In the early 1900s people starting arriving in Hollywood, CA to find fame, fortune and success in silent films. It was similar to the 1840s Gold Rush when people from all over streamed into San Francisco to get rich while panning for gold.
Unfortunately, there were too many people coming into Hollywood and not enough housing or movies being made to help all these people achieve their dreams. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce posted notices stating – “Don’t Try To Break Into The Movies in Hollywood…..It May Save Disappointments,” said April Brooks Clemmer our knowledgable tour guide on the Old Hollywood Walking Tour.
The once a month tour strolls along Hollywood Blvd. from the Raymond Chandler Square to Musso and Franks. “This street was originally called Prospect Avenue when it was unpaved and dusty. “Signs posted on the windows of limited housing stated, No Dogs, No Actors allowed,” said Clemmer. Pointing towards the Hillview Apartments, we discovered that in 1917, movie moguls Jesse L. Lasky, co-founder of Paramount Pictures, and his brother-in-law Samuel Goldwyn, co-founder of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, built their first apartment building just for their actors, since housing was scarce. Rudolph Valentino, Stan Laurel, and Clara Bow lived here. Today the beautifully restored Hillview’s neon sign is still on the corner of the building, however it’s now known as The Hudson, and is still housing for creative types.
Some of the first founders of Hollywood were H. J. Whitley and H. H. and Daeida Wilcox. They bought land and built a beautiful estate near Hollywood Blvd. Daeida Wilcox was eager to bring culture, glamour and tourists to Hollywood. When she met French artist Paul de Longpre’ she gave him three lots in exchange for three of his floral paintings. The artist built a Mission Revival style mansion featuring an art gallery to sell prints of his paintings and he planted 4,000 flowering rose bushes to create an inspirational garden. “It became one of the most popular tourist attractions in Los Angeles,” said our tour guide We learned people paid admission for a ticket to enter the garden, except on Paul de Longpre’s birthday. “On his birthday, his garden was open to everyone for free to help him celebrate,” said Clemmer.
Nearby is Janes House, located towards the back of Jane Square. It’s a two-story Queen Anne home built in 1903 with shingled gables and turrets. Beginning in 1911, Janes House was a family-run school, attracting the children of early Hollywood celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Cecil B. DeMille, and Jesse Lasky. Mary Ruth Janes and her three daughters ran the well-respected school and lived in the home until 1982. “This is the oldest remaining home on Hollywood Blvd.,” said Clemmer. “Now it’s a secret nightclub named – No Vacancy.” To see the original perspective of Janes House, we visited Albert next door at Secret Restaurant. He has a framed illustration on the wall near the bar.
We walked to several movie theaters that included the Fox Theatre built in 1918 as the first movie theatre. Along the way we admired the Walk of Fame stars. Clemmer shared with us that Alfred Hitchcock’s star was installed in front of the Fox Theatre in 1960 at the premiere of his movie Psycho.
Carol Burnett’s star is in front of the old Warner Bros. Hollywood Theatre, now a closed Hollywood Pacific Theatre. The 2753 seat theatre was built in 1926 as the first theatre wired for sound to premiere the first “talkie” Jazz Singer. In the late 40’s, Burnett was an usher at this theatre while attending Hollywood High School. “Burnett was fired for miscommunication with a guest,” Clemmer said. “When she was honored with a star, and asked where she would like her star to be placed, Burnett wanted it right in front of this theatre for the owners to see daily.”
Hollywood offered the most glamorous shopping district in the 1920s with J.P. Newberry and the Kress Building, on the corner of Whitley and Hollywood Blvd. Gloria Swanson bought perfume at the Kress Building.
The tour ends at one of the most famous restaurant’s in Hollywood, Musso and Frank Grill. Built in 1919, it became the go-to dining spot for Mary Pickford, Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, and Charlie Chaplin. Greta Garbo and Gary Cooper dined here, while Humphrey Bogart sipped martinis at the bar with Dashielle Hammett or Lauren Bacall.
In the ‘50s, Hollywood legends like Marilyn Monroe while married to Joe DiMaggio had her own booth, while Elizabeth Taylor and Steve McQueen enjoyed sitting in Musso’s famous Back Room. “Ernest Hemingway mixed his own mint julep at Musso and Frank,” said Clemmer. “It was a big writers hangout. Fitzgerald proofed his works here.”
Clemmer shared that the waiters will only tell stories about actors who have died, but will never talk about those who are alive to protect their privacy.
Come take a tour with April and learn how Hollywood is a vibrant walkable community that strives to return to it’s glamorous glory days. The two hour detailed tour starts on the last Friday of every month at 10 a.m. The next tour starts Friday, July 28 at 10:00 a.m. (tickets available now) and Friday, September 29 at 10:00 a.m. at the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance office 6562 Hollywood Blvd. Hollywood. (323)463-6767.
This article was featured in the July issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY