Hollywood Forever

My LA jaunt wasn’t a sight-seeing tour, nor a social visit (managed to meet Glenn Erickson because he popped by, but only achieved a phone call with David E — both encounters I wished could have lasted much longer) but I did manage to see a couple of things…

This used to be Lana Turner’s house. And what’s this we can see lurking at the threshold – ?


Knifed to death in the kitchen by Lana’s daughter Cheryl. By all accounts she was defending her mother from her abusive partner, a known gangster. Lana got Cheryl off by giving an award-worthy performance at the inquest — visible at 4.55 in this clip.

“Oh mother, stop acting!” Actually, I’m sure the emotion is sincere, but it uncannily resembles any of a dozen Lana Turner movie performances. Poor Lana had pretty bad taste in men: apart from Fernando Lamas (for God’s sake), she had relationships with Tarzan Lex Barker who sexually abused Cheryl, and Stompanato, who physically abused Lana.

This bijou bungalow belonged to Clara Bow, and is the site where she supposedly ravished the entire USC football team, including at the time a young John Wayne. I don’t believe this story though — the house looks too small to cram all those guys in, at least not without them removing their padding, which I think rather spoils the mental image. I totally believe the one about Tallulah Bankhead and the boy scouts though.

The DeMilles! I prevailed upon my generous hosts to give me a whistle-stop tour of Hollywood Forever, graveyard of the stars. I missed out on John Huston’s grave, which I imagine as the statue from the end of BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (hey, who wouldn’t want a weeping orangutan grave marker?) but caught DeMille’s, Hitchcock’s and Toto’s.

This was my day for recovering from jet-lag, and it was a suitably restful outing. Stayed so long it was too late to go on the Universal Studios tour, but I can’t imagine that being any better than this.

This is the last resting place of Doug Fairbanks Snr and Jnr. The inscription reads “Goodnight, sweet princes, and flights of angels sing the to thy rest. Adapted from Shakespeare.” Yeah. “It’s what you call a paraphrase.”

Still, you feel rather sorry for the Fairbankses when you see what they’ve got to face for all eternity… no, not a weeping orangutan (because that would be grand), but Joey Ramone.

Kind of tacky, no? I find it hard to conceive of a statue with an electric guitar in hand achieving the level of dignity suitable for a memorial, but perhaps this is mere snobbery. Anyway, this is what we came to see —

Valentino’s shrine. Fresh flowers, too — good to know the woman in black is still out and about. Given the historical duration involved, one has to suspect a dynasty of women is in operation, passing the flowers from mother to daughter like a relay-runner’s baton.

Interesting to find Rudy hemmed in by June Mathis and Peter Finch. Death makes for strange bedfellows.

And then my host dropped a six-pound award on his foot —

The disc of Melies’ moon made earthfall first, chipping the cement, then the award snapped in two and the heavy base landed on his toe. Suspected fracture. This necessitated a trip to another place of great interest —

“There’s Mr Skirball’s name again.” This is part of the motion picture retirement home, and thus of enduring fascination, especially to a fan of LA FIN DU JOUR, which is set in a retirement home for actors. I didn’t feel right buttonholing the resident crusties and demanding their life stories, however, so I contented myself with photographing the exhibits until politely ordered to stop.

Cooler even than Ann Miller’s Golden Boot Award (an item unlikely to inspire my host with warm feelings considering his recent experiences with golden awards and feet), cooler than Elsa Lanchester’s Dracula Society certificates, these caricatures by esteemed Hollywood-by-way-of-Romania director Jean Negulescu are lovely indeed. I can recognize everybody except the upper and lower central figures. What do you reckon?

And so, as the sun sinks slowly in the west, we say a fond goodbye to Los Angeles — I love this pic, taken from my host’s back yard. The flash illuminates the foreground while the distance sinks into silhouette, creating an unreal effect not unsuited to La La Land. Dumb luck.

