Here’s Hollywood: History

The film industry was both pushed and pulled to the West Coast. Pushing it were the East Coast patent lawyers hired by Thomas Edison and others who wanted to control and monopolize their film processing inventions. Pulling it was the weather. City boosters could boast of the region’s 350 days of glorious sunshine. Natural light saved, quite literally, on overhead, since most filming took place in open-air lots (giving rise to the term, “studio lot”). Also, filmakers were drawn to the region’s looser, more carefree lifestyle – important to a budding industry held in contempt by live theatre.

But why Hollywood? Nobody knows for sure but most historians cite these factors:

  1. Accessibility. A streetcar line extended from downtown L.A. all the way down Hollywood’s main street.
  2. Climate. Close enough to the ocean to provide mild weather in any season, but far enough away to avoid coastal fogs. (No wonder lemons, oranges and avocados loved it.)
  3. Location. Mountains and canyons, favored by the Westerns that were fast becoming the rage, were minutes away. The ocean was close – and so was the desert.
  4. Availability. There were acres and acres of available land.

But whatever the reasons, the land or the seasons, by 1920 there were over 30 film studios in town. True to form, within a few years Hollywood’s main street, Prospect Avenue, had undergone a  face-lift and changed its name name; it was paved in concrete and renamed Hollywood Boulevard.

Significantly, a good number of the buildings you’ll see along the boulevard didn’t replace earlier buildings; they replaced empty lots, citrus groves or strawberry fields. The transformation from farms to films was dramatic – taking place in only ten years. Like so many of its stars, Hollywood became an overnight success – the “Movie Capital of the World.”

But Hollywood is where they played! This is where they posed for the paparazzi at movie premieres, this is where they came to walk the red carpets, leave their footprints in cement, dance at nightclubs, toast one another at award banquets – and sometimes engage in scandalous affairs. To the millions of their fans around the world, Hollywood – not North Hollywood, not Burbank or Culver City – became Filmdom’s epicenter.

Its’ a Fact:

You know their reel names but do you know their real names?

  • The famous dance partners, Fred Austerlitz and Virginia McMath (or, Tula Finklea)? Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (or Cyd Charisse).
  • There’s that hot romance between Betty Joan Perske and Humphrey DeForest”? Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart.
  • How about the co-stars in “That Touch of Mink,” Alexander Leach and Doris Kappelhoff? Cary Grant and Doris Day

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