Lewis Bradbury was a mover and shaker in Los Angeles of the 1890s. In the 1920s Hal Roach opened a film studio in his old house on Bunker Hill, the Rolin Film Company. This is the house when Lewis lived there:Harold Lloyd called the place “pneumonia hall” due to the chilling drafts (if that sounds familiar it’s because I lifted it from an old post.)
George Kaplan, is our guest blogger today – when I told him I’d sourced a photo of Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller visiting the Bradbury Building and Yanco Varda’s art gallery in the 1960s he inquired if it was decent – proof positive, it was.
Hello everyone, have you ever seen Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner? Remember the dilapidated but impressive building at the end, the one that a bleached blond Rutger Hauer pursues Harrison Ford through whilst dressed only in his underpants (well, that’s how it looks!)? If you have you’ve seen the Bradbury Building – as many of you doubtless know already. Regular visitors to the inestimable Ms Lester’s incomparable weblog will already have encountered many examples of wonderful ( or sometimes “unique”) LA architecture , both movie-related and not, the Bradbury Building is another deserving its place on that list.
The building was commissioned by property tycoon Lewis Bradbury who assigned draftsman George Wyman the task of designing it when local architect Sumner Hunt’s original version proved unsatisfactory. Wyman’s assignment appears all the more unusual when one learns that he had no formal training as an architect. And here’s where things get really weird, Fearless Reader, Wyman originally turned down the opportunity until he was convinced to change his mind by… His *dead* brother! Yes, you read that correctly, Wyman agreed to undertake the task when he received a message via Ouija board “Mark Wyman – take the – Bradbury building – and you will be – successful”. Mark proved to be one shrewd spectre as it was indeed a success, a great and much-feted one; one moreover that Wyman was never to repeat, though he didn’t really need to.
Wyman’s grandson was early SF movie fan (and creator of Famous Monsters of Filmland) Forrest “Forrie” Ackerman who became friends with – in an eerie coincidence – another Bradbury, Ray of Fahrenheit 451, Something This Way Comes et al fame. Enhancing the SF links beyond Bradbury and Blade Runner is this following quotation from those fine folks at Wikipedia : “Wyman was especially influenced by 1887 science fiction novel Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy which (told of a) utopian society in 2000. In Bellamy’s book the average commercial bulding is described “as a vast hall full of light, received not alone from the windows on all sides but from the dome, the point of which was a hundred feet above… The walls and ceiling were frescoed in mellow tints calculated to soften without aborbing the light which flooded the interior.”
Viewing photographs of the Bradbury Building or visiting it would tend to confirm how greatly influenced by that description Wyman was. The neo-italian renaissance design and the illumination from above quite closely match Bellamy’s fictional vision. Unfortunately for him Lewis Bradbury did not live to see the Grand Opening of the building that still bears his name yet it still stands restored to glory. Today it contains – among other things – various law firms and government agencies including the LAPD’s Professional Conduct Bureau (formerly Internal Affairs). Currently residing in the lobby is a connection to movie history in the shape of a sculpture of Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp on loan from the Hollywood Roosevelt.
For movie and television lovers the Bradbury Building can be greeted like an old friend; quite apart from Blade Runner it has made appearances in amongst many others : Citizen Kane; Double Indemnity; The Outer Limits : Demon with a Glass Hand (written by Harlan Ellison, starring Bob Culp); The Night Strangler (the second appearance by Darren McGavin’s Kolchak); Chinatown; and, recently, The Artist. So lets hear it for the Bradbury Building in all its incarnations.