TIN­SEL­TOWN DREAMS: The city’s glam­orous history with glimpse of the peo­ple and places that made Hol­ly­wood great

Jour­ney through the city’s rus­tic ori­gins to to­day’s dizzy­ing glam­our with a glimpse of the peo­ple and places that made Hol­ly­wood great.


All things re­lated to beauty, en­ter­tain­ment and glam­our flow from Hol­ly­wood. The city’s nick­name, “Tin­sel­town,” per­fectly cap­tures the city’s re­lent­less en­gi­neered sparkle, whether it’s the ar­rival of a wave of young in­génues or an event soos­t­en­ta­tiousthatthe­world­will­betalkingaboutit­for­weeks to come – prac­ti­cally mil­len­nia with the public’s short at­ten­tion span to­day. The im­pact of Hol­ly­wood on the world is im­pos­si­ble to over­state, with red-car­pet looks for­ti­fy­ing fash­ion and beauty trends for the rest of the year and hun­dreds of films en­gag­ing in an on­go­ing di­a­logue with the viewer about the hopes, fears and dreams of to­day’s so­ci­ety. How­ever, in com­par­i­son with the rise of other in­flu­en­tial and cos­mopoli­tan cities across the globe, Hol­ly­wood seemed to have be­come an un­likely suc­cess. Hol­ly­wood’s hum­ble begin­nings could not be more far­ther from to­day’s glitzy re­al­ity. At the turn of the cen­tury, what would later be­come Hol­ly­wood was a quaint agri­cul­tural area framed by the moun­tains be­yond. The view was straight out of a clas­sic Western movie: the dusty land­scape dot­ted with small farms and ranches, with the oc­ca­sional wagon pass­ing by to carry cit­rus fruits and other goods for sale. A few am­bi­tious de­vel­op­ers were charmed by the area and saw po­ten­tial for de­vel­op­ment, reg­is­ter­ing the area as “Hol­ly­wood” and in­vest­ing in the con­struc­tion of lo­cal busi­nesses. A tour through the old Hol­ly­wood wouldn’t take more than half an hour, as the main drag in­cluded only a sin­gle bed-and-break­fast and a few small shops. In the early 1900s, the bur­geon­ing mo­tion pic­ture in­dus­try faced a num­ber of chal­lenges, per­haps the most crit­i­cal of which was that film tech­nol­ogy and tools were patented. The rights to the cam­eras used in most films be­longed to in­ven­tor Thomas Edi­son, and re­stric­tions re­gard­ing the use of film­ing equip­ment was strictly en­forced – un­law­ful use of the tech­nol­ogy would re­sult in ex­or­bi­tant fines or the con­fis­ca­tion of cam­eras. To avoid the fees as­so­ci­ated with film­ing on the east coast, many film­mak­ers be­gan to look west­ward. Af­ford­able land, plenty of sun­shine for all-day film­ing, and low op­er­at­ing costs lured film­mak­ers to Hol­ly­wood in droves, where they opened up in­de­pen­dent stu­dios and be­gan rak­ing the money in.

