In the first half of the 20th century, Los Angeles was as well known for its lurid nightlife and criminal underground as it was for the Hollywood film empire. Often, of course, the two sides of L.A. met, as when Robert Mitchum was busted for marijuana possession in 1949; among the photos collected in Sins of the City
you'll find a snapshot of Mitchum in prison gear during his 50-day incarceration. You'll also find several pictures of local crime boss Mickey Cohen and his gang, usually after somebody's made an attempt to rub them out. Several of the crime scene photos are not for the squeamish, including the shooting death of mobster Bugsy Siegel and the discovery of both halves of the body of Elizabeth Short, better remembered as the "Black Dahlia." (Actually, the two pictures of Short's bisected corpse are taken from a distance, compared to more gruesome photos of that scene found in other sources.)
Jim Heimann's introduction provides some historical context, but it's the photos themselves that are the real attraction here. From them you'll get a sense of what the gambling parlors, speakeasies, and drag balls of the period looked like--as well as Beverly Hills movie premieres, the back alleys of Chinatown, and the exteriors of such swank nightclubs as La Conga and the Mocambo. Sins of the City is fascinating reference material for readers of classic L.A. noir (it includes quotes from several authors, among them Raymond Chandler and John Fante), as well as anyone interested in studying or writing about this period.
Reviews from: Ray Gun
Los Angeles Times
So you've seen L.A. Confidential more than a few times and you're itching to know more about the City of Angels' seedy side? In Sins of the City, Jim Heimann collects tabloid shots taken at morgues, mafia murder scenes and marijuana heists plus some sweet ol' amateur porn thrown in for good measure. Perfect browsing material to keep next to the can at your swing club.
By Jonathan Kirsch
Jim Heimann is the man to see in Hollywood if you are making a movie that is set in Southern California in bygone times he combines the skills of an archivist, a cultural anthropologist, a designer and a historian, and he knows where to look for a dusty photographic relic that shows what any corner of byway of Los Angeles looked like on a particular day in the past.
Heimann's remarkable skill set is put to good use in Sins of the City: The Real Los Angeles Noir, a beguiling collection of black-and-white photographs that depict the demimonde of Los Angeles from the '20s to the '50s. What the photographer Weegee did for New York in his classic Naked City, Heimann now does for Los Angeles.
Sins of the City proves that the depiction of Los Angeles in countless-noir movies and hard-boiled detective stories was not merely the work of an overheated imagination. Her are real-life cops and robbers, gangsters and gambler, strippers and hookers, clairvoyants and charlatans, starlets and the occasional authentic star, all of them captured by a corps of photographers who roamed the meaner streets of Los Angeles with Speed Graphic cameras in hand.