City at Night
Hollywood night scene, circa 1955. From the USC Libraries' "Dick" Whittington Photography Collection
Years ago, production designers working with video game developer Team Bondi visited the USC Libraries' Special Collections, looking for nighttime photographs of mid-century Los Angeles. Today, the designers' project—L.A. Noire, a police procedural video game set in 1947 Los Angeles—releases to the general public.
The video game has been noted for its faithful reproduction of the City of Angels circa 1947, a setting inhabited in fiction by the characters of Raymond Chandler and James Ellroy novels as well as in history by criminals like Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen. Dark Hollywood streets, classic nightlife venues, and downtown's Pershing Square all make appearances in the game. In order to recreate the look of the city, the production designers consulted several Los Angeles-area photography archives.
At USC, they studied the "Dick" Whittington and Los Angeles Examiner photograph collections, which cover the same time period as the game. According to librarian Dace Taube, the researchers were particularly interested in how the city looked at night, since much of the game's action takes place after dark.
The designers also visited the Huntingotn Library to peruse a collection of L.A. street maps maps produced between 1932 and 1939 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Those maps were digitized by the USC Libraries' imaging lab and are now publicly accessible through the USC Digital Library.
Downtown Los Angeles at night. From the USC Libraries' "Dick" Whittington Photography Collection