The middle-aged theater owner who preferred a discreet lifestyle suddenly found himself in the media spotlight only ten days after the Black Dahlia’s murder. Someone had gathered Elizabeth Short’s personal items stored in the Greyhound bus depot in Los Angeles and mailed them to a local newspaper. Among her belongings – which had been soaked in gasoline to obscure any evidence – was a “little black book” containing more than 75 names, including those of Hollywood personalities. On its cover the name Mark M. Hansen was emblazoned in gold letters.
* * *
At 58 years old, Mark Hansen’s freewheeling Hollywood lifestyle began to unravel. The Los Angeles Examiner had announced that “a wealthy Hollywood night club and theater owner” should be investigated in connection to a recent murder that rocked the city.1
Hansen’s troubles began on January 15, 1947, when a nude body of a young woman was found in a vacant lot in a Los Angeles suburb. Although the city was no stranger to sensational murders, this one was particularly gruesome: her face was severely beaten and her mouth had been slashed from ear to ear in a satanic smile. The killer had drained the victim’s body of blood and had washed and scrubbed her clean. But most shockingly, her body had been severed in half through the abdomen.2
The victim was 22-year-old Elizabeth Short, also known as the “Black Dahlia.” Elizabeth, or “Betty,” was an attractive brunette lured by Hollywood’s dazzling lights and stories of fame and fortune. She was raised in Medford, Massachusetts, and like so many young women who ventured to Tinseltown she dreamed of becoming an actress. While in Hollywood, she had briefly roomed at Hansen’s bungalow or “boardinghouse” on Carlos Avenue. Detectives had a hard time tracing her movements because she drifted in and out of motels and boardinghouses and never really held a steady job. Short instead lived off the generosity of casual acquaintances and boyfriends, one of whom may have been her killer.
Hansen’s bungalow was across the street from the imposing First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood.3 Hansen had rented rooms to young women down on their luck along with aspiring dancers who might audition for his nightclub. But the middle-aged theater owner who preferred a discreet lifestyle suddenly found himself in the media spotlight only ten days after her murder. Someone had gathered Short’s personal items stored in the Greyhound bus depot in Los Angeles and mailed them to a local newspaper. Among her belongings – which had been soaked in gasoline to obscure any evidence – was a “little black book” containing more than 75 names, including those of Hollywood personalities. On its cover the name Mark M. Hansen was emblazoned in gold letters.4
Short’s murder occurred during an era in which both prosperity and despair defined a postwar Los Angeles. Sandy beaches and year-round sunshine beckoned visitors to a sprawling landscape of glamour and palm trees, while nightclubs, dope rings, prostitution, and gambling thrived in its steamy underworld. Bullet-riddled bodies and police corruption made headlines along with the married lives and opulent mansions of movie stars. Hollywood movies mirrored the contradiction with themes of romance and optimism in The Harvey Girls (1945), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), and Miracle on 34th Street (1947), while the offbeat and low-budget B or noir films The Lost Weekend (1945), The Naked City (1948), and He Walked by Night (1948) revealed the underbelly of urban life.5 Yet, for all the popularity of crime and violence depicted in Hollywood’s film noir and sensational press coverage of individual murders, Los Angeles homicide rates actually fell to a low from the end of World War II until the mid-1960s.6 Hearst-owned newspapers nonetheless capitalized on public fear with front-page headlines like “Unsolved LA Crimes Ripped by Grand Jury” accompanied by photos of seven women (including Elizabeth Short) whose gruesome murders were never solved.7
Perhaps naively, Hansen walked into this urban paradox. His double life embraced both a risqué nightclub of attractive girls and a traditional family nestled in a secluded canyon home. In a bizarre event that resembled a noir movie plot, Hansen became a victim when a disgruntled nightclub dancer looking for fame shot and wounded him. Several months later, an investigator told the Los Angeles deputy district attorney that Hansen’s numerous real estate holdings and association with a Hollywood nightclub and girls like Elizabeth Short could invite blackmail.8
Over several decades, the tragic murder of Elizabeth Short has spawned its own consumer industry. A TV movie with Lucie Arnaz and a later Brian De Palma film have appeared, along with the Black Dahlia video game and the Black Dahlia Murder death metal band. James Ellroy’s 1987 novel invited a number of true-crime spin-offs from John Gilmore to Donald Wolfe. Many have speculated on the killer’s identity, including former LAPD detective Steve Hodel, who accused his father, Dr. George Hodel, of Short’s murder. Only recently has Mark Hansen’s name resurfaced. Piu Eatwell’s Black Dahlia, Red Rose: The Crime, Corruption, and Cover-Up of America’s Greatest Unsolved Murder (2017) argues that former hotel bellhop Leslie Dillon was the murderer and Hansen was his accomplice. Where other writers see a massive bungle in the murder investigation, Eatwell believes that the LAPD instead covered up Dillon and Hansen’s involvement.9 Eatwell’s book’s revised edition is due out this fall. A follow-up Rolling Stone interview mentioned that the late Conwell L. Keller, former member of the LAPD’s Gangster Squad (a special unit targeting organized crime), believed that Hansen didn’t act alone but was in fact the real killer. Mary Pacios, author of Childhood Shadows: The Hidden Story of the Black Dahlia Murder (1999), initially suspected that Hansen murdered Short but concluded that actor Orson Welles killed her.10 Regardless, evolving Black Dahlia conjectures, conspiracies, and speculations have enshrouded Hansen’s status as a prominent theater and nightclub owner, prompting Hollywood historians to take another look.
Hansen’s lucrative theater business indeed had won esteem among Hollywood’s elite. As “Hollywood’s noted impresario,11 Hansen was president of his own theater chain and later business manager and co-owner of the Florentine Gardens, a swanky Hollywood nightclub featuring a host of musicians, showgirls, and trapeze artists. His extensive real estate holdings included the Three Little Pigs Inn Club and the Cabin Club, both “neat and orderly” dance gardens offering affordable food and beer.12 Hansen owned not only movie theaters but office buildings and car dealerships along Hollywood Boulevard.13 The savvy businessman was also community minded: he joined the newly formed Rotary Club in Oxnard, California, then became a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Lodge #99 in Los Angeles where he helped the fraternal society organize entertainment.14
For a Hollywood man-about-town, Hansen was rather ordinary in appearance. He was a marked contrast to the rather flamboyant Sid Grauman (1879-1950), former vaudeville impresario turned owner of Hollywood’s most opulent movie palaces. Grauman had laid a cement forecourt at his celebrated Chinese Theatre where movie stars could plant their hand- and footprints. He never married but loved to stage lavish movie premieres and hobnob with Hollywood’s rich and famous.
Unlike Grauman, Hansen avoided the spotlight. His movie houses were local or neighborhood theaters: the Marquis Theater in West Hollywood opened in 1925 and boasted 1,800 seats and a $30,000 organ,15 but absent were lavish premieres with high-intensity searchlights crisscrossing the night sky and movie stars arriving in stretch limousines. In 1915, Hansen married Ida R. Nelson, whose parents, like Hansen’s, were also Danish, and the couple had two daughters. At 5 feet 8 inches with a slightly chubby frame and weighing about 165 pounds, he had blue eyes that peered underneath his dark bushy brows and a prominent sharp nose. His light brown hair began to turn gray as he approached middle age, and he spoke with a Scandinavian accent.16
Mark Marinus Hansen arrived in New York City on March 25, 1910, aboard the steamship Lusitania. The huge ship, made famous when the Germans torpedoed and sank it off the Irish coast in 1915, had previously shuttled passengers across the Atlantic to New York via Liverpool. He was 18, unmarried, and a steerage passenger during the six-day crossing. Hansen was born on July 25, 1891, to parents Maren Katrine and Søren Christian Hansen in Aalborg, a small town that lies in northwest Denmark.17 By the 1900s many Danes saw opportunities with America’s swift industrialization, and their Western European and Protestant roots afforded them easy assimilation into US society. One of Hansen’s contemporaries, actor Karl Dane (1886-1935), hailed from Copenhagen, and the two celebrated a birthday party singing Danish songs.18
Hansen’s life in America would resemble the rags-to-riches stories of the early Hollywood moguls. His humble background as a saloonkeeper in the rural agricultural communities of Montana and North Dakota was far from the bright lights of America’s movie capital.19 But by the early 1920s, he would manage his own movie theater in Minneapolis and then travel to the scenic coastal community of Oxnard, approximately 60 miles west of downtown Los Angeles.20 At the turn of the century, Oxnard was mainly an agricultural town with a large sugar beet factory. But its growing workforce rapidly attracted businesses that brought hotels, fraternal organizations, saloons, concert halls, and an Andrew Carnegie-funded library to the commercial downtown area. Within a decade, movie and vaudeville theaters sprang up along with an opera house.
The owner of Oxnard’s opera house was Guy Douthwaite, a successful theater proprietor later credited as building the first drive-in theater in California. Douthwaite sold Oxnard’s opera house to Hansen, who hoped to turn it into a vaudeville theater. But the building’s dilapidated state suffered a series of arson attempts: in 1922, a fire permanently damaged it, including $6,000 worth of Hansen’s equipment.21 When representatives from the Robertson-Cole Studios traveled to Oxnard to discuss opening a studio near the town’s sand dunes, the Chamber of Commerce was not interested. “I worked my head off trying to get local men interested in building a studio either in Oxnard or toward the sand dunes,” Hansen bemoaned. “I think we made a mistake not going after this business a little stronger than we did.”22
Undeterred, Hansen purchased the Lyric and the New Victory theaters in Oxnard. He scooped up major studio releases like Robin Hood (1922) starring Douglas Fairbanks and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), accompanied by a seven-piece orchestra, four violins, and 100 leather-bottom chairs. Scaramouche (1923) with Ramon Navarro and Alice Terry screened at the New Victory and was the movie’s first showing outside of LA.23 The town was amused when the New Victory premiered The Arrival of a New York Financer in Oxnard (1923), which featured many local citizens including Mark Hansen as a taxi driver. His good fortune apparently brought rewards: Hansen purchased a “handsome new Hudson coach” and proudly drove it around town.24
Hollywood soon beckoned. Oxnard local newspapers closely monitored Hansen’s initial foray into the movie industry while they bragged about how their small-town boy was “turning into a real promotor.”25 By 1923, he purchased the Larchmont Theatre for $60,000 with a seating capacity of 1,000 and added the Marquis and the New Western.26 He also owned or controlled the Burbank (formerly the Victory Theatre), the Fox Arroyo, and the Knoll.27 His coup was the Mar-Cal Theatre (later spelled Marcal) on Hollywood Boulevard, just two blocks east of the famed Hollywood and Vine intersection.
