Friday, 16 July 2010

City Of Angels: Final Resting Places, Part 4: Woodlawn Cemetery, 1847 14th Street, Santa Monica

Even less conspicuous than Westwood Memorial Park, Woodlawn is what you could call an old school cemetery which, except for the palm tress, is bearing more resemblance to a mid-European style graveyard with tall, simple headstones rather than to one of LA's characteristic so-called Memorial Parks replete with temples, burial chapels, mausoleums, lakes and fountains.

Located in the heart of Santa Monica, this pretty, unassuming cemetery is not exactly a place for celebrity hounds, at least not for celebrities in the usual, ordinary sense. In fact, Woodlawn is more notable for having become the final resting place for some of the emigres who had fled Nazi Germany. As explained in a previous post, Santa Monica was a major emigre hub at the time, and so it is only natural that they would be buried close by.

And so one of Germany's most important 20th century poets, Lion Feuchtwanger, found his final resting place here when he died in 1958, as did his wife, Marta, who passed away 30 later, in 1988, still living in the house her and Lion had purchased back in 1942, the beautiful Villa Aurora, which following Marta's demise, was purchased by the German government which has since turned it into an artists' retreat. Also buried at Woodlawn were German poet Heinrich Mann and is wife Nelly, who committed suicide in 1944 as she could no longer bear the hardships of exile which had plunged them into misery. In 1961, however, the then East German government requested Heinrich's and Nelly's ashes to be moved to East Berlin. And so, Heinrich and Nelly were interred in Berlin's Dorotheenstaedtischer Friedhof, where they have been laid to rest in the company of fellow emigres Hanns Eisler, Herbert Marcuse, Wieland Herzfelde, Johannes Becher, Arnold Zweig, Anna Seghers as well as Bertolt Brecht and his wife Helene Weigel.

Back to Woodlawn: One of the most prominent names buried here who also figured prominently in the Hollywood emigre community of the 1940s, is actor Paul Henreid, best known for his role as Viktor Laszlo in Casablanca and as the man who made lighting two cigarettes at a time sexy in the 1942 Bette Davis tear-jerker, Now Voyager.

Lastly, Woodlawn also became the final resting place for one of the first openly gay Hollywood stars, actor William Haines, who forsook his acting career because he refused to heed Louis B. Mayer's order that he leave his long-term lover, Jimmie Shields. Subsequently, William managed to successfully establish himself as one of Hollywood's premier interior decorators with a list of clients that included Joan Crawford, Gloria Swanson, Marion Davies and, later, the Walter Annenbergs as well as the Ronald Reagans. William Haines and Jimmie Shields were a couple for over forty years and were laid to rest next to each here at Woodlawn Cemetery.