Monthly Archives: February 2013

Historic Hollywood; tourist videos and documentaries

9349 Griffith Observatory - Sunset - Hollywood...

9349 Griffith Observatory – Sunset – Hollywood Sign Panorama (Photo credit: kbaird)

English: en: Grauman's Chinese Theatre, photog...

English: en: Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, photographed by Carol M. Highsmith, who has donated her collection to the Library of Congress, and placed the images in the public domain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is pretty hard to find decent tourist videos about Hollywood, but here are a few that I tracked down.

This small  4 part series about saving Historic Hollywood mentions Central Casting, an agency of background actors and extras that I myself am a member of.  It discusses the effects of natural disasters, especially earthquakes, and squatters on historic buildings.

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History of Savannah, Georgia (part 1)

English: Postage stamp, USA, 1933: General Jam...

English: Postage stamp, USA, 1933: General James Oglethorpe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Savannah’s History

According to various sources, such as

VisitSavannah.com, the Georgia Historical Society,  and The New Georgia Encyclopedia,  Savannah’s recorded history begins in 1733. Savannah was created BEFORE the establishing of Georgia, and was the first step in the cities creation, which received its charter from King George II in April 1732, as the thirteenth and last of England’s American colonies. In November 1732, Oglethorpe, with 114 colonists, sailed from England on the Anne. General James Oglethorpe, a visionary,

Courtesy of Georgia Info, Digital Library of Georgia
James Oglethorpe

social reformer, and military leader, landed on a bluff high along the Savannah River, then known as Yamacraw Bluff, on February 12, 1733. Oglethorpe named the 13th and final American colony “Georgia” after England’s King George II. Savannah became its first city, and remains an outstanding examples of eighteenth-century town planning in North America

Savannah, and the new colony, was intended to have been a philanthropic endeavor. The plan was to offer a new start for England’s working poor and to strengthen the colonies by increasing trade, establishing cordial relations with Chief Tomochichi of the resident Yamacraw Indians, and provide a refuge for English debtors. Through these measures, the basis for an agrarian class of small farmers working in tandem with the merchants of Savannah would be established, providing a commercial outpost and a buffer zone, protecting it from the advance of the Spanish in Florida.

Under the original charter, individuals were free to worship as they pleased and rum, lawyers and slavery were forbidden. The ban onslavery was lifted in 1750. The ban on lawyers in 1755. Bans on “spirituous liquors” were lifted 1742, and the ban on Catholics living in the colony was repealed after commercial disputes in the region between England and Spain were settled in 1748.

Unique in many ways, Savannah was a peaceful and successful venture, and never had to deal with the warfare and conflicts most other early American colonies met face first with. This was almost entirely the result of  Oglethorpe becoming good friends with the local Yamacraw Indian chief, Tomochichi and his family. Oglethorpe and Tomochichi pledged mutual goodwill and the Yamacraw chief granted the new arrivals permission to establish Savannah on the bluff. As a result of the friendship between Oglethorpe and Tomochichi, Oglethorpe was pleased with the idea of proceeding as planned and hopeful that his dream of a city named Savannah would be made into a realization.

Mostly compiled back in England, Oglethorpe laid the city out in a series of grids, which consisted of extra wide streets, shady public squares, and elaborate parks and fountain monuments. Savannah’s residents beam with pride and stubbornness, and for good reason. Of the original 24 squares, created as meeting places for commerce and social interactions, 22 squares are still in existence today because Savannans are absolute about preserving the history of what they believe is the most beautiful city in the United States.

 

Shot of a drawing at Wormslew Historic site, S...

Shot of a drawing at Wormslew Historic site, Savannah, Georgia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The History of Hollywood, California. U.S.A. (Part 3)

English: Nestor Studios, the first film studio...

English: Nestor Studios, the first film studio in Hollywood, 1913. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hollywood and the Great Movie Studio Migration

New York had originally played a part in the rise of the cinema motion picture, until the film patent wars broke out. It seemed that the majority of camera equiptment was still under patend to Edison, and it became more and more risky to film  near the Edison Goons at the Company headquarters, which would go out and hunt for cameras to seize. The Edison Company Headquarters seized thousands of cameras, which caused New York production companies to start giving serious thought to relocating. By 1912, most major film companies had set up production facilities in Southern California near or in Los Angeles because of the location’s proximity to Mexico, as well as the region’s favorable year-round weather.

