Jim Dawson's history of Los Angeles's Angels Flight was published by Arcadia Publishing in August 2008. It features a chapter on the funicular's busy history in Hollywood films, especially films noir. Here is a filmography with stills from the movies. Angels Flight is a trademark of the Angels Flight Railway Foundation.
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Chapter 8 of Jim Dawson’s Angels Flight is called “Train to Nowhere,” a look at the films—mostly films noir—shot on and around downtown Los Angeles’s incline railroad at the southwest corner of Hill and Third streets, next to the Third Street Tunnel. Here’s a look at some of those movies.
Their Ups and Downs (1914)
Eddie Lyons and wife Victoria Forde live at the top of Angel's Flight, and Victoria's piano teacher, Lee Moran, lives at the bottom. Eddie's jealousy becomes acute when he rides up Angels Flight one day and sees Victoria and Lee coming down in the other car. Reaching the station at the top, Eddie runs down the stairway below the incline as fast as he can. However, Victoria has forgotten her purse and takes the car going back up the hill. When Eddie reaches the bottom and learns his wife returned home, he boards the car going up and sees Victoria in the other car going down. At the bottom she rejoins Lee, who tells her of her husband's jealousy. Afraid to go back up alone, she asks Lee to accompany her up the stairs. Eddie, meanwhile, has taken the car going down and passes them. Reaching the bottom, he dashes up the stairs. He reaches the house and chases Lee off with his revolver. Eddie and Victoria make up, and he buys her a piano-player with paper rolls. Lee vows to have nothing more to do with the crazy couple at the top of Angels Flight. This Universal Nestor comedy, directed by Al Christie and released on December 11, 1914, may no longer exist.
Good Night, Nurse, a rare 1916 Nestor Film Co. comedy with Neal Burns and Stella Adams, is the first known extant movie featuring Angels Flight, and I hope to soon have stills on this page.
Up She Goes (1918)
In an apparent remake of Their Ups and Downs, comedienne Billie Rhodes is Mary, a newlywed living on Bunker Hill, who is so enamored of the jazz saxophone that she hires a local musician to teach her the instrument. Unfortunately, her husband is against the idea, so she must carry on an “affair” with her teacher by inviting him up when her husband goes to work. Their comings and goings on Angels Flight create misunderstandings. Up She Goes was a Strand comedy released on March 26, 1918. The film is mentioned in the April 26, 1918 Variety (p. 14), but a print may no longer exist.
All Jazzed Up was a 1920 comedy of errors starring Bobby Vernon (leaping from car to car) and Helen Darling.
The Impatient Maiden was director James Whale’s 1932 follow-up to his classic Frankenstein, starring Mae Clarke and Una Merkel (pictured on the Sunshine Apartments porch, on the Third Street steps and on an Angels Flight mock-up) and Lew Ayres.
In a pivotal scene of The Unfaithful (1947), Marta Mitrovich discovers while riding Angels Flight down to Hill Street that Ann Sheridan has murdered her husband.
Criss Cross (1948) starred Dan Duryea, Burt Lancaster, and Yvonne DeCarlo (pictured at a window of the Sunshine Apartments) in a noir tale about an armored car heist that goes wrong.
In Hollow Triumph aka The Scar Paul Henreid, a murderer on the run from mobsters, jumps on Angels Flight to escape two thugs.
In Night Has A Thousand Eyes (1948), Edward G. Robinson hides out from his past life at the Sunshine Apartments on Third Street, across from Angels Flight. The film features a great pan shot from the bottom of Third Street to the top of the hill and back down to the Sunshine Apartments.
Act of Violence (1949) showed stalking victim Van Heflin's descent into figurative hell with a literal descent down the Third Street steps, across Clay Street beneath Angels Flight, and on down another set of steps to the Third Street Tunnel. (The trailer can be seen on YouTube.)
Once a Thief (1950) stars June Havoc (seen here on Clay Street) as a jewel thief hiding out on Bunker Hill who makes the mistake of falling for a local gigolo (Cesar Romero).
In Southside 1-1000 (1950) Angels Flight offers a handy getaway for a counterfeiter (George Tobias) and an undercover Secret Service agent (Don DeFore) trying to shake a couple of T-men who are following them.
Joseph Losey's M (1951) begins with the killer, Martin Harrow, riding Angels Flight from Hill Street to the top of Bunker Hill, where much of the film was shot.
* Left-hand photo below: In director Joseph Losey's 1951 remake of the German classic, M, David Wayne (seen here with a young victim at the foot of Angels Flight) stars as a child murderer on Bunker Hill.
* Right-hand photo below: The crew of M sets up a shot at the Alta Vista Apartments at 255 S. Bunker hill, where the murderer's first victim lived. John Fante lived at the Alta Vista in the early Thirties and wrote about it in Ask the Dust. (Courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.)
In The Turning Point (1952) William Holden and Alexis Smith ride up Angels Flight and walk over to the Sunshine Apartments to interview a witness, only to find that mobsters got there first.
In a 1952 TV episode of Boston Blackie called "Death Does a Rhumba," the detective meets the bad guy at Angels Flight's Olive Street station to make a handoff. When the villain leaps from the back of the downward car and jumps on the front of the upward car, Boston Blackie jumps out and runs up the tracks to the station and catches him.
The Glenn Miller Story (1953), starring Jimmy Stewart and Harry Morgan, has several scenes at a mock-up of a pawnshop at the corner of Clay Street and the Third Street steps.
