Bill Keene, a lecturer in history, urban studies, and architecture, examines developments from the 1930s onward that shaped Los Angeles as a magnet for population migration and a major center of industry.
Emergent airplane manufacturing during the 1930s established the foundation for the explosive growth to meet the demands of WWII. Shipbuilding, aircraft production, and other wartime industry enabled Los Angeles to become a leading industrial area in the postwar period.
During the 1930s, motion pictures and radio became factors in the daily lives of millions. With the development of television, Hollywood became a presence in most homes, further enhancing the visions of the Southern California filled with endless sun, beautiful beaches, and playgrounds of the glamorous.
The postwar boom brought more than a million new residents to Los Angeles alone, seeking the lifestyle seen in the movies and TV and briefly experienced by the GIs who came through on their way to war and those who came to work in industry supporting the war effort.
Along with new population, new challenges emerged or resurfaced. Air pollution became a major problem, shadowing Sunny California’s image. Racial tensions grew. The city saw the expulsion of Japanese residents in 1942 and major outbreaks of violence across the decades, from the Zoot Suit Riots of 1943 to the Los Angeles Riots of 1992, with racial issues remaining a problem today.
Keene also traces how during the same period, Los Angeles emerged on the national and world stages as a major force economically and culturally. That status was reflected in the development of institutions including the County Museum of Art, the Norton Simon and Getty museums, and the Music Center (with its Disney Concert Hall), and the major-league baseball, football, and basketball teams that call it home.