To evade patents from the Movie Picture Patents Company, a plethora of movie producers, studios, and small time movie operations made their way out west.  Ironically, the first studios were all headed by a handful of Jewish immigrants that all grew up within a 500 mile radius of one another, and, would now establish the main “Golden Circle” of film studios in Hollywood. Harry Warner (Poland), Samuel Goldwyn (originally Goldfisch, Poland), Karl Lemly (Germany), Louie B. Mayer (Russian Jewish Village), William Fox (Hungary), and Adolph Zucker (Hungary), were, respectively, the founders of Hollywood as we know it, a movie Megalopolis.

The Golden Age of Hollywood

During the Golden Age of Hollywood, which lasted from about the end of the silent film era in American cinema in the late 1920’s to about the early 1960’s, thousands of movies were made in Hollywood studios, using the “Studio System” style of movie production. Among other things, this system ensured that there was always new and fresh material coming out in Hollywood, that is was material that had been proven to be to the public approval, and that there would always been work on the studio lots for those behind the scenes at the studios. The film which ushered in the Golden Age was probably  The Jazz Singer which was released in 1927, marking the end of the Silent Film era, and introducing sound to feature films.

The Introduction of sound proved to be an overwhelming success for the studios of Hollywood, but often was the death of a film career for leading men and engenues of the silent screen. If the voice didn’t match the visage- you can bet, the artist either had to adapt, or move along!

Most Hollywood pictures adhered closely to a formula which was implied by the studios and implimented by the Studio System – Western,slapstick comedymusicalanimated cartoon, biographical film (biographical picture) – and the same creative teams often worked on films made by the same studio. If you had managed to wrangle yourself into a work-crew which focused strictly on sound stages and props, usually you could be assured that several more films would be made using that same crew. Thousands of people were kept on salary and time clocks, week in and week out.

By the 1930’s, all of America’s theaters were owned by the Big Five studios – MGMParamount PicturesRKOWarner Bros., and 20th Century Fox, and even though these “Big 5” were thriving , there was scandal in Hollywood over the content of the movies being made, which was mainly the result of a Catholic “Watchdog” agency called “The Legion of Decency”, which threatened a boycott of motion pictures if the code didn’t go into effect.  In an effort to “clean up Hollywood”, MPDAA President Will Hays created the Hays (Production) Code as a means of purifying the pictures which came from Hollywood. This code laid out a frame-work which detailed exactly what would be and would NOT be acceptable for production with the public in mind. Adopted in 1930, the code would not go into effect until 1934, and a “jury” style screening process was created. Any film which did not meet the criterium of the sceening from the Production Code Administration would have to pay a $25,000.00 fine and could not profit in the theaters, as the MPDAA owned every theater in the country through the Big Five studios.

The History of Hollywood, California. U.S.A. (Part 2)

Hunter and visitor’s Tip:

The earliest street names were changed once the city was annexed. The most prominent changes were similar to this one, for example: 100 Prospect Avenue, at Vermont Avenue, became 6400 Hollywood Boulevard; and 100 Cahuenga Boulevard, at Hollywood Boulevard, changed to 1700 Cahuenga Boulevard. This is important for those of you, who might wish to visit the original sites of a few of the no-longer-existing buildings from Early Hollywood, such as the Hollywood Hotel or Mary Pickford’s mansion “Pickfair”.

Pickfair-1920 (1)

Mary Pickford’s Mansion

800px-Hollywood-hotel-1905

The Hollywood Sign

The famous Hollywood Sign originally read “Hollywoodland“. Built by Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler, as an indulgent $21,000 billboard for his upscale Hollywoodland real estate development in the hills above Hollywood, the Hollywood Sign has been an iconic landmark of the American Dream for years.

Controversy about exactly when the Hollywood sign and the real estate project that coined  the massive electric sign advertising it actually came into being, is a regular debate among historians and enthusiasts which is still hot today. But a review of local newspapers from the era (i.e., The Los Angeles Times, Holly Leaves, Los Angeles Record, Los Angeles Examiner and the Hollywood Daily Citizen) clears up any confusion. For instance, a Hollywoodland ad in theLos Angeles Times (June 10, 1923) states that the real estate development launched in late March of that year and that by June, 200 men were employed, 7 miles of road had been cut and 300,000 cubic yards of dirt had been moved.

