This Monday, Oct. 5 from 9-11 p.m., PBS airs a new documentary, Inventing L.A.: The Chandlers and Their Times. I caught the world premiere in January at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, so I can report in advance that it’s really good –a fascinating, unsentimental portrait of our home-grown media dynasty and a newspaper era that’s fast fading to history. A lot of former L.A. Times employees were in that audience, not suprisingly. Anyone interested in L.A. and its media will want to catch it.
Otis Chandler family, early 1960s
Filmmaker Peter Jones, who won acclaim doing profiles for A&E’s Biography
series, covers four generations of the Chandler family from Harrison Gray Otis, founding publisher of The Los Angeles Times, through succeeding publishers Harry Chandler (who reputedly inspired the villain in Chinatown
), Norman Chandler and finally, Otis Chandler
, shown above with wife Missy and their five children. Otis makes a fascinating character, and despite his hale and hearty physique, was a serious newsman who elevated the paper’s standards considerably. The youth in the center of the photo is Harry Chandler, a former exec at the Times and other media companies who aided the filmmakers with photographs and letters, and who’s interviewed in the film, as are Missy, Bettina (Otis’ second wife and widow), Catherine Mulholland, Kevin Starr, Mike Davis, and many others who lend a unique perspective. The younger Harry Chandler, who certainly has a personal stake in the history, had this to say in an email he sent out this week: “In the end, I found it a moving and powerful documentary that is quite accurate and very watchable.”
The photograph above, originally taken by Alex Spear, is reproduced from the end materials in Harry Chandler’s Dreamers In Dream City, a recently published collection of profiles and inventive photo-portraits of influential figures in L.A. history and current affairs. Coincidentally, the 55 photos in that book (all either taken by Chandler or enhanced by him with techniques such as digital backgrounds and hand-coloring) are getting a full-on museum exhibit now through Jan. 3 at the Autry National Center (the Gene Autry Museum of the West, out near the L.A. Zoo). Congrats, Harry!
And last but not least, Angel City Press, which published Harry’s book, has also published a companion book to the Chandler documentary, written by Bill Boyarsky, a Pulitzer Prize-winner and 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles Times. Autographed copies are available for $24.95 here.
(Disclosure: although I worked on the Dreamers book as a contributing editor, I have no interest other than a rooting one in the projects described above. I just think you’ll find them interesting!).