THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN

The above photo illustrates how close I got to the iconic Hollywood Sign on my visit to Hollywood many years ago.

Now Warner  Brothers have put forward a plan to the Los Angeles authorities which will allow a much closer look at the sign.

They plan an aerial train which would ferry visitors to and from the landmark Hollywood Sign. The studio would pay for the construction and operate it from a parking lot near their Burbank backlot.

Revenue will be split with the city.

 

Warner Brothers also plan to build an education center about the sign on Mount Lee , within Griffith Park.

At present the only way to get nearer to the sign is a long  trek up the hills of the park.

 

The famous sign was built on Mount Lee in 1923 as “HOLLYWOODLAND”, by the Hollywoodland Realty company as an advert for their new housing development of the same name in Beachwood Canyon.

 

Sadly, as time went on, the sign was neglected. In 1949, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce removed “LAND”, and repaired the rest – the ‘H’ had been toppled down the hill.

 

In 1973, the sign was given landmark status. During the early 1970’s the entire ‘O’ and the top of the ‘D’ toppled down Mt. Lee.

It took until  1978 for a new sign to be constructed – 45 feet high.

Hollywood may still be awaiting a museum  but at least Hollywood realises their historic sign’s importance. I hope the authorities back Warners’ plan.

 

 

 

A shot from behind the sign.

 

 

Thanks to Bob, I’ve discovered some more interesting facts.

When the original sign was taken down, it was put in storage.

In 2007, American artist and memorabilia collector Bill Mack bought the sign . It presumably was in a pretty poor condition, and much of the metal was cut up to make portraits of stars, painted into the metal.

But Mr. Mack completely restored the huge letter “H” (45 feet tall, the height of 4 double decker buses), and weighing 95 tons.

 

From June 20 to July 17, 2018, The O2 Arena in London hosts an exhibition called THE HEART OF HOLLYWOOD WORLD TOUR, with the enormous ‘H ‘ letter as the centrepiece and used for 3D displays.

The exhibition includes costumes and props from films such as “Gone With The Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz”, and displays the portraits by Bill Mack done on the original sign’s metal.

The website http://www.heartofhollywoodtour.com has all the details.

The ambitious intention is to tour the exhibition to 60 countries in the next 5 years, then return the ‘H ‘ letter to Hollywood in 2023, the hundred’s  anniversary of the sign’s beginning.

The website doesn’t yet show the itinerary after London.

I haven’t read any reviews of the exhibition.

 

 

Artwork by Bill Mack, using the original metal of the sign which shows the holes which helped it to stay up in the wind.

 

Thanks too to Jim for his comment about DOWN THREE DARK STREETS (1954). The climax of the film has Ruth Roman making her way up to the Hollywood sign where she has to leave money for an extortionist under the letter “W”.

Ruth Roman can (just) be seen below the sign.

 

Ruth Roman, Broderick Crawford

 

I also came across the above HOLLYWOOD sign  which stands in a field in the tiny rural village of Hollywood in County Wicklow, Ireland.

This little village claims to be the first ‘Hollywood’, having been in existence hundreds of years before its more famous counterpart! – the name  came  from “HOLY WOOD”, in the 6th century.

 

 

 

PHOTO MIX 33


The great BERNARD HERRMANN wins his first and only Oscar for Best Score in 1941, for “All That Money Can Buy.”

With MARY ASTOR, Best Supporting Actress for THE GREAT LIE.

 

Ava Gardner

Lovely portrait.

 

 

A young Audie Murphy

 

Greta Garbo

Garbo at home in New York. 1966.

 

 

 

THE PRIVATE LIVES OF  ELIZABETH AND ESSEX.

Queen Elizabeth doesn’t even get a mention !

 

 

Bette Davis.

I don’t know what the proposed film was , in which Bette would play a nun.

 

 

Four’s a Crowd. 1938 The Thinker. Rosalind Russell.

What’s on your mind.

 

Still thinking. HIS GIRL FRIDAY.