In Cry of the Hunted (1953) convict Vittorio Gassman breaks away from cop William Conrad in the Third Street Tunnel and escapes by running up the tracks and catching Angels Flight. Conrad runs up the Third Street steps to Olive Street, but his quarry is long gone. In lower right shot, Gassman relaxes between shots.
In Kiss Me Deadly (1955) Ralph Meeker (as Mike Hammer) parks on Clay Street and walks up the steps to the Hillcrest Hotel, opposite Angels Flight's station, to talk to a witness.
Lon Chaney Jr. is The Indestructible Man (1956), back from the dead to hunt down the men who sent him to the electric chair. Marian Carr is the girlfriend trying to warn his victims living at the Hillcrest Hotel across from the Angels Flight station on Olive Street.
In his short documentary Bunker Hill 1956 (1956), Kent Mckenzie followed a group of pensioners living on Bunker Hill. The photo below is looking east on Third Street from Grand Avenue toward Angels Flight's Olive Street station. (Courtesy of Milestone Films and the University of Southern California Moving Image Archive)
The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) is Roger Corman's ultra-low-budget classic comedy about a flower shop worker named Seymour Krelboyne (Jonathan Haze) who creates a carnivorous plant, Audrey Jr., that feeds on human flesh. He lives with his mother at the real-life Rochester Victorian house at 1210 Temple Street, and goes up to Bunker Hill looking for a fresh victim for Audrey. (Photo compliments of Nathan Marsak.)
Angels Flight has a quick cameo to establish a "bad neighborhood" in Why Must I Die (1960), in which Debra Paget sets up Terry Moore for a trip to death row.
The Exiles (1961) is Kent Mackenzie's gritty semi-documentary about a real group of Native Americans (playing themselves) who struggled between two cultures on Bunker Hill's Clay Street, in the shadow of Angels Flight. (For more about Bunker Hill, see BUNKER HILL GOES TO THE MOVIES.)
Angel’s Flight (shot in 1962, released in 1965) starred blonde Indus Arthur as a Bunker Hill serial killer running from the horrors of her childhood.
In The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies! (1964), director Ray Dennis Steckler's alter ego, actor Cash Flagg, has an existential episode on Clay Street when he realizes that a Gypsy hypnotist with a bad accent has turned him into a psychotic killer of beach carnival strippers. (Reportedly based on a true story.)
In CBS-TV's original 1957-1966 Perry Mason series, there was only one color episode. Called "The Case of the Twice-Told Twist," it first aired on February 27, 1966. In the opening sequence, Mason (Raymond Burr) and his secretary Della Street (Barbara Hale) park his new Thunderbird on Bunker Hill and take Angels Flight down to Hill Street to meet a client. Unfortunately, by the time they return to the top of the railway ten minutes later, thieves have stripped the car.
In The Money Trap (1966), Los Angeles police detective Glenn Ford follows the wife of a murder suspect from her Bunker Hill apartment to Angels Flight and rides down the hill with her.
In The Outsider, a 1968-69 NBC-TV show, private eye David Ross (Darren McGavin) visits Bunker Hill as it's being hauled away, hoping to find a cache of money hidden in an old house. He rides up Angels Flight, talks to the station agent about its history, then walks over to what's left of the Castle, the mansion that once stood at 325 S. Bunker Hill Avenue. The house has been cut into several pieces to await removal to Heritage Square (where it would later be torched). The episode, which ran in 1969, was called "Through a Stained-Glass Window." (Courtesy of Gene Sculatti)
Click to view an excerpt of the program at LA Observed.
Los Angeles TV personality Huell Howser, host of KCET's Visiting With...Huell Howser, first visited the site of Angels Flight in late 1994, when the city was planning to rebuild Angels Flight--with its original cars, archway and station building--a half block south of its original location at Third and Hill. On hand was documentary filmmaker Edmund Penney (in orange shirt), who brought along color footage he'd shot in 1969, just weeks before Angels Flight was torn down.
Angels Flight Railway: A Landmark Remembered (1997) - Edmund Penney shot this lyrical 15-minute film just before and after the Community Redevelopment Agency tore down all the buildings around it. (chiptaylor.com)
Last Day of Angels Flight (1969) - Highland Park resident Robert Kirste shot this home move on Angels Flight's last day of operation on Sunday, May 18, 1969. Rides were free. Kirste provides a poignant voiceover. Available on The Exiles DVD (milestonefilms.com).
Tell Me No Secrets (1997) is a television movie about a young attorney (Lori Loughlin) on a murder case. It may be the first film shot on the restored Angels Flight that opened in 1996 half a block south of the original. (Photos to come)
An angel (Nicholas Cage) falls in love with a mortal (Meg Ryan) in City of Angels (1998). That's the restored Angels Flight across Hill Street behind him.
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone find romance on Angels Flight in La La Land (2016).
Jim Dawson signs copies of Los Angeles's Angels Flight at the official April 15, 2010, opening party for Angels Flight
donors and supporters at the Omni Hotel, adjacent to the Angels Flight Station. Photo by Gary Leonard.
JIM DAWSON READING FROM Los Angeles's Angels Flight
AT SKYLIGHT BOOKS 9/20/2008:
One of the early (1901-05) Angels Flight cars glides past the Crocker mansion in 1902.
The old gondolas pass each other in 1902 in this shot taken
from the Third Street sidewalk next to Angels Flight.
The area around Hill Street and W. Third
was still residential in 1906.
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* Act of Violence [movie trailer]
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