A friend of mine took me on a tour of Raymond Chandler’s Hollywood yesterday. It was fascinating and, as a British reader, pretty eye opening. Until I arrived in LA I hadn’t appreciated how the events in The Big Sleep unfold in a such small area of Hollywood. Geiger’s store isn’t that far Marlowe’s office or from Laverne Terrace and the Sternwood mansion, though not a real address, is in West Hollywood, which is just around the corner. Apart from Marlowe’s visit to Eddie Mars’ club and the penultimate scenes with Eddie Mars’ wife, most of action occurs in a pretty small part of Los Angeles.
I wanted to share two photographs from the tour. Firstly, this is a shot of Cahuenga Building which is where Marlow’s has his office in Farewell My Lovely.
Unfortunately we couldn’t get inside, but we went to a building across the road, The Hollywood Building, which was built around the same time. Inside we saw the sort of door that would have led to Marlowe’s office. For whatever reason I can’t get the image to upload but you can see it here. I know that it is ‘just a door but to people like me who have only read about these things, it is pretty evocative. Here are the opening lines of The Little Sister
The pebbled glass door is lettered in flaked black paint: “Phillip Marlowe . . . Investigations.” It is a reasonably shabby door at the end of a reasonably shabby corridor in the sort of building that was new about the year the all-tile bathroom became the basis of civilization. The door is locked, but next to it is another door with the same legend which is not locked. Come on in–there’s nobody in here but me and a big bluebottle fly.
Clearly this is the sort of door Chandler was thinking about when he imagined Marlowe sitting in his office, watching blue bottles.