31 Responses to “Hollywood Forever”

  1. Eddie Selover Says:

    David, the upper middle is Maurice Chevalier (at first I thought the top right was Chevalier, but then I realized it’s Will Rogers). Bottom middle is Mary Pickford.

  2. Thanks, brilliant! I always forget about Rogers because I haven’t seen his Ford or Borzage films.

  3. Hilary Barta Says:

    Darn. I had Chevalier, too. I simply must check in at all hours.

  4. Danny Carr Says:

    Isn’t that Johnny Ramone? (I know you’re a stickler for detail.)

  5. That Melies memorial is going to get a lot of scrutiny in coming weeks with the release of Marty’s marvelous Hugo — the best 3-D movie EVAH (!) and a 21-gun salute to Melies.

    It’s alos a perfect children’s film in a spirit of imaginative evocation that hasn’t been seen since The Red Balloon

    And yes, as you might have guessed, it’s one of the best things Marty has ever done.

    As for your cemetery-trawling, a shame you didn’t get to Westwood where Marilyn is entombed.

    As for Lana, invariably underrated as a professional performer (yes she was more star than actress but being a star takes talent) the notion — so popular in Urban Legend — that SHE killed Johnny and Cheryl took the blame is quite ridiculous. Lana was a very tiny woman. Had she stabbed Stompanato she would have wounded him in the thigh.

    She had HORRID taste in men. Cheryl is a saint for putting up with it — and forgiving her. I strongly suspect that had she not intervened and stopped Stompanato, Lana would have been killed.

  6. I had Chevalier, but I took Pickford to be Marion Davies at first.

  7. Actually, the protuberant mouth region had me thinking Joe E. Brown. But the illo was too small for me to verify, so I left it alone. Until now.

  8. The final picture reminds me of the view that might have confronted Clara when welcoming the USC Trojans to her home.

  9. Johnny…Joey… which one’s dead? Or dead-er?

    Yes, Lana’s beauz included the dire Fernando Lamas (who Marlene nicknamed her sedative suppositories after [thanks, Siren!]) and the sinister Lex Barker, who sexually abused her daughter. Gangster Johnny Stompanato wasn’t even the worst!

    Am very excited about Hugo!

    And yes, I thought that might be Marion Davies too, but Pickford is far more probable.

  10. Christopher Says:

    I get Lana’s natural surroundings mixed up with those in Imitation Of Life!…Her house looks like her…like Rosalind Russell’s house looks like her-plain and yankee style..I’ve wondered if the current owners are ever haunted by wafts of cigarette smoke..I can see Clara Bow with her hair dyed a new gaudy color with her dogs in tow, trearing out of her driveway in her top down roadster…won’t take her long to get where she needs to go…Did you see the lipstick kissy stains on Valentino’s marble shrine?..Theda Bara has ’em too..All still adored as they rest in peace..

  11. David Boxwell Says:

    Hollywood Forever (trade mark) is positively sedate and tasteful compared to Recoleta cemetery in Buenos Aires, which contains the corpse of only one legendary star: Evita.

  12. David Boxwell Says:

    Lana’s ability is not underrated, especially if you’ve seen THE BIG CUBE, MADAME X, and LOVE HAS MANY FACES. The so-called late decadent phase of Lanallure…

  13. Oh yes, I changed my mind after viewing the photo full-sized, Pickford is a far better fit, though it isn’t her iconic look without those long tresses.

  14. Couldn’t see any lippy on the catafalque… kissing a crypt seems somehow icky…

  15. Joey, Johnny, and DeeDee are dead. but Clara Bow is deader. I believe Rob Zombie paid for Johnny’s tomb-statue. I had no idea it was right there! The history of punk (ala “Please Kill Me”) could stand next to the deader culture of “Hollywood Babylon”: tawdry excess during a heyday of American Pop Culture.

  16. Christopher Says:

    Doug has a swimmin’ pool right in front of his tomb..thats “livin'”

  17. I guess it’s post-mortem snobbery. I’d probably still be grumbling if Mr R’s spot was marked by a simple lucite tesseract.

    Clara is deader for now, but may win in the long result of time. The dead are all running a marathon to immortality, with oblivion lapping at their heels.

  18. david wingrove Says:

    According to Sam Staggs’ book BORN TO BE HURT (about the making of IMITATION OF LIFE) Lana confessed privately in later years that she herself killed Stompanato.

    Mind you, it’s hard to know how reliable that story is. I’m personally hoping that Adrian Lyne’s film about the case will finally get made…although not, I must say, with Catherine Zeta-Jones in the lead role. Firstly, because she looks completely wrong. Secondly, because her acting is so inept she makes Lana look like the first lady of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

    Charlize Theron, I feel, might do Lana justice – or perhaps even Sharon Stone, who was Lana’s choice and a close friend in the years before her death.

  19. Not relaible at all — for the reason I mention above. Lana was a tumultuous personality, and loved too fight — verbally. But that was it.

    Catherine Zeta-Jones is no Lana Turner.

    No one around today is Lana Turner. Not even close. A biopic, however clever, is as nothing compared to the real thing in The Postman Always Rings Twice, Imitation of Life or Myra Brekinridge’s favorite Marriage is a Private Affair — with the ever-stolid James Craig, a script by Ring Lardner Jr. and an uncredited dialogue polish by Tennessee Williams.

    All of this pales before the teriffic rhumba Lana executes in the film’s best scene.

  20. I guess Sharon’s too old now to play Lana at the time of the Stompanato death, strictly speaking. I think it would be good to show Lana’s struggle to remain a box office force when studio bosses considered her over-the-hill at aged 38. She certainly proved them wrong!

  21. david wingrove Says:

    With all the cosmetic enhancement she must have had, I think Shazza could still pass for 38. But I do think Charlize could make a fascinating Lana.

    David E – Would you believe I’ve never seen MIAPA?! But I do fantasize about it longingly every time I re-read Myra Breckinridge.

  22. Well, Charlize’s mother killed her abusive husband, so the quasi-autobiographical aspects are intriguing. And as something of a chameleon, she might be able to embody the physical aspects more convincingly than anyone else. She did a great Britt Ekland!

  23. TCM runs MIAPA every so often. Keep an eye peeled for it.

  24. Sadly the UK’s version of TCM is unbelievably inadequate. But I may have another source…

  25. What do they run on UK TCM? I heard elsewhere it’s almost worthless, but I didn’t get details. I had to disabuse someone else who blogs from GB about what Paramounts we get to see on TCM here in the US. It really isn’t very much, sad to say.

  26. david wingrove Says:

    Last time I looked at the British TCM schedule, half of it wasn’t even movies. Just repeats of ancient TV shows like GUNSMOKE and HIGH CHAPARRAL – which are, presumably cheaper.

    If I subscribed to this channel (and I don’t) I would be simply seething with rage. It was never much good, but now it’s unspeakably awful!

  27. Wow, that’s one thing they’ve never done here is run a TV series. I take that back. They are running Screen Director’s Playhouse episodes this month, but that’s probably the only time I’d seen that happen and I think it’s only because they’re in the Roach package. There are already three other channels dedicated to running old TV shows here.

  28. Well, Screen Directors Playhouse has clear relevance to the TCM audience… which Gunsmoke might not.

    Today they’re showing the 57 A Farewell to Arms and a Rathbone Holmes, but also Menace II Society and Soldier (with Kurt Russell)… And they’ll probably show all of those again next week.

  29. Oh, it’s that kind of channel. TCM in name only. And you have to pay for it? Here it comes with basic cable. Only FMC costs extra (and it’s not worth it most of the time unless you want to see Leave Her To Heaven six times in a month, and it’ll be the only classic film shown as all the rest are from the ’90s and newer. In our area it’s shoved into the sports package!)

  30. You don’t pay specifically for UK TCM, but you pay for a higher package which includes it.

    All the more frustrating since France seems to have a great TCM. And SOMEBODY must own those film libraries’ UK rights. But they can’t be bothered exploiting them, or making them available. They should be legally compelled!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: