Hollywood: The First Week, June 15 to 21

The Ambassador Hotel, which opened in January 1921, was Mediterranean in style, with tile floors, Italian stone fireplaces and a semi-tropical courtyard. It was home to the Cocoanut Grove nightclub, Los Angeles’ premier night spot for decades, where Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, John Wayne, Lucille Ball, Marilyn Monroe and The Supremes were among those who entertained there. It hosted six Oscar ceremonies, and every US President from Herbert Hoover to Richard Nixon — and was the site of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination in June 1968. The hotel closed in 1989, and was demolished in 2005.

Robert Siodmak, 1900 to 1973, was a German-born film director. He is best remembered for his thrillers and for a series of stylish, unpretentious Hollywood films noirs he made in the 1940s. He immersed himself in the creative process and was considered an actor’s director, discovering Burt Lancaster, Ernest Borgnine, Tony Curtis, Debra Paget, Maria Schell and Mario Adorf, and skillfully directing Ava Gardner, Olivia de Havilland, Dorothy McGuire, Yvonne de Carlo, Barbara Stanwyck, Geraldine Fitzgerald and Ella Raines.

Shriners International, known as The Shriners, was the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (AAONMS, which anagrams A MASON), established in 1870 and headquartered in Tampa, Florida. It described itself as a fraternity based on fun, fellowship and the Masonic principles of brotherly love, relief, and truth.

Jack Skirball, 1896 to 1985, was a movie producer, developer, philanthropist and Reform rabbi. After serving in the pulpit for nine years, he became manager of Educational Films Corporation, where he produced Birth of a Baby, the first motion picture to show the birth of a child. It made him instantly famous, earning him nine pages of coverage in Life Magazine. He then formed Skirball Productions, from which came many film classics from the 1940s to 1970s.

Nathan J. Blumberg, 1894 to 1960 — Nate to his friends — was a motion picture executive with a keen sense of mass entertainment. Born in New York City, he was working with CBS when Universal Pictures hired him in the mid-1930s to head its management and finance departments. From 1938 to 1952, as Universal Pictures president, he made the studio a first-run market with A-class bankable stars.

American film producer and studio executive William B. (Bill) Goetz, 1903 to 1969, was a founder and vice president of 20th Century Fox, and head of production at Universal-International. His wife was the daughter of Louis B. Mayer of MGM.

Rufus Le Maire (born Rufus Ralph Goldstick), 1985 to 1940, worked his way to casting director for MGM, having started his career as a New York office boy in 1913. He took actress/singer Deanna Durbin to MGM then to Universal Pictures where she starred in 20 films. He also produced a play, LeMaires Affairs, starring Sophie Tucker and Ted Lewis, which played on Broadway and Chicago.

American film executive Leo Spitz, 1888 to 1956, was best known for running International Pictures with William Goetz. When International merged with Universal Studios in 1946, they ran Universal-International together.

David A. Lipton, 1907 to 1993, was longtime vice president of advertising and publicity for Universal Pictures and its parent company, MCA Inc. In 1967, he received the Publicists’ Guild award for career achievement.

Märta Torén, 1925 to 1957, was a Swedish stage and film actress. After serving as a secretary in the Swedish War Office during World War II, she began her acting career, costarring with Humphrey Bogart in Sirocco (1951) and Dana Andrews in Assignment Paris! (1952). She died of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 31.

Louella Parsons’s Beverley Hills home

Louella Parsons’s daughter, Harriet Oettinger Parsons, 1906 to 1983, was an actress, director, magazine writer and one of only three female producers in the US between 1943 and 1955. After she directed shorts during World War II, RKO hired her to produce feature films. Her 12 years at RKO were often frustrating, however, with the studio reassignin‌g to other producers stories she had chosen.

Chasen’s was a quintessential Beverly Hills restaurant, popular with entertainers. It opened in 1936 as a chili and rib joint, its chili becoming so famous that Elizabeth Taylor had it flown to the set of Cleopatra in Rome in 1962. Walt Disney, Marilyn Monroe, Shirley Temple, Cary Grant, Jack Benny, Jackie Gleason, W. C. Fields, James Cagney, Clark Gable and F. Scott Fitzgerald were among its clientele, and it hosted the Academy Awards party for many years The restaurant closed on April 1, 1995.

