When you hear the word ‘nostalgia’ it immediately conjures up black and white images. There’s something about the good old days that resonates with monochrome photographs of more innocent times. It is a funny notion, since color images have been around for decades; the Kodacolor, the first color film, was introduced in 1942 and kicked into mass production for 35mm in 1958.
Maybe it’s the old Hollywood glamor… the images of cinema first generation of stars larger than life. Maybe it’s the elegant 50’s when folks were dressed up smartly every day. Maybe it’s the flair of an era that is gone.
Still, black and white images are nostalgic. Even if they were taken before we were even born, even if we aren’t familiar with the people and places photographed, the black and the white and all the greys in between touches us in a way a color photograph will never be able to.
What’s even better? Black and white images of the most colorful place. What is the most colorful place? Las Vegas. Glitzy, sparkly, neon-y – Vegas is a place defined in popular culture for its bright lights and splashy images.
That’s why seeing old black and white images from Vegas is so striking. The glamor is still there – the well-dressed, beautiful people, the excitement in the air, the neon lights everywhere – and is even more apparent in black and white.
So here are some of our favorite vintage images of the Las Vegas that it used to be before it transformed itself to a family vacation destination. You can feel the electricity in the air, the kind of electricity that can only exists in a place for grownups.
The Strip, All Stripped Down
The word that comes to mind – innocence. And elegance. This is as removed as possibly can from today’s noisy, over-the-top Strip. You can feel the calmness in the air, the sense of upscale entertainment.
The most striking thing about this image is that the Strip looks like a real place built by real people for real people. Today’s Strip, on the contrary, looks manufactured. It doesn’t feel like a real place – it is a made up, crazy fantasy for tourists.
Street Level Casino
It’s not the most incredible photograph, but something is remarkable here – the Eldorado Club, at the ground floor of the Apache hotel, is so approachable. It is right there, on the sidewalk, a walk-in haven.
These days, to get to a casino floor in Vegas, you’ll need to embark on quite the walk from the Strip. The casinos are now engulfed by monstrous resorts – not even hotels, resorts! – and are most definitely not visible from the street. There is something very comforting about being able to peek through the glass windows of a casino; ah, those were the days.
Now That’s a Ride!
This photograph of the Flamingo hotel says it all – tons of style, blue sky and green grass and the most awesome rides. This was actually a postcard advertising the Flamingo hotel.
A one-story hotel is just unimaginable in today’s Vegas, or anywhere else for that matter. Those were the times when there was no shortage of space in the Nevada desert, and less than 42.9 million people visited Vegas every year (the number of Vegas tourists in 2016.)
Sinatra Sure As Hell Did It His Way
There’s no one that symbolizes the glamor days of Las Vegas more than Frank Sinatra. And here, in this candid shot from 1955 taken at the Dunes hotel, blue-eyes is dreamy as always, almost nonchalant about the womanly hectic-ness surrounding him.
One can imagine Sinatra and the girls are posing for a shot to promote a show they took part it.
One thing raises a question in this picture – what’s the story with the kneeling guy on the left, what is this on his head? A wig? A Turban?
The Real Show Girls
If we’re already talking about Vegas shows, here’s a taste of the real thing. 1958, the Stardust Hotel, just a regular night at the club.
The elegance, the grandeur is unparalleled to today’s standards. With no special effects or tech wizardry, these four elegantly dressed ladies are giving the folks below them a run for their money.
A Swingers Moment
Here is Noel Coward, a British playwright who was a fixture of Vegas, performing nightly at the Desert Inn. The open-top car, the sign at the back, his pencil mustache – the epitome of Vegas in the 50’s, just before the city exploded into the mega town that has become.
Just a great shot, soaked with atmosphere.
The Wild, Wild West
This isn’t Halloween, nor a cowboy-cowgirls theme party. This is 1935 – ! – and these folks are dressed in their everyday attire. The roulette though, is the same roulette.
Obviously, the color was added much later, as is obvious from the reddish glow on everyone’s cheeks.
This image is just a delight to look at. A world that’s long gone is right here before our eyes, in the most natural moment. Priceless!
Now what can possibly be cooler than this? Playing roulette in the pool. Not by the poolside, inside the pool. And see the cocktail waitress at the back, arriving with a tray of fresh drinks in a white bikini; ah, the good life.
Even the fact that the dealer isn’t shaved-chest and buffed, but a regular-looking Joe from Montana speaks to the authenticity of the whole scene. It’s about enjoying life, as real as they get.
Roll the Dice, Tanya
Unimaginable for today’s casinos, Tanya, a Siamese elephant and a performer at the Dunes Hotel and Casino, is taking a break from her busy schedule to join gamblers at the craps table.
It looks like Tanya is the one throwing the dice and the folks around her are watching attentively, hoping for the luck to strike.
The scene is so removed from what we are used to in today’s casinos, that it’s just breathtakingly awesome to imagine that this was the life in Vegas back then; so relaxed, so open-minded, so free.