A visit to Hollywood -with Google Maps!

There are plenty of places I’d like to visit in the world but there are always problems of time and money. I sometimes think that maybe one day when I retire I’ll jump on a plane and visit all those places I’d like to see but the crazy thing is -with the Internet and Google maps- I can do it now! Here are a few of the places I’d head for in Hollywood!

1.The Charlie Chaplin Studios on La Brea and Sunset.

Charlie Chaplin studios

Charlie Chaplin built his studio just south of the corner of La Brea and Sunset Boulevarde in 1917. At the time it was a residential area and Chaplin built a facade of cottages in the manner of an English street so the studios would blend into the neighbourhood more effectively. Chaplin sold the studios when he left America in 1953 and although the property was earmarked for redevelopment, that never happened. The 1950’s TV version of Superman was shot there and later the Red Skelton TV series. In 2000 the Jim Henson company bought the studios and later installed a twelve foot statue of the Muppets Kermit the frog by the gates. In homage to Chaplin, Kermit was dressed as the little tramp.

2. The Old RKO Studios

RKO studios

Between 1921 and 1927 the Robertson Cole Company, later known as FBO, Film Booking Office (once partly owned by Joe Kennedy, father of President John Kennedy) established their basic studio on Gower St. It was later taken over by RKO and expanded. The main entrance was at 780 North Gower St and many classic movies were made in the RKO days such as King Kong and Citizen Kane. In later years the studios were owned by Howard Hughes who in turn sold the studios to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez and it became the home of their company, Desilu Productions. Later still the studios were acquired by Paramount for their television operations and Paramount own the studio today.

3. The Samuel Goldwyn Studios AKA ‘The Lot.’

Samuel Goldwyn Studios
The studio site was bought by Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford in 1919 and was known as the United Artists Studio from 1928. It was used by many producers involved with United Artists but Sam Goldwyn won sole control in 1955 and the facilities became the Samuel Goldwyn Studios until Warner Brothers purchased the site in 1980. Today the facilities are known as ‘The Lot’ and the owners lease offices and soundstages to various production companies.

4. 7000 Romaine Street.

Romaine st Hollywood
Even though Howard Hughes owned RKO he never had an office there. Instead for a long time he had his headquarters at 7000 Romaine Street in Hollywood. He set up a central switchboard here and the place was at the hub of his vast empire for many years.

5.Lana Turner’s Hollywood home.

Lana Turner Hollywood Home

Lana Turner rented the house above in the spring of 1958 and lived here with her daughter, Cheryl. On the night of April 4th, 1958, Lana was involved in yet another argument with her boyfriend, gangster Johnny Stompanato. He was threatening Lana with violence and fourteen year old Cheryl, fearing for her mother, armed herself with a knife and listened outside her mother’s room. The door burst open, Lana ran out, Stompanato ran out after her with his arm raised as if to strike Lana and ran into the knife held by Cheryl. The inquest ruled that the murder was justifiable homicide and Cheryl was acquitted.

6.Paramount Studios

paramount studios
Paramount Studios are still going strong today. There’s even a Paramount Studio tour which looks pretty interesting for a film buff like me!

7.James Dean and Blackwells Corner
James Dean
If you’ve read my blog posts before you must have read this post about James Dean. He was killed in a car crash in 1955 while on his way to a race meeting in Salinas. He was driving his new car, a Porsche nicknamed ‘little bastard.’ Blackwell’s corner was where Dean and his friends made a last refreshment stop before the fatal crash.

8.Highway 66, the site of James Dean’s Fatal Crash.

highway 66
James Dean had already been stopped for speeding earlier and now at about 5.45 pm on September 30th, 1955, he was still driving fast. Up ahead of him a 24 year old college student named Donald Turnupseed turned left onto highway 41. He cut across Dean, apparently not seeing the low profile Porsche until the last moment. Dean tried to turn the wheel but the cars collided and Dean was killed. A memorial stands by the scene erected by Seita Ohnishi, a Japanese fan.

(All pictures courtesy google maps. )

So, where would you visit in Hollywood?


Floating in Space is a novel by Steve Higgins. Click the links at the top of the page to buy or for more information!

 

 

Elvis, Charlie Chaplin, and Justin Beiber.

Elvis, Charlie Chaplinand Justin BeiberAs I’ve mentioned many times before, I write because I’m a writer. That’s what I do, I write and I’ve been writing since I was a school kid. Something else that comes hand in hand with writing is the idea that one day; one fine distant day, I might just get somewhere and get my book published and actually become an actual fully fledged, bona fide writer. Of course, when that happens it will bring a degree of fame which I can imagine being pretty nice. You know what I mean, going into a restaurant and the staff know me and say stuff like ‘the manager would like you to have this bottle of expensive wine on the house’, and ‘could you sign this menu’ and people asking you for an autograph and maybe being interviewed on TV about my latest book (whoa, steady on there!) Anyway, stuff like that.