 

Ilka Chase, Bette Davis

A scene cut from NOW VOYAGER. The do-over.

 

Quite a get together on the MGM backlot. Four stars in costume.

Clark Gable (San Francisco) ;  Robert Montgomery (Trouble for  Two).

Lionel Barrymore (The Devil Doll)  ;  Paul Muni (The Good Earth.)

 

 

 

HAMLET, HITCHCOCK AND CARY GRANT

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So much for my extensive knowledge of Cary Grant’s  career. The little gem above completely escaped me.

In 1945, Alfred Hitchcock had formed Transatlantic Pictures with Sidney Bernstein . Hitchcock proposed a modernised version of Shakespeare’s HAMLET, set in England and starring Cary Grant.

Berstein had scholar Alan Dent research various versions of the famous play.

Hitchcock talked to the press, saying, “The plot,situation, psychology and characters will be retained, but the action and sets will be modern.”

Seemingly Cary Grant had provisionally agreed to do the film. He also spoke to the press, saying, “I approach the assignment with trepidation but my faith in Mr. Hitchcock is my reassurance in the matter.”

Hitchcock seemed very keen on the idea and did quite a lot of work on it, but eventually it wasn’t to be ( or not to be).

I read that Hitchcock tried to get John Gielgud’s stage production of  “Hamlet” on film, without success.  And of course Laurence Olivier filmed the play in 1948.

A writer called Irving Fisk filed a $1 million lawsuit against Transatlantic Pictures in 1947, claiming he had written Hamlet in modern English. The suit was eventually dismissed.

 

Could it have worked?  “Hamlet” is a tale of murder, revenge and tragedy – hardly any of the main characters are alive at the end.

I just can’t picture it.  Hamlet is memorable for the wonderful writing, none of which ,presumably, could be used in a modern day setting.

I recall that there was a modern day version of MACBETH, called “Joe MacBeth”, starring Paul Douglas and Ruth Roman , made in England. It’s on You  Tube. Must watch it.

There is a Hitchcock connection to Hamlet . There is a line in the play, “I am but mad, North-North-West.”

My thanks to Alistair for alerting me to this proposed film.

 

 

Cary read the script.

 

 

Cary tries to contact Hitch by letter and phone, saying “ Are you mad. Include me out!”

RAY MILLAND DOUBLE BILL

LET’S DO IT AGAIN (1953) is a loose remake of THE AWFUL TRUTH and although having the same basic story line, it really suffers by comparison.

Jane Wyman and Ray Milland are in the Irene Dunne and Cary  Grant roles, with Aldo  Ray in the Ralph Bellamy part.

The story this time round has Milland and Wyman as Gary and Connie Stuart. Gary is a Broadway composer, and Connie  is a singer who has stopped working when they married three years earlier.

When the marriage is in trouble, Connie encourages young Aldo Ray who was a fan of hers when she was performing.

The poster above has Tom Helmore and Ray Milland reprising the ‘hats’ scene in ‘The Awful Truth’. Not as funny. What’s missing is Mr. Grant! (Tom Helmore plays a rival composer).

 

Ray Milland, Jane Wyman.

 

The movie is only saved by a couple of good musical numbers, especially Jane’s song, ‘Slow Burn’ which I love.

Another reference to the classic 30s original is dancer Valerie Bettis’s ‘Call of the Wild ‘ – though it doesnt match Joyce Compton’s ‘Gone With The Wind’.

Jane does a very good .vampish version of ‘Call of the Wild’ , similar to Irene Dunne’s hilarious version of ‘Gone With The Wind’.

 

Ray Milland, Jane Wyman and Aldo  Ray.

 

 

Aldo Ray

I liked Aldo Ray as the fresh faced young millionaire with the same shy, aw-shucks style as Ralph Bellamy in ‘The Awful Truth’.

 

Valerie Bettis

Watching Valerie Bettis dance, you could be watching Rita Hayworth in “Affair in Trinidad”, made a year earlier – Valerie was repeating some of her own choreography for Rita in that film.