The Marcal was like a second home to Hansen, and he never parted with it. The theater, whose name was an amalgam of owners Mark Hansen and silent screen actress Alice Calhoun, opened in 1926 and was designed by Los Angeles architect William Allen. The Marcal seated approximately 1,500, and its early California architecture featured an interior with pastel shades of old rose, gold, and blue along with a modern ventilating system. Two sections of the mezzanine were completely enclosed in glass – one for theater parties and the other for a smoking room.28 When “talking” pictures arrived, the Marcal was the first theater to include Qualitone – a low-cost synchronized sound-on-disc system for smaller independent theaters.29 Cecil B. DeMille’s The Godless Girl (1928) and Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights (1931) screened at the Marcal along with a few oddities like Elysia (Valley of the Nude), a 1934 exploitation documentary of a nudist colony. The movie’s racy content prompted the city’s vice squad to apply adhesive tape to cover revealing lobby photos and serve Hansen a two-day notice to pull Elysia.30
But Hansen knew that controversy generates business. By the 1950s, the Marcal had long passed its heyday as a first-run house and instead relied on revivals and special screenings. The theater needed a box-office draw and found it with Salt of the Earth, a story about labor unrest in a New Mexico zinc mine. The problem was that the movie was made by a small group of blacklisted Hollywood Communists, so no local theater would touch it. Nonetheless, Salt opened at the Marcal on May 20, 1954, and ran for 11 weeks, earning over $30,000. In fact, the film’s Los Angeles run was the longest in the US notwithstanding that independent distributors subsequently refused to do business with the Marcal.31
Nevertheless, the Marcal was a staple in the Hollywood community. As a revival house the theater offered classics like Tumbleweeds (1925; reissued in 1939), featuring a special appearance by its leading star William S. Hart, and later sponsored a “Disney Binge” with screenings of Bambi, Dumbo, Pinocchio, Ichabod and Mr. Toad, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. For a while, the theater broadcast a weekly radio show, The Hollywood Amateur Hour, and regularly hosted an annual Christmas benefit for the Children’s Hospital. The theater also became a temporary home to the nondenominational Peoples Church of Hollywood.32 Occasional mishaps occurred, like when a man claiming he was a former LAPD officer and his accomplice robbed the Marcal and initially escaped during a gun battle that left the lobby floor bloody and strewn with money.33 Meanwhile, Hansen had moved his family into a modest home in the affluent Hancock Park section of Los Angeles, where the two girls attended public school. His wife, Ida, was a big fan of old movies: she kept busy raising her children while selling tickets at his theaters.34
From his office on the second floor of the Marcal, Hansen watched his movie business blossom. He created his own company, Hansen Theaters Inc., and operated 21 theaters throughout Los Angeles City and County. In 1926, Paramount Theatres acquired Hansen’s movie houses and promptly placed him on its board of directors.35 By the late 1920s, the Danish immigrant who had come to America with a limited education and no money had become a millionaire.
But times were tough for theater owners, and Hansen lost considerable money during the Depression. Fox West Coast Theaters president Charles Skouras stepped in and took over Hansen’s chain, and for a while Hansen operated the Vogue Theatre in Hollywood (although he continued to hold on to the Marcal).36 In a tumultuous financial market, Hansen turned to other real estate investments like commercial buildings and a used car lot.37
The Florentine Gardens stood one block east of the Marcal and provided Hansen with a new venture. The nightclub was one of many in Hollywood that had cropped up since the repeal of prohibition. The warehouse-size structure opened on December 28, 1938, and seated 1,000; it resembled a Moorish palace flanked by palm trees and bas-relief iconic columns with “Florentine Gardens” in bright green letters atop its white façade. While the Sunset Strip featured upscale nightspots like Ciro’s, the Café Trocadero, and the Mocambo, the noisy Florentine on Hollywood Boulevard catered to those who could afford the 50-cent admission and dinners from $1.50.38 The Florentine’s blueprints of June 1938 showed an entrance foyer with two staircases that led to the large circular dining room surrounding a dance floor. The classy Venetian Room (later renamed the jazzy Zanzibar Room) was adjacent to the right, while a large second-story dome roof stood high above the main dining room.39 Architect Gordon B. Kaufmann and Los Angeles Times general manager Norman Chandler collaborated on the project. Records at the Huntington Library in California reveal that the Times-Mirror Company initially owned the Florentine Gardens and leased it to restaurant owner Guido Braccini. In 1944, Times-Mirror sold the nightclub to Flogar Inc., the firm of renowned architect S. Charles Lee.40)
During its first few years, the Florentine offered a “family friendly” atmosphere of dinner and dancing while occasionally hosting community events. The nightclub urged parents to bring their children because “there is never any boisterousness you wouldn’t wish them to see.”41 But the family-friendly incentives did not help sagging revenues. So manager Frank Bruni brought over Nils Thor Granlund, toast of Manhattan’s cabaret scene and former chief publicist for Marcus Loew’s theater circuit. Granlund (known as N.T.G. or “Granny”) opened on March 11, 1940, as Florentine’s new Master of Ceremonies.42 His floor shows included “cuties and near nudies” with plenty of comics and knockabouts: comedian and singer Sophie Tucker, “The Last of the Red Hot Mamas,” entertained with her Marlene Dietrich-like voice, and burly men in gorilla suits enjoyed a romp with bikini-clad nymphs. Monogram Pictures sent its cameras to the Florentine Gardens to shoot the 1942 movie Rhythm Parade featuring a romance set against a star-studded variety show along with Granny’s commentary in his usual heckling manner. But one of Granny’s signature acts was his “participation games” when he invited soldiers and sailors to join the showgirls in horseplay. The audience relished it all.43
Before long, Hansen had stepped into the role as Florentine’s business manager. His one-story clapboard bungalow or boardinghouse at 6024 Carlos Avenue provided convenient access to the Florentine Gardens and its cadre of beautiful showgirls. On the north side of Carlos stood the red brick First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, home to a burgeoning Christian community that sponsored a neighborhood outreach, a local radio ministry, and a Cathedral Choir that lifted music to a spiritual height. To the south was the Marcal Theatre and the Florentine with its semi-nude chorus girls and free-flowing alcohol. The dichotomy of the two worlds has always been a part of Hollywood history: since 1924, the Roman Catholic Dominican nuns have led a cloistered life at the Monastery of the Angels, about a mile north of the bustling Hollywood Boulevard. But to the Danish immigrant from an austere Lutheran background who had initially settled in the rural Midwest, the big-city glamour and excitement proved to be precarious.
