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.