and Venice Beach. In fact Hanson avoided them deliberately, so as not to detract from the characters. What it captures instead is the feel of the city, the streets, the homes, the architecture. There were 45 locations used, in places like Echo Park, Lincoln Heights, Macarthur Park, and Elysian Park – a little off the beaten track, characterful, and very LA.
Equally LA are those amazing architectural gems like the Lovell Health House (above and below) in more affluent Los Feliz (4616 Dundee Drive, to be precise). In the movie it's the home of a high-class pimp, but in reality it was built by Richard Neutra in 1929 for physician and naturopath Philip Lovell.
From the house, you can see the famous Griffith Observatory, but, in the movie, blink and you'll miss it. It's just behind Russell Crowe's head in the shot below.
Other notable locations are City Hall, 200 North Spring Street, Downtown, which is the building the police officers work out of – striking for its pyramid-topped tower and columned entrance.
Also used were some nightspots that have been around since the dawn of time. Bob's Frolic Room (third from top) beside the Pantages Theater on Hollywood Boulevard is the real deal, a Thirties building decorated in neon on the outside and cartoons on the inside.
The cops also visit another Thirties bar, Boardner's, on North Cherokee Avenue, the Formosa Cafe (above) on Santa Monica Boulevard near La Brea (a Chinese restaurant and hangout for Hollywood stars of the Golden Age), and the Hollywood Center Motel on Sunset Boulevard.
At first it's hard to see that these are locations, as you assume most are sets. But perhaps that's part of the fun of being in LA – the division between fantasy and reality isn't always entirely clear. – Roshan McArthur