The above is a map of the Pacific Electric streetcar system in the 1920s. In the summer and fall of 1928, a story captivated many Los Angelenos -- and chances are that young actress Carol Lombard, who turned 20 that Oct. 6, and her family followed it in the newspapers.
Now that story has been adapted into a film, "Changeling," which opens nationally this weekend. It's a top-of-the-line production, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Angelina Jolie, both already with Academy Awards on their resumes. Here's a still from the film showing Jolie, as Christine Collins, alighting from one of those streetcars -- proof of the splendid job Eastwood and his crew (including costume designer Deborah Hopper) did in recreating 1928 L.A.:
As stated early, "Changeling" is based on a true story, one few people today are aware of. Christine Collins was a single working mother whose son, Walter Collins, was kidnapped in March, and she believed the perpetrators had some sort of ties to his father, who at the time was imprisoned. A few months later, the boy was found in Illinois -- or so authorities claimed -- and returned to Los Angeles. However, she maintained he wasn't her son...leading to her brief institutionalization. What happens after that? You'll have to watch the movie to find out.
Like most films based upon true stories, "Changeling" takes a few liberties for storytelling's sake. However, if you want to find out what really happened in the Walter Collins case, the Los Angeles Times can help. Its blog "The Daily Mirror" has recently run a series of Times articles from 1928. Here's the first set of articles:
Also, here is the first report of the Collins kidnapping from March 15, 1928, as well as pictures of the real-life Walter Collins and one from Aug. 19, 1928 showing Christine Collins and the boy said to be her son:
The Times blog has also run several more sets of articles over about a week's time...but a spoiler alert for those who want to view the movie without knowing the story:
A person who's not a character in the film played a key role in the case, but I'll leave it at that. (The last item above lists the known residences of the real-life Christine Collins over the years.)
Finally, just another sample of the historical verisimilitude from this film (aside from the press passes shown on the reporters' hats). Here's Colm Feore, at right, as Los Angeles police chief James Davis:
And here's the actual James Davis, shown in 1926: