Don’t Forget It, Jake

Ida'sHouse

One of the fun by-products of living in the City of Angels is creating personal Hollywood tours for yourself on idle weekends. You can also share them with friends. We once had some good folks visiting from Kansas City who insisted on riding the O.J. Slow Speed Route and seeing the site of the Sharon Tate Manson Family murders, but that was a little morbid, to be honest.

Recently, I made two brief detours on the way to Dodger Stadium to show people Ida Sessions’ apartment. You remember Ida, right? The struggling actress who pretended to be Evelyn Mulwray in the very first scene of Chinatown? Well, she didn’t make it past the two-thirds mark of the movie; in fact, Jack Nicholson paid a morning call to her bungalow pictured above, only to find her dead on the kitchen floor beside a spilled cabbage.

Chinatown, the best movie ever filmed about L.A., was gorgeously photographed by John Alonzo in the early ’70s. In a time when icky soft focus lenses were all the rage in period films, Alonzo and Roman Polanski went in the other direction, displaying the city in widescreen clarity, using magic hour colors to give it a dreamy quality that was also totally natural. Anyway, Ida Sessions’ actual home address on East Kensington in Angelino Heights is supplied in the dialogue, as is the house on Canyon Drive where Evelyn is hiding her sister/daughter later in the film. There are plenty of other cool locations you can find on your own, and with the help of Google Maps, one of the great creations ever, I intend to visit them all soon.

The “Mar Vista Rest Home” where Jack and Faye Dunaway visit the unknowing elderly contributors to Noah Cross’ water scam? Right on Sunset Boulevard, near the corner of Bundy in Brentwood…

MarVistaRest

The Mulwray Mansion where Gittes drove into the driveway in his spiffy convertible? On El Molino Avenue in Pasadena. Especially like the Halloween ghosties hanging from the tree in this Google snap…

Evelyn'sHouse

Here’s the beautiful Craftsman house where Evelyn was hiding her sister/daughter, just north of Hollywood Boulevard…

SisterDaughterHouse

The Hollenbeck Bridge where J.J. Gittes first spied on Hollis Mulwray with his vintage brown binoculars? Here ya go…

HollenbeckBridge

Finally, I always assumed a spot beside a park where Gittes parked and followed Mulwray down to a rocky beach was in Pacific Palisades, but no. Try the Point Fermin Park and Lighthouse at the very bottom of San Pedro. The nightspot that’s playing wonderful 1930s jazz in the film is actually Walker’s Cafe, a biker bar/eatery that currently has, as Noah Cross might say, “a nasty reputation.” Its page on Yelp is riddled with unflattering reviews and comments, citing either bad food or an unfriendly, racist vibe to the place.

Walker'sCafe

What’s fascinating is that not one of the tons of commenters even mentions that one of the early, important scenes in Chinatown (with Gites placing watches under the tire on Mulwray’s car to “mark” the time he left) was filmed there. I will never forget Chinatown—I did name our son after Gittes’ character, after allbut apparently, many people don’t even know what they’re missing.

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