For a while, Ida resided in the bungalow until 1944 or 1945, when she moved to 2274 Canyon Drive, about a mile north of Carlos Avenue.44 Without his wife and family, Hansen felt free to offer rooms to young women looking for their big break in Hollywood. Inside the house was a well-stocked bar and photos of movie stars and famous show people. Outside, white marble stairs led to a quaint porch flanked by two stone pillars. Nearby overgrown plants and shrubs occasionally presented a hazard: the city warned Florentine owner S. Charles Lee that the rear property extending to Carlos Avenue lacked maintenance and could result in a violation.45 If nothing else, the dense foliage offered discretion to visitors from the Florentine Gardens to Hansen’s secluded bungalow.
Still, Hansen regularly joined Ida and his family every night for dinner. But back at the Carlos house, the atmosphere was tense. A 22-year-old boarder named Elizabeth Short lived at the residence twice, October 1–12, 1946, and October 23–November 13, 1946. On January 16, 1947, the day after the discovery of Short’s murdered body, both Hansen and Ann Toth (a friend of Hansen and a boarder at the Carlos house) voluntarily appeared at the LAPD Homicide Division to discuss their relationship with Short.46 Approximately 20 reporters and photographers crowded the room, and Toth – a hopeful actress – seized the moment to pose for pictures and give interviews. Hansen, on the other hand, abhorred publicity and declined to talk except to say that he was “nobody” and identified himself only as Ann’s chauffeur.47 Nearly a week later someone mysteriously mailed his “little black book” along with Short’s belongings to a local newspaper; Hansen said the item was a gift from Denmark and that Short stole it from him.48 LAPD Detectives questioned hundreds of suspects, and soon the Dahlia case went cold.
But by late 1948, former bellhop Leslie Dillon began writing letters to an LAPD psychiatrist, launching the “second phase” of the Black Dahlia investigation. LAPD’s Gangster Squad grew suspicious of Dillon’s knowledge of intimate details of Short’s murder and arrested him on January 12, 1949. But Gangster Squad detectives denied him counsel and clamped a “top secret” label on the investigation so reporters could not talk to him. (The Gangster Squad didn’t always follow legal protocol.) Ultimately, detectives lacked enough evidence and had to release Dillon, who in turn slapped a $100,000 damage claim against the city. A local councilmember, incensed over the apparent police “bungle,” asked for a public inquiry into the qualifications of the psychiatrist.49 The Chief of the LAPD admitted that the administration made an error; the LA County Grand Jury launched an investigation into the “Dillon fiasco” in which Mark Hansen, who had no criminal background, emerged as a person of interest. The LAPD served a search warrant on Hansen’s house for possible bloodstains or stolen jewelry (in an unrelated case) and sent someone undercover in the neighborhood to keep a close watch on him. They even placed a bug in Hansen’s house to pick up any conversation related to Short’s murder. Nothing turned up.50
Detectives then began to probe Hansen’s relationship with Elizabeth Short. Ann Toth emerged as a witness: she testified that Hansen made “a try” for most of his female boarders, and when he wasn’t successful “out they go!” Short herself had a long roster of male companions visit her; while she lived in Hollywood from August to December 1946, she became acquainted with over 50 known boyfriends. Toth explained that Hansen didn’t allow Short’s boyfriends around his house, so she had to discreetly leave her dates a block away.51 But Hansen flatly denied that he had a “yen” for Short and balked at any suggestion that he had “intimate relations” with his female boarders. A fistfight nearly erupted when Hansen brought home a female friend and Short insisted that the woman leave. Hansen promptly ordered Short to move out the next day.52
After many years, the Black Dahlia case hit a dead end and was never solved. Today, the Los Angeles Grand Jury Testimonies and Witness Interviews in the Black Dahlia case contain 968 pages released under the California Public Records Act of 1968. But those available documents represent only a portion of the files regarding the investigation and are a maze of contradictory statements and testimonies, with missing and disorganized pages. No surprise that the 1949 Grand Jury had become “slightly confused” with the many suspects (a total of 316 including folk singer Woody Guthrie) and with both LAPD detectives and the Gangster Squad contradicting each other. Moreover, key witnesses provided conflicting testimonies and destroyed or lost crucial evidence.53 Local newspapers were also befuddled: one reported that “a Hollywood millionaire” (referring to Hansen) was a possible suspect but added that the millionaire “was cleared long ago.”54
Hansen survived the aftermath, then hit a streak of bad luck. In July 1948, a fire erupted at the Marcal, partially destroying the roof, orchestra pit, and stage, causing nearly $100,000 in damages. Hansen promptly ousted the theater’s managers, Al Galston and Jay Sutton (both managed the Hawaii Theatre, about half a block east on Hollywood Boulevard). Galston and Sutton responded by filing a $75,000 suit charging unlawful eviction.55 Over at the Florentine Gardens, trouble brewed: the company filed for bankruptcy with mounting debts of $100,000, while its auditors sued in federal court. By October 1948, Billboard announced that the Florentine was “defunct.”56 In early 1949, the Florentine morphed into the Cotton Club, an “all-Negro revue” featuring Count Basie and His Orchestra, but the owner bailed after only ten weeks. The Florentine resurfaced briefly in mid-1949 with Hansen as one of three co-owners.57 In 1951, the Hollywood Canteen Foundation converted the property into an entertainment venue for servicemen and stars and removed much of the Florentine’s attractive ornamental façade.58
In July 1949, Hansen barely escaped death. Lola Titus, who reportedly had been pestering Hansen for a job as a striptease in his nightclub, shot and critically wounded him while he was shaving in his bungalow. The heavily rouged blonde had known Hansen for several months and decided that either he was going to marry her or she would kill him. She almost did: the bullet missed his heart but his right lung collapsed. Oddly, the next day Lola admitted that she was sorry for what she did. Hansen survived, and after a boisterous trial, the judge committed Lola to a mental hospital.59
The decade closed in December 1949 with a fitting reminder of the mystery and scandal that briefly clouded Hansen’s life. Hollywood cameras rolled into the Marcal Theatre to film Destination Murder (1950), RKO’s postwar noir starring Pat O’Brien and Glenn Ford. The black-and-white movie featured an opening shot inside the lobby, where a floral-designed carpet and a “Merry Christmas” sign greeted patrons at the concession stand. The auditorium displayed a simple art-deco design with vinyl-upholstered lobby doors. Outside, the marquee advertised a double-billed revival commemorating Pearl Harbor, Flight Lieutenant (1942) and Corregidor (1943). Across the street flashed the bright lights of Hansen’s used car lot.
