This is the cyclorama at the Mack Sennett Studios in 1926. It’s a huge drum that spins around and around. The actors pretend to run or ride prop horses on the same spot while the cyclorama with its wild country backdrop painted on it turns around. This gives the illusion to the moviegoer that the actor is moving, not the background. Ah, movie magic!
It never ceases to amaze me the work that goes into the making of a movie, and the level of detail the designers work with. This is the Notre Dame set for the 1939 production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara. It was filmed at RKO but they needed more space for this set so it was build at the RKO Encino Ranch at Balboa Boulevard & Burbank Boulevard in Encino in the San Fernando Valley, where the golf course is now. (One story I’ve read is that during the making of this movie, Laughton would go to the Garden of Allah during his lunch breaks and stand in the pool to keep cool under his suffocating Quasimodo makeup.)
Here is a wonderfully atmospheric shot of the Hollywood Hotel captured by a Life magazine photographer in 1936. Interestingly the hotel’s sign across the front reads “HOTEL HOLLYWOOD” rather than the other way around. In the second photo below, we can see Grauman’s Chinese Theater lit up for the night.
This Life magazine photo captures all the excitement for the 30th Academy Awards at the Pantages Theater on Hollywood Blvd on March 26, 1958 — the year that The Bridge on the River Kwai won big. And judging by the way the front of the Pantages is DRENCHED in light, those searchlights must have been the big guns.
I’ve been researching and writing about the Garden of Allah Hotel for more than ten years now, so it isn’t often that a new photo surfaces—but it IS exciting! We’re looking west along Sunset Blvd from Crescent Heights Blvd. On the left we can clearly see the ‘Garden of Allah – Villas” sign—it’s actually more striking than I pictured. As Sunset curves around to the left, on the right we can see the Chateau Marmont Hotel, which went up a year or two after the Garden of Allah, and which is still around today. The license plate on the rear of the car in the right foreground is probably from 1936, so can date this photo to circa mid 1930s.
This is one of the most extraordinary finds I’ve come across in all the years I’ve been collecting and posting vintage photos of Los Angeles: TWO Brown Derby restaurants on Wilshire Boulevard! According to the research I’ve done, in 1926 (or 1929, accounts differ), the original Brown Derby opened, facing due south at 3427 Wilshire between Mariposa & Alexandria. In 1937, it moved half a block east to 3377 Wilshire, oriented to the northeast corner of Alexandria. I just assumed they pulled one down and then built the other, but clearly the first one stayed open while the new one went up. Makes sense now that I think about it. (Like, duh, Martin!) But NEVER have I seen a shot when both Brown Derbys were still standing. I assume this didn’t last long—surely when the new one was opened, the old one came down pretty quickly—but we can see that the new Derby was taller and rounder and came with the “Eat in the Hat” sign on top.
It’s unusual to find a photo of Los Angeles—even a vintage one—with only one person and no buildings in it, so this is a rare gem. The woman and her Chevrolet are admiring what will come to be known as Founders Rock, which was a boulder set into place in 1926 to mark the dedication of the University of California Los Angeles’s Westwood campus. Yes, that’s right, all that vast empty countryside is now the sprawling campus of UCLA. Founders Rock was intended to be a major gathering spot for campus activities, but I don’t think the idea caught on.
The Hollywood and Vine corner is the one with the legendary reputation, but for my money, it’s the Sunset and Vine intersection that hold endless fascination for me. Take this circa late 1940s photo for example: We can see Tom Breneman’s Hollywood restaurant, the Hollywood Plaza Hotel, the Broadway Hollywood department store, and the NBC Studios, which by then had become the KNBH television studios. AND it’s all in color. What’s not to love?
The Hollywood Stars were a minor league baseball team whose home park from 1939 to 1957 was Gilmore Field on Beverly Blvd where the CBS studios now stand. I don’t have a date on this photo but it was at a time when guys still wore jackets and hats and ties to baseball games. I can’t even imagine doing that these days.