17 May 2016

The Bradbury Building – Screen Star

Well, I had a post all written, even pulled pictures for it, and was ready to go. Then realized I had signed a non-disclosure agreement and, therefore, have decided not to run it. But since I did the photo here of me in the long white hair figured I’d run at least that anyway and let you all try to figure out what that post was about…

In the meantime, I’ll talk about the Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles. A famous LA landmark and one that’s been in tons of movies, many in the mystery and noir genre. It played Philip Marlowe’s office in Marlowe, starring James Garner. Some people say that Marlowe had his office here in Chandler’s books, but there’s no real proof of that. Oh, and of course, it makes an appearance in several of my stories.

Today, the building is on the National Register of Historic Places and was designated a National Historic Landmark. It’s also a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument, as well it should be.

Bradbury Building interior
It was commissioned by Lewis L. Bradbury, a goldmining millionaire, and opened in 1893 (old by LA standards), a few months after Bradbury’s death.

According to Wikipedia, “The design of the building was influenced by the 1887 science fiction bookLooking Backward by Edward Bellamy, which described a utopian society in 2000. In Bellamy's book, the average commercial building was 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 absorbing the light which flooded the interior.’ The influence of this description can be seen in the Bradbury.”

The Bradbury Building 2005
The outside of the building is a rather plain brick façade. But inside, you’re in for a treat. The Bradbury is built around an atrium-like central court. The ceiling is a gigantic skylight that lets in natural light, which falls on glazed brick, polished wood, marble and wrought iron railings throughout, giving it warm and changing light throughout the day. The birdcage style elevators are something to see.

In my novel-in-progress, The Blues Don’t Care, I describe it this way: “From the outside the Bradbury Building looked like any other office building, brown brick and sandstone in an Italian-Renaissance meets L.A. style. Inside, it was like being transported to a great European palace or maybe a train station of the industrial age. Bobby had heard of this building, though never had occasion to visit. He was awed by its breathtaking beauty. A glass skylight let shards of light fall on glazed brick and wrought iron grillwork. Marble flooring. Bobby stopped for a moment to catch his breath before heading to the open-caged elevators. He told the operator his floor, rode to the top, walked to room 501.”

Details of elevators and glass ceiling
The Bradbury is an office building and various types of businesses lease space there. Today one of those lessees is the LAPD’s Internal Affairs Division, so be good if you visit…

The Bradbury in DOA
The Bradbury is the star of many books/stories, movies, videos, commercials and TV shows. It made its first screen appearance in China Girl (1942), filling in for a Burmese hotel. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Michael Connelly, Max Allan Collins and others have used the Bradbury in their writing.

It features prominently in the original version of D.O.A. (the good version!), I, The Jury (based on Mickey Spillane’s novel), Mission Impossible (the old TV show), the Jack Nicholson movie, Wolf, and more.

Videos by Janet Jackson, Genesis, Heart, Earth, Wind and Fire and more.

More recently, it shows up in Blade Runner, The Artist, CSI NY, etc.

The Bradbury in Bladerunner

To say I love this building would be putting it mildly. It’s a fantastic place. And if you ever come to LA make sure to hit it in downtown at 304 South Broadway.


Bradbury Building interior: By Luke Jones - originally posted to Flickr as Bradbury Hotel, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7271823

Bradbury Building 2005: By Highsmith, Carol M., 1946- photographer, donor. - This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID pplot.13725.This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information.العربية | čeština | Deutsch | English | español | فارسی | suomi | français | magyar | italiano | македонски | മലയാളം | Nederlands | polski | português | русский | slovenčina | slovenščina | Türkçe | українська | 中文 | 中文(简体)‎ | 中文(繁體)‎ | +/−, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16340394

Detail of elevators and glass ceiling: By JayWalsh - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30719803

Bradbury in Bladerunner: By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2276721


  1. Paul, I’ve seen only photographs of the building and I love it. I understand tourists aren’t allowed above the first floor. (sigh) I had no inkling it was in Blade Runner, one of my favorite novellas and movies. Thanks for the visit.

    As for the photo, it’s from your new film, Rumpole in Los Angeles. Love the shades.