Dave Chasen, 1898 to 1973, was born in Odessa, Ukraine, and came to the US as a child. After 13 years in vaudeville, he borrowed $3,500 from New Yorker magazine editor Harold Ross, and opened a barbecue shack called The Southern Pit on Beverly Boulevard. The celebrity crowd quickly discovered his chili and Hobo Steak, and the Southern Pit grew into Chasen’s, a two-storey complex with recreation room, sauna and a greatly up-scaled menu. An unflappable and genial host, Chasen took care of his regulars. When a pregnant Lana Turner had trouble squeezing into a booth, he had part of the table sawn off. When an underage Shirley Temple couldn’t drink with her peers, he had his bartender invent the non-alcoholic Shirley Temple cocktail. With Chasen’s off-limits to paparazzi, the stars let down their hair there and the atmosphere was carnival.

James Francis Durante, 1893 to 1980, was an American singer, pianist, comedian and actor. His distinctive gravelly speech, Lower East Side Manhattan accent, comic language-butchery, jazz-influenced songs and prominent nose all helped make him one of America’s most familiar and popular personalities of the 1920s to the 1970s. He often referred to his nose as the schnozzola (an Italianization of the Yiddish schnoz for ‘big nose’), and it became his nickname.

Don Ameche, 1908 to 1993, was an American actor, voice artist and comedian. He started out as a radio star in the early 1930s, which led to a movie contract from 20th Century Fox in 1935. He played handsome, debonair leading men in 40 films in 14 years. In the 1950s, he moved to Broadway and television.

Harry Rosenthal, 1893 to 1953, was an orchestra leader, composer, pianist and actor. Born in Belfast, he went to London in the 1920s and built a thriving musical career there as a bandleader and composer, writing five operettas. He moved to the United States in 1929, where he wrote the score for Broadway musical Polly. In 1930, he acted in June Moon, and, after meeting Edward, Prince of Wales, at a reception, accompanied the heir to the British throne on a world tour. Rosenthal’s film career ran until 1948: he worked on 19 films, composing the music, and appearing as pianists and orchestra leaders as well as in non-musical roles.

Audrey Skirball-Kenis, 1915 to 2002, was born in Alabama to US banker Otto Marx, Sr., and Parisian Agnes Mosler Marx. She grew up in New York, and moved to California to join the Signal Corps in 1941, the day after Pearl Harbour was bombed. With her husband, Jack, she was deeply involved in philanthropy, largely in support of Reform Judaism.

The World’s Largest Drugstore, Beverly Hills and La Cienaga Boulevard

Sidney Mann was the son of Louis’s first cousin, Dora (Elliman) Mann, a sister of Louis Meyer Elliman

Vera Fox Blumberg, 1901 to 197l, was born in Racine, Wisconsin. She was the wife of Nate Blumberg, sister of Universal vice president Matthew M. Fox, and mother of Lewis Blumberg, born in 1923.

Stanley D. Meyer, 1913 to 1999, was a television executive. His company, Mark VII, produced the Emmy-winning TV series Dragnet, and Meyer also worked on TV’s Pete Kelly’s Blues, Gunsmoke and Have Gun Will Travel. During World War II, he was an intelligence officer, and was responsible for staging the official signing of the United Nations Charter by President Truman in San Francisco.

Dodo (Doris) Meyer, 1924 to 1983, was Stanley Meyer’s wife and Nate and Vera Blumberg’s daughter. For 17 years, she served as San Fernando Valley community liaison for Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, and was known as “the mayor of the Valley” for her efforts to bring constituent concerns to City Hall.

Benny Rubin, 1899 to 1986, was an American comedian and film actor. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, he made more than 200 radio, film and television appearances over a span of 50 years.

William Perlberg, 1900 to 1968, was an American film producer. Born in Poland, he came to the US aged four. After working briefly as a fur trader, he became an agent for the William Morris Agency. In 1936, Perlberg produced his first film, The King Steps Out, for Columbia. Five years later, he moved to 20th Century Fox, ultimately receiving three Academy nominations for Best Picture.

George Burns (born Nathan Birnbaum), 1896 to 1996, was an American comedian, actor, singer and writer, whose career spanned vaudeville, radio, film and television. His arched eyebrows and cigar-smoke punctuation were familiar trademarks for over three quarters of a century. He appeared with his wife, Gracie Allen, on radio, television and film as the comedy duo Burns and Allen.

Gracie Allen (born Ethel Cecile Rosalie Allen), 1895 to 1964, was an American vaudevillian and comedienne who became internationally famous as the zany partner and comic foil of husband, George Burns.