No one had an­tic­i­pated the me­te­oric rise of Hol­ly­wood into a sym­bol of high wealth and glam­our, most no­tably dur­ing the city’s Golden Age. This iconic era be­tween the 1920s to 1960s is rec­og­niz­able through­out the globe, call­ing to mind wealth, beauty and style of Hol­ly­wood greats like Greta Garbo, Cary Grant, Mar­lon Brando, Au­drey Hep­burn and dozens of other le­gends of the sil­ver screen. “Old Hol­ly­wood style” is fre­quently ref­er­enced to­day in for­mal fash­ion looks for celebri­ties and ev­ery­day brides alike, who seek the high glam­our of the Golden Age. Amer­ica’s ap­petite for movies sur­passed all ex­pec­ta­tions and led to the pro­duc­tion of thou­sands of movies dur­ing the first decade of this pe­riod. From mu­si­cals dis­play­ing end­less rows of cheer­ful cho­rus girls tap­ping in uni­son to sul­try and mys­te­ri­ous film noir, there was a place in Hol­ly­wood for ev­ery kind of star. Whereas the 1920s cel­e­brated bub­bly and youth­ful girls that lived for fun and nightlife, the Golden Age cel­e­brated the grand di­vas of film. These new women were sen­sual, sculpted and dis­tinc­tive, each ex­ud­ing their own unique brand of glam­our. Plat­inum-blonde sex­pot Jean Harlow hyp­no­tized men across the world; Amer­ica’s sweet­heart Rita Hay­worth shim­mied and leaped across stages with dance greats like Fred As­taire and Gene Kelly; ex­otic and icy Mar­lene Di­et­rich stunned au­di­ences with her pow­er­ful on-screen mag­netism. El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor, Dorothy Dan­dridge, Mar­i­lyn Monroe, Ava Gard­ner, Grace Kelly, Vivien Leigh – ev­ery fe­male archetype seen in film to­day grew out of Hol­ly­wood’s Golden Age, and the in­cred­i­ble ac­tresses that pro­pelled it for­ward. These leg­endary women were raised to a god­like sta­tus in Hol­ly­wood, with the smoke and mir­rors of the film in­dus­try play­ing no small part. From jaw-drop­ping cou­ture fash­ion to cus­tom light­ing that gave them an al­most stag­ger­ing ra­di­ance, the trap­pings of Hol­ly­wood’s film sets ce­mented im­ages of Golden Age greats into our mem­o­ries un­til to­day. Mas­sive crews worked be­hind the scenes to en­sure that star­lets looked their best. Set de­sign­ers would do con­sul­ta­tions with ac­tresses to dis­cover col­ors that flat­tered their com­plex­ions and would paint and up­hol­ster movie sets in those col­ors, even if the fi­nal film would be shown in black and white. Stars were draped in lav­ish jewels, swathed in silk charmeuse and per­fumed and pow­dered to per­fec­tion un­til they re­sem­bled a su­per­hu­man brand of beauty. "Film is the most per­fect vis­ual medium for the ex­ploita­tion of fash­ion and beauty that ever ex­isted,” au­thor James Laver once said. Be­fore telling a story, Golden Era films were first a spec­ta­cle of styl­ized fe­male beauty.

The streets of Hol­ly­wood have wit­nessed the great­est mo­ments in en­ter­tain­ment and fash­ion history. Visi­tors to­day can ex­plore a liv­ing history of film with the city’s iconic places such as the mile-long Walk of Fame, which is un­doubt­edly the most pop­u­lar at­trac­tion for trav­el­ers in the star-stud­ded city. Each year, more than 30 mil­lion tourists clamor to see the names of their fa­vorite stars, im­mor­tal­ized in brass and stone for eter­nity. The prom­e­nade now fea­tures over 2,500 stars, in­clud­ing prom­i­nent ac­tors, mu­si­cians, artists, film in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als and even a few iconic fic­tional char­ac­ters that cap­tured hearts on the sil­ver screen like Mickey Mouse and Tinker Bell. The stars’ place­ment typ­i­cally has spe­cial mean­ing: Bond star Roger Moore fea­tured his star at 7007 Hol­ly­wood Blvd. to com­mem­o­rate his seven films play­ing the iconic spy, whereas Meryl Streep’s star lies close to the Dolby Theater, where her Academy Award-win­ning films were pre­sented. The Walk of Fame serves as a kind of me­an­der­ing pulpit for fans, who visit the stars of their fa­vorite en­ter­tain­ers al­most re­li­giously, rit­u­al­is­ti­cally pol­ish­ing the brass, re­flect­ing on their cre­ative works, and leav­ing ex­pan­sive me­mo­ri­als of can­dles and flow­ers for the great artists that have passed away. In a time when Hol­ly­wood was still close to its agri­cul­tural roots and the film in­dus­try was just be­gin­ning to grow, the Hol­ly­wood Ho­tel was one of the city’s first to of­fer first-class, re­sort-like ac­com­mo­da­tions to trav­el­ers. The ho­tel was founded by Bank of Hol­ly­wood pres­i­dent Ge­orge Hoover, who built the ho­tel in 1903 on a mas­sive plot of land. As wealthy land buy­ers be­gan to flock west­ward to the quaint hill­sides of Hol­ly­wood, they would stay at the four-story ho­tel, a haven of class and lux­ury in the still-de­vel­op­ing town. The ho­tel’s ad­min­is­tra­tion would host lux­u­ri­ous galas and ten­nis tour­na­ments to de­light their fash­ion­able pa­trons. In­side, guests en­joyed the Hol­ly­wood Ho­tel’s glam­orous am­bi­ence; out­side, they were re­minded of a city in its in­fancy: guests still re­mem­ber look­ing out the win­dows of their suites and be­ing mes­mer­ized by sway­ing fields of bar­ley and wheat on the hori­zon.