On June 14, 1964, Mark Hansen died of a heart attack at his Carlos Street bungalow.60 Despite the home’s tumultuous history, he had never parted with it. From his office at the Marcal, Hansen had continued to operate theaters, including the Plaza in Hawthorne and a theater in Canoga Park, along with a housing project and a hotel holding corporation. He also had been active with the Salvation Army and served as the coordinator of the Junior Philharmonic Orchestra of Los Angeles.61 More than 50 years later, his family continues the legacy of his charitable work.
Today, Hansen’s former neighborhood reveals a few remnants of Hollywood history. The area is about two blocks east of the Hollywood Pantages Theatre on Hollywood and Vine, where curious tourists occasionally follow the Hollywood Walk of Fame to its termination on Gower Street. The neighborhood – which includes the historic Fonda Theatre – lies just outside the boundaries of the Hollywood Boulevard Commercial and Entertainment District (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) and doesn’t see as much tourist traffic as the famed Hollywood and Highland intersection further west. Still, the area east from Gower Street to Bronson Avenue boasts significant landmarks – including former Hansen properties – that deserve to be recognized within the Commercial and Entertainment District. The former Marcal Theatre, for example, still stands and is now the Academy Nightclub. Following Hansen’s death, the building became part of Pacific Theatres and was later renamed the World Theatre (a venue for exploitation movies).62 The ornate outside façade is gone, and a dance floor sits atop the sloped auditorium that cushioned seats and an orchestra pit once occupied. Close by is the Florentine Gardens, now a Latino nightclub that has been operating since 1979 for the 18-and-older crowd. When the Hollywood Canteen Foundation pulled out, the building served as headquarters in 1955 for the AFL Retail Clerks Union Local 770 with offices and an upstairs Dental Clinic.63
Hansen’s bungalow at 6024 Carlos Avenue is gone. The First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood petitioned to demolish the structure in 1973 and by the early 1980s erected a parking lot on the site.64 But a tragic event on March 9, 1963, left an indelible mark on the neighborhood’s history. LAPD Officer Ian Campbell and his partner Karl Hettinger approached two suspects on the corner of Gower and Carlos (about half a block west from Hansen’s house), who ordered both officers to hand over their guns. The officers were then driven to a remote onion field near Bakersfield where Hettinger escaped but Campbell was shot and killed. The event inspired Joseph Wambaugh’s 1973 bestseller The Onion Field, followed by the 1979 movie starring John Savage and James Woods. In 2012, LA city officials officially dedicated the Gower and Carlos corner as “Ian Campbell Square.”
Mark Hansen’s family and relatives have graciously provided insight into his life and achievements. However, they have requested to remain anonymous and to refrain from directly quoting them. In addition, I am grateful for the support of the following institutions: Academy Nightclub; Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Margaret Herrick Library; CSUN Oviatt Library; FBI Records: The Vault; Hollywood Heritage; Hollywood Property Owners Alliance; Huntington Library; Los Angeles County Grand Jury; Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation; Los Angeles Police Department; Los Angeles Public Library; Oxnard Downtowners; UCLA Film & Television Archive; and UCLA Instructional Media Collections & Services.