Of course fame in some ways can be something of a prison. I don’t think life was that great for Elvis Presley for instance. Elvis turned his whole life upside down to escape the pressures of fame. He slept all day and came awake at night. He would hire a whole cinema to run the latest movie for him and his friends. He hired bowling alleys and fairgrounds to open up, during the night, just so he could enjoy life away from the attention of his fans.

picture from flickr

picture from flickr

Another famous man and probably the most famous man there ever was, was Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin had a fame almost a hundred years ago that perhaps no one will ever realise again because Chaplin’s movies went all around the globe. People anywhere could understand Chaplin because his movies were silent. All you needed to understand them was the universal language of laughter. People in Russia, Japan, China, the Ukraine and countless places across the globe laughed and cried with Charlie, as well as moviegoers from the USA and Europe.

Chaplin became a rich man and he hung on to his riches by building his own studio and producing and directing all his films. He did one other thing as well. In an age when a movie had a shelf life of a few months at the most, when no one thought about saving or preserving films for another age of moviegoers, Charlie did just that, he secured the rights to the negatives of all his movies and ensured they lived on into the age of TV, video, DVD, and the modern digital age.

I do love the Golden age of Hollywood and do think sometimes about visiting America to see Chasens’, Romanovs, The Brown Derby, Schwab’s drugstore, Pickfair, The Goldwyn Studios, and even Chaplin’s old studio that he built for himself on the corner of La Brea and Sunset in Hollywood in 1917.

The thing is, out of the above list only one remains. Chaplin’s studios, now owned by Jim Henson and complete with a statue of Kermit the frog on the front gate, in Chaplin’s tramp costume of course.

Who today has the fame that Chaplin enjoyed? Well, out of interest I did a quick search on google and the results were these; Number 1 is Michael Jackson even though he is no longer with us, followed by Lady Gaga, Justin Beiber and Jennifer Aniston. Completing the top ten are Eminem, Johnny Depp, Will Smith, Katy Perry, Beyoncé and Leonardo DiCaprio. Not a completely inspiring list is it? I wonder which of those celebrities, if any, will be fondly remembered in 2114?


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James Hilton, Shangri-la, and Hollywood

james hilton autog

James Hilton is one of my personal writing heroes and yet his name may be unfamiliar to many of you reading this blog. He was a journalist and an author and made the trip from his home in Leigh, Lancashire, in the UK to the Hollywood hills in the United States to become a screen writer. He is probably more well known for his book ‘Goodbye Mr Chips’ which was made into a film with Robert Donat (actually another northerner from Didsbury in Manchester) but my favourite of his books and quite possibly my all-time favourite book is ‘Lost Horizon’.

Lost Horizon is a book I found in a second-hand shop many years ago. A battered 1940s paperback I paid twenty-five pence for and yet that small investment has paid me back many times over for sheer reading pleasure as Lost Horizon is a book I re read every year or so and I often pull it down from my bookshelf when a current read fails to entertain me.

Lost Horizon is a completely original idea and is about British consul Robert Conway in the dark days before World War II. Conway is helping his fellow British citizens escape from civil war in China and he and his small party escape in the last plane only to be kidnapped and taken to a distant Tibetan monastery. Conway meets the High lama and after a time it is revealed that the Tibetans  want to preserve the best of world culture and art and make it safe from the coming war.

Hilton is one of those few people who have invented a word or coined a phrase that has become part of the English language. In this case it was the name of the Tibetan monastery, Shangri-la which has since become a byword for a peaceful paradise, a distant haven. Camp David, the US President’s retreat was originally called Shangi-la until renamed by Eisenhower for his son, David.

Hilton’s journey from Leigh to Hollywood must have been a magical one and one I envy, especially as his time in Hollywood was a golden age for movie making. Lost Horizon was made into a movie by Hollywood director Frank Capra and starred Ronald Colman as the urbane British diplomat of the novel. It’s a movie that was recently restored and is a great DVD if you happen to see it. Colman also starred in another movie authored by Hilton :‘Random Harvest ‘.

Hilton settled in Hollywood and wrote a number of screenplays for classic Hollywood movies such as ‘Mrs Miniver ‘. Sadly he died from cancer in 1954.

WordPress of course is an American site and I wonder sometimes if a bored Hollywood production executive may decide to sit down one day with his Ipad and search idly across the site in search of movie ideas. My own book; Floating In space’ could easily be relocated from Manchester to Los Angeles and I am available for writing the screenplay.

Well, may keep my flight bag packed, just in case . . .


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