I spend a lot of time in my local cemetery – Hollywood Forever. The cemetery, among the most interesting in Los Angeles, is the final resting place for all kinds of Hollywood celebrities – from Cecil B. DeMille to Rudolph Valentino to Dee Dee Ramone. But nearly every time I visit, I find the grave of someone who strikes a historical chord – often having some Civil War connection. Just the other day, I encountered this rather dignified looking fellow: one Cornelius Cole. Cole served a single term in the House of Representatives representing the Republican Party from California from 1863 to 1865, and then in the Senate from 1867 to 1873.
After the war he practiced law in San Francisco and then Los Angeles where he purchased one of the original Spanish landgrants – he called it Colegrove.
Well…Colegrove is now Hollywood. But at least they named a street after him. So if you are in town and find yourself on Cole Street – you’ll know where it got its name.
Greetings all – I’ve recently been asked to write a review essay on Brian J. Snee’s new book, Lincoln before Lincoln, for the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association. Of course, I happily agreed to take on the project – Snee’s book concerns the cinematic adaptations of the life of Honest Abe. I mean…how could I pass, especially since I am working on a project about depicting historical actors and events in a motion picture.
To get in the right frame of mind (I have a little time on my hands this summer) I thought I would watch a number of Lincoln films – or films at least featuring the sixteenth president as a character. Asking around through the usual social media channels for recommendations has yielded a fine harvest of Lincoln movies. So far, the most frequently recommended film is John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln, starring Henry Fonda. I’m on it…and prepared to watch it this weekend…so expect a follow up. In addition, folks have suggested I check out Lincoln in a more pop-culture setting, such as Lincoln, the time traveler (Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) or vampire killing super hero (Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter).
But in all seriousness, there are any number of ways one can interpret the life and presidency of Abraham Lincoln: great emancipator, commander in chief, astute and practical politician, husband, father, country bumpkin, rail-splitter, and I suppose, vampire hunter. Please leave your recommendations in the comments below – before I start writing, I want to see as many Lincolns as I can.
Hi all – I would just like to share a few words with my Los Angeles neighbors – and really anyone with a soft spot for LA mid-century architecture.
There seems to be a rising outpouring of sentimentalism and displeasure over the impending razing of the Chase Bank situated on the corner of Crescent Heights and Sunset Blvd…to be replaced by one of the dreaded shop/live/work superstructures that are popping up all over town.
I’ll admit, the unique 1960 structure with its distinctive angular roof is pretty easy on the eyes – and I suppose it will be sad to see it go. But without lamenting the building’s passing or celebrating its demise – I would just like to point out that the construction of the bank in 1959-60 displaced another historical Hollywood landmark of great significance – one that everyone seems to have forgotten.
The Garden of Allah, once a private residence built in 1913 and later owned by silent film star Alla Nazimova, was converted into a hotel in the 1920s. Famous residents included F. Scott Fitzgerald. This beautiful example of early-twentieth century Southern California architecture came down in 1959…but not before one last Hollywood bash to send it off. Up went the Lytton Savings and Loan (now Chase Bank), and not incidentally – a hideous eye sore of a strip mall.
So, if we are going to shed sentimental tears as the bank passes over to the other side, then let us likewise raise a glass to the Garden of Allah.
As I spend the weekend putting the finishing touches on a web course on the Reconstruction Era, I am reminded of this moving speech by film star Hattie McDaniel, the first black person ever to be awarded the Academy Award. In the course, the final segment engages history and popular culture – in particular the film, Gone With the Wind. I focus on McDaniel’s portrayal of Mammy as well as a few notes on the actress herself. She was a fascinating woman off screen – a outspoken supporter of civil rights, she once lobbied the city of Los Angeles to purchase a home in an exclusive all-white neighborhood. Please take a moment to watch this clip – what does it suggest to you about race, historical memory, and Hollywood in 1940?
PS – the course will be live the week of January 18, 2016
The Fine Arts Studio, also know as the Majestic-Reliance Studios, was once located at 4516 Sunset Blvd in Hollywood – near the confluence of Sunset and Hollywood Blvds. Not much of interest is going on there now…mostly drug stores and grocery stores and parking lots. But once upon a time, it was D. W. Griffith’s primary studio, where he shot much of his epic The Birth of a Nation. I drive by the spot from time to time – when I need to feel inspired to write about this film. Here’s a modern bird’s eye view, which will give you an idea of what has become of this neighborhood…so significant to film history .