- Los Angeles Examiner, 7 Dec 1949. [↩]
- The Los Angeles Police Department [LAPD] provided additional details of Elizabeth Short’s body in documents released publicly regarding her murder. Officer S. J. Lambert, LAPD Dead Body Report, DR #295 771, 15 January 1947; Los Angeles Police Department Public Records. Writers and sleuths beware: the 56 pages of Black Dahlia records represent only those released publicly. Apparently, thousands of documents regarding the case are not available for viewing. [↩]
- The First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood was established in 1903, and its large sanctuary was completed in 1923 and seats 1800. The church covers a full square block on Gower Street and Carlos Avenue. [↩]
- Los Angeles Examiner, 25 Jan 1947 and 26 Jan 1947. The Examiner ran a photo of the black book with Mark M. Hansen’s name on the cover’s lower portion and the year 1937 at its center. [↩]
- Interestingly, LA gangster John “Handsome Johnny” Roselli had testified before the Kefauver Committee that he was an associate producer and investor of Canon City and He Walked by Night, both 1948. John Roselli Files, 2 Feb 1958, part 6 of 12, pp. 33-36, FBI Records: The Vault. [↩]
- Los Angeles Annual Homicide Totals, 1830 to 2000, are available at the Historical Violence Database, Criminal Justice Research Center at Ohio State University. The late historian Eric H. Monkkonen commented that “nothing in the city’s, or in the larger country’s history, suggests the cause of this pattern” (i.e., the lower postwar homicide rates). See Monkkonen, “Homicide in Los Angeles, 1827-2000,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 26(2), Autumn 2005, p. 174. [↩]
- Herald Express [Los Angeles], 12 Jan 1950. [↩]
- Statement of Fred Whitman (private investigator) to Deputy District Attorney Arthur L Veitch and Bureau Investigator Chief H.L. Stanley, 23 Sept 1949, pp. 811-813; Los Angeles Grand Jury Testimonies and Witness Interviews, “The Black Dahlia,” documents released under the California Public Records Act of 1968. [↩]
- Former LA Times reporter Larry Harnisch, who has written about Short’s murder, claims that there was no cover-up or conspiracy and that Dillon was investigated and cleared by the LAPD. See Harnisch’s blog The Daily Mirror, The Black Dahlia Part 3. Harnisch attempted to cull the District Attorney’s Black Dahlia files but found missing pages and duplicates and triplicates of documents along with tainted material from other cases. He says the files offer no solution to Short’s murder. [↩]
- Mary Pacios Humphrey, Letter to William Fowler (former reporter, the Los Angeles Examiner), 20 Nov 1989, Box 21, Folder 19, The William Randolph Fowler Collection, Special Collections and Archives, Oviatt Library, California State University Northridge. For the Rolling Stone Interview, see Laura Barcella’s “Has the Black Dahlia Murder Finally Been Solved?” 26 Jan 2018, which references Eatwell’s book. [↩]
- Hollywood Filmograph, 4 Nov 1933. [↩]
- Hollywood Filmograph, 28 Oct 1933 and 4 Nov 1933. Additional information on alterations and modifications with Hansen’s properties is available on the City of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety [LADBS] website. [↩]
- The LADBS shows that Hansen owned many properties along both sides of Hollywood Boulevard including 6028, 6033, 6037, and 6048. The property on what is now Toyota of Hollywood at 6000 Hollywood Boulevard was previously a used car lot and later Hollywood Ford, both once owned by Hansen. [↩]
- While living in Oxnard, California, Hansen had joined the Rotary Club; Oxnard Daily Courier 2 Oct 1923. Years later, he joined the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Lodge #99 and served on the Elk Presentation Committee that organized events. Los Angeles Times, 19 Oct 1932; 8 Nov 1932; and 30 Nov 1932. The magnificent Elks Lodge #99 opened in 1925 with 11 floors and striking Romanesque interiors. The building still stands near downtown Los Angeles. [↩]
- Oxnard Daily Courier, 10 Apr 1925. [↩]
- Montana County Marriage Records, [Mark] Marinus Hansen to Ida R. Nelson, 9 Sept 1915. Hansen’s description was based on his WWII registration card in 1942. [↩]
- Passenger lists in the Liberty Ellis Foundation show Marinus Hansen arriving in New York via Liverpool on 25 March 1910. His birthdate is listed as 25 July 1892 as well as on his WWII registration card. Other documents, however, show 25 July 1891 as his birthdate: his application for a US passport filed in 1921 and his WWI registration card in 1917. Denmark Church Records from the Parish of Aalborg Frue Landsogy list the date as 1891 and are probably the most reliable. Hansen’s three brothers, Niels, Theodore, and Carl, all came to the US, while his sister, Marie, remained in Denmark; see the Oxnard Press Courier 17 June 1949. [↩]
- Exhibitor’s Herald-World 5 Oct 1929. [↩]
- World War I registration card for Marinus Mark Hansen, Madoc, MT, 5 June 1917. Hansen’s registration card lists his occupation as a saloonkeeper. According to The Producers News, 28 March 1919 and 19 Dec 1919, Hansen lived in Scobey, Montana, in March 1919, then resided in Williston, North Dakota, in December 1919. [↩]
- US Passport Application for Marinus Hansen, State of Minnesota, 1 November 1921. Hansen indicated on his passport that his occupation was with a motion picture theater in Minneapolis. [↩]
