George Kaplan tells us about the place Ridley Scott shot Blade Runner

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:Bradbury MansionHarold 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.

yanco varda (gallery) anais nin henry miller bradbury buildingAnd, now I turn you over to George:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

62 Comments »

    • And, in our own backyard! But, it took a friend from England for us to get the backstory. I had no idea the designer was instructed from beyond… “Mark Wyman – take the – Bradbury building – and you will be – successful”.

    • Cool is the word! I’ve always liked to see the Bradbury on-screen but it’s background is so wonderfully weird isn’t it?!
      – George

      • “it’s”. Nuts! That should be “its” of course. Hello, I am Illiterate, what is your name? 😉

  1. Hey, S.K., doesn’t everyone love Carl with his funny battered hat?! And who can forget Simon Oakland’s Vincenzo – from explaining the plot of Psycho (it was Norman as “Mother”!) to putting up with Kolchak 😉
    I even have a fondness for the series, I mean, where else are you going to get a werewolf on a cruise-liner with Darren McGavin cracking wise?!

      • Yes. Do seek it out, if only for McGavin and Oakland. The Night Stalker and Night Strangler are fun, creepy telepics (Dan “Dark Shadows” Curtis, Richard Matheson). The series is, however, dumb but trashily entertaining with memorable actors of the time and whacko plots!

  2. Oh, what you missed! 🙂 But hey! London! They aired the two tv movies and then – for the first time, I think – the series over here in the nineties where I saw it as a teenager.
    Oh, there is one tv movie I saw when I was around Ten that scared me to death. It was called Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark and featured Kim Darby menaced by these little imp-like *things* released when an old fireplace was unblocked. They ran around whispering “one of us, one of us…” *CREEPY*! When you’re Ten. Help, I need a hug, now, V!

  3. Well thank you so much George.That is a truly fascinating story.Advice from beyond re architecture is a first for me.Oddly enough and I am sure this is co-incidenc, the building does look like some structures I have seen in so called spirit drawings,albeit much better designed ,as such drawings are almost inevitably technically awful.Some exceptions being art using automatic drawing from experienced/trained artists,using such processes to tap into the unconscious mind{thats the theory at least}

    Looking Backward is on my shelf ,but I have never read it.I believe that he was something of a curious egg.Perhaps I shoud climb up,blow the dust off and at least dip in.

    I have not read Ray B for years,although in my teens he used to be a favourite writer.You know what, I still have not seen-The Illustrated Man

    • “Such drawings are almost inevitably technically awful”, you can say that again. I once dabbled in automatic drawing and drew a face that looked pike Freddy Krueger! Yikes!

  4. Muchas gracias, Edward, you are too kind. I was rather afraid I might bore people to death! A curious egg, indeed. Actually, that’s something people say to me a lot, what’s that you say? Well, they say to me “you’re looking backward, today, George”! Boom-boom! Awful and tasteless, I know 🙂
    H. P. Lovecraft’s stories have a lot of weird angles, and eldritch architecture in them though I’m no expert. Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House (adapted as The Haunting directed by Robert Wise, forget the execrable remake) is a very good book in which the angles in rooms are somehow “off” creating a vague sense of unease. Also, Richard Matheson’s Hell House (adapted as The Legend of Hell House with Roddy McDowall, Gayle Hunnicutt, Clive Revill, Pamela Franklin) is another novel with a strange, creepy house – if a silly resolution.
    I’m reading Fahrenheit 451 at the moment or trying to, and I have Bradbury’s stories on a pile. Fahrenheit is very good as are many of the classic tales but his style gets gloopier and congeals in later years particularly.
    The Illustrated Man? Rod Steiger. Peculiar not very coherent picture but worth watching I think. Once.

    • The Haunting is the only movie remember being frightened by… I wonder if it’s because the architecture is subtly off. Very interesting. Oh George, dear, please check your email inbox. Thank you, V

      • Yes, fascinating isn’t it? Oh and the photography *warps* things. Remember the bulging door? Chills! And the sound!
        Oh, I’ve checked my email now, darling V. Thank you ever so.

    • Actually George I can only give my response and that was not oh yawn how bored I am ,but hope I can write something at least as interesting.

      H.P Lovecraft is a favourite writer who has certainly influenced me artistically.My eldest daughter loves him too.I like the way that he generously allowed his Mythos to be shared around his circle of friends.Have you read Clark Ashton Smith for example?

      I have often wondered about Lovecrafts sanity however.I have no firm views on the matter and unlike Phillip K Dick there is nothing confirming a diagnosis of possible mental instability.If you know differently please let me know.

      You have me at a disadvantage.I have never seen any of those films.I have however made a mental note to look out for them.I think you know more about films than me.