  2. Leigh, it's more like Rumplestiltskin in LA. And you gotta have shades in La La Land.

    And yes, tourists can't go above the ground level, though I think some groups might have tours where you can do that. And I had a meeting there once so I got to go up and into one of the office. It was very cool.

  3. I dunno, something about that hair looks fake to me.

  4. They surely don't make office buildings the way they used to!

  5. Gee, Bill, I went to a lot of time and expense to get that hair and now you call me out on it. Hmm. :)

  6. That's for sure, Janice. I'll take the old ones...as long as they hold up in an earthquake :)

  7. Cool Justice. That's what your picture says to me. As for the Bradbury Building. That's the last Great Lady of Hollywood. Lots of movie memories and some good books, too.

  8. Cool Justice, I like that, Gayle. It's my new Street Name. And yeah, the Bradbury, star of screen and book. Love it.

  9. Perhaps the most interesting factoid about the Bradbury Building (to me, anyway) is that Stuart Bailey used it as his office on the last season of 77 SUNSET STRIP...and then in the '70s, Wayne Rogers as Jake Axminster worked out of the Bradbury in the wonderful if short-lived CITY OF ANGELS. What connects them is that Roy Huggins (creator of MAVERICK and THE ROCKFORD FILES, among many others) created Stuart Bailey in his novel THE DOUBLE TAKE and a trio of short stories. Axminster and CITY OF ANGELS were directly based on the Stuart Baily stories, adapting all or most of them.

    Also, it's worth noting that I, THE JURY was a 3-D production and captures the Bradbury in that unique way.

  10. It truly is an astonishing space. There aren't any tours that go above the mezzanine, but the upper floors are accessible to people who have meetings with tenants. So as a public service, I recently shot some upstairs photos and an elevator ride video. Enjoy: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153520546309596.1073741928.8040854595&type=3

  11. Max, I loved City of Angels, one of the best detective mini-series ever. I did not know about the Stuart Bailey connection.

  12. Thanks for all of those great points about the Bradbury, Max. I didn’t remember or realize that about 77 Sunset Strip and Huggins etc. But I agree with you and Leigh about City of Angels, great show! And, I’ve seen I, the Jury, but not in 3D. That would be something!

  13. Totally agree, Esotouric, the Bradbury is astonishing! Thanks for the link. The pictures are great. I hope everyone will check them out. – And I had a meeting there one time, so got to go above the mezzanine and I thought it was so cool to be able to do that and go in one of the offices. I think it was long enough ago that it still looked fairly original an dnot redone.

  14. Paul, thanks for this. Fascinating column.

    Max, you brought back some good memories. That's great info about Stu Bailey--I had no idea!

    And I agree about City of Angels--wonderful show.

  15. I've always liked the first I, THE JURY film and feel that Biff Elliott was a very good Hammer. The film is helped by being shot at the height of the Mike Hammer craze, so the look and feel is just right. The great cinematographer, John Alton, had a lot to do with that. But the film is only available on the gray market, in very dubby form, and flat it just doesn't sing like the 3-D version does.

    In the early 2000's, Mickey Spillane and I were invited to London and the NFT for a Mike Hammer film festival. I was along because my documentary MIKE HAMMER'S MICKEY SPILLANE was screened (and you can see it on the Criterion KISS ME DEADLY). In addition to the British cut of THE GIRL HUNTERS, the 3-D version of I, THE JURY was shown and it elevated the film fantastically. And in 3-D the Bradbury looked incredible (there's a fight scene on the stairs).

  16. Max, Maybe some film festival (TCM?) or noir film fest can run the 3D version of I, The Jury. That would be great. And I didn’t realize there was a Criterion Kiss Me, Deadly. I have a non-Criterion version. It’s one of my favorite noirs. And we’re on Dish Network here and whenever it plays on TV their guide rates it 2 stars (out of 4), which blows my mind that it’s so low. I’d give it 3.5 and maybe even 4. Sometimes I feel like writing them and asking what the hell is wrong with them, especially considering other movies that get a higher rating.

    I will definitely get the Criterion Kiss Me, Deadly and look forward to your documentary on there.

  17. Max, our colleague Fran Rizer would have tackled you (a pleasant experience I'm sure) to make that London trip. She's a huge Spillane fan, quotes him a lot.


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