Dream to Reality
July 3, 2016
Dreams fade as we awake and we forget. Some dreams are recurring. Sadly, few ever become real.
If you have recently driven by the historic May Company department store built in 1939 at the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax and wondered about the construction
s going on, it is a dream coming to our waking world. The site is becoming the 250 million dollar, six-story
April 17, 1960 Governor Edmund G. Brown signed a bill allowing the Los Angeles county board of supervisors to establish the Hollywood Motion Picture Museum, which would cost an estimated $4 million. The state Senate had approved the measure 31-01.
Sol Lesser was named president of the Hollywood Museum Associates, non-profit corporation. Vance King was named PR director & manager of
Programs showed to the public
, the collection of artifacts and the plans of the museum, to be located in the
Sol Lesser showed the interested public clips from Art Linkletter and John Guoded productions. In the lobby, as examples of what might be part of the museum, were wax figures, created by Katherine Stubergh, of Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow, and Rudolph Valentino, and artifacts from the collections of Sol Lesser and Cecil B. DeMille.
The building was developed by William I
, connected by ramps and escalators. The central section was devoted to demonstrations of motion picture and television productions. Other features included a restaurant, shops, and concessions. The design represented four years of work by Pereira, who was the architect of the
The location of the museum became fluid; the
The land was purchased across from the
The name of the proposed museum was again changed, to the “Hollywood Center for Audio Visual Arts”. Similar to the original museum concept, the proposed center would contain displays depicting trends and history in movies, television, radio, and recording. The ground breaking for the now $14 million
· For Motion Pictures - Mary Pickford, Walt Disney, Gregory Peck, Jack Warner, and Gloria Swanson
· For Radio – Charles Correll (Amos ‘n’ Andy), Gene Autry, and Jack Benny
· For TV – Jack Webb
· For Recordings – Lionel Hampton :
Rosalind Russell served as Master of Ceremonies, Sol Lesser, president of the Hollywood Museum and Ernest E. Debs,
The Garden Court Apartments at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard, owned by Erwin Karz, opened in 1919 with luxurious apartments, Mack Sennett and Mae Murray called it home near the ends of their lives; with oriental carpets, imported wood trim hand-carved molding and even, cherry-wood toilet seats. The elegant rooms were spacious, with original oil paintings. For more than 30 years, Louis B. Mayer kept
Karz in a partnership with Debbie Reynolds launched a plan to convert the
When Harold Lloyd died, his will asked that his 16-acre “Green Acres” estate in
The City of
The dream faded again and was forgotten until now. Another site has been chosen: the May Company building on the northeast corner of Wilshire and Fairfax. It has always been agreed that a home is needed for the tons of priceless memorabilia that tells the history of
Now, back in the “parking lot” across from the
in restoring the building. It was dedicated on December 13, 1985. This was the land originally designated in the 1960s for the
It is believed that Max Factor originated the term “make-up.” In the lobby of the Max Factor Museum is a photo of Mabel Normand with Max Factor, applying make-up for her Hal Roach movie “Anything Once” (1926) taken before Max Factor built his studio on Highland. This
The collections of Hollywood treasures had been coming together for years for the ill-fated
The collections of Sol Lesser and Cecilia B. DeMille were added, with some of the first color television cameras and the newest motion picture cameras. The museum needed artifacts, but money perhaps was even more important. Ben Hoberman, vice president and general manager of KABC Radio in 1963 gave a public service check and a tape of KABC promo spots, as part of a month-long campaign on behalf of the 14 million dollar museum.
The Los Angeles County Hollywood Museum in 1964 added new board members who brought with them money, like Harold C. McClellan, chairman of Old Colony Paint & Chemical Company who had deep pockets. The board totaled 41 members representing different segments of the “audio and visual arts”, each with their own motivations.
Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers (SMPTE) member, Ray Brian, business agent of the Peoria and Pekin Union Railway, made a donation of his “antique projectors” for the permanent exhibit to Arthur Knight, curator at the Hollywood Museum.
Among the items that came from the Cecilia B. DeMille estate were the original camera used in “The Squaw Man” and prints of 70 of DeMille’s films, albums, costumes, and scripts. He had always been interested in establishing of the
As time passed and the civic project delayed, it had begun to be maligned and mocked. It was called a boondoggle, a white elephant, a
The county government continued to support the project, but more than 1.2 million dollars of government funds had been spent, so they cut off the money and appointed a 3-person committee to investigate. The committee’s report criticized the museum’s management, the lack of professional staff, its interior design, missing funds, and a lack of fund raising. The land had cost $460,000, and nearly 1 million dollars had been paid for architectural services and site development before the county froze all spending at the end of 1964.
Eight years later,
Although other museums were interested in purchasing the artifacts, Mayor Sam Yorty and Councilman Paul Lamport headed a drive to keep the material until the city could find a permanent home for them. It was a time of tight budgets, C. Irwin Piper, who was general manager at the time cut the budget at Recreation and Parks (R&P). R&P had taken over the collection – ranging from the projector used in
Clarion Inman, director of the
Back in 1987, Los Angeles Times’ writer Dean Murphy wrote “Rare Hollywood Artifacts,” the City of Los Angeles could not find a home for the Hollywood memorabilia because of the donation agreement required that the material be kept in the Hollywood district, and if an outside institution took control of the storage of the collection, the city could ask for the items back at anytime.
