Thursday, January 5, 2012

Those Places Thursday – A Day in Hollywood

I gave my husband a slice of family history this year for Christmas:  tickets to see It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World at Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, California.

Okay, maybe that’s not quite the family history you may think of, but this movie happens to be my husband’s all-time favorite and his family roots stretch into the Hollywood area.  In fact, his family owned a house on Hollywood Boulevard in the late 1800’s.

Lander Home on Hollywood Boulevard, late 1890's
This all started a couple of weeks ago when I was searching for places to visit in the Los Angeles area for a possible family reunion in 2012.  I stumbled upon an article about the recent restoration efforts of the Egyptian Theatre and then happened to notice the list of coming attractions.  I was so excited to see my husband’s favorite on the list.  I called the kids to confirm their availability for the date and then bought tickets.

We had a great time.  First we drove up the coast and saw some of the areas where the film was shot.  My husband got nostalgic and showed us the hill that he, as a kid, used to race down on his Flexy Flyer, and then traveling east on Sunset Boulevard we saw Paul Revere Middle School, his junior high alma mater.

We got to our destination a couple hours early so we could check out some of the sights. 

You can’t step out on Hollywood without stepping on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  Once a century ago, sweet citrus trees and palms populated the Boulevard.  Today, this public “monument” now lines the thoroughfare.  It consists of marble and bronze stars embedded into the sidewalk as memorials to individuals who have made an impact on the entertainment industry.

Mel Brooks on the Walk of Fame
As we walked and read the many stars at our feet we completely missed the entrance to the Egyptian Theatre and had to double back.  Registering where it was located, we crossed the street and went to Hollywood and Highland for dinner.

Hollywood and Highland Complex, December 2011
The Hollywood and Highland complex today is home to the Kodak theatre and a shopping complex that wraps around the back of the Chinese Theatre. The elephants and monolithic wall pay homage to D.W. Griffith's Gates of Babylon from his film Intolerance.

The original gates stood a few miles east where Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards (possibly near my husband’s ancestral Lander home) meet in East Hollywood. They stood until, termite infested, they were declared a public nuisance and torn down.

Moving west along the Boulevard, we visited Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.  This landmark theatre was commissioned a couple of years after the success of the Egyptian Theatre.  It opened May 18, 1927, with the premiere of Cecil B. DeMille’s film The King of Kings.

Grauman's Chinese Theatre, December 2011
It’s a grand and beautiful structure but the most popular and unique feature is its forecourt.  This area is filled with concrete slabs which display the signatures, footprints, and handprints (even Sonja Henie’s skate blade marks) of popular motion picture personalities through the years.  (Unfortunately, this attraction in later years would pull the attention away from the Egyptian Theatre.)

After lingering on the steps of the Chinese Theatre and trying to fit our hands and feet into the cement impressions, we proceeded east on the Boulevard to the Egyptian Theatre.

The Egyptian Theatre, 1939

The Egyptian Theatre was originally built in 1922 by showman Sid Grauman and real estate developer Charles E. Toberman.  It cost $800,000 and took 18 months to construct. Seeing it today, this magnificent theatre has been carefully restored honoring its past and its original Egyptian Revival style - a fad in the 1920’s which was inspired by the discovery of King Tut's tomb in 1922.

When it opened on October 18, 1922, the Egyptian was the venue for the first-ever Hollywood premier, Robin Hood, starring Douglas Fairbanks. And, because the original film cost over $1 million to produce, the admission price to the premiere was $5.00. 

The Egyptian Theatre, December 2011
Eighty-nine years later, our family enjoyed our first-ever movie, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World inside this historic theatre at a cost of $11.oo a ticket.  I’d say that’s a great price to pay for a wonderful day of entertainment and a slice of history.

©2012 – Frank’s Daughter All Rights Reserved

1 comment:

  1. Grauman's is an incredible place. I was last there in the 1960s but I still remember it. I can't even remember what I saw, but it could have been It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Thanks for the memories.