      Speaking of strange angles, in some of the literature on so called astral projection{I make no judgement as to what it might be}people who have had these experiences sometimes mention odd angles.

      Oh two footnotes, please dont go thinking I am an expert on H.P.Lovecraft as I am not and secondly{and if you dont already know it} Clark Ashton Smith was a respected poet and a visual artist, although if you have not already seen it his visual art to my mind is crude

      • Flattered, Edward. Thanks. Your comment on Smith’s visual art was very funny to my mind. Such as my mind is… Lovecraft’s sanity is a vexed point isn’t it, a reading of his work would suggest that he was no stranger to being s bit bonzo in the breadbasket but that isn’t necessarily true. Certainly his friend Robert E Howard was a fragile sort (I don’t claim to be superstrong however!) and Lovecraft appears to have had some pretty unpleasant sexual hang-ups, look at all the gellid monstrosities in his work. Oddly vaginal one might say. Men who fear or even hate women make zero sense to me. A world without Women? Oh God, no. What a nightmare notion, yet some men fear women, their power, their minds, their bodies and imagine themselves superior. Pathetic. Um, well, back on topic, there is no real evidence for claiming Lovecraft was insane per se but he wasn’t healthy and of course he was a terrible racist! But his imagination is as you say unique. I know of Smitg and his art but haven’t read any of his stories. Thanks fir the stimulating response.
        George

    • Morgan,on a more serious note I have just looked at your site and was most impressed.I shall be returning quite a lot.I read your piece on Lost Horizon,which I saw first on British TV when a child.It made a great impression on me as a lovely dream.It was only later that I read the book and caught up with the legends and stories that may have helped form it.

      As it happens I have a long standing interest in Tibet and a very small collection of travel books about it,my oldest being from the 20s.

      I will return to your site later.

      • Sorry for the overlapping conversation but – you’ve probably heard of the travel writer from the 20s and 30s, Richard Halliburton – if you haven’t read it you might like “India Speaks with Richard Halliburton” published in 1933 🙂

  5. Thank you George and V (there’s sitcom in there for the taking).
    Yet another engrossing back story of a building, one I much admired when I was in LA. I seem to remember wandering there from The Biltmore where we were staying… is that possible (The Dandy is known to perambulate for lengthy periods)?
    I do hope to see more of the gorgeous George her or elsewhere…
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • Why, Mr Dandy, whatever have I done to be the recipient of such delicious flattery? Whatever it is I shall have to do more of it 🙂 I am highly susceptible to praise, it was ever thus. Seriously, thank you ever so much. None of this would be possible without the Sainted Ms Lester of whom even the very angels themselves could never praise enough!
      George and V : The Sitcom? Perhaps His Girl Friday crossed with The Odd Couple and Bringing Up Baby?! Well, in my mind at least! Curious that V seems to think George Kaplan is an assumed identity. She might think that but I couldn’t possibly comment… What is this North by North West film? Ha.
      Yours, George K

  6. The story reminded me of the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, where I lived for a time in grade school and later in high school. In 1884, Sarah Winchester’s husband (invented of the winchester rifle) and child died. A Boston medium told Mrs. Winchester that she and her fortune ($20 million in 19th c. dollars) would be haunted by the ghosts of everyone who had died by her husband’s gun – unless she moved west and built a house for the spirits to live in. She continued to add rooms until her death 30 years later. As the house now stands, there are 160 rooms and the tour guides tell you not to stray or you will certainly get lost. When I was a kid, it was isolated and much more dramatic than now, when it’s dwarfed by the surrounding freeway and shopping center, but it’s still worth a visit if you find yourself with time on your hands in San Jose. http://www.alamedainfo.com/Winchester_Mystery_House_San_Jose_CA_C31107.jpg

    • I’ll always wanted to go to the Winchester Mystery House, especially since a friend of mine in SF went there and told me the overwhelming feeling of poignancy she had – she said she was almost moved to tears by the thought of this woman with no children, her only company the people she worked with on the house, doing penance for all those years…
      Hey, and there’s also supposed to be a great place in San Jose for date shakes and kabob – if you know where it is please tell me!

      • I no longer know San Jose very well. In December, we drove down to meet some east coast friends who were visiting, and we wound up doing what I did whenever possible when I was in HS – we got out of town (in this case, up Highway 9, into the Santa Cruz mountains, to Big Basin Redwoods State Park. For date shakes and kabob’s, you’ll do better with google than me.

  7. Thank you for that, Morgan. I’d only a vague idea about the Winchester Mystery House. I really like that story. I imagine a house labyrinthine where you may get lost because the layout keeps *changing*! Moving into fiction, there’s a book entitled House of Leaves which is about an apparently haunted house which people really can *lose* themselves in as it’s dimensions keep changing. They enter and they may not come out. The novel is dense, experimental, and literary (and it can be irritating truth be told!) yet it’s also really creepy…
    There’s a concept that some houses may act like a psychic battery they *store* the events there (perhaps it has to do with the architecture, I have no idea 😉 ) so this explains hauntings, people pick up on this charge. It’s a nice weird idea! Shirley Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House and the great movie version, The Haunting, are about that (the character Eleanor Lance is particularly sensitive to the charge. Though the book/film leaves it up to us whether she helps to cause the psychic phenomena) and Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot and – especially – The Shining use the concept too, though the Overlook Hotel is it’s implied aware and *malignant* shaped by the terrible events that happened there. Oops, rambled off-topic. I know all about this from my late teenage years!
    It’s a pity that the Mystery House’s majesty is damaged by encroaching development. Boo. Must have been a fantastic place to live. I’d like to go there (“Do you know the way to San Jose?”!)

    • Hi George,yes the Winchester mystery house is amazing.I have only seen pictures of the internal arrangement such as I believe staircases going into walls etc, but of course leading nowhere ,so as to confuse the ghosts.Quite surreal images in fact ,think Rene Magritte{one of my favourite surrealists} with such things as Steam trains emerging from fireplaces.

      The psychic battery idea seems to have been around for ever.Did you ever see-The Stone Tapes ?I did years ago and I think and hope that it might be on Youtube.

      I loved The Shining although apparently Stephen King did not.I recently bought his own version of it{was it a TV movie?} and whilst it was interesting I think I wil stick with the first film,which still scares me.Keeping both movies however,as its sometimes good to see how a given story is tackled by different directors.Hound of he Baskervilles would be a good example of this.

      I believe Stephen Kings own version actually features the hotel he concieved the story in whilst staying there.It had a makeover paint job done to its plain white internal walls for the shooting and the woodgraining is there to this day as the owners liked it.

      Oh and I dont know the weay to San Jose and would certainly get lost.I do however know the song and its a favourite.

    • I definitely believe that structures can retain the vibe of events and the psyches of the people that inhabited them. The most notable instance that I recall was some time ago when I visited a friend who lived in Stockton. I wanted to do some photographing on the outskirts of town, so she drove me around and I spotted an abandoned concrete structure. Nothing to identify what it was, but within a matter of minutes I felt oppressed and depressed and wanted to leave. As we drove away, she mentioned that it was a long abandoned slaughter house.

      • Morgan, I certainly entertain the idea that some places retain some sort of memory or perhaps just a feeling that can be tapped into.I remember becoming for no apparent reason almost terrified on country road for no apparent reason.

        The experiece was so stron, I retained it for years and could quite easily slip back and away into the feeling.In recent times I built on the experiece when writing a yet to be published short story called -A Cruel Frost.

        My home town has a very old section with some very narrow lanes between buildings.One is so narrow I think in places you can almost stretch you arms out and touch the sides.It has a very oppressive atmosphere at night,which no amount of lighting dispels and I have always hurried quickly through it.

        I wonder whether the Britsh-Society for Psychical Research has done any work on memory and places I am almost sure they have.

        One of the founders of the SPR was Edmund Gurney {with a name like that, should he not he have been in a Gothic novel?}A very interesting looking person as his pictures show.He met his death in my hometown.

      • I do remember a couple of times when I was house hunting walking into a house and immediately telling the realtor I didn’t need to do a walk through and leaving. I felt something amiss and didn’t want to explore further. It is odd how structures have what you can the “vibe”.

  8. Yes, The Stone Tape by Nigel Kneale. Poor Jane Asher! I think Jackson’s book was the first novel to explicitly use the battery idea I may be wrong.
    King did indeed dislike Kubrick’s Shining, I can understand why because though it is quite creepy and well-shot there’s also an inhumaneness to it and the characterizations are “off” (the little boy, Danny, is portrayed almost as a schizophrenic which doesn’t make sense because he actually *does* still have paranormal abilities in the film. Jack Torrance transforms from the tormented alcoholic with real emotions of the book into an unpleasant loon even before he goes nuts with an axe!) yet it’s still, obviously, a hundred times better than the King-approved painfully mediocre tv version. The novel is far superior to both of them as I recall. Wooh! Rambling today.
    While some things should never be remade (Casablanca for one, Citizen Kane obvs.!) others, such as Hound, Dracula, Frankenstein, have benefited from reinterpretation. They’re mostly “genre” stories, aren’t they? Some books resist being made into movies – The Great Gatsby anyone? Wonderful novel, impossible to perfectly translate, it’s too *tricky* (I thought Bruce Dern and Lois Chiles and others were pretty good in the seventies take, tho’ Bruce didn’t look like Buchanan yet the picture didn’t really work. Redford and Farrow just couldn’t do those characters justice)

  9. My you all do go on! 🙂
    One of the most amazing things about the Bradbury is that the exterior gives no hint of what’s inside. Truly wonderful!

