Tag Archives: Movies

The Fine Arts Studio – Hollywood

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 10.08.57 AMThe 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 .

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With compliments,


Petersburg in The Birth of a Nation

IMG_3607If you are watching The Birth of a Nation and you are wondering why the battlefield near Petersburg does not look much like Virginia it’s because 1) you have a keen eye and 2) it’s Burbank, California.

I was hiking in the Hollywood Hills the other day and came up on a good vista of the area – now Forest Lawn Cemetery. Much of the scene pictured in the immediate foreground was the Petersburg “set,” which stretched for several miles. Griffith oversaw the scenes from a tower and shouted direction – big megaphone in hand: just as you might imagine a silent film director would look, sans the jodhpurs.

So we have Virginia with chaparral – odd to be sure. Sometimes you have to work with what you’ve got!

The_Birth_of_a_Nation_war_sceneWith compliments,


The Beginning of the End of Art

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 10.12.14 AMWhile I am hardly the first person to lament the unfortunate course of recent events in the entertainment industry concerning the film, The Interview, I do feel I should go on record. It’s over – or it soon will be anyway.

Free expression in this country is doomed.

Members of the entertainment industry – exhibitors, distributors, and studio executives have caved to threats.

And for what? A Seth Rogen/James Franco film? Threats from North Korea?  Give me a break. The free world has been staring down its rocket launchers at the North Koreans since the 1950s and it is going to take a movie to provoke an international incident? All due props to Rogen and Franco – but we’re talking about satire here.

Let’s be clear. I am not jumping on board with the ever-so-trite “now the terrorists win” crowd. Nor am I joining in with the glazed-over jingoistic flag raisers. What I am saying is that the decision to pull The Interview from theaters is tantamount to censorship.

The precedent, my friends, has been irrevocably set. And so now whenever anything offends anyone at anytime all they have to do is make some threats and well…there you have it. What has happened to us? Will this now lead to government censorship? Corporate censorship? Self censorship? It’s all fair game.

So here is my response to all involved in pulling this film: STICK IT.

Art exists to challenge, to push boundaries, to inspire. It exists so individuals can freely express whatever they want – be it offensive or not. It even exists to make people angry. And trust me, every artistic endeavor contains within it a little something to upset everybody. So I guess we’re done now. It’s ruined. Now every artist will have to consider whether or not his or her work will ever reach the public – for fear of its potential to incite…something that might put someone off.

And if you think this stops with art…well guess again. Your intellectual freedom is next on the chopping block.

But of course, I’m not entirely ruling out the possibility that this whole thing is just a clever ruse undertaken by Sony to drum up interest for a film. If that’s the case…good one. Subterfuge, I like it.

With compliments,



In Search of the Knickerbocker

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 12.53.57 PMAs part of my effort to understand what made film maker D. W. Griffith tick, I wanted to pay a visit to his last residence: The Knickerbocker Hotel in Hollywood. The hotel, located on Ivar Street just north of Hollywood Blvd, has something of a storied past. It is rumored that Marilyn Monroe met Joe DiMaggio at the hotel bar,  the same bar that Rudolph Valentino had regularly imbibed before his untimely death, Elvis Presley stayed there while in town making Love Me Tender, William Frawley suffered a massive heart attack walking down Hollywood Blvd and then died in the lobby, Irene Lentz jumped to her death from her 11th story window – distraught over the death of Gary Cooper, and alas, D. W. Griffith suffered a cerebral Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 12.54.11 PMhemorrhage and died after being discover unconscious in the lobby.  By the 1970s, the luster had faded from the hotel facade – both figuratively and literally. Today it is a retirement home – apparently, for Russian senior citizens.

I went for a visit today and could not get in. Residents only. But I hear there is a plaque inside honoring Griffith, so plan B is to contact the manager and see if I can get a personal tour. Wish me luck!

With compliments,