Anne Baxter, 1923 to 1985, was an American actress, and Hollywood, Broadway and TV star. Granddaughter of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, she was a contract player for 20th Century Fox and loaned out to RKO Pictures. She worked with several of Hollywood’s greatest directors, including Alfred Hitchcock, Fritz Lang, and Cecil B. DeMille. She was married to John Hodiak from 1946 to 1953.

John Hodiak, 1914 to 1955, was an American radio, stage and film actor. He arrived in Hollywood in 1942 and signed with MGM, refusing to change his name, saying, “I like my name. It sounds like I look.” He was married to Anne Baxter from 1946 to 1953.

James (Jimmy) Francis McHugh, 1894 to 1969, was an American composer and prolific songwriter from the 1920s to the 1950s. ‫His more than 500 songs were recorded by artistes who included Chet Baker, June Christy, Bing Crosby, Deanna Durbin, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Adelaide Hall, Billie Holiday, Bill Kenny, Peggy Lee, Carmen Miranda, Nina Simone and Dinah Washington.

Dorothy Manners Haskell, 1903 to 1998, spent 30 years as assistant to the Hearst Corporation’s syndicated columnist Louella Parsons. When Parsons retired in 1965, she succeeded her.

Margaret (Maggie) Ettinger, Louella’s cousin, was known as Hollywood’s foremost press agent.

Marion Davis’s home

Actress Florence Lake (born Silverlake), 1904 to 1980, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, elder sister of Arthur Lake of Dagwood fame. She was known for Quiet Please! (1933), Wrong Direction (1934) and Secret Service (1931).

Patricia Van Cleeve Lake, 1919/1923 to 1993, was an American socialite, actress and radio comedienne. Presented as the niece of actress Marion Davies, she was believed to be her natural daughter with publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. Lake acknowledged this relationship shortly before she died.

Arthur Lake (born Arthur Silverlake, Jr.), 1905 to 1987, was an American actor known best for bringing Dagwood Bumstead, the bumbling husband of Blondie, to life in film, radio and television.

Marion Davies (born Marion Cecilia Elizabeth Brooklyn Douras), 1897 to 1961, was an American film actress, producer, screenwriter and philanthropist. She was mistress of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, who managed her career, financed her films and promoted her heavily through his newspapers and Hearst Newsreels.

Henry Kostler (born Hermann Kosterlitz), 1905 to 1988, was a German-born film director, and husband of actress Peggy Moran. He directed the 1950 American comedy drama Harvey, starring James Stewart and Josephine Hull, about a man whose best friend is an invisible six-foot rabbit.

Evelyn Louise Keyes, 1916 to 2008, was an American film actress best known for her role as Suellen O’Hara in the 1939 film Gone with the Wind.

Jeff Chandler (born Ira Grossel), 1918 to 1961, was an American actor, film producer and singer. He was one of Universal Pictures’s most popular male stars of the 1950s, known not only for his acting, but also for his good looks, distinguished gray hair and musical recordings.

Ruth Carol Hussey, 1911 to 2005, was an American actress best known for her Academy Award-nominated role as photographer Elizabeth Imbrie in The Philadelphia Story. 

Richard Conte (born Nicholas Peter Conte), 1910 to 1975, was an American actor who appeared in more than 100 films from the 1940s through 1970s. Among them were I’ll Cry Tomorrow, Ocean’s 11 and The Godfather.

Audie Leon Murphy, 1925 to 1971, was one of the most decorated American combat soldiers of World War II, receiving every available US military combat award for valour. Born into a large family of sharecroppers in Hunt County, Texas, Murphy left school in fifth grade to pick cotton to help feed his family. After the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbour, he lied about his age in order to enlist. After the war, Murphy embarked on a 21-year acting career, playing himself in the 1955 autobiographical To Hell and Back. He died in a plane crash in Virginia in 1971, shortly before his 46th birthday.

Wanda (Dixie) Hendrix, 1928 to 1981, was a Hollywood actress who typically played ladies in distress. She was performing in her local amateur theatre in Jacksonville, Florida, when a talent agent signed her to a Hollywood contract. She was married to Audie Murphy for 14 months during 1949 to 1950.

Piper Laurie, born Rosetta Jacobs in 1932, is an American stage and screen actress known for her roles in The Hustler (1961), Carrie (1976) and Children of a Lesser God (1986). In 2018, she appeared in the film White Boy Rick.