Even though the most commonly reported date for the erection of the sign seems to be 1924, early accounts of the sign in newspapers such as The Holly Leaves in 1923, mention the sign in their article about the construction of the Mulholland Highway. This would seem to prove the actual erection date was 1923, not 1924.

Further debates about whether or not the sign was originally erected with or without lights, why the last four letters were removed, and

Historic photos from the Bruce Torrence Hollywood Photograph collection clear up some of the confusion. These pics were taken while construction of the sign was in progress and show workers carrying boards covered with lights in frames. According to curator of the photo collection in question, Bruce Torrence, the shape of the light boxes indicate that these sections were probably part of the letter “A” and possibly one of the “L’s.”

A monumental undertaking, each of the original letters was 30 feet wide and about 43 feet tall, and made of materials that were dragged up tiny dirt roads by grotesquely underpaid construction workers.

The sign itself was only intended to be left up on Lee mountain for about two years, but still stands to this day, not without it’s share of trials, refurbishings, and “face-lifts”. In 1949 the the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce completed the first major refurbishment of the sign. The sign had fallen into such great disrepair that a decision to  remove the “LAND” part and replacing the “H” after it had toppled over, had been made. There is also some debate as to exactly what caused the “H” to fall over. Rumor has it that it was a brooding storm.

The sign underwent a major resurrection, again in 1978 when major Hollywood celebrities began a champaign to save the deteriorating sign from any further neglect. Celebrities would continue to play a pivotal role in the preservation of this iconic marvel for the next few decades. In 2012, Hugh Heffner reportedly plopped down almost a million dollars according to People Magazine: “The Playboy founder has donated the final $900,000 needed to preserve 138 acres behind the film capital’s most famous visual symbol on Mount Lee, just as time was running out. ”

Hollywood and the Great Movie Studio Migration

to be continued…

The History of Hollywood, California. U.S.A. (Part 1)

The History of Hollywood, California. U.S.A.

Spanish explorers were the first outsiders to enter the area which we know as Hollywood. At the time, Native Americans were living in the canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains, and were “persuaded” by the Spanish Government to relocate. Before long, the Native Americans and a few Mexicans had been moved to missions established in the Santa Monica Mountain area, and the land which Hollywood now occupies was divided in two large parcels: Rancho La Brea to the West, and Rancho Los Feliz to the east.

Hollywood is not really a recognized town-ship, but it is almost more socially note-worthy than the city that it stemmed from. Hollywood, a district in Los Angeles established in 1853, was born when an adobe hut was placed on a tiny peice of land called the Nopalera (Nopal area) located west-northwest of downtown Los Angeles, named for the Mexican Nopal cactus indigenous to the area. Although an experiement undertaken by a small handful of poor men looking for a new means of survival, growing crops on this peice of land proved to be almost effortless, and so successful, that by 1870, Hollywood became a thriving agricultural community, with promise of farming and flourishing for many.The area was known to these residents as the Cahuenga Valley, after the pass in the Santa Monica Mountains immediately to the north.

hollywoodland

How Hollywood Got It’s Name

Having found several variations on this story, I have had to do a little digging into the history of the State of California. Most of the stories involve a prominent historic figure, a real estate tycoon by the name of Harvey Handerson Wilcox, and his wife, Daeida, who moved to Los Angeles from Topeka, Kansas, in the 1880s. Wilcox, having lost the use of his legs from a bout with typhoid fever prior to moving out west, bought 160 acres of land west of the city, at the foothills near the Cahuenga Pass.

According to one version of this story, the town’s name came from Daeida. While on a trip East, she had a conversation with a woman who who described her country home in Ohio, named for the Dutch settlement of Hollywood. Liking the name, Daeida christened their ranch “Hollywood,” upon her return.

On February 1, 1887, Wilcox submitted a grid map of his new town to the Los Angeles County recorder’s office. This was the first official document with the name “Hollywood” printed on it. The first street in town was named Prospect Avenue, but was later changed to Hollywood Boulevard, where city lots were carved out around dirt avenues and pepper trees. At one time, English holly was planted in the area, but it didn’t survive in the arid climate.

english-holly (1)

Another version entirely credits a man by the name of HJ his wife Gigi,with the name. According to the book The Father of Hollywood: The True Story,  written by Gaelyn Whitley Keith, (on page 27) the name was the result of a conversation between two men: A pioneer named HJ and a local Chinese man. 

