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L.A. Confidential

From Academic Kids

L.A. Confidential is a 1990 crime novel by James Ellroy that was turned into a 1997 film which tells the story of Los Angeles police in the 1950s, and police corruption bumping up against Hollywood celebrity. The film adaptation stars Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, James Cromwell, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, David Strathairn, and Ron Rifkin.

Contents

Story

The story is about three cops who are caught up in a mixture of lies, sex and murder following a mass murder at the Nite Owl coffee shop. The story spans more than seven years and eventually stretches to encompass organized crime, political corruption, heroin, pornography, prostitution, tabloid journalism, plastic surgery and Hollywood. The novel's title refers to the infamous 1950s scandal magazine Confidential, portrayed fictionally therein as Hush-Hush.

Edmund Exley, the son of a legendary LAPD cop, is a brilliant detective determined to outdo his father. His intelligence, his education, his glasses, his insistence on following regulations, and his cold demeanor all contribute to Ed's "not one of the boys" status among the rest of the Department, and the resentment is fed when he testifies against other cops in a police-brutality case early in the novel.

Wendell "Bud" White, the most feared man in the LAPD, is a six-foot tall muscleman of a cop. His partner was convicted and imprisoned in the "Bloody Christmas" scandal by Exley's testimony, and Bud vows revenge. He has a violent obsession with men who abuse women, counterbalanced only by his tenderness towards the victims.

Jack Vincennes is a slick and likable Hollywood cop who moonlights as the technical advisor of Badge of Honor, a popular Dragnet-like television show. Behind his confident facade is a history of drug and alcohol abuse, and a dark secret that the Nite Owl investigation threatens to reveal.

Film

The movie was adapted by Brian Helgeland and Curtis Hanson from the Ellroy's novel, and directed by Hanson. It won Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Kim Basinger) and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium; and was nominated for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Music, Original Dramatic Score, Best Picture and Best Sound.

Changes From Novel To Film

Helgeland and Hanson were forced to make major changes to the plot to pare the story down to feature-length. Those sections notably missing or shortened are Bud's subplot involving a serial-killer who murders prostitutes, Ed's father, Inez Soto's subplot, the Dieterling/Disney subplot, and nearly all of Jack's back story, and his marriage.

Ellroy's novel is in paperback under ISBN 0446674249. It is the third entry in Ellroy's "LA Quartet" series of noir novels.

References to real-life

  • The scandal magazine Hush-Hush is a reference to tabloid magazines of the 1950s, such as Confidential
  • Badge of Honor is seen as a Dragnet pastiche, as both shows use actual police consultants to achieve verisimilitude.
  • The "Fleur de Lis" club, which features prostitutes specifically cast and operated upon to look like contemporary celebrities is probably a reference to the T&M Studio, a famous Hollywood brothel with celebrity-lookalikes. This and other such specific brothels were mentioned in several famous hollywood memoirs, including Mickey Rooney's and Garson Kanin's.
  • Lynn Bracken (Basinger) makes herself up deliberately to look like actress Veronica Lake. Lake's This Gun for Hire is also shown on TV in her apartment in one scene.
  • Mickey Cohen was a real-life mobster. He is arrested at the beginning of the film for tax evasion and spent four years in federal prison (McNeil Island) for it.
  • Johnny Stompanato (Cohen's bodyguard) did date Lana Turner while Cohen was behind bars. Turner's daughter killed Stompanato in 1958.

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