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Hollywood Celebrates Its 100th Birthday


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The distinction of giving Hollywood its name goes to Daeida Wilcox. She and her real estate developing husband, Harvey Wilcox, came from Kansas to Los Angeles in 1883 and in 1886 purchased 120 acres in the Cahuenga Valley at, what is now, Hollywood Blvd. and Cahuenga Ave. The following year, Daeida traveled by train to her old home in the east. On the train, Mrs. Wilcox met a woman who described her summer home, which she called Hollywood. Daeida was so enamored with the name that, when she returned home, she prevailed on her husband to name their property Hollywood. The following year, in 1887, Mr. Wilcox recorded the areas first real estate subdivision, which he appropriately called HOLLYWOOD.


Shortly after the turn of the century, the residents of the Cahuenga Valley were faced with three pressing problems. The streets were not getting the attention in proportion to the tax being levied by the county; a lack of school facilities and a growing sentiment for prohibition. In August, 1903, a petition was submitted to the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors requesting the incorporation of the City of Hollywood. The election for city hood was held on November 14, 1903 with voting lasting until 5:00 PM. After all the ballots were counted, the vote was eighty-eight for incorporation and seventy-seven against. Hollywood became a city of the sixth class with geographic boundaries extending from Normandie on the east, to Fairfax on the west, and from the top of the Santa Monica Mountains on the north to DeLongpre and Fountain avenues on the south. City hood for Hollywood only lasted six years. Hollywood's population had grown too rapidly for the then existing water and municipal facilities. Annexation to the City of Los Angeles would assure the burgeoning community of adequate water, sewage and municipal services. The election, held in 1910, was an overwhelming victory for annexation.



The distinction of having established the first motion picture studio in Hollywood goes to the Nestor Film Company of Bayonne, New Jersey and Staten Island, New York. The company was started by David Horsley and Charles Gorman in 1907 and was originally called the Cenatur Film Company. Their first picture was 'The Cowboy's Escapade', a one reeler released in September, 1908. They produced a series of short films during the next two years but were frequently harassed by the Trust's detectives. Not wishing to continue the challenge, Gorman sold his interest to his partner's brother, William. The Brothers reorganized the company and the Nestor Film Company was born. On October 27, 1911, a troupe of forty members of this film company arrived in Los Angeles to produce the 'Nestor' brand of films.


A century of Hollywood! Who would have dared to imagine that the real estate plan the good Harvey Wilcox  filed would become a storied place as famous as Rome or Rio or London, known and celebrated in the farthest corners of the globe? 

It was all a delightful, serendipitous historical accident: a blissful, unforeseeable coincidence of climate, scenery, robust entrepreneurship and a new technology for mass entertainment. The colonel's brave little venture had hardly found its feet when the movies found it.  

Hollywood as a place of legend rests on a foundation of What Ifs. What if the Motion Picture Patents Co., trying to enforce a monopoly on cameras, had not driven fledgling film companies like Nestor’s Film Company west? What if D. W. Griffith had not led the way by bringing his entourage to make films in Los Angeles in the winter of 1910, when it was too cold and dark in New York? And what if Jesse L. Lasky and Cecil B. DeMille, put off by the snow-covered mountains in Flagstaff, Ariz., had not continued west to make the first Hollywood feature-length film, 'The Squaw Man' at their Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Co. studio at Selma St. & Vine St.

But the What Ifs all came up positive. And Hollywood, which might have fulfilled the Wilcoxes' practical dreams of a tidy, prosperous suburb with a little mercantile activity, a little farming and orcharding, became instead the Hollywood we've sung hoorays for.  

It became not only a piece of geography but the fabled and fabulous symbol of all American film making, a locale of legend and looniness, a magical fountain of slapstick and melodrama, a factory town for an art form. It was - and to an amazing degree, still is - the face that America sends to the world, for better and occasionally for worse.

There are stars in the sidewalks and ghosts in the woodwork. And as much as Hollywood has changed, there are still plenty of visible reminders that bespeak the grand assertiveness of the golden years: the cinemas in Middle Eastern mode, worthy of a sheik or Croesus; the Mediterranean-style apartment buildings; the multinational eateries that have nourished the stars.  

The memories and the tales are most often glamorous: the star-studded premieres on Hollywood Boulevard, with searchlights vectoring the night skies, and fans in the bleachers craning for glimpses of the mighty; the footprints of the celebrities in the forecourt of the Chinese Theater. The years before television, when the movies reigned unchallenged over the public fancy everywhere, were the glory days for Hollywood. In the glittery nightclubs along Sunset, it was possible to imagine that the glamour Hollywood put on the screen was merely borrowed from its private life.  

The writers of legend, who were themselves to become legends, hung out at Musso & Frank, a landmark that outlived Scott and Ben and Charlie. The Vine Street Brown Derby Restaurant, now alas only a memory, was a kind of upscale industry commissary, open round-the-clock, seven days a week in its busiest years, with a celebrity in every banquet, or so it seemed.  

Even then, the industry was not confined to Hollywood proper. Studios stretched from, Republic Studios and Universal Studios in the Valley to MGM Studios and Hal Roach Studios in Culver City. Hollywood itself had Columbia Studios on Gower (the former Poverty Row), Paramount Studios, then as now, on Melrose, Fox Studios on Sunset and Goldwyn Studios on Formosa. 

Older Los Angeles often looked askance at the film people (Gypsies and parvenus from Elsewhere, it was thought). The Los Angeles Country Club was famous for refusing to admit actors, even those who could afford to join. 

That sense of rejection probably increased a sense of community in the industry and in geographic Hollywood, with its rather hazy boundaries. Yet Hollywood can claim the credit - or must accept the blame - for having been a significant force in the phenomenal growth of Southern California in the '30s and after. 

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