With its dra­matic dragon mo­tifs, guardian lion stat­ues and grand pagoda-style ar­chi­tec­ture, Grau­man’s Chi­nese Theater makes a dra­matic vis­ual im­pact that is per­fectly suited to the flam­boy­ant film in­dus­try. The lo­ca­tion has long been as­so­ci­ated with Hol­ly­wood’s bright­est stars and splashiest movie pre­mieres, where red car­pets and row upon row of pop­ping flash­bulbs are de rigueur. Leg­endary show­man Sid Grau­man took in­spi­ra­tion from the 1920s ob­ses­sion with East Asia and built the theater in its sig­na­ture Chi­nese de­sign in 1929. The theater has hosted the Academy Awards and count­less film events for the world’s big­gest movies such as the Star Wars se­ries, which are at­tended by celebri­ties and in­dus­try elite. Fans love peer­ing at the side­walk out­side Grau­man’s Chi­nese Theater, where they can find the foot­prints, hand­prints and au­to­graphs of their fa­vorite stars, pressed into the con­crete. Grau­man ad­mit­ted to start­ing the tra­di­tion by pure ac­ci­dent: he vis­ited the theater as it was be­ing con­structed and ac­ci­den­tally stepped into soft poured con­crete. In a flash of bril­liance, he called movie star Mary Pick­ford and asked her to em­bed her del­i­cate foot­print into the side­walk, a tra­di­tion con­tin­ued by thou­sands of stars in past decades. Like the glam­orous Chi­nese Theater, another venue has also played host to some of the most im­por­tant mo­ments in film. The ma­jes­tic Dolby Theater, for­mally known as the Ko­dak Theater, is one of the largest the­aters in Amer­ica, as well as one of Hol­ly­wood’s most glam­orous venues. Fa­mous theater troupes, bal­let com­pa­nies and leg­endary opera singers have all graced the stage of the Dolby in crit­i­cally-ac­claimed shows. In re­cent mem­ory, the au­di­to­rium is best-known for host­ing the last 15 years of the Academy Awards, un­doubt­edly the most fash­ion­able night for the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try. An­nu­ally, celebri­ties don their finest gowns, tuxe­dos and op­u­lent jew­elry to make the rounds on the red car­pet, to be an­a­lyzed by fash­ion lovers in in­tri­cate de­tail. The mag­nif­i­cent stair­case, the heavy red vel­vet cur­tains fram­ing the stage and beau­ti­ful Art Deco ac­cents make visi­tors fall in love with the grandeur and ro­mance of the Dolby Theater. Lo­cated off in the scenic Santa Mon­ica Moun­tains, a fly-by shot of the iconic Hol­ly­wood sign has been fea­tured in hun­dreds of films and tele­vi­sion shows, telling the viewer that they have fi­nally ar­rived in the world’s great­est en­ter­tain­ment cap­i­tal. The 45-foot-tall in­di­vid­ual letters were first built in 1923, when the quant coun­try­side was first be­ing trans­formed into the city that we know to­day. A real es­tate group erected the sign to at­tract prospec­tive land and home buy­ers who flocked to Hol­ly­wood as they browsed neigh­bor­hoods in which to start their new busi­nesses and lives. Even to­day, the mis­matched letters are a sym­bol of dream­ing big, while hint­ing at Hol­ly­wood’s early roots. Gaz­ing out into the hill­side, the Hol­ly­wood sign wel­comes you, let­ting you know that you’ve fi­nally ar­rived.

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