In 1965, the five-story
According to the Los Angeles Times article, dozens of items, including a white tuxedo worn in 1935 by Marlene Dietrich in "The Devil Is a Woman," were missing from the collection, presumably stolen by film crews who often shot prison movies at the unattended jail. Heavy locks on the storage rooms had been cut or picked open several times over the years. It was reported that much of that collection, was on loan to several universities and libraries in an effort to get the most valuable items to safety, including UCLA, USC, American Film Institute, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Natural History Museum, and Fashion Institute of Design Merchandising. The remaining collection was left in unorganized heaps on dirty floors. Most of the passed-over artifacts were thought worthless. Even a piano thought to have been owned by Rudolph Valentino was left to decay.
At one point, the City officials wanted the University of California, Riverside's library to temporarily house the over 15,000, 78- and 33-rpm recordings stored in cardboard boxes at the Lincoln Heights jail. However, John Tanno, librarian at
Edward Maeder, then curator of the costume and textile department at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), said the museum would accept the city's collection if the museum could get rid of damaged pieces and those of little artistic or historical significance. LACMA, which has a 60,000-piece costume and textile department, refused to accept any of the costumes. The collection included everything from a pair of blue jeans worn by Gary Cooper in "High Noon" in 1952 to the slinky gown Jean Harlow wore when she sunk her feet in concrete outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre in 1933, "We would want to be able to pick and choose," Maeder said.
Sam Gill, former archivist for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, took about 80,000 photographs and negatives from the city’s collection, for the Margaret Herrick Library. Gill said the Academy took items on loan because they were not being properly cared for by the City. “Stability of the collection is an important issue,” he said.
Sheldon Jensen, assistant general manager of the Department of Recreation and Parks, said the Department at one time paid about $15,000 a year to provide cold storage for the collection's delicate nitrate films; those films were loaned to UCLA in 1981.
The Recreation and Parks Department also asked the city attorney's office to look into amending the
The hunt for all the donations is in full swing. Ben Turpin’s widow in the 1960s wanted the
Notes & References
1960, June 01 The Daily Bureau, “
1960 June 15 Motion Picture Daily, “
1963 March 4 Sponsor, “To
1963 October 28 Broadcasting, “
1963 October 21 Sponsor, “Hollywood Museum a Reality!”
1963 April International Projectionist, Ray Gallo, “Projected Highlights “
1964 Sponsor, “Broadcaster Have Niche in
1965 April, 04
1968 August 25 Times News Service, Robert Rawitch, “Memorabilia Gather Dust in Storage”
1971 August 22
1987 October20 Los Angeles Times, Dean Murphy, “Rare Hollywood Artifacts” http://articles.latimes.com/1987-10-20/local/me-14761_1_hollywood-museum
1995 September 10 Daily News, Chip Jacobs, History of
Time River Productions, 2016 photos,
Thanks for the support and information from:
Kevin Cloud Brechner
Paul E. Gierucki
A note from Paul Gierurki… (July 6, 2016) “Our friend Marilyn Slater has penned a marvelous article documenting the sad fate of some critical movie memorabilia that was donated for a proposed
An email from Jack Ince “Lonestar Jack”… (July 6, 2016)
“You have awakened a trove of long forgotten memories from my
youth when I stayed on and off with my uncle John Ince on
behind Grauman's Chinese theater.
I used to take my tennis racket over to the
Apartments and taken a clay court lesson from Guy de Leon.
Afterwards I would go across the street to the Gotham Deli
and Hotel for a huge corned beef sandwich or go down the
block to Brown's Ice Cream Shop for their never to be
duplicated hot fudge sundae.
A few years later after
surviving a tour of duty with the 82nd Airborne Div along
with Richard St Johns and William O Wiard I was enraged at
the Sam Yorty and Sheriff Pritchess eviction of Steven
Anthony. I even wanted to join forces with the soon to be
disposed Mr. Anthony. It was the youth in me I guess. Rumor
had it that he was relocated to the
he spent his few remaining years. (I can’t find
anything on Google). That was when we lived on
next door to the unfortunate Barbara Payton -- where Tom
Neal decked Franchot Tone.
Later we built a house on
from Brenda Allen.
See what memories you stirred up -- but I love it.
I knew "Clarence" Iman from his
when he sent one of my competition photographs to LA's
sister city in
ended up on the cover of that city's publication.
Forgive my rambling, but the names that I no longed hear and
the images I no longer see by virtue of living in a way
different world seem to set off the old memory maker in me.
No longer can I drive up the coast and say "that is
where Thelma Todd died of carbon monoxide, or up
drive and say "remember Tom Mix and Ronald
Coleman" they lived there.
Is the iconic gold cylinder of the May Co going to be a
thing of the past -- the end of Miracle Mile?
It is only through dedicated people like you who can make
the Academy dream come true as the trend seems to be away
from history in the younger generation and first hand
knowledge and the "I was there stories" are fast
Unfortunately, I came along about a generation too late to
be able to contribute anything to the early history of this
fabulous industry and as a result I can only feed off and
enjoy the fruits of your labors.
Once again I appreciate your work and devotion to the
Looking for Mabel web site and the pleasures it brings me.