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Arts and Entertainment

Los Angeles Noir: The Mug Shots And Police Portraits Of 1950s L.A.

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"People were being beaten, robbed, strangled, raped, and murdered. People were hungry, sick; bored, desperate with loneliness or remorse or fear, angry, cruel, feverish, shaken by sobs. A city no worse than others, a city rich and vigorous and full of pride, a city lost and beaten and full of emptiness. It all depends on where you sit and what your own private score is. I didn't have one. I didn't care. I finished the drink and went to bed.” —Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye, 1953.

The city was booming. "Every day, including Saturday and Sunday, is moving day in Los Angeles," declared Life Magazine in 1953. Four hundred new people were arriving in town daily from across the country, "bringing along what often seemed more than their fair share of the criminally inclined," as Kevin Starr wrote in Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950-1963. The film industry was tied to organized crime, and "stickup men knocked over local banks." Sure, the suburbs were shiny and the sun was bright, but this was also the Los Angeles of Double Indemnity and Kiss Me Deadly.

Here are an assortment of police portraits and mug shots from the seedy underbelly of 1950s Los Angeles, made available through the USC Digital Library's wonderful Los Angeles Examiner Photographs Collection.

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