Thursday, 13 May 2010

CITY OF ANGELS: On Sunset, part 2 - Sights And Landmarks

Note: The following is a guided tour along Sunset Boulevard and its historic sights and landmarks. It starts at the CINERAMA DOME, on 6360 Sunset Boulevard, then going west along Sunset Boulevard, and concludes at THE COLONIAL, at 1416 Havenhurst Drive.

CINERAMA DOME, 6360 Sunset Boulevard, architect: Welton Becket, 1956

Constructed in 1956, its purpose was to accommodate the films made during the Cinerama craze which reached a peak in the mid-1950s. It was almost falling to pieces until a few years ago a group of concerned citizens saved it from being torn down. While its exterior has been restored to its former glory, the inside was converted into a large movie theatre complex.

HOLLYWOOD ATHLETIC CLUB, 6525 Sunset Boulevard, architect: Meyer & Holler, 1922

At the time of its opening, the Hollywood Athletic Club was a very exclusive affair. Literally all of Hollywood's male stars were members, including Charlie Chaplin. In 1949, the first televised Emmy Awards were held here. That they were held in such a relatively small venue says a lot about the (non-)significance of television in those days which, of course, would change very quickly.

CROSSROADS OF THE WORLD, 6671 Sunset Boulevard, architect: Robert Derrah, 1936

Resembling a steamer about to set sail for the seven seas, this art-deco gem was inaugurated in 1936 and has since been featured in a number of films, such as Curtis Hanson's brilliant LA Confidential.

CHATEAU MARMONT, 8221 Sunset Boulevard, architect: Arnold Weitzmann, 1926

Chateau-style hotels and apartments blocks abound in Hollywood, however, the Chateau Marmont undoubtedly is the most famous - and some would argue: also the most beautiful - one of them all. It towers high above the Sunset Strip, dominating its skyline. The people who have stayed at the Chateau Marmont over the years are equalled in fame and notoriety by the scandals that went on behind its walls. But so legendary was - and apparently still is - the Marmont's reputation for absolute discretion, that Columbia founder Harry Cohn is said to have advised a young actor on loan-out from Paramount - William Holden - that "if he has to get into trouble, he had better do it at the Chateau Marmont".

THE PLAYERS, 8225 Sunset Boulevard

What is now Miyagi's, a Japanese restaurant, used to be The Players - then one of Hollywood's hippest eateries - and was owned by the great Preston Sturges. Under contract to Paramount, Sturges was one of the earliest writers to make the transition to director. Sturges' urge to direct his own screenplays was prompted by similar motives as later Billy Wilder's - also a Paramount employee - which was their anger at seeing their scripts mutilated by other directors. Nevertheless, Sturges would always remain a writer first and director second and not surprisingly, the clientele of The Players was also largely made up of writers.

ARGYLE HOTEL, 8358 Sunset Boulevard, architect: Leland A. Bryant, 1929

This stunningly beautiful building - pure art-deco - was named Sunset Towers when it first opened in 1929 and with its twelve floors it was one of Sunset Boulevard's early high rises. Naturally, it quickly became one of Hollywood's top addresses and in the 1930s infamous screen goddess Mae West owned a nightclub in the basement. The Sunset Towers was included in the National Register of Historic Places in the 1980s, and some ten years later, after having been tastefully restored by a group of investors, it reopened as the Argyle Hotel.

THE COMEDY STORE, 8433 Sunset Boulevard

Colour aside, the exterior still bears a faint resemblance to the famous nightclub it once was, Ciro's. During the 1940s legendary artists performed here, including Lena Horne and Marlene Dietrich. Having changed ownership several times, in 1970 the new owner, Mitzi Shore, changed the name to The Comedy Store, and subsequently it went on to become a legend in its own right, offering a platform for countless actors who debuted here as a stand-up comedians, among them Richard Pryor, Roseanne Barr, Whoopi Goldberg and Robin Williams. In 1992, The Comedy Store aka Ciro's was famously featured in Warren Beatty's film Bugsy.

THE COLONIAL, 1416 Havenhurst Drive

A multitude of actresses lived here in this pretty Spanish Colonial Revival building, located around the corner from the Chateau Marmont. The Colonial was the last home of Bette Davis, who claimed that the building was haunted by Carole Lombard's ghost, Lombard having lived here in between marriages.