- Oxnard Daily Courier 28 Dec 1935; 5 June 1922; 16 Oct 1922; 15 Dec 1922; and 1 May 1924; Daily Variety 21 Dec 1936 and 28 Dec 1936 (obituary). [↩]
- Oxnard Daily Courier 30 Dec 1922. [↩]
- Oxnard Daily Courier 16 Feb 1923; 1 March 1924; and 13 March 1924. [↩]
- Oxnard Press Courier 15 Oct 1953 and 7 Nov 1953. The Press Courier had featured a retrospective of the town’s history and mentioned the movie, which was produced by the Addis Film Company of San Francisco; Livermore Journal [California], 20 March 1925. See the Oxnard Daily Courier 20 June 1922 on Hansen’s Hudson coach. Two years later, the expensive car was damaged in an accident, so Hansen replaced it with a brand new $4,800 Cadillac sedan. Ten days later, Hansen parked the Cadillac on a neighborhood street in midtown Los Angeles, and the vehicle disappeared. Oxnard Daily Courier 1 May 1924. [↩]
- Oxnard Daily Courier 7 Dec 1926. [↩]
- Oxnard Daily Courier 16 Oct 1923. [↩]
- Variety 10 May 1932 and 16 June 1964 (obituary). [↩]
- The Los Angeles Times announced the Marcal’s groundbreaking on 12 July 1925. The theater opened on 14 May 1926 at 6025 Hollywood Blvd near Gower Street. See Variety 12 May 1926; Los Angeles Examiner 12 July 1925; Film Daily 24 Jan 1926; and Moving Picture World 13 Feb 1926. Several writers had mentioned that actor Lon Chaney was also a co-owner of the Marcal, but I have not been able to find any verification. William Allen (1901-1986) was a noted Los Angeles architect whose designs included Burbank City Hall and the Superior Court of California in Los Angeles. [↩]
- Motion Picture News 16 Feb 1929, 2 March 1929, and Exhibitor’s Herald 9 March 1929. Following Qualitone’s preview at the Marcal, the Qualitone Corporation installed its new system in over 30 California locations. Exhibitors Herald-World 4 May 1929. [↩]
- Hollywood Reporter 26 Jane 1934 and Daily Variety 30 Jan 1934. [↩]
- Robert C. Hodges, The Making and Unmaking of Salt of the Earth: A Cautionary Tale (diss. University of Kentucky, 1997), pp. 311-319. Additional information from The Hollywood Reporter 10 May 1954. [↩]
- Variety 20 Dec 1939 and 29 Jan 1950; Daily Variety 18 Jan 1951; Los Angeles Times 3 June 1950; 22 May 1954; 15 Dec 1939; and 16 Nov 1957. [↩]
- Los Angeles Times 19 April 1929 and Santa Ana Register 9 April 1929. One of the defendants was shot and killed by an LAPD officer who was in the Marcal Theater during the robbery. People v. Davis, 106 Cal. App. 179 (Cal. Ct. App. 1930). [↩]
- Both the 1930 US Census and the Los Angeles City Directory (1930) at the Los Angeles Public Library show that Hansen owned a house at 327 N. Plymouth Blvd. He had previously lived on 11th Street before relocating. [↩]
- Exhibitor’s Herald-World 20 Nov 1926 and 15 Jan 1927. [↩]
- Variety 25 Dec 1934 and Showmen’s Trade Review 13 May 1944. Information about Hansen’s theater ownership and finances was taken from Lt. Frank B. Jemison, Investigator, District Attorney’s Office, Memorandum to Deputy District Attorney Arthur L. Veitch 17 Nov 1949, p. 684; Los Angeles Grand Jury Testimonies and Witness Interviews, “The Black Dahlia.” [↩]
- An LADBS Application to Alter, Repair, Remove or Demolish the property of 6048 Hollywood Boulevard, across from the Marcal, was signed by Ida Hansen on 10 Oct 1940 and a second by Mark Hansen on 27 Jan 1941. The permit was to move two houses to make available space for a used car lot. Donahoo v. Kress House Moving Corporation et. al., 25 Cal.2d 237 (Cal. Sup. Ct. 1944) mentions that a woman sued the construction company when she was injured on the lot owned by Hansen. [↩]
- Billboard, 17 Aug 1940. The Florentine’s seating varied from 900 to 1,000. [↩]
- Blueprints for the Florentine Gardens, Times-Mirror Co., 27 June 1938, by architect Gordon B. Kaufmann. Kaufmann had also designed the Hoover Dam, the Earl Carroll Theatre, and the Hollywood Palladium. [↩]
- Los Angeles Times 22 May 1938 mentioned the Times-Mirror Company as the owners of the Florentine Gardens. See also LADBS records 13 July 1938 and 25 August 1938. Chandler was general manager of the Los Angeles Times before he became publisher in 1944. The Times announced Lee’s purchase of the Florentine on 7 Dec 1944. (See endnote 45 for location of the Times-Mirror records. [↩]
- Box Office 15 June 1940 and Los Angeles Times 27 Oct 1939. [↩]
- Variety 14 Feb 1940; 24 April 1957 [obituary] and Los Angeles Times 22 April 1957 [obituary] [↩]
- Variety 21 August 1940 and 13 Jan 1943. Granlund also appeared in Take It Big and Goin’ to Town, both released in 1944. [↩]
- Hansen had told the Grand Jury that his wife moved out of the Carlos bungalow around 1944-45. Statement of Mark Hansen to Lt. Frank B. Jemison, Investigator, District Attorney’s Office, 16 Dec 1949, p. 862; Los Angeles Grand Jury Testimonies and Witness Interviews, “The Black Dahlia.” According to the Los Angeles Examiner, 16 July 1949, Hansen and his wife lived separately: he at the Carlos bungalow and she at Canyon Drive. [↩]
- Karl Ourston (Zoning Administrator) to Times-Mirror Company, 20 August 1945; Times-Mirror Company to S. Charles Lee, 29 August 1945, Box 8, Folder 9, Los Angeles Times Records, 1869-2002, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California. The description of Hanson’s bungalow is from the Los Angeles Examiner 16 July 1949. [↩]
- F. A. Brown and Harry L. Hansen (investigating officers), LAPD Follow Up Report [on Short murder], DR #295 771, 5 Feb 1947; Los Angeles Police Department Public Records. [↩]
- Lt. Frank B. Jemison, Evidence and Declarations Tending to Connect or Disconnect Mark Hanson [sic] with the Murder of Elizabeth Short, p. 443; Los Angeles Grand Jury Testimonies and Witness Interviews, “The Black Dahlia.” [↩]
- Herald-Examiner [Los Angeles] 25 Jan 1947 and Los Angeles Examiner 26 Jan 1947. [↩]
- Los Angeles Examiner 11 Jan 1949 and 22 Jan 1949. The Los Angeles Times reported that Dillon filed a $100,000 lawsuit; 24 Feb 1949. Reporter Larry Harnisch added that not only did Dillon file a damage claim against the city, he also collected. See Harnisch’s Black Dahlia: Leslie Dillon, Paul De River and the LAPD – Part 4. Years later, the Los Angeles Times mentioned that the Gangster Squad took an “anything goes” approach to driving out LA crime. Former Gangster Squad Sergeant Jack O’Mara admitted, “We did a lot of things that we’d get indicted for today”; 26 Oct 2008. [↩]
- Statement of Lt. Frank B. Jemison to Deputy District Attorney Arthur L. Veitch, 6 Dec 1949, pp. 70-74, 197-199, 202; Jemison to H. L. Stanley, Memorandum, 28 Oct 1949, pp. 431-432; Los Angeles Grand Jury Testimonies and Witness Interviews, “The Black Dahlia.” [↩]
- Ann Toth to Lt. Frank B. Jemison, 13 Dec 1949, pp. 923-927; Lt. Frank B. Jemison, Investigative Reports, 16 April 1953, p. 409; Evidence and Declarations Tending to Connect or Disconnect Mark Hanson [sic] with the Murder of Elizabeth Short, p. 443; Los Angeles Grand Jury Testimonies and Witness Interviews, “The Black Dahlia.” Jemison and other interviewers were quick to point out that Short was not a prostitute but a “teaser of men”; Jemison to H. L. Stanley, Memorandum, 28 Oct 1949, p. 426. [↩]
- Officer Conwell L. Keller to Lt. Frank B. Jemison, Dec 1949, p. 423; Mark Hansen to Jemison, 16 Dec 1949, p.876; Officer Harry Hansen to Deputy District Attorney Arthur L. Veitch, Dec 1949, pp. 120-121; Ann Toth to Jemison, 13 Dec 1949, pp. 923-927; Los Angeles Grand Jury Testimonies and Witness Interviews, “The Black Dahlia.” [↩]
- Guthrie was arrested and cleared; Sgt. F. A. Brown to Capt. H. Elliott, LAPD Officer’s Memorandum, 10 Nov 1949, Los Angeles Police Department Public Records. Deputy District Attorney Arthur L Veitch, 6 Dec 1949, pp. 269, 421; Los Angeles Grand Jury Testimonies and Witness Interviews, “The Black Dahlia.” [↩]
- The Long Beach Independent 9 Sept 1949. The Los Angeles Times eventually grew weary of the Black Dahlia case and accused the Grand Jury of proposing “an excursion into the pulp magazine field” by exploiting the city’s gruesome murders; 8 Sept 1949. [↩]
- Box Office 3 July 1948, 17 July 1948 and 18 June 1949; Variety 15 June 1949. The Hawaii Theatre opened in 1940 and was another property of the Times-Mirror Company. An LADBS Application to Alter, Repair or Demolish on 30 Sept 1948 showed that Charles Lee assisted with renovations of the Marcal following the fire. [↩]
- Billboard 16 Oct 1948. On the Florentine’s closure and debts, see Daily Variety 29 July 1948 and 10 Aug 1948; Variety 10 Aug 1948. Title Insurance and Trust Company to J. F. Walsh, 7 Oct 1950; Box 8, Folder 8, Los Angeles Times Records, 1869-2002, The Huntington Library. [↩]
- Billboard 16 Oct 1948, 19 Feb 1949, and 23 July 1949. [↩]
- An application was filed by the Hollywood Canteen Foundation to propose the removal of the Florentine’s front façade ornamentation facing Hollywood Boulevard; LADBS Application to Alter, Repair or Demolish, 17 Aug 1953. The Los Angeles Times on 6 March 1951 announced the Canteen’s plans to reopen at the Florentine. [↩]
- Los Angeles Times 16 July 1949; Los Angeles Examiner 16 July 1949, 17 July 1949, 22 Sept 1949, and 10 Nov 1949. A cousin of Lola Titus believed that the nightclub dancer suffered from bipolar disorder. See Deranged LA Crimes Comment posted by Richard Titus on 1 April 2017. [↩]
- County of Los Angeles Register-Recorder/County Clerk, Certificate of Death for Mark Marinus Hansen, 14 June 1964. Hansen’s death certificate indicated that he had died at 6024 Carlos Avenue. [↩]
- Variety 16 June 1964 (obituary) and Los Angeles Times 16 June 1964 (obituary). Coincidentally, while Hansen was involved with the Salvation Army, the Hawaii Theatre at 5941 Hollywood Blvd (just east of the Florentine Gardens) was closed in 1963 and converted into a Salvation Army Church in 1965; LADBS Certificate of Occupancy, 16 July 1965. [↩]
- An LADBS Application to Alter, Repair or Demolish on 20 May 1975 showed that Pacific Theatres was later the owner of what was the Marcal. Additional information on the Marcal’s history can be found on the Los Angeles Theatres blog under World Theatre. The nearby Adam and Eve Theatres at 5959 Hollywood Boulevard, built in 1971 and demolished in 2016, was not a Hansen property. [↩]
- The Los Angeles Times announced the dedication of the Retail Clerks Union on 8 July 1955. Many writers claim that Norma Jean Baker (later, Marilyn Monroe) married James E. Doughtery on 19 June 1942 at the Florentine Gardens. Their wedding invitation shows that both the wedding and the reception were held at 432 South Bentley Ave in Los Angeles. [↩]
- LADBS Application to Alter, Repair or Demolish Hansen’s bungalow, 22 May 1973. [↩]