Archive for the ‘photography’ category

Mirrors of Silent Hollywood

Those countless hours spent mining through antique shops are well worth the effort, even when you leave empty handed. And since I do normally leave empty handed, this morning I was rapturous to have discovered an antique slim volume from 1925. The salesman let me have it for a fiver. I would have paid ten times that much for it.

Mirrors of Hollywood was published in 1925 written by one Charles David Fox. Its prose, duly overinflated and swimming in saccharine, is nonetheless revelatory. The world of silent Hollywood leaps to life in every fawning flourish, we take a tour of the studios, and what’s more, Fox provides stats that, for LA history enthusiasts like myself, are absolutely priceless. Not only census information, but, as Fox puts it, “Film Folk” vital stats. Most of them are terribly inaccurate (Chaplin born in Paris?) and one suspects Fox got his so-called “facts” from movie fan magazines but it’s a lot of fun regardless.

And since I live smack in the heart of Hollywood (across the road from the Roosevelt Hotel) it is strangely bittersweet: that sleepy farm town that I would have so loved now littered as it is with trannies and tourists and trash.

It truly was another universe then…

Fox's "Famous Film Folk"

John Barrymore: Born February 15 1882. Height 5 ft 10 in; weight 160 lbs; brown hair, light brown eyes.

Charles Chaplin: Born, Paris, France. eight 5 ft 4 in; wight 125 lbs; brown-gray hair, blue eyes.

Dorothy Davenport: Born, Boston Mass., March 13rh, 1895; educated Roanoke, VA; Height 5 ft 7 in; wight 130 lbs; black hair, brown eyes

Doris Eaton: Born, Norfolk, VA; educated Washigton D.C.; Height 5 ft 2 in; weight 112 lbs; brown hair, hazel eyes.

Douglas Fairbanks: Born Denver, Colorado, May 23rd 1884Height 5 ft 10 in; weight 165 lbs; dark brown hair, brown eyes

Buster Keaton: Born Pickway, Kansas, October 4th 1896; Height 5 ft 6 in; weight 160 lbs; black hair, brown eyes.

Rod La Roque: Born Chicago, Illinois, November 29th, 1893; educated Nebraska. Height 6 ft 3 in; eight 181 lbs; black hair, brown eyes

Mabel Normand: Born Staten Island, New York; Educated St. Mary’s Convent at Northwest Port, Mass. Height 5 ft 4 in; weight 120 lbs; dark hair, laughing brown eyes.

Gloria Swanson: Born, Chicago Illinois, March 27th 1898; educated Chicago Illinois. Height 5 ft 3 in; weight 110 lbs; brown hair, gray-blue eyes.

Rudolph Valentino: Born, Castellaneto, Italy, May 6th, 1895. Genoa, Italy. Height 5ft. 11 in; weight 160 lbs; black hair, brown eyes.

Anna May Wong: Born, Los Angeles, Calif; Height 5 ft 4 in; weight 120 lbs; black hair, brown eyes.

Gotta love it.

Here are a few of the more enthusiastic excerpts from the book and a selection of  stills:

Mirrors of Hollywood, 1925

No romance that has ever unfolded on the silver screen, no fantastic tale from the pen of a Jules Verne has ever depicted the glamorous drama of Hollywood, America’s real live Fairyland–the dreamer’s dream come true. Brilliant as the eternal California sunshine, soft and languid as the Cailfornia moon, the beauty of Hollywood is the glorious envy of the artist, the never-to-be-obtained goal of the poet.

Woven of the fabric of genuine romance, as absorbing and dramatic a tale as has ever been told, is the story of the transition of this one-time sleepy suburb of Los Angeles, to the present-time thriving and well populated city of Hollywood.
.

"A Typical Hollywood Street"

Hollywood, to you, is Los Angeles, California– home of the motion picture. Hollywood, to me, is a little garden, nestled at the foot of hills of purple loveliness, reaching for–almost touching, the deep blue of the vast pacific.

"The Thomas Ince Homestead"

Nor is it a settlement of motion picture studios, though it is perhaps the geographic center fo screen production in the West. There are studios in Hollywood, of course, but these studios, widely scattered as they are, must be sought out with a guide if the casual visitor to America’s playground is to see them. The studios, if we expect a few, bear no resemblance to what you would expect them to be, and so, you would pass them by unnoticed, were not the inititated to stop you to say: “Here’s the Lasky studios” or “This is where the Metro pictures are made.”

Miles and miles of quiet residential streets, busy shopping ceters, well populated grammar and high schools, thriving banks, wealthy churches, neautiful hshops ranging in size from tiny band-boxes to Robertson’s Department Store, two newspaper plants, theaters, real estate offices, hotels, and gardens, make Hollywood distinctly a city of homes.

The View from Universal City

Green hills shelter the town, while here and there atop them, somewhere up on the skyline, venturesome folk have build their bungalows and lodges, the dwellings looking for all the world like neighbors to the stars.

Framed against the backdrop of Hollywood’s hills, the whole city– all the palm-lined streets, with their impossibility picturesque and gayly colored bungalows, forming a veritable riot of color with here and there quaint windows peering sightlessly from air spaces under low roofs– looks more like one of the huge movie sets that have brought it fame, than it does like the peaceful city of normal community activities and interestes, of children, of mothers and fathers, of sisters and brothers, which this magic city of the West really is.

Inside the Lasky Studios

The Jean Harlow Blogathon: February 28 – March 6

Blog it for Baby: February 28 - March 6

 

The Jean Harlow Blogathon kicks off February 28 and The Kitty Packard Pictorial is rounding up contributors! The original Platinum Blonde Bombshell’s 100th birthday is March 3rd and the Pictorial is honoring her life and work with a weeklong Blogathon. The event is being held in conjunction with the release of the new book on her life and the new Jean Harlow exhibit at the Max Factor Museum in Hollywood.

Her tragically short life spent most of the century shrouded in sensationalism– but the past 20 years has witnessed a sweeping away of those old cobwebs. The latest testament to her worth as an actress and her beauty as a human being is Darrell Rooney and Mark Vieira’s new book, Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital. A copy of which, The Pictorial will be giving away to one lucky reader (or Blogger!) at the conclusion of the Blogathon.

Within its beautifully illustrated pages, the real Harlean Carpenter comes to life as never before: a sweater wearing clean-faced kid from the Midwest whose death at the terribly young age of 26 left a vigorous roster of films in her wake. The world of 1930s Hollywood is strikingly re-created in never before published photos from personal collections the world over– cultural antrhopology in decadent black and white!

Help keep Harlow’s legend–and Harlow’s Hollywood– alive.  Contact us via email — we’d love to have your blog join the ranks with ours!

Rules are simple and few. Post a Jean Harlow-related piece on your blog and include a link to the new book Harlow in Hollywood. Topics are as varied as you like– from her life to her films to the setting of the Harlow story: 1930s Hollywood itself. Email The Pictorial with your post’s URL and join us as we watch the contributing links grow!

HARLOW’S HOLLYWOOD – AN INTERVIEW WITH DARRELL ROONEY & MARK VIEIRA

An MGM crew member once said of Jean Harlow, “We weren’t just workers on her set, we were real to her. If you were sick, she was the first one to notice. The first one to send flowers.” She was also the first one to tell her director ‘Let’s work late tonight so the boys can get to the football game tomorrow.’ And when a studio executive cut crew coffee breaks, she stormed to the office demanding ‘either they get a coffee break or I don’t work.’

While it was her platinum hair, sensuous body and brazen sexuality that made the Jean Harlow image an icon– it was her sincerity, warmth and gentleness of spirit that made her truly beautiful. And it is that beauty– the woman beneath the platinum locks– that the new book Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital, 1928 – 1937 valiantly endeavors to present in a most unprecedented fashion. Read more ►

City of Dreadful Joy: Random Ponderings on the Paradoxical Mechanics of a City in Search of Self.

Confession: I love Los Angeles. It’s not my favorite city in the world– that crown rests in the heart of my old home across the Pond– but I’ve pretty much reconciled to the fact that I do love Los Angeles.

Problem is, I hate L.A.

Yes. There is a difference.

For me, Los Angeles is the tangible city:  its sun kissed sloping hillsides and stretching curves of blue coast; its whimsical architecture that blends neoclassicism, deco and Moorish sensibilities with carefree abandon; the farm town framework disguised under a bustling metropolis; those knockabout formative years with the industry that would one day come to consume it ….  I love all of it.

However, a key factor in the definition of a city’s character is the people who live in it. They are the ones who choose what to make of the tangible city, and what not to make of it. And modern Los Angeles has amassed a considerable part of its population that does not seem to be remotely interested in that tangible city– but rather, the image it projects.

A problem, because a city cannot be truly great unless its organic self is allowed to become a part of the flesh of the people who live there. Perhaps this great distinction is what leads many a visitor to Los Angeles to label it  ‘fake’ – the absence of the organic city as an inherit part of its people is perhaps both obvious and inexpressible and therefore described as, simply, a “feeling” one gets.

Real Los Angeles – Angel’s Fligh

Fake L.A. -  Plastic Fame

Perhaps, however, this is something that has more to do with Father Time than anything else. Los Angeles is, after all, just a toddler. (History Alert: restless readers are hereby forewarned and apologies sincerely offered for any gross factual inaccuracies… the title of this post, after all, is random ponderings…) Sure, Los Angeles has Spanish roots that reach as far back as the 16th Century, but it has only been an incorporated city since 1850. At 160 years old, Los Angeles therefore trails her East Coast counterparts in both experience and maturity by some two hundred years—and by her European counterparts, upwards of a millennium. By way of perspective: when her shores were first spied by Spanish explorer Juan Cabrillo in 1542 (which he rightly dubbed Baya de los Fumos– that smoke-like morning fog still a natural fixture) , his Spanish home had long been a formidable world presence, and was soon to battle her mortal enemy, the powerful, proud England, in the naval battle of the millennium.

The wilds of Baya de los Fumos was not to be officially recognized as a civilized township for some 300 years.

And even then, from the very beginning, Los Angeles was a North American curiosity. It should not have been a metropolis, this arid chaparral. And yet, America had fought for it. The  Mexican American War claimed California as its own, and with it the progressive reality of transcontinental railroads, the unsavory-but-necessary enterprise of irrigation, and the delicious reward of Oil.

Even so, this outpost of American civilization quite literally had to will itself into being– its purpose and place in the American tapestry very carefully curated by its boosters and backers. Well into the early 20th century, this city without a solid identity was being furiously fought for. The Los Angeles Times power players and the wealthy Maritime institutions fancied it a WASP wet-dream  … a delusion not to materialize (at least, not permanently) thanks to a vibrant, unstoppable ethnic population and a sleepy little farm town hamlet to the west called Hollywood. This pepper tree-lined enclave suddenly became the center of Los Angeles’ foremost export:

Motion Pictures.

Hollywood pre-1920 was a small-town USA community steeped in strict Conservative morals. Winding dirt roads and General Stores and church picnics with sweet lemonade and knitting bees. On the other side of the spectrum was the motion picture industry which had been birthed a million miles away, in the bowels of New York City and New Jersey, by immigrants– many of them Jewish. Los Angeles fought its newly forced upon identity as the entertainment center of the world, and even into the Sound-era, only Conservatives such as Cecil B DeMille were admitted into the city’s established circles.

The rest created their own.

It was from these Garden of Allah dens of devilish delight that the incoming thronging masses from the world over– Iowa to Istanbul– fabricated their own realities in a city of conflicted identity. The respectable Theodosia Goodman from Ohio became the vampiric Theda Bara and circus performer Archie Leach from Bristol became the debonair Cary Grant.