 

Karin Booth, Jane Wyman and Ray Milland.

Karin Booth has a small role as Gary’s new girlfriend after he and Connie file for divorce.

Also in a small part is Leon Ames as Milland’s brother.

I spotted Bess Flowers – who was also an extra in “The Awful Truth.”

And a certain ‘Lucy Warriner’ gets a mention!

Not much of a role for Ray Milland, especially when his singing and piano playing are dubbed. I can’t imagine it was a role he was happy to do. Adding some songs to the light weight plot worked much better for Jane Wyman.

 

Jane Wyman.

Jane dressed for her ‘Call of the Wild’  number.

 

The songs are by Lester Lee and Ned Washington.

 

“LOVE AT MIDNIGHT”.

 

 

Ray Milland had another Paramount  release in 1953.

“Jamaica Run” was a Pine -Thomas production which would have been even better if it had been filmed in the real location.

Milland plays Patrick Fairlie who is just out of the navy . He  runs  a charter boat, the Dolphin,  and  returns to Comeback Bay in Kingston, Jamaica to visit the old Dacey mansion .

He wants to renew his acquaintance with Ena Dacey (Arlene Dahl) who is now running her family’s sugar plantation because her wastrel brother Todd (Wendell Corey) isn’t much good at anything.

When Todd sees Patrick, he says, “I thought we’d seen the last of you.I dislike you now as healthily as when you attempted to improve your position by marrying my sister.”

Milland’s character says he’s back in the inter-island  trading business and is looking for cargo. He says, “I’ll be making the Jamaica run regularly.”

Patric Knowles is a land developer ,William Montagu who says that brother and sister Janice and Robert Clayton (Laura Elliot and Michael  Moore) are the true heirs to the Dacey estate.

The truth lies in a ship lost in a storm 100 years earlier and Milland has to dive down to the wreck to find a sea chest.

I enjoyed “Jamaica Run”. The plot moves along well, there’s mystery, murder and suspense.

I was impressed by Carroll McComas as Mrs. Dacey who will never  leave Great House . Mrs.Dacey is in her own little world and doesn’t realise the world around  her has changed.

This actress worked mainly on the stage and only made a few films.

Another routine role for Ray Milland But a good cast all round.Arlene Dahl didn’t have much to do other than look lovely in color.

Laura Elliot (aka Kasey Rogers) is best known as the bespectacled murder victim in  “Strangers on a Train.”

The film deserves a dvd release.

 

Arlene Dahl, Ray Milland.

 

Wendell Corey

 

Ray Milland, Arlene Dahl

 

Patric Knowles

 

 

SAMMY CAHN: WORD WEAVER

Sammy Cahn

 

 

I love the story that lyricist SAMMY CAHN tells of when he was Oscar nominated (with composer Jule  Styne ) for Best Song,  “Three Coins In a Fountain”.

Sammy was living in the same road as Judy Garland, Bing Crosby and Humphrey Bogart, all of whom were also nominated for Oscars in 1955.

But only Sammy won! He received a telegram from the others which said, “Thanks for not letting the street down!”

 

Humphrey Bogart.THE CAINE MUTINY.

 

 

Judy Garland.A STAR IS BORN.

 

Bing Crosby (with William Holden) for THE COUNTRY GIRL.

 

Sammy Cahn (1913-1993} won 4 Best Song Oscars. The others were “All The Way”, “High Hopes” and “Call Me Irresponsible” – music by Jimmy Van Heusen. Cahn and Van Heusen wrote many songs for Frank Sinatra.

I have fond memories of seeing Sammy Cahn doing his one-man show in London. He was a terrific raconteur and one of his stories was about collaborating with composer Jule Styne for the first time.

Styne played a melody, and after a few minutes, Sammy turned to him and said, “It seems to me I’ve heard that song before, It’s from an old familiar score..”

Styne said, “What are you, a tune  detective?”

 

(”Word Weaver” was a phrase used in one of the tributes to Sammy Cahn on his death.)