Perhaps Louis meant Peggy Moran not Peggy Holden? Moran, 1918 to 2002, was an American film actress who appeared in films between 1938 and 1943. She was married to Henry Koster.

Frederick Timmins de Cordova, 1910 to 2001, was an American stage, motion picture and television director and producer. He is best known for his work on The Tonight Show, starring Johnny Carson.

Ann Marie Blyth, born 1928, is an American actress and singer, often cast in Hollywood musicals, but also successful in dramatic roles.

Katie Did It is a 1951 American romantic comedy directed by Frederick De Cordova and starring Ann Blyth, Mark Stevens and Cecil Kellaway, in which a small-town girl falls in love with a big city artist, but mistakenly believes he already has a wife and children.

Kansas Raiders (not Killers) was a Technicolor Western, set during the American Civil War.

Marguerite Chapman, 1918 to 1999, was an American actress. She was discovered by Howard Hughes and went to Hollywood in late 1939. After signing briefly with 20th Century Fox, she moved to Warner Brothers and then Columbia. In the 1960s, she moved into television.

(Waldo) Brian Donlevy, 1901 to 1972, was an American actor, noted for playing dangerous tough guys from the 1930s to the 1960s, usually in supporting roles. Among his best-known films are Beau Geste (1939), The Great McGinty (1940) and Wake Island (1942).

Antonio Rodolfo Quinn Oaxaca, 1915 to 2001, known professionally as Anthony Quinn, was a Mexican-American actor, painter, writer and film director. He starred in numerous critically acclaimed and commercially successful films, including La Strada, The Guns of Navarone, Zorba the Greek, Guns for San Sebastian, Lawrence of Arabia, The Shoes of the Fisherman, The Message, Lion of the Desert, Last Action Hero and A Walk in the Clouds.

Charles Douville Coburn, 1877 to 1961, was an American actor, nominated three times for Best Supporting Actor Academy Award, and winning it for his performance in The More the Merrier.

Diana Marie Lynn (born Dolores Eartha Loehr), 1926 to 1971, was an American actress. Considered a child prodigy as a pianist — by age 12 was playing with the Los Angeles Junior Symphony Orchestra — she made her film debut at the piano in They Shall Have Music. Paramount Pictures believed she was capable of more, and cast her in films that allowed her to show her personality and develop her skills as an actress.

Barbara Jo Lawrence, 1930 to 2013, was an American model, actress and real estate agent. Born in Oklahoma, she won a Tiny Tot beauty contest when she was three years old. A photographer’s child model, she appeared in her first film when she was 15,

Joseph Ignatius Breen, 1888 to 1965, was a film censor with the Motion Picture Producers & Distributors of America.

In 1924, Loews Theatres President Marcus Loew merged Metro Pictures Corporation, Goldwyn Studios and Louis B. Mayer Productions to form Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. In Hollywood’s Golden Age, MGM Studios shot 52 films a year, from screen epics such as Ben-Hur and Mutiny on the Bounty, to drawing-room dramas such as Grand Hotel, Dinner At Eight and Anna Karenina. It was, however, best known for its Technicolor musicals — among them, The Wizard of Oz, Singin’ in the Rain and Gigi. Its success led to six working studio complexes with 28 sound stages covering more than 180 acres.

Treasure Island is a 1950 adventure film, notable for being Walt Disney Productions’s first completely live-action film. and the first screen version of Treasure Island made in color.

Judy Garland (born Frances Ethel Gumm), 1922 to 1969, was an American actress, singer, dance, and vaudevillian, who attained international stardom as a musical and dramatic actress, as a recording artist, and on the concert stage. In 1950, MGM suspended her contract after she failed to report several times for the filming of Royal Wedding. She grazed her neck with broken glass, the cut requiring only a band-aid, but the public was told that a despondent Garland had slashed her throat.

Pagan Love Song is a 1950 American romantic musical film released by MGM, starring Esther Williams and Howard Keel.

Esther Jane Williams, 1921 to 2013, was an American competitive swimmer and actress. From 1945 to 1949 she had at least one film listed among the 20 highest-grossing films of the year. She was also a successful businesswoman. Even before retiring as an actress, she invested in a service station, metal products plant, swimsuit manufacturer, property and a successful restaurant chain , and lent her name to a line of swimming pools and retro swimwear.

Joseph Herman (Joe) Pasternak, 1901 to 1991, was a Hungarian-born Hollywood film producer. He worked in the film industry for 45 years, from the later silent era until shortly past the end of the classical Hollywood cinema in the early 1960s.

