Clune’s Auditorium, Los Angeles

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 7.17.49 PMNearly 100 years ago, D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation opened to great fanfare at William “Billy” Clune’s Auditorium on the north/east corner of 5th and Olive Street in downtown Los Angeles – across from Pershing Square. Pictured above, the auditorium boasted 2,500 seats. Before it’s reign as a premier movie house in the teens and twenties, the building had served pious Angelenos as a church. In the 1930s, it became home to the LA Philharmonic and LA Symphony. When planned renovations fell through the in 1980s, the structure was demolished to make way for an office building, which, by the way, also failed. Today the corner is a parking lot.

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I took this image on 1/8/15 from Pershing Square, directly across from the site of the once grand Clune’s Auditorium.

 

With compliments,

Keith

A Few Words about D. W. Griffith

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 11.11.01 AMWas D. W. Griffith a visionary? Some might say so. In addition to being an artist, he fancied himself something of a historian – or at the very least a provider of history by particular means. The means, of course, was the relatively new medium: the motion picture. Especially after the smashing success of The Birth of a Nation, Griffith liked to think of film as more than entertainment, but as a conveyor of historical truth (as he saw it…more on this later).

Recognizing the significance of film-as-teacher and the profound potential to reach millions of people worldwide, Griffith predicted that one day, in the not too distant future, if someone wanted to learn about a particular historical event, one could simply visit some sort of repository and select a film on that subject. One could then watch at their leisure and absorb the information visually – as many times as they liked. Sound familiar? Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 11.19.44 AM

With compliments,

Keith

The American Experience, Gone With the Wind, and Facebook

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 1.05.35 PMNot too long ago, The American Experience Facebook page posted about the 1939 film, Gone With the Wind. Noting that the movie catered to southern sensibilities AE pointed out the film took the nation by storm. And indeed it did. This was one of the most anticipated films of the 20th century, it was a huge box office smash and it dominated the Academy Awards. But moving on…if you want to experience the polarization of America in real time, just go to the AE page and scroll through the comments in this post.  There are two general themes here. One, the film is racist and should be dismissed as such. Two, it’s just a movie (and a great one at that) and we should get over it.

I’ll admit that many of the scenes in this film depicting black people are offensive. Slavery appears entirely benign and the “servants” seem all too eager to please. There are even hints of the Klan in the film (Margaret Mitchell was quite specific in her novel…David O. Selznick thought it best not to name names in the movie version).

Yes indeed – racism. But should the conversation end there? Should we evaluate the film in the context of the era? I feel that we might serve the American public better to do so – at least the ones on Facebook. The seem to need it…from where I sit its just insult hurling and finger pointing. I am interested in your thoughts…so feel free to weigh in.

With compliments,

Keith

PS – see picture above. Yes, they made a mistake. Twelve Oaks was NOT the O’Hara Plantation.