Monday, 10 May 2010

CITY OF ANGELS: Hollywood, part 3 - Sights And Landmarks (cont.)

Note: The following is the continuation of the guided tour through historic Hollywood, which starts at YAMASHIRO'S (see previous post), then goes east along Hollywood Boulevard, and concludes at the HOLLYWOOD TOWERS.


The Alto Nido is one of many apartment buildings in Hollywood whose architectural style can be best classified as 'theatrical', and as such it very much goes with its surroundings. However, the Alto Nido has the distinction that it was featured in two classic Hollywood films, both of them films noirs, The Blue Dahlia and, of course, Sunset Boulevard, where it is the home of struggling screenwriter Joe Gillis, played by William Holden. In real life, the Alto Nido once was the home of actress Claudette Colbert.

CAPITOL RECORDS BUILDING, 1750 Vine Street, architect: Welton Beckett Ass., 1956

Located just off Hollywood Boulevard, the Capitol Records Building may well be the most famous structure in all of Hollywood. It is meant to resemble a stack of 45rpm records. At the time it was built, it was the world's first circular office building, and it has been unrivalled in dominating the Hollywood skyline since. Among the artists who used the building's recording studio in the basement are Frank Sinatra and The Beatles.

THE KNICKERBOCKER HOTEL, 1714 N. Ivar Street, architect: E.M. Frasier, 1925

Originally built in Spanish Colonial Revival style, The Knickerbocker has since lost some of its erstwhile glamour. Nevertheless, at least it is still standing and has not been mutilated beyond recognition, for some pages of Hollywood history have been written inside its walls - in bold! Not only was The Knickebocker home to some of the biggest names of the day, it was here that drugged up actress Frances Farmer got picked by the LA police wearing nothing but a shower curtain, and dragged off to a mental home. Rumour has it that Marilyn Monroe used to sneak in every now and then to spend some quality time with her future husband, Joe DiMaggio, who had made The Knickerbocker his home. The most tragic story in connection with The Knickerbocker, however, involves once more film pioneer D.W. Griffith, who died here in 1948, all alone, penniless, and virtually forgotten.


During Hollywood's golden age, the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street was considered to be the most famous intersection in the world. It certainly must have been one of the busiest! Back then - as again today - the better part of Hollywood's major haunts such as Sardi's (in a building designed by Rudolf Schindler), The Brown Derby (now a parking lot), Clara Bow's It Club (in the Plaza Hotel), and the Ontra Cafe, were all conveniently located in close proximity. Nowadays, the famous art-deco clock outside the Equitable Building is the only remainder of the intersection's heyday, although there's hope that the revival of Hollywood Boulevard's will eventually rub off on Hollywood and Vine as well.

THE HOLLYWOOD PLAYHOUSE, 1735 N. Vine Street, architect: Gogerty & Weyl, 1927

Now known as The Palace, like most other historic buildings the Hollywood Playhouse, too, has gone through quite a few changes in its eighty year history. At first, this Spanish Colonial Revival building operated as a legitimate theatre, showing plays and acts that starred Fanny Brice and, later, Lucille Ball. During the 1940s it changed its name to El Capitan (while the El Capitan functioned as The Paramount), though still running as a live performance theatre. Later, with the advent of television, several TV shows were broadcast from here. It was during the 1960s that it finally changed its name to The Palace, operating as a venue for live music as well as for live TV shows when ABC broadcast its show, named The Palace, from here.

THE PLAZA HOTEL, 1633-37 N. Vine Street, architect: Walker & Eisen, 1927

Also built in 1927, together with The Christie, The Roosevelt and The Knickerbocker, it was one of several swanky hotels scattered around Hollywood Boulevard. It was the first home of Bette Davis after her arrival from New York in 1930. The Plaza's most famous feature was the It Club, owned by Clara Bow. The It Club opened its doors in 1937 and became an instant hit with the Hollywood crowd, conveniently located as it was across the road from The Brown Derby.


Located between Selma Street and Sunset Boulevard, this is the original site of the DeMille barn, where Hollywood's first feature film was shot in 1913. A mural on the facade pays homage to the site's erstwhile occupiers as it depicts various scenes from The Squaw Man.

HOLLYWOOD HIGH SCHOOL, 1521 N. Highland Ave. architect: Marsh, Smith & Powell, 1933

Originally built in 1904, it is one of the oldest high schools in Los Angeles. However, the building was almost completely remodelled in 1933. At the time it first opened, the school was surrounded by fields and groves and some of the students arrived by horse or carriage. Over the years, several former pupils have turned into stars - Lana Turner, Jason Robards, Fay Wray - and inside Hollywood High there is a small museum dedicated to their famous alumni with some of their memorabilia on display.

THE PANTAGES, 6233 Hollywood Boulevard, architect: B. Marcus Priteca, 1930

This fabulous art-deco gem opened in 1930 with the premiere of the Al Jolson/ Marion Davies starrer Floradora Girl. By the time of its opening, it was Hollywood's biggest movie palace, with a capacity of 2,815 people. The Pantages was the site of the Academy Awards between 1949 and 1959, though today, with its matchless interior restored, it operates as a musical theatre.

VILLA CARLOTTA APARTMENTS, 5959 Franklin Ave., architect: Arthur E. Harvey, 1926

Perhaps the most beautiful of all of Hollywood's historic apartment buildings, the Villa Carlotta was initially intended to become a hotel. Although its style is said to be Spanish Colonial Revival, its architecture - particularly its entrance - reminds me as much of Italy as it does of Spain. While the above photo dates back to the days when it was built, the Villa Carlotta has remained virtually untouched and it still looks like this today. George Cukor, Edward G. Robinson, and Adolphe Menjou all allegedly lived here at one stage during their career.


I somehow found out about the location of the house that stands in as Phyllis Dietrichson's home in Double Indemnity. With Billy Wilder's film noir masterpiece being one of my favourite films, I went to the trouble and schlepped all the way up into the Hollywood Hills - by bicycle! - where the house is located. To my utter surprise, the house still looks exactly as it does in the film, in which Walter Neff describes it as "one of those California Spanish houses everyone was nuts about ten or fifteen years ago. This one must have cost somebody around $30,000 ... That is, if he ever finished paying for it ...", a description which is classic Chandler who wrote the screenplay in conjunction with Wilder himself.

HOLLYWOOD TOWERS, 6200 Franklin Ave.

Another - and the last on the Hollywood part of this tour - example of the many swish apartments blocks that went up during Hollywood's boom years. This impressive, chateau-like structure was initially known as La Belle Tour, before receiving the no-frills name under which it is known today.

Note: the next instalment in the series CITY OF ANGELS is a guided tour along Sunset Boulevard, called ON SUNSET. Watch out for Film-Daily's next post!