A version of this post was originally written for my Classic Movie Hub column Silents are Golden. Hope you find it an interesting weekend read!
Today Hollywood, California is one of the most famous places in the world. The thriving axis of moviemaking, for decades it’s drawn countless dreamers hoping to make it in “the industry.” Real estate up in its hills is bought and sold for millions. And, of course, it attracts perpetual hordes of tourists strolling its Walk of Fame or hoping for glimpses of celebrities in Beverly Hills.
But there was a time when this same bustling neighborhood of Los Angeles was a sleepy little stretch of hilly farmland ten miles east from the city, accessible only by a gravel road and populated by a few hundred people. Little did the residents of this quiet community know what vast changes were in store–especially once those “movies” came to town (as they would nickname early filmmakers, not knowing “movies” referred to films).
Here’s something a little different–a magazine interview with that famed authoress of Three Weeks, that chooser of “It” girls, that grand dame of romance herself–Elinor Glyn! I wrote a piece on Glyn and her famed novel awhile back, and it’s been one of my favorite “Personalities” articles ever since.
There was a time when Glyn was considered the expert in the “moonlight and magnolias” type of love–and happily marketed herself as such. She had hair dyed “Titian red,” was rumored to travel with a tiger skin rug, and apparently coached Valentino in his romantic scenes. If you aren’t too familiar with this romance novelist-turned-screenwriter, Gloria Swanson’s fantastic description pretty much says it all:
She took over Hollywood. She went everywhere and passed her fearsome verdicts on everything. “This is glamorous,” she would say. “This is hideous,” she would say, as she baby-stepped through this or that dining room or garden party. People moved aside for her as if she were a sorceress on fire or a giant sting ray.
So if this was a normal spring, I’d be attending the San Francisco Silent Film Festival right now, sitting in my usual spot in the darkened Castro Theater. But just in case you haven’t heard, it’s not a normal spring, and my lovely festival has been postponed until November (fingers crossed me and my pals will all be there!). This is doubly sad since I usually head to Hollywood for a few day afterwards. Indeed, my soul cries out for those palm trees, that smell of blooming jasmine, those Walk of Fame stars, even that weird jumble of street performers and tourists on Hollywood Boulevard getting bottlenecked by dumb sidewalk vendors selling cheap toys no one ever, ever needs.
You can’t see me because a vendor took up half the sidewalk to sell foam plastic emojis and I got trampled.
So in lieu of film festival revelries, I thought it’d be fun to share some of my fondest silent film-related travel memories (so far)! I love, love, love to travel, and some of my favorite trips have involved visiting sites related to the silent era. If there’s even a slight chance to stand on a street corner where Harold Lloyd once filmed or take in a rare exhibit of German Expressionist memorabilia, I’m there! So here are my reminisces. And please, when you’re done reading feel free to share some of your silent-themed travel experiences too! Continue reading →
So thanks to several carefully-planned Hollywoodtrips, I’ve been very fortunate to visit some really cool silent-related locations, such as the site of the former Keystone studio, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the Roosevelt Hotel, the Chaplin studio, Buster Keaton’s gravesite, the Egyptian Theatre, Musso & Frank’s, and the closest a stranger can legally get to Buster’s Italian Villa.
About this close (before the guard comes out).
I’ve also had priceless experiences at both the Buster Keaton Convention in Muskegon, Michigan and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. For a classic film lover, each and every one of these experiences was a dream come true–from the big festivals to the little moments like relaxing in L.A.’s Echo Park and thinking, “That’s the same lake all those Keystone comedians had to jump into!”
If the water wasn’t…questionable, I would totally jump in too.
But there’s still several places I’m bound and determined to visit one day, and as of right now these sites are in my top 6: Continue reading →
During my recent Hollywoodland trip, there was one place I was determined to finally visit: the Musso & Frank Grill on Hollywood Boulevard.
Haven’t heard of it? Well, my friends, if you love classic films then you need to know this heavenly place exists. It’s something exceedingly rare in today’s L.A.: a venerable and perfectly-preserved restaurant that’s served generations (and generations!) of stars. Having first opened in 1919, it’s been a Hollywood institution for almost a full century–and its commitment to tradition is refreshingly strong.
Here’s the first in a few posts recapping the highlights of my recent week in Hollywood. Hope you enjoy!
As you may remember, after attending the San Francisco Silent Film Festival earlier this month I also went on a good long trip to Hollywood. This time, not only did I revisit some beloved locations like Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the Chaplin studio (I finally achieved my goal of having Breakfast at Charlie’s), the Cahuenga alley and Echo Park (which to me is actually Keystone Comedy Park), but I sought out some new places too (like finally making it to the Griffith Observatory, 10/10 would recommend). And after being asked by about 50,000 people handing out fliers on Hollywood Boulevard if I wanted to go on a tour, I decided that yes, actually I would like to try out a tour.
Ah, but little did the 50,000 flier-touting people know that I already had a tour booked. And not just any tour–the TCM Movie Locations bus tour!
There really aren’t a ton of movies I’ll see in the theater. Big blockbuster extravaganzas like The Force Awakens or Dr. Strange? Of course! The usual marvelous offering by Pixar? I’m there! An occasional indie might peak my interest, and naturally I’m attracted to any silent or classic film showing like a bee to the can of pop you’re holding. (If only those showings weren’t so few and far between.)
But when I caught wind of a brand-new musical drama set in modern-day L.A. that included–could it be?–subtle homages to Hollywood’s Golden Age, I thought: “Yes, please!”
Not too long ago I saw a discussion in a Facebook group about a silent era actor who, it was revealed, had strongly supported keeping his wealthy neighborhood “White People Only.” Naturally this was disheartening news, and more than one person declared that they would never look at him the same way again.
I could hardly blame them, but it got me thinking: What do we do if we love a star’s work onscreen, but discover that they were less-than-charming off screen? Is it reasonable to judge a star by their personal life?
In my last post I told y’all about the wonderful experience of going to the SFSFF. Today we’re covering the second leg of the trip to the fun, historic, crazy place called Hollywood. Since I had visited there for the very first time last year, let’s just call this year’s trip “Pilgrimage II to the Holy Land.”
So! The morning of June 6 I said goodbye to San Francisco and took a plane to LAX. Here’s one detail you should know: while at the film festival my body had decided, despite having been bizarrely lucky and only getting sick once the entire previous year, that now, verily, ’twas the time for me to catch a cold. And not just any cold–oh, no! This would be a mighty beast of a cold that would make me lose my voice almost completely while being emerged in a sea of fellow silent film fanatics to talk to. Thanks, BODY.
But, this managed not to spoil my enjoyment of the festival (after all, you get to just sit all day!) and while I was left with a yucky-sounding cough, the journey to Hollywood was happily uneventful. After taking the FlyAway bus to the famous Union Station and riding the very convenient Metro, I was back on Hollywood Boulevard, eager to pick up where I’d left off last year. Continue reading →