The city’s reputation was now beginning to precede it. Los Angeles was not the sleepy Spanish hamlet of Jacaranda and Pepper Trees; the wide-eyed Chicago of the Pacific with its Downtown sky-climbers; not even the Riviera of the West with its dramatic coastline so very similar to Cannes and Monte Carlo. Los Angeles was now synonymous with one word: showbiz. And Hollywood was its fated patron saint.

There is to this day, a very tangible dichotomy.  Those who emigrate here desperately, searching for the smoke-and-mirrors dream of a selective reality, and those who simply live here

Novelists from Raymond Chandler to F Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway belabored their frustrated romanticism of it.  Aldous Huxley’s observations were rather more acidic. He wrote of it in 1926: “Thought is barred in this City of Dreadful Joy, and conversation is unknown.” And, of course, there’s Woody Allen famous summation of the City: “I cannot live in a city where the only cultural advantage is making a right turn on a red light.”

Funny as hell. And true too– if you’re judging on appearances.

The dichotomy here is tangible and one can find truth absolutely in both sides. Those who emigrate here desperately, searching for the smoke-and-mirrors dream of a selective reality, conduct a conspicuous manner of ‘living the life plast-astic’ so loud that onlookers can’t help but assume ‘that’s all there is’.

But… it’s not.

You just gotta do a bit of digging.  The real Los Angeles belongs to boarded up crumbling black alleys, old Spanish estates, the foothill wilds and reaching Deco spires. Its a past that time has yet to blacken over completely. It’s still there, living and breathing and waiting to be discovered…

All you gotta do is know where to look.

Through the tireless, passionate efforts of nonprofits like The Los Angeles Conservancy, The Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation and the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission, and their fight to protect and preserve, there is a bright hope that this tangible city will indeed remain just that.

Westwood Village in 1941 (via the Neat Stuff Blog)

The Bendix Sign today, Downtown LA. Copyright James Herman

Pershing Square, Downtown Los Angeles in 1965

The Vine Manor Hotel, at Vine and Yucca St. 1953

Sunbathers at The Hollywood Roosevelt, 1956 (via ElectroSpark)

Downtown’s beautiful Eastern Building, today. Copyright A.C. Thamer

La Cienea Blvd at sunset during the 1950s

Towards the Pantages at Hollywood and Vine, 1962

Musso & Frank’s Restuarant today, with its legendary bartender, Manny. Copyright Arturo Sotillo.

View of Hollywood Blvd and Hills from the Roosevelt, 1956 (via ElectroSpark)

The Tournament of Roses Parade – Through the Years

Mornings on the first of January are a cuddly affair of cocoa, coffee, cinnamon buns and Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses Parade. Or, at least, for that’s the way it is for Southern Californians. The parade itself is high camp, and network coverage is overinflated cornball… but boy if it doesn’t make me all warm and fuzzy inside.

These days we have everything from pyrotechnics to pop star solos. Yet another reason I long for the good old days when it was a bit more… grounded, shall we say. But having said that, in looking at the following collection of photos spanning the Parade’s history, from Day One the parade has held that whimsical flair that makes it so easy to cozy up to on a chilly January morning.

Enjoy– and Happy New Year! :)

 

1906 Rose Parade – Queen Elsie Armitage and her Court

 

1923 Rose Queen, May MacAvoy

 

1933 Rose Parade – Queen Dorothy Edwards and her Court

 

1943 Rose Parade – Queen Mildred Miller and Court (isn’t this the BEST?)

 

1946 Rose Parade (photo copyright O.W. Jogren)

 

1954 Rose Parade (photo copyright O.W. Sjogren_

 

1958 Tournament of Roses Parade (photo copyright O.W. Sjogren)

 

1966 Tournament of Roses Parade

 

The 1967 Tournamen tof Roses Parade Court