Film Noir Friday: The Killers [1946]

The Killers Swedish Movie Poster

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is THE KILLERS based on a story by Ernest Hemingway. Directed by Robert Siodmak and starring Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, Edmond O’Brien, Albert Dekker and Sam Levene, THE KILLERS is a terrific film.   Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

Two hitmen, Al and Max, drive into Brentwood, New Jersey, in search of Pete “Swede” Lund, and stake out a diner he frequents, questioning, among others, customer Nick Adams about Swede’s whereabouts. After the men leave, Nick races to Swede’s boardinghouse room to warn him and is stunned when Swede seems resigned to his fate. Shortly after Nick’s departure, Al and Max find Swede waiting in his room and shoot him to death. When it is discovered Swede had a small life insurance policy with Atlantic Casual, insurance investigator James Riordan begins investigating his murder.

The Cold Turkey Pinch

What’s a cold turkey pinch? In 1930s cop speak it referred to an officer who made an arrest without any effort–no gathering of evidence, no investigation, nothing. Read on…

cold turkey pinchThanksgiving Day on “The Nickel” (Fifth Street) in 1937 was desperate living personified. LAPD Detective Lieutenants Bailey and Olson sat in the Chicago Cafe at 209 Fifth and watched as drunks shuffled past oblivious to those who would do them harm. Thanks to Old Man Depression there was more than enough misery to go around and The Nickel lacked all of the warmth, joy, and delicious aromas evident in other neighborhoods in the city.

The detectives sipped their coffees and kept their eyes peeled for the predators who preyed on helpless drunks. Known as drunk rollers the vultures robbed Skid Row inebriates of their few possessions. A man, seemingly down on his luck, seated himself beside Bailey and said: “you wouldn’t mind staking a thirsty guy to a nickel beer would you.”  After looking the stranger up and down, Bailey bought the man a brew.

Chicago Cafe at 209 Fifth Street c. 1937. [Photo is from Schultheis collection at the LAPL]

The man sat quietly nursing his beer, then he turned to Bailey and pointed at a man in a booth who had obviously passed out.  “Watch me”, the beer drinker said–then he walked over to the unconscious boozer and searched through his clothing.

When he returned to his seat he grinned at Bailey and Olson and said: “See what I got?” and held up a dollar bill. “Now I guess it’s my treat.”

“Yes, brother, I sure guess it’s your treat all right,” said Bailey as pulled out his badge and arrested his would-be benefactor.

Jack Orchard, 35, was booked at the City Jail on suspicion of robbery.

May your Thanksgiving be much happier than Jack Orchard’s (although he did get a free beer!)  Have a great Holiday and stay safe, those Black Friday sales can be murder!

I’ll pick up the story of the Mary Pickford kidnapping conspiracy in my next post.

NOTE: Amy Condit — the “desperate living” is for you.

Film Noir Friday: The Capture [1950]



Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open for a rare Saturday matinee. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is THE CAPTURE (“Another Violent story by the author of “Duel in the Sun”) starring Lew Ayres and Teresa Wright.  Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

Pursued by police across Mexican range land, American Linley Vanner seeks refuge in the adobe hut of Father Gomez. That night, an exhausted Lin, whose arm is injured, finally reveals his story to the priest: A year earlier, Lin is working as a supervisor at an oil field when he hears that the company’s payroll has been stolen and several guards who were protecting it, murdered. Lin is coaxed by his fiancée Luana to join the robbery posse, which is being led by company president Earl C. Mahoney. At first Lin refuses to consider the idea, but changes his mind when he develops a strong feeling about where the robber, whom witness Mahoney has described as “American,” might have gone.


Film Noir Saturday Matineee: Kansas City Confidential [1952]

Film Noir Poster - Kansas City Confidential_01

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open for a rare Saturday matinee. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL (aka THE SECRET FOUR) starring John Payne, Coleen Gray and Preston Foster. Billed as ” The picture that hits with bullet force and blackjack fury!”  The film inspired Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs  Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

For over a week, retired Kansas City police captain Tim Foster watches the Southwest Bank and the flower shop next door to ascertain the timing of each business’s delivery trucks. Satisfied that each truck leaves at exactly the same time every day, he then assembles a trio of criminals to help him rob the bank of its deposit: Pete Harris, a gambling addict; Tony Romano, a ladies’ man; and Boyd Kane, a cold-blooded killer.

You just know that mayhem will ensure…

Film Noir Friday: Fall Guy [1947]

 FALL GUY 1947

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is FALL GUY starring Leo Penn (billed as Clifford Penn), Robert Armstrong, Teala Loring and Elisha Cook, Jr. Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

Tom Cochrane, full of dope (cocaine) and covered with blood, is picked up by the police and then questioned by detectives Shannon (Douglas Fowley) and Taylor (Harry Strang), but manages to escape. His girl friend Lois Walter (Teala Loring), against the wishes of her guardian, Jim Grosset (Charles Arnt), assists Tom and his police-officer brother-in-law Mac (Robert Armstrong) in trying to clear Tom of a possible murder charge. Tom only recalls meeting a man in a bar and going to a party.