    • Vickie,a late reply to you and thank you for telling me about Richard Halliburton.In fact I had never heard of him until you mentioned him.My goodness what a character.he certainly belonged to the hard school of travelling and an admirer of Rupert Brooke as well.

      I am certainly going to look out for anything by him.He sounds incredibly exciting and has quite taken my imagination by storm in fact.They just do not make them like that anymore.People like him larger than life as they seem make good templates for stories.

      Cowards like me just sit at home reading their adventures and going ohhh at stuff. On one of his adventures he was given several kilos of shrunken skulls as a present.What does one say to a present like that?-Oh thank you chief – just what I have always wanted,they will go soooooooooo well with the nice velvet curtains……..

      I note that he was lost at sea and never recovered.My old school was named after the explorer Col Fawcett who was lost in The Amazon whilst looking for The City of Gold.Ah-but those were the days before package holidays.Smile.

      • Thanks I found the link really interesting indeed.I have copied a few of the images for my personal collection.I was intrigued by the strange towers.Do you have any idea what they were?I would be most interested to know.Lovely picture showing the Japanese writing caught my eye also-very evocative as were all the pictures.

        The Japanese writing picture put me in mind of evocative pictures that have caught my eye also in Chinas Shanghai Bund area pre the Second World War.A wonderful collision of East and West with Art Deco buildings galore.It must have been a very vibrant, although also dangerous time and not good for all by any means.

        An example of the not very good times for the Chinese was found out during course of research.Death Carts were sent into the street of Shanghai to pick up the dead from families who were just too poor to bury their deceased relatives.

      • No you are right and no amount of plastic surgery could help either.Well I suppose being a mummy is at least one way of getting a very,very tight skin.Apparently a very good job was done on Eva Peron although she was moved I believe around a bit.

  10. Ha! Yeah, you’re dead right, David (about us going on – screw Twitter! – and the Bradbury) It’s a fantastic contrast. Better than those buildings crap on the outside, and crap on the inside 😉

  11. Goodness, this is a wealth of information. Facsinating. Did Hal Roach film the Little Rascals in his home? I think he might have…
    Is it wrong of me to want to go out and purchase a ouiji board? 😉
    Lisa

  12. Miss Lisa did you ever see the episode of The Waltons with a Ouija board (it was probably called “The Ouija Board”!), don’t do it! 😉

  13. George quite agree some stories should never be remade, some provide a more mallable template to take in various dirctions.I rather like that in fact as its very interesting to compare one interpretation with another.

  14. Edward – “(…) but those were the days before package holidays. Smile” Bwahahaha! Very good, sir. (Grins) And as for the “several kilos of shrunken skulls as a present”, they do go *so* well with the drapes!
    My local museum has a rather dilapidated mummy and an unfortunate shrunken-headed individual. I wonder, wherever does he get his hats? Ha.

    • Well if the skulls were small enough I suppose they could be used as decorations along the bottom of the curtains.Would not do to allow -The Ladies Flower Arranging Guild-to use that room though.

      Might be a useful idea though,if I ever wrote a bad taste guide to revamping your home.The snob in me is coming out,but who cares.Desecrating Your Home On A Budget-might be a good working title.

  15. “Desecrating Your Home On A Budget”! Ha. It’s not really snobbery if you’re right, now, is it? 😉
    Perhaps the skulls could be used for a game of boules? Would Tim Burton be interested?
    “A skeleton team of hatters”?! Ouch. Heh.
    You should see the museum’s mummy no amount of concealer will help his complection… Nor Mr Shrunken Head’s…

  16. Ha ha.No Eva Peron did not move around at all during the process as she was well beyond it.My writing was unclear if a bit funny there by implication.The preserved remains I believe travelled.

  17. Hello all! Late to the party, but we’ll just have to get over that. Love the Bradbury House, and love Double Indemnity!! As for The Shining, I will have to respectfully disagree with Mr. Kaplan – I don’t care what the original book was like, nor how much the movie differs from it … this movie has a magic and a completely unfathomable draw, to me and many others, that far outweighs its technical facts. Yes, there were many continuity errors, yes, there were many deviations from Stephen King’s book… and yet it manages to create an otherness for itself. As for “inhumaneness”… that is, I believe, what makes the whole thing scary. The movie is a masterpiece of deliciousness, and my husband and I watch it at least four or five times a year, and insert quotes from it whenever and wherever possible in our daily conversations.

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