George Mann’s Lost Bunker Hill exhibition and Jim Dawson book signing


On Bunker Hill and the Los Angeles Visionaries Association are delighted to announce the debut Los Angeles gallery exhibition of the photographic work of the late George Mann (1905-1977).  Mann’s rediscovered color images of mid-century Los Angeles are astonishing, and a must see for anyone who loves the city and wants to know it better.

George Mann’s Lost Bunker Hill opens at Gary Leonard’s Take My Picture Gallery for the Downtown Art Walk on Thursday, July 12 (info), followed by a book signing for Jim Dawson’s Los Angeles’s Bunker Hill: Pulp Fiction’s Mean Streets and Film Noir’s Ground Zero! (The History Press, 2012) on Saturday, July 14. George Mann’s photos  of Bunker Hill will be on view at the gallery during regular hours and by appointment, and framed prints are available for $100/each. Call 213-622-2256 for more info. 

July 14 event: Join writer Jim Dawson as he signs copies of his new book Los Angeles’s Bunker Hill: Pulp Fiction’s Mean Streets and Film Noir’s Ground Zero! (The History Press, 2012). Also present during some or all of the evening and available to answer your questions will be George Mann’s daughter-in-law and keeper of his archive Dianne Woods, On Bunker Hill bloggers Richard Schave and Kim Cooper, and Bunker Hill native son Gordon Pattison. 


Bunker Hill is a ghost, and though you may today walk streets named Grand and Hope and imagine you stand where once were grand Victorian homes turned flophouses, you are in fact one hundred feet beneath the old roads, which the city shaved away to make a wider footprint for the high rise tenants that replaced them. Look up, ten stories up, and if you’re a dreamer you can almost see the big houses bobbing there between the towers, old men and women toddling out onto the porches and down the avenues, exchanging gossip, feeding the cats, collapsing under some junkie’s fists, boarding Sinai or Olivet for the ride down to Grand Central Market, pruning the roses, taking a nickel every time someone parks on their lawn, a taxi dancer and her mother hearing angels dictate a mystic book, pretty girl children rolling hoops, raucous longhaired boys sledding downhill and crashing into the side of Hazard’s Pavilion, John Fante dreaming of girls who won’t date him, carrier pigeons conveying messages from Avalon, phony mediums and real ones spewing ectoplasm in shadowy parlors, Kay Martin and Leo Politi painting the old houses just ahead of the wreckers, The Crockers and the Bradburys spinning in their ballrooms, landladies, bankers, writers and bums, all the possibilities of a great neighborhood as it is born, flourishes, fades and is demolished.

Enter George Mann.

Born in Santa Monica in 1905, by his early 20s he was a vaudeville star as the hilariously taller half of the comedy dance team Barto & Mann. Of their east coast debut, Zit’s Theatrical Newspaper raved “Ten minutes before they went on at the Palace last Monday afternoon nobody thought very much about Barto & Mann; ten minutes after they came off stage, the whole Broadway world was talking about them.” As Vaudeville faded, Barto & Mann joined the Broadway cast of Hellzapoppin’ with featured billing from 1938 through 1942. The team split up in December 1943.

In his post-performance life, George Mann turned his imagination to entrepreneurial enterprise and professional photography, which brought him to Bunker Hill. In the late 1950s, when the neighborhood’s days were known to be numbered, he arrived atop the peak with his camera to document some representative scenes, returning in November 1962 for additional shots. These long forgotten color images of old Bunker Hill were originally displayed in 3-D viewers of Mann’s own design, which were leased to various Los Angeles restaurants, bars and doctor’s offices. Mann would swap out the photo selection every two weeks, so if these evocative scenes of Bunker Hill weren’t available, one might peep at Calico Ghost Town, Catalina Island, Descanso Gardens, Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Pacific Ocean Park, Watts Towers or Palm Springs. 

In his Bunker Hill set, created to distract anxious patients and hungry tourists, George Mann captured a seldom seen side of this lost Los Angeles neighborhood: the gracious avenues and genteel decay, the old people, their cats and their gardens, abandoned newspapers, vacant lots, the shadows and the sunlight. We are in his debt.

George Mann died in 1977. We trust you will enjoy these rediscovered images of Los Angeles’ most beguiling lost neighborhood from the George Mann Archives, maintained by Mann’s daughter-in-law, Dianne Woods.