Cops Behaving Badly: The Jokers


Mayor George Cryer [Photo courtesy of LAPL]

The 1920s were a time of rapid growth in Los Angeles.  During the tenure of the 32nd Mayor of Los Angeles, George E. Cryer (1921-1929), the population of Los Angeles surpassed 1,000,000 and several important civic development projects were undertaken such as the construction of Central Library; City Hall; Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum; Hall of Justice; Mulholland Highway; and the Olympic Auditorium.

The Olympic Auditorium was originally supposed to cost $350,000 to build, $4.8 million in today’s dollars, but overruns pushed it above $500,000.  Land for the project was acquired at Grand Avenue and West Eighteenth Street in a twenty-five year lease deal with the Los Angeles Athletic Club.  The building was designed to be a combination convention hall, exposition building, and boxing arena and when completed it would be the largest venue of its kind with seating for 15,300 people.

Olympic Auditorium [Photo courtesy LAPL]

Olympic Auditorium [Photo courtesy LAPL]

The Olympic wasn’t just for mugs and pugs.  In May 1925 the Los Angeles Times reported that a “…colossal presentation of ‘Aida’ with elephants and camels, a chorus of more than ninety voices and a ballet of twenty-four dancers…” would be on stage at the auditorium.  I love opera and it would have been a treat to see live elephants and camels at the Olympic—it must have been a remarkable night.

Of course now you’re asking “what has civic pride and operatic spectacle got to do with cops behaving badly? “  Alas, not much except to point out that where there is big money there is an opportunity for misbehavior.

The auditorium opened to much fanfare and sold-out crowds, but there was a problem.  It was reported that at least sixty contractors had not been compensated for their work.  Liens totaling $400,000 had to be paid. It was never made clear in the newspaper accounts exactly why the contractors had been stiffed.  It sounds to me as if there was some creative bookkeeping going on, but then I’m a naturally suspicious person.

In any case the way the payments worked was simple enough—Sheriff’s deputies collected the gross box office receipts from the various events held at the auditorium and locked them up in a vault at the Sheriff’s office.  Once taxes and overhead had been deducted from the gross the deputies took the balance and applied it to the outstanding claims.jokers olympic

For several months everything went like clockwork.  But on April 16, 1926 Mrs. M.Q. Adams, a bookkeeper in the Sheriff’s civil department, noticed that the vault door was partly opened. She immediately called to Chief Civil Deputy Arthur Jewell who discovered that the previous night’s deposit of $1182 was missing. Sheriff Traeger decided not to publicize the burglary—it should be on a need-to-know basis only.  Theft of money from his office vault was damned embarrassing.

Undersheriff Biscailuz and Chief Criminal Deputy Wright were assigned to the case.  They were certain that whoever had taken the money must have known the combination to the outer door and possessed duplicate keys to the inner door.  In other words, it was an inside job.

Deputy Karl Wallich (38), one of the few people who had access to the vault, was immediately a suspect. During questioning Wallich said that after he had left the Hall of Justice in the early morning he had turned back at the Plaza to buy a pack of cigarettes. He couldn’t find a store that was open so he  ended up driving to a small market at Fifth and Spring. Wallich’s story didn’t hold up.  Deputy Wright found seven stores between the Plaza and Fifth and Spring Streets that were open early in the morning.

jokers wallichDeputy Sheriffs Heller and Johnson dropped in on Karl Wallich at his home to take his statement. They confronted him with his lie about the stores and he caved in on the spot. He wasn’t cut out for a life of crime. He produced half of the missing funds and ratted out his friend and accomplice Harry Adler (19), a civilian clerk, who quickly relinquished the other half.

Adler confessed that he had hidden himself in the vault about 10 o’clock Wednesday night waiting for the auditorium’s receipts to be deposited. Deputy Sheriffs Wallich and Barton came to the vault door about 11:30, locked up, and left the building.  Once he figured that everyone had gone Adler took a screw driver and removed the plate from the combination lock and exited the vault.  Nobody saw him leave.  He then met Karl in front of the Hall of Records where they divvied up the cash.

jokers robbery

The most surprising thing about their confessions was that both men insisted that they hadn’t stolen the money to enrich themselves—the theft was meant to be a joke!  The pair of merry pranksters said they had only wanted to get even with Deputy George Barton, a co-worker they said had teased and played jokes on them. The theft was their way of getting even.  They figured since Barton was the only person who had keys to the inner vault it would be his ass in a sling when the money disappeared. The plan was to let Barton twist in the wind for a bit then return the cash to the vault, but then” things got so hot” they couldn’t see their way out of the mess.jokers adler

Sheriff Traeger wasn’t amused by Wallich and Adler’s little stunt—he’d covered the full $1182 loss out of his own pocket until the money was returned.

Adler pleaded guilty at his arraignment. He spent ninety days in a Sheriff’s detention center and upon his release he was granted three years probation. Wallich first entered a not guilty but then he changed his mind and entered a guilty plea and requested probation.  There was no follow-up story in the newspaper so I don’t know how Wallich fared.  My guess is that he got probation.

Of course both Wallich and Adler lost their Sheriff’s Department jobs.  I wonder if the men stayed friends or if their criminal misadventure ended it.   I like to think that with their penchant for pranks the guys opened a brick and mortar joke shop—the kind that sold whoopee cushions, rubber vomit, joy buzzers, and fake dog poop.

Doesn’t everyone appreciate a good joke?


 NOTE:  Many thanks to my fellow crime historian, Mike Fratantoni for introducing me to this tale.