VERDUGO VIEWS:The scene of a crime in 1949 movie
Honolulu Avenue in Montrose is well known in the movie industry as the location in the 1949 movie “Gun Crazy,” according to Paul Ayers.
Ayers became interested in historical research when he found some Buster Keaton locations for a book, “Silent Echoes.” He describes “Gun Crazy” as “one of the most famous of the classic film noir movies, a story of doomed lovers who live and die by the gun.”
But, he said, the movie is best known for its three-minute, one-take shot of a bank robbery, filmed without cuts from the backseat of the bank robbers’ car.
“The neat thing for Glendale history buffs is that the whole scene was shot in the streets of downtown Montrose and gives a great glimpse of what the village looked like in 1949,” he said.
The scene opens on Verdugo Road, according to Ayers, with the car going north, then turning on to Broadview Drive.
“A fast right up Market Street, past the back of the Anawalt (ex-Montrose Railway) shed, left onto westbound Honolulu, then to park at the corner of Honolulu and Ocean View Boulevard, where the ‘bank’ is located,” he said. “The male lead goes in to rob the bank and the female waits.”
“During this time, a street sign with the words Ocean View can be seen through the windshield,” he said.
“The female lead encounters a policeman, knocks him down as the male emerges, and they take off, left onto southbound Ocean View, left on Broadview, then right onto Verdugo Road, where the scene ends.”
Mike Lawler, of the Crescenta Valley Historical Society, said the movie’s bank was actually the Security First National Bank.
“That bank is Faye’s today,” he said.
He was struck by the casual attitude toward guns.
“It seems to be no big deal to the beat cop that the female getaway driver is wearing a holster with a real pistol in it,” he said. “Imagine the reaction of a Glendale policeman if someone were wearing a holstered revolver in the Montrose Shopping Park today.”
Lawler put me in touch with writer John Newcombe, who is completing a documentary on La Cañada Flintridge and La Crescenta that includes a segment on “Gun Crazy.”
“It is kind of a Bonnie-and-Clyde movie,” he said. “Montrose becomes a fictional town called Hampton. They used a lock-down camera from the backseat to film the scene.”
Newcombe said the camera was not visible from outside the car and that the filmmakers told no one in Montrose about the filming.
“So, reactions from people on the street are genuine,” he said.
The movie is available on DVD, according to Ayers.
“Film noir is great, as most of the films were shot on location in Southern California for a realistic look and give interesting views of the region in the 1940s and ‘50s,” he said. “Perhaps the most well-known Glendale film noir location is the train station used in ‘Double Indemnity.’”
John Drayman, whose family business has been in the Security First building for 25 years, said his favorite scene is after they rob the bank and the bank’s alarm goes off.
“We continue to hear the alarm as they drive further and further away,” he said. “The alarm had to be in the car.”
Newcombe’s documentary, set to debut in May, is a comprehensive look at the region’s three phases: the early ranches, the era of health resorts and tourist attractions and its present suburban role.
Dorothy Abercrombie, of Montrose, wrote: “I have memories of the Famous Department Store. My mother took my sister Jean and me shopping there. It was my mother, Rose Jameson’s, favorite and only department store in Glendale at the time, which was probably between the years of 1937 to 1945. The store sold a lot of household items and clothing, too, as I remember and it’s good to see the building is still standing in the same location.”
John Hammell Jr. wants to know if anyone has information on the Curries’ ice cream parlor that had a huge ice cream cone on its roof. He thinks it might have been in Glendale during the 1950s, somewhere around Central and Wilson avenues.
“There was also a Curries’ in Atwater that riders could see from the street car,” Hammell said. “It was there longer.”