Posted by paulrivas on:
Just when you were thinking Rivas Cultural Services only watches Mexican movies, we bring you this report from the night after the World Premiere of Inventing L.A.: The Chandlers and Their Times, a documentary by white angeleño Peter Jones.
Jones is a second-generation L.A. native who dresses like he could be Death Cab for Cutie’s manager. He introduced the film by saying, “the importance of your local newspaper to your community is huge”, to hearty applause, and reminding everyone that the first publisher of the Los Angeles Times, Harrison Gray Otis, had once published the Santa Barbara Press.
Inventing L.A. shows the growth of Los Angeles as envisioned, schemed and promoted by the Los Angeles Times under the ownership of the Chandler family. The Chandlers' wealth grew with the city, which exploded in the 1930s, partly on the strength of the Times Midwinter Number, a nationally distributed supplement encouraging those with means to, “Come to the White Spot,” the right spot for white people. “Japs keep moving,” a banner over one porch said. “This is a white man’s neighborhood.”
When the ultra-white-minded part of the family controlled the paper, the Times brought the aqueduct to Van Nuys, ignored LAPD corrupction and launched Nixon’s career. The paper had such control over the city that, according to California historian Mike Davis, “Politicians were merely employees of the L.A. Times”.
When Otis Chandler became the paper’s fourth publisher in the 1960s and the paper’s news coverage swung significantly toward a browner democracy, both the old-school Chandlers and Nixon became incensed.
“Investigate Otis Chandler with regard to his gardener. I understand he’s a wetback,” we hear Nixon say on tape. “Every one of those sons of bitches.”
Ted Williamson was of the branch of the family that had hated Dorothy Chandler, Otis' mother, and appears a few times in the documentary to say something spiteful about his minority-sympathizing cousin.
“He was such a WASP,” Jones said of Williamson after the screening, “that after we interviewed him, his lunch was a bacon, white bread and mayonnaise sandwich.”
Otis Chandler was pushed out of the paper in the late 1980s and Tom Johnson was made the fifth publisher L.A. Times history. In 1989, the paper had a 20% profit margin and circulation over 1,000,000, shortly after which it was sold. According to Jones, no member of the Chandler family is involved in publishing today.
Inventing L.A. will premiere on PBS in the fall. Funding for the film came from every imaginable foundation and private source. Jones said raising money for is hard work, “especially for a story about a rich white family, that’s really tough”.
Professor Dick Flacks, who was watching the same film as the Santa Barbara Man About Goleta for the second night in a row, would have liked to have seen more about what came of the L.A. Times after its sale in 1989. He also pointed out that while the paper had always been union-free, it did offer some of the nation's best labor reporting in the 1960s and 70s.
UPDATE 2/4: This movie will be shown free on Sunday, February 8th, 1pm, Riviera Theatre, as part of the SBIFF Third Weekend. Go check it out and tell them the Santa Barbara Man About Goleta sent you.