Category: Entertainment

Batman appears


“Few fictional characters have caught our imaginations as much as Batman, a superhero like all of us in that he doesn’t fly and can’t jump over tall buildings. Bob Kane and Bill Finger created the Batman character, sometimes known as the Dark Knight or Caped Crusader. He first appeared in a 1939 issue of Detective Comics (DC), which immediately recognized the character’s potential for popularity.”

Excerpt from California State University, Northridge at .

While not a southern California topic, Detective Comics would have been easily available in the area.


Movie filming


Here’s a behind-the-scenes view of movie filming. The location wasn’t given but we can deduce that it was in southern California by the “PE” on the gondola car near the center. It’s a Pacific Electric freight car that would have been rarely, if ever, out of the area. The scene appears to be 1939 filming for the 1940 Marx Brothers Go West comedy.

Murray’s Dude Ranch


Image: Lela Murray (foreground), Joe Louis (center) and the Louis entourage in 1939 from .

“Murray’s Ranch, a guest ranch in Apple Valley, California, was unique in that it was owned by and catered primarily to African Americans, and because it served as the set for a number of ‘all-black cast’ western films. The 40-acre ranch on the edge of the Mojave Desert was purchased by Nolie B. and Lela Murray in 1922 for $100…

“By the late 1930s a number of films were shot on location at Murray’s Dude Ranch including…The Bronze Buckaroo (1939), and Harlem Rides the Range (1939).  Aside from Joe Louis, who returned to the ranch on several occasions, and Herb Jeffries, who made films there, other celebrity guests included Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Hattie McDaniel, Nina Mae McKinney, and Lena Horne.”

Excerpts from . Click on the link to learn more.

“In March of 1939, there was an article in the local paper stating that Joe Louis had shipped his custom-built Cadillac to the ranch. Then came the announcement that Louis and his entourage, which included his trainer, dietitian, secretary and bodyguard, planned to take over the ranch for a period of two weeks to train for an upcoming bout with Jack Roper.”

Excerpt from .

Hollywood area map, books and more


Image: 2015 map of noir-era locations from .

Instead of studying the low-res image above, go to the link and download the high-res version at no cost. Also on the linked page is a detailed legend of the locations such as

 8795 Sunset Boulevard, Beverly Hills
 Opened 1939, Closed 1948

that gives additional information. Some of the listings have links leading to more information and photos.

These locations relate to a series of historical novels written by Martin Turnbull depicting the glory years of Hollywood. This blogger just ordered Citizen Hollywood. It’s set in 1939.

Explore the site to find more gems. For example, scroll down to “1939” on to see lots of interesting things from the year such as “Lana Turner is the first Hollywood star reported to be wearing nylons.”

Bill “Bojangles” Robinson


Image: Robinson in 1939 The Hot Mikado on Broadway from .

“Dancer and actor Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson of Los Angeles serves as the first honorary president of the Negro Actors Guild of America.”
Excerpt from .

“After his run with motion pictures, Robinson returned to the stage in 1939 at the age of 61 to perform in The Hot Mikado, a jazz rendition of the Gilbert and Sullivan Operetta performed at the New York World’s Fair. To celebrate that 61st birthday, Robins danced down Broadway from Columbus Circle to 44th Street [in New York City].”

Excerpt from .

Learn about the Negro Actors Guild at .

Great American Circus


Image:  Ticket wagon of the 1939 Great American Circus. From Vol. 11, No. 6 (Nov-Dec), 1967 Bandwagon, magazine of the Circus Historical Society (see excerpt link below).

The Great American Circus was hastily assembled in southern California and lasted a little more than a year. Here is a greatly condensed description:

“In early 1939, Fanchon and Marco were approached by Charles Nelson, an agent, with the idea of establishing a tented circus.

“It was not until about a week before the show was to open that the final contract was issued…

“When the go ahead was finally received three or four commercial painting crews attacked the equipment with spray guns. Everything was painted orange and as soon as the paint was tacky it was lettered with the Great American Circus title in blue and white on the orange body. The show moved out of quarters [in Baldwin Park*] on Sunday for Inglewood, with Arthur still doing lettering. Every time the train stopped for a moment, he would jump out, and paint a couple of more letters, and thus the Great American Circus was painted on the move.

“It is very hard to relate the next five days of the show’s existence, without first understanding the many handicaps they suffered. When you realize that the whole show was framed in less than five days, you can begin to see the problems. To begin with, there was no working labor, and those that were there had no idea of what they were doing. How does one explain circus logistics to a working man, who has never seen a stake or jack before in his life, let alone when you’re on the road, and moving it every night. The show opened in Inglewood, California on May 24th, 1939 under the auspices of the Inglewood Parent-Teachers Association, after two days of moving the show on the lot.

“It was felt that had the show lasted through the Southern California dates [in 1940], it would have been a real winner. The show was just beginning to pick up the additional working men they needed, and the advance ticket sales for the future dates were great.”

Excerpts from Bandwagon, Vol. 11, No. 6 (Nov-Dec), 1967 . Click on the link for the full story and more photos. The Circus Historical Society does not guarantee the accuracy of information contained in the information in these online articles. Information should always be checked with additional sources.



Private Lives


“The one panel comic Private Lives was similar to the more famous Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and focused on little known facts about famous figures and personalities. This particular edition of the comic was published on May 17, 1939 and spoke of General Francisco Franco’s somewhat ironic fascination with Mickey Mouse.

“The text refers to the then recently resolved Spanish Civil War and its bloody aftermath. Franco rose to power in Spain as a result of that conflict and was allegedly responsible for executions of dissidents that numbered in the thousands.”

Excerpt and Edwin Cox cartoon from .