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08 April 2012

1940 U.S. Census--Where's Dietrich?

Recently, the 1940 U.S. Census became available for free online, and I decided to build my research skills by seeking information regarding Dietrich and her household. Currently, the census is available as JPG image files and organized by enumeration district, which was the area covered by a person called an enumerator who went door-to-door to collect and record census data. Thus, scouring data can be tedious, but the 1940 U.S. Census Community Project will hopefully make the task more user-friendly. With indexing software from Family Search, project participants can transcribe data, which will aid others who prefer performing term searches to skimming images or who may not be able to read the handwritten content.

After using the powerful tools developed by Steve Morse, I determined that Dietrich--whom I'm certain lived in the Beverly Hills Hotel during 1940--would be listed on the census pages of enumeration district (ED) 19-36. Browsing these pages, I learned that movie actors did participate in the census, spotting the names of William Powell (1113 Tower Rd.), Fred Astaire (1121 Summit Dr.), and Blonde Venus and Angel co-star Herbert Marshall (1707 Tropical Ave.). Unfortunately, I couldn't find anyone associated with the Beverly Hills Hotel, which is located at 9641 Sunset Blvd. In fact, the addresses listed for Sunset Blvd. didn't even correspond to the enumeration district as I understood it. For example, Richard Barthelmess, who made one of his last acting appearances in The Spoilers, is listed with a misspelled surname at 501 Sunset Blvd. Nowadays, there's no such address anywhere near Beverly Hills. In fact, I supposed that address on Sunset Blvd. would have been somewhere in downtown Los Angeles, on what's now Cesar E. Chavez Ave. Then, I realized that addresses on Sunset Blvd. must have been different in the past, which led me to check the other Beverly Hills enumeration districts. Do any of you L.A. historians out there have some knowledge about this?

Indeed, Beverly Hills Hotel guest names appeared on the pages of another enumeration district, 19-43, at 1210 Sunset Blvd, but I failed to spot either the last name Dietrich or Sieber. Maybe Dietrich didn't live in the Beverly Hills Hotel during the spring of 1940, maybe she didn't participate, or maybe the enumerator didn't collect her data. Who knows? At this time, we'll have to settle for other Dietrich data--such as her U.S. citizenship application, her FBI file, and her social security number--unless one of you finds her in the 1940 census.

Somewhat related to this topic, I searched for Josef von Sternberg's Neutra-designed home in the San Fernando Valley at 10000 Tampa Ave. and found his name somewhat excised from the page, even though his Japanese staff's data remained. What's the meaning of that?
Josef von Sternberg in the 1940 U.S. Census

You may need to click on this close-up to better read the census page.

Edited to add a map of the locations I mentioned in this blog entry. If you're interested, I can start a collaborative map so that all of us can mark spots related to Dietrich, e.g., her homes, movie sets, concert venues, etc. Let me know!



View 1940 U.S. Census--Where's Dietrich? in a larger map

UPDATE: I found Dietrich in the census!

10 comments:

  1. I think this would be very interesting,I would love to know where Rudi's chicken ranch was as well Paul

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  2. This is really interesting Joseph, thanks for sharing! Do they list the dates the census entries were done? Maybe Marlene was out of town at the time?

    The Dietrich map sounds like a very good idea!

    missladiva

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  3. Paul,the address I have for Rudi's farm is 14265 Polk Street, San Fernando.

    missladiva

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  4. missladiva, your knowledge astounds me. According to this site, the home should be the same as the one in which Rudi lived. Imagining Dietrich out in Sylmar is surreal to me. Well, I'll start putting a more general map together so that everyone can edit.

    As for the census, yes, I saw April 5 and 8, 1940 written on the pages with B.H. Hotel guest names.

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  5. Joseph, thanks for those dates! I checked the Google news archives for the first part of 1940: the main mentions of Dietrich (apart from "Destry", which was then in release), are rumours of two film projects: the first, "No Time for Comedy" (with James Stewart) and the second, an untitled vehicle co-starring Clark Gable ... so it seems she was in LA, wheeling and dealing!

    missladiva

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  6. And thanks for that link to Rudi's old house, Joseph! I tried to look for it but couldn't find the exact spot. Surreal for sure! Wonder if the the plot was subdivided, seems small for a chicken ranch!

    Mapping Marlene's looking good!

    missladiva

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  7. Here's another site with recent photos of Rudi's former property. What an overpriced dump! Dietrich really was exaggerating when she called it a ranch. It could have been subdivided because the neighboring house at 13329 Dronfield Ave. was built in 1953. That seems like a question the L.A. County Assessor's Office could best answer.

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  8. I checked the Google news archives for the first part of 1940: the main mentions of Dietrich (apart from "Destry", which was then in release), are rumours of two film projects: the first, "No Time for Comedy" (with James Stewart) and the second, an untitled vehicle co-starring Clark Gable

    Could that Gable vehicle have been the film that eventually became "Comrade X," with Gable and Hedy Lamarr, that was released near the end of 1940? The suits at MGM may have thought that in the wake of "Ninotchka," where Garbo played a Soviet for comedy, why not have Dietrich do it, too? (Of course, both Greta and Marlene had previously portrayed Russians in dramas.) Perhaps Dietrich was interested -- she had worked with Gable on radio in a "Morocco" adaptation, "The Legionnaire And The Lady," that was the first "Lux Radio Theater" broadcast from Hollywood in June 1936 -- but MGM ultimately decided to go in-house with Hedy.

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  9. Thank you for the pics of Rudi's"ranch",what a laugh,the place is a dump and so small,I at least expected it to be set in rolling countryside,far from it,but amusing nonetheless.Paul

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