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Mapping the Essential Sites of Nathanael West's Los Angeles

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In Maps to the Stars, Curbed LA maps the lives of the most notable figures in Los Angeles history through the places that were important to them.

Compared to the capitals of Europe, or even America's Eastern cities, Los Angeles may be young, but it's made an awful lot of history in its 230-odd years. Authors, directors, basketball stars, and crime kingpins have all called Los Angeles home, and each has made some contribution to the dark, delicious image of LA that exists in the collective consciousness. Years on, it's hard to imagine some of these legends as average people—Quentin Tarantino writing in a coffee shop, Bertolt Brecht buying milk at the market—but they were and are! They lived here and worked here and ate here and drank here; some even died here. Our collective history is on the walls and in streets, buried just beneath that latest coat of paint. We're going to see what we can find. There's no better place to start than with writer Nathanael West, the quintessential Angeleno.

West was a transplant, as most in his day were and many still are, who came out to LA to work as a screenwriter. He lived here only five years, but his booze-fueled, junk-around, tragicomic time came to define the image of life as a writer in the studio system, a world run by fast-talking, handshaking sharks. Hollywood wasn't just another city, it was another world; an entirely new thing, with zero precedent. West found inspiration in the madness—an army of every nation throughout history marching through the backlot, "lines broken, as though fleeing from some terrible defeat"; a movie premiere on Hollywood Boulevard turned blood riot—and, as fellow author Budd Schulberg said, "recorded it in acid."

Seventy-six years later, The Day of The Locust, the last of the four books West wrote, is still the defining Hollywood novel. No one knew the town better—West lived it himself, recorded life around him in bold, delicate prose. It is fiction, yes, but with a double shot of reality. The Day of The Locust remains as essential today as it was upon publication. Below, the places that made up West's Los Angeles. —Ian Grant

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Parva-Sed Apartments

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West's first home upon becoming a permanent Angeleno, and the inspiration for Tod Hackett's seedy Hollywood apartment building in DOTL.

Columbia Pictures Studios

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West's first studio gig came with Columbia Pictures, writing scripts. The legendary lot still stands today as Sunset-Gower Studios.

Republic Studios

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In 1935, West went to B-movie studio Republic to write Westerns and gangster pics. The lot exists today as CBS Studio Center.

6614 Cahuenga Terrace

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A modest house tucked into the side of the Cahuenga Pass, where West lived alone, and later with his wife Eileen.

RKO Encino Ranch

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West's final studio job came with RKO Pictures, whose Encino Ranch was built on 89 acres along Burbank Boulevard. The ranch was subdivided for single-family houses in 1954.

12706 Magnolia Blvd.

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A larger North Hollywood home West and Eileen moved into weeks prior to their deaths. Since demolished.

Stanley Rose Book Shop

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Legendary Hollywood bookstore that West, William Saroyan, Bill Faulkner, and Budd Schulberg, among many others, frequented.

Musso & Frank Grill

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"The oldest restaurant in Hollywood." West, like so many, many others, was a frequent patron of the bar.

El Centro, CA

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West and Eileen, on their way back from a weekend trip to Mexico, died in a car accident outside El Centro on December 22, 1940.

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Parva-Sed Apartments

West's first home upon becoming a permanent Angeleno, and the inspiration for Tod Hackett's seedy Hollywood apartment building in DOTL.

Columbia Pictures Studios

West's first studio gig came with Columbia Pictures, writing scripts. The legendary lot still stands today as Sunset-Gower Studios.

Republic Studios

In 1935, West went to B-movie studio Republic to write Westerns and gangster pics. The lot exists today as CBS Studio Center.

6614 Cahuenga Terrace

A modest house tucked into the side of the Cahuenga Pass, where West lived alone, and later with his wife Eileen.

RKO Encino Ranch

West's final studio job came with RKO Pictures, whose Encino Ranch was built on 89 acres along Burbank Boulevard. The ranch was subdivided for single-family houses in 1954.

12706 Magnolia Blvd.

A larger North Hollywood home West and Eileen moved into weeks prior to their deaths. Since demolished.

Stanley Rose Book Shop

Legendary Hollywood bookstore that West, William Saroyan, Bill Faulkner, and Budd Schulberg, among many others, frequented.

Musso & Frank Grill

"The oldest restaurant in Hollywood." West, like so many, many others, was a frequent patron of the bar.

El Centro, CA

West and Eileen, on their way back from a weekend trip to Mexico, died in a car accident outside El Centro on December 22, 1940.