Sunday, 9 May 2010

CITY OF ANGELS: Hollywood, part 2 - Sights And Landmarks

Note: The following is a guided tour through historic Hollywood, which starts at YAMASHIRO'S, then going east along Hollywood Boulevard, and concludes at the HOLLYWOOD TOWERS.

YAMASHIRO'S, 1999 N. Sycamore Ave.

Originally built as a Japanese-style home for Eugene and Adolphe Bernheimer, two brothers from New York settling in Hollywood in 1908, it has since been turned into a Japanese restaurant. While the food at Yamashiro's (which is Japanese for house on the hill) is admittedly excellent, the main reason to come here is for its spectacular location. Perched high up in the Hollywood Hills, it affords stunning views of Los Angeles stretching out below all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

THE MAGIC CASTLE, 7001 Franklin Ave.

Built in 1909 as a private residence for banker Rollin Lane who lived here until 1931, when the mansion was sole to actress Janet Gaynor. One of Hollywood's oldest existing building, it is genuine remnant of the dawn of tinseltown. In 1963, it was purchased by the Academy of Magical Arts, and it has since become a gathering for magicians and their followers from all around the world.


One of several apartment buildings with fancy names dating back to Hollywood's golden age. However, because of its gothic feel due, mainly, to its ivy clad walls, Villa Bonita, in my opinion, is one of the prettiest.

HIGH TOWER, 2178 Hightower Drive

High up, tucked away in the hills above Hollywood is where Raymond Chandler's alter ego, Philip Marlowe, is supposed to have lived, and it has been assumed that Chandler saw his hero living in one of the apartments connected to the High Tower. In fact, Robert Altman used it as Marlowe's home in his version of Chandler's The Long Goodbye, widely considered to be his best and most mature book. Resembling a campanile, an elevator inside the High Tower which works only by key, brings the lucky hill-top residents up to their homes and apartments.

THE NIRVANA, 1775 N. Orange Drive, Architect: E.M. Erdaly, 1925

The Nirvana also is intrinsically linked to the history of Hollywood. Built in 1925, it is located just across the street from the American Society of Cinematographers. With its mock-pagoda style, The Nirvana is another example of Hollywood's penchant - then as now - towards the fancy and the exotic.

GRAUMAN'S CHINESE THEATRE, 6925 Hollywood Boulevard, Architect: C.E. Toberman, 1927

Built by C.E. Toberman for showman Sid Grauman, Grauman's Chinese is doubtless one of the most famous and probably also one of the plushest cinemas in the world. Many of the blobkbusters - although that word had not yet come into existence - of the time had their premiere here, among them DeMille's religious 1927-extravaganza, King of Kings. Equally famous as the theatre are the foot and handprints of movie stars, located in the theatre's front yard. Like most of Hollywood's historic places, Grauman's, too, changed hands several times and consequently hasn't entirely remained unaltered over the course of its eighty year old history. Having recently undergone yet another costly and extensive renovation, much of the theatre's original splendour has been adequately restored.

THE ROOSEVELT HOTEL, 7000 Hollywood Boulevard, architect: C.E. Toberman, 1927

Named after Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States and a relative of Franklin Delano, this legendary hostelry was originally owned by Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Louis B. Mayer. It is one of Hollywood's most important buildings and landmarks. Not only is The Roosevelt an excellent example of the Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, so prevalent at the time of its inauguration, it was also here, in the Blossom Room of The Roosevelt that the first Academy Award ceremony was held on 16 May, 1929. A few years ago, The Roosevelt has had a major facelift, including its famous swimming pool, which in the 1950s was painted by British artist David Hockney.

MASONIC TEMPLE, 6840 Hollywood Boulevard, architect: Austin, Field & Frey, 1921

Austin, Field & Frey, who also designed LA's city hall and the Griffith Observatory, were given the assignment to build a Masonic Temple large enough to accommodate the rising number of Freemasons in early Hollywood. Today, the Neo-Classical Revival Temple is a registered landmark, used as a venue for concerts and receptions. In 1948, the funeral ceremony for the great director and film pioneer David Wark Griffith was held here.