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As they neared the top, they stopped and dismounted their horses to admire the view below. As HJ was making a few sketches in his notebook for future memory, he spied off to the left an old rickety wagon full of wood pulled by one horse with a Chinese man driving pell-mell down the narrow road. The Chinese man was singing at the top of his voice. HJ and Gigi stood to one side of the road as the man appeared around the cluster of trees. He had also caught a glimpse of them, so he drew up his reins to stop the wagon full of firewood. Getting out of the wagon, he put his palms together in front of his chest and bowed his head a little, closing his eyes as an expression of respect. HJ and Gigi were delighted with his greeting. Gigi still remembered those two tall men talking to each other. Much to her surprise, the Chinese man spoke an intelligible but broken English with a thick Chinese accent.

“What are you doing?” HJ asked.

“I up sunrise. Old trees fall down. Pick up wood. All time haully wood.”

“Holly wood…Hollywood!” HJ declared as he gazed off to the valley below.

After a long silence, the Chinese man climbed back in the wagon. He continued on his way down the trail. HJ was lost in thought and had not meant to ignore the man. All of a sudden, HJ turned to Gigi and said, “Hollywood! That is a perfect name! I will name this new town Hollywood. Holly will represent my British ancestors and Wood for our Scottish. Yes,Hollywood!”

Development and Spread

 By 1900, Hollywood had a population of 500, a post office, a newspaper, a hotel, and two markets. In neighboring Los Angeles, through seven miles of orange groves, the population had reached 100,000. There was a single-track streetcar line that twisted its way along Prospect Avenue, on an irregular schedule, into the city on a two-hour trip.

By 1902, the first portion of the famous Hollywood Hotel was built. Though the Hollywood Hotel housed many of the great stars in its day, it was razed in August 1956 to make way for a US$10 million development, with a twelve story office building for the First Federal Savings & Loan Association of Hollywood, a shopping center and parking lots.

On Prospect Avenue, a new trolley car system named “The Hollywood Boulevard” was installed by 1904, improving the time it took to travel between downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood. One of the last official acts of the Hollywood Board of Trustees in 1910, before  the annexation by Los Angeles, was to change the name of Prospect to Hollywood Boulevard. Due to its ongoing struggles to maintain an adequate water supply, residents voted to have Hollywood annexed by the City of Los Angeles and its new aqueduct system…. T B Continued…

 

This is just a good read. I like this authors style.

Martin Hesp journalist

Image

What is it about ghosts or even a hint of ghosts that fascinates us and sends shivers down our spines?

I recall a rather blurred image appearing in my newspaper under the headline: “Is ghostly shape on photo evidence of poltergeist?” – and it was what causes me to ask the question.

The woman who took the photo while on holiday in Edinburgh was convinced she’d captured a ghost although, looking at the image, I really couldn’t tell one way or the other.

I have, though, seen a photograph of a ghost – a remarkable clear-cut image that still haunts me to this day. It is, I hasten to add, the only ghost I have ever seen – photographed or otherwise – though I have written entire series of articles on the subject and been to some of the most haunted spots in Britain.
Image

The photograph was shown to me…

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America the Beautiful! America the Haunted?

Flag of the United States of America

Flag of the United States of America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The United States is only about 237 years old, merely a baby in comparison to other major countries, and yet- we are quite proud of our overwhelming numbers of hauntings, paranormal and unexplained phenomenon. What is it about the United States that encourages such frightful and mysterious activity? Why are we Americans so prone to a fascination with what might happen after we depart this life? Well I haven’t the answers to these questions, but I MIGHT be able to point out which cities in the United States are the MOST haunted, for the avid enthusiast. Let’s start with public opinion…as I begin the digging in the paranormal dirt for some much needed information.

Death in Hollywood

Hollywood Sign

Hollywood Sign (Photo credit: Ben Ramsey)

Grauman's Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood Boulevar...

Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA Box office windows (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Though, not in the frame of a “haunt”, this movie provides some interesting information about the most notorious deaths of Hollywood, Los Angeles, California. I found it to be fascinating and insightful.

Video: Hauntings Across America

Hosts

Hosts (Photo credit: JanneM)

The Dark Horse Book of...

The Dark Horse Book of… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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