Leon Gordon (Bennett), 1891 to 1960, was a British-born playwright, actor and director best known for writing White Cargo. He joined MGM in 1930.

(Francis Xavier Aloysius James Jeremiah) Keenan Wynn, 1916 to 1986, was an American character actor. His expressive face was his stock-in-trade, and though he rarely carried the lead role, he had prominent billing in most of his film and television roles.

Jane Powell, born Suzanne Lorraine Burce in 1929, is an American singer, dancer and actress, who rose to fame in the mid-1940s with roles in several MGM musicals.

Jean Hersholt (born Jean Pierre Carl Buron), 1886 to 1956, was a Danish-American actor, best known for starring on the radio series Dr. Christian (1937 to 1954) and in Heidi (1937).

Ann Harding (born Dorothy Walton Gatley), 1902 to 1981, was an American theatre, movie, radio and television actress. A regular player on Broadway and in regional theater in the 1920s, she was among the first actresses to gain fame in the new 1930s medium of “talking pictures.” She became stereotyped as a beautiful, innocent, self-sacrificing woman.

Ricardo Montalban (Gonzalo Pedro Montalbán y Merino), 1920 to 2009, was a Mexican actor of Spanish origin. His career spanned seven decades, and he was known for his performances in a variety of genres, from crime and drama to musicals and comedy. He played Armando in The Planet of the Apes series, and Khan Noonien Singh in both the original Star Trek series and in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

It’s a Big Country: An American Anthology is a 1951 film comprising eight segments directed by seven directors — Clarence Brown, Don Hartman, John Sturges, Richard Thorpe, Charles Vidor, Don Weis and William A. Wellman. A professor on a train is asked by a fellow passenger if he, too, loves “America.” The professor asks: “Which America?” which provides a lead-in for multiple tales of American life.

Leonard Goldstein, 1903 to 1954, was an American film producer who made mainly low-budget films.

Bill Gordon, 1929 to 2002, was an actor, known for Star Maps (1997).

The Desert Hawk is a 1950 action adventure film directed by Frederick De Cordova, starring Yvonne de Carlo and Richard Greene.

The Super Chief claimed to be “The Train of the Stars” because of the celebrities it ferried between Chicago, Illinois and Los Angeles.

The second Brown Derby, which opened on Valentine’s Day 1929 at 1628 North Vine Street in Hollywood, close to the movie studios, became the place to do deals and be seen. It is where Clark Gable is said to have proposed to Carole Lombard. Rival gossip columnists Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper were regular patrons. It closed on April 3, 1985, as a result of a lease dispute.

La Rue, an elegant restaurant serving French food, was a project of Hollywood Reporter’s Billy Wilkerson. It opened at 8361 Sunset Boulevard in April 1944, principally at lunchtime, to stars sitting in rich gold leather booths. The two crystal chandeliers which dominated its dining room were so elaborate that specialists were brought in from San Francisco to clean them.

Sam Bischoff, 1891 to 1975, headed for Hollywood as soon as he graduated Boston University. He produced comedy shorts, then formed his own low-budget production company, Samuel Bischoff Productions, from where he drew the attention of Columbia Pictures, who hired him. By 1948, he was also president of Moroccan Pictures Inc.

Sybil Brand (née Morris), ca. 1899 to 2004, was an American philanthropist and activist, best known for her work to improve jail conditions for women in Los Angeles. She married her second husband, Harry Brand, in 1933.

Harry Brand, 1895 to 1989, was head of publicity and advertising at 20th Century Fox. He is known as the mastermind who made Shirley Temple the most famous child star in history, Betty Grable a GI Joe pinup girl, and Marilyn Monroe a sex goddess.

(Sarah) Jane Wyman (née Mayfield), 1917 to 2007, was an American actress, singer, dancer and philanthropist, whose career spanned more than seven decades. She married actor Ronald Reagan (later 40th president of the United States) in 1940. They divorced nine years later.

Lindley Armstrong Jones, 1911 to 1965, known as Spike Jones, was an American musician and bandleader, who specialized in satirical arrangements of popular songs and classical music.

Helen Grayco (born Helen Greco in 1924) married Spike Jones in 1949. She is an American singer, performer and actress.

Babe Blum was the sister American radio comedian and actress Mary Livingstone, and sister-in-law of Mary’s husband Jack Benny. She had a reputation for wildness.

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