EL CAPITAN THEATRE, 6834-38 Hollywood Boulevard, architect: Albert Lansburgh, 1926

The El Capitan opened as a stage theatre before being converted into a cinema in 1942, operating under the name Paramount. While it was still used as a legitimate theatre, the German theatre director Leopold Jessner, who, among many others, had fled Nazi Germany by emigrating to Los Angeles, staged a production of Schiller's Wilhelm Tell at the El Capitan. Financed by William and Charlotte Dieterle in order to give emigre actors a chance to work, the play was staged in English and turned out to be a colossal flop, allegedly due to the actors' limited command of their acquired language which resulted in what contemporary critics called an accent mess . Besides being an exceptionally beautiful building and its prime location on Hollywood Boulevard just opposite Grauman's, one of the many claims to fame of the El Capitan's is, for instance, the fact that the film which many believe to be the best American film ever made, Citizen Kane, had its premiere here. The El Capitan was purchased by the Disney Group in 1984, which subsequently restored it and reopened it in 1988.

HOLLYWOOD & HIGHLAND BUILDING/ KODAK THEATRE, 6801 Hollywood Boulevard, architect: Ehrenkrantz, Eckstut & Kuhn

Formerly the site of the legendary Hollywood Hotel which, built in 1903, was torn down in 1956, it is now a huge, sprawling shopping mall that also houses the Kodak Theatre, Oscar's first permanent home. A lot of money has gone into this controversial project, whose design might not be to everyone's liking. However, it is nevertheless an indicator of Hollywood's comeback as it encouraged other investors that Hollywood Boulevard has ceased to be the scruffy dive it had been for so many years. As a reference to Hollywood's rich and irretrievably lost past, the architecture includes replicas of D.W. Griffith's Babylonian set for his film Intolerance, which was shot just two miles east on the intersection of Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards. This fact, however, may be lost on the casual visitor who, unless they are familiar with Griffith's epochal film, are more likely to be startled by the fake elephants and references to ancient Egypt.

FIRST NATIONAL BUILDING, 6777 Hollywood Boulevard, architect: Meyer & Holler, 1927

Dominating Hollywood Boulevard with its gothic art-deco structure, for a brief period the First National was LA's tallest building until the construction of the city hall in 1928.

MAX FACTOR BUILDING, 1666 N. Highland Ave., architect: S. Charles Lee, 1934

Max Factor was the make-up artist to the stars during Hollywood's heyday. It was here, in this art-deco gem which operated on three floors, that the Max Factor clientele was attended to in special rooms assigned to different types of customers - blondes, brunettes, and red heads, with each room decorated accordingly. Today, the building, which is also listed as a Historical and Cultural Monument, has been bought by a private sponsor and is now home to the Hollywood History Museum, its highlight being Roddy Macdowell's powder room - such as it was!

LASKY & DEMILLE BARN, 2100 Highland Ave.

When Cecil B. DeMille and Jesse Lasky came out to Hollywood to turn the well known stage play, The Squaw Man, into a feature length film, they found this abandoned barn on the corner of Selma and Vine Streets, and deeming it ideal for their purposes, rented it from its owner, Jacob Stern, a German immigrant. One and two reelers, which had a length of about ten minutes and twenty minutes respectively, were still the order of the day. And even though Adolph Zukor, who at the time still operated from New York, had already started to turn stage plays into feature length films, DeMille's and Lasky's undertaking was a first in Hollywood. Today, the barn is listed as Historical Landmark and is owned by the Hollywood Heritage Organisation. After having been moved to its permanent location across from the Hollywood Bowl, it is now a museum that documents the history of early film making in Hollywood.

HOLLYWOOD BOWL, 3201 Highland Ave., architect: Hodgetts & Fung, 2004 (inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright Jr.'s shell, 1928)

One of Hollywood's most famous landmarks, the first shell was built in 1926 by Allied Architects. As it was only meant to be provisional, two shells followed, both built in two consecutive years, and both were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright Jr. Since acoustics and general construction were still not up to the mark, yet another shell was erected the following year, 1929, this time again built by Allied Architects who in turn took their cue from Lloyd Wright Jr's design of the year before. This shell lasted until recently, when construction of a new shell began and was completed in 2004. The architects, Hodgetts & Fung, again based their design on Frank Lloyd Wright Jr.'s shell of 1928. Leopold Stokowski was the Bowl's first Music Director, and when after his emigration to the US, the German conductor Otto Klemperer became the LA Philharmonic's Music Director, he frequently performed at the Bowl. One of the most memorable events in the history of the Hollywood Bowl was in 1935, when Max Reinhardt staged a production of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, starring Olivia de Havilland, James Cagney, Joe E. Brown, and Mickey Rooney.

JOHN ANSON FORD THEATRE, 2580 Cahuenga Boulevard

Formerly known as the Pilgrimage Play Theatre, this relatively small, intimate venue, meant to resemble old Jerusalem, is renowned for its Shakespeare productions. However, in 1938, Max Reinhardt, who had settled in Hollywood a few years earlier to escape Nazi Germany, directed a successful production of Goethe's Urfaust here.

EGYPTIAN THEATRE, 6712 Hollywood Boulevard, architect: C.E. Toberman, 1922

Sid Grauman's first theatre was inspired by the Egyptian craze, triggered by Howard Carter's discovery of the tomb of King Tutankhamen. The site of Hollywood's first large scale movie premiere, Robin Hood in 1922, at the time of its opening the Egyptian Theatre had guards and ushers sporting ancient Egyptian costumes. The Egyptian changed ownership several times, and at one time belonged to Mike Todd, who besides being Liz Taylor's third husband, was also a tremendous showman and entrepreneur, allegedly installing an extra wide screen for the premiere for his larger than life extravaganza, Around The World in 80 Days. After severe damage caused by the 1994 Northridge earthquake, it was bought by the American Cinematheque, a non-profit organisation, which did a beautiful job in restoring it to its former splendour by trying to save as much of its original features as possible. Having made it their mission to offer more than the standard fare of films, the American Cinematheque frequently organises retrospectives dedicated to individual film makers as well as to film movements in American cinema.

MUSSO & FRANK, 6663-67 Hollywood Boulevard

Hollywood's oldest existing and arguably its most famous eaterie opened in 1919, and neither its interior nor its menu have changed much since. With its cosy atmosphere, its legendary booths, and its, what I choose to call, film noir interior, Musso & Frank managed to preserve its charm, and so it is as much of a hang-out for Hollywood luminaries today as it was then.

FONTENOY APARTMENTS, 1811 N. Whitley Avenue, architect: L.A. Bryant, 1928

Like so many others, this impressive, also a wee bit gothic looking apartment building went up during the boom years of the 1920s in order to accommodate the large number of hopefuls that flocked to Hollywood during its golden age.

WHITLEY HEIGHTS, top of N. Whitley Ave.

The brainchild of Canadian born H.J. Whitley, who had set his mind on recreating a typical Italian hillside retreat, Whitley made his fortune in fine jewellery before purchasing a large parcel of land north of Hollywood Boulevard and subsequently turned it into the first Beverly Hills. Whitley went to great lengths in order to achieve authenticity, including sending his architects to Italy to do research on villas, houses and landscaping. Bette Davis, Jean Harlow, Richard Barthelmes, Rudolph Valentino, Marie Dressler, Gloria Swanson, William Faulkner and Maurice Chevalier, at one stage all lived in this peaceful, beautiful, tucked away community which Greta Garbo once likened to a film set. Parts of Whitley Heights were destroyed in 1947 to make way for the Hollywood Freeway, razing the former homes of Bette Davis and Rudolph Valentino, among many others. Whitley Heights has since been listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is thus protected from further development.

WARNER PACIFIC THEATRE, 6423-45 Hollywood Boulevard, architect: Albert Landsburgh, 1928

This sprawling Italian Renaissance Revival building was meant to become the showcase of the Warner Bros. theatre chain, and being one of the first cinemas equipped to show talkies, the much anticipated premiere of The Jazz Singer was supposed to take place here. However, by the time The Jazz Singer was ready to be released, the Pacific was still under construction, which is why the Jazz Singer's premiere was held in New York instead where Warner's had a movie palace equal to the Pacific. In its heyday, the Pacific was one of several dramatic movie theatres that lined Hollywood Boulevard, others included the Egyptian, the Pantages, Grauman's Chinese and the El Capitan. With its capacity of 2,700 seats, for a short period of time the Pacific was also the largest until the Pantages opened its doors in 1930. Unfortunately, today the Pacific is no longer in operation, which means that its breathtakingly beautiful interior - a continuation of its mock Italian Renaissance facade - is not accessible to the public.

CAHUENGA BUILDING, 6381-85 Hollywood Boulevard, architect: John & Donald Parkinson, 1921

Cahuenga Building - this is how Raymond Chandler dubbed this office block, which in reality is the Security Trust and Savings building, in his novels, in which Philip Marlowe has his quarters on the building's sixth floor. To use Chandler's own words from his novel The High Window: "I had an office in the Cahuenga Building, sixth floor, two small rooms at the back. One I left open for a patient client to sit in, if I had a patient client. There was a buzzer at the door which I could switch on and off from my private thinking parlour". The building stands at the north-east corner of Cahuenga Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard. Today, the square next to it has been renamed Raymond Chandler in honour of LA's most famous chronicler.

>>> Note: This guided tour through historic Hollywood will continue in my next post!