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Raymond Chandler's 1940s Santa Monica - Bay City

If you've read Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlowe stories, and are familiar with the greater Los Angeles area, you recognize his fictional "Bay City" - Santa Monica.

Why Chandler chose to fictionalize the name, and still use familiar street names and landmarks, I have no idea. My best guess is that he wrote in kind of a hurry, and hoped that people wouldn't figure much out.

I have no idea if they used "Bay City" for Santa Monica in the movies. I've seen the movies, but they've left little impression on me. The books, however brought me back to the 1940s. In fact, I was living in Hollywood when I first read them, just up from Franklin on Argyle, and Chandler's fictional hero spent a lot of time around there.

If you're not familiar with Los Angeles, then Santa Monica and LA seem to be pretty much the same place. But they're not. Santa Monica is not part of the City of Los Angeles. It has its own mayor, its own police force. And when Chandler needed a fictionalized corrupt police force, he invented Bay City.

Of course, the Santa Monica police force wasn't any more corrupt in the 1940s than the Los Angeles police force. But Chandler needed bad guys. It was a writing device, that's all.

If you're interested in time-traveling back to Santa Monica in the 1940s, go pick up one of Chandler's novels, and look for Bay City.

By the way, don't read Chandler too carefully. If you're still trying to figure out who killed the chauffeur in "The Big Sleep", you can stop. While it was being filmed, the director called Chandler about this, and Chandler said "oops". Enjoy the backgrounds!

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