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Vintage photographs of Schwab's Pharmacy

Schwab's Pharmacy

Schwab’s Pharmacy Opens

The largest collection of vintage Schwab’s Pharmacy photos is on the hollywoodphotographs.com website. Schwab's Pharmacy opened at 8024 Sunset Boulevard in 1932, and was run by brothers Bernard, Leon, Jack and Martin Schwab. They had purchased a failing drugstore and decided to capitalize on the local business from nearby studios, like Republic, RKO, and Columbia. The first Schwab's was located downtown on 6th. It was a typical drugstore of its time--goods and sundries available for purchase, prescriptions filled, and a soda fountain with counter service--only it happened to be in the heart of Hollywood.

What made Schwab's unlike other drug stores was the fact that it became a gathering place for actors. Not just celebrities, mind you--although they were among the clientele in the pharmacy's impressive Rolodex--but mostly working, or hoping-to-be-working, actors, who called the place "headquarters" and who spent hours at the counter chatting with each other and perusing the trade rags.

Schwab's Pharmacy

The Famous Soda Fountain

The soda fountain was extremely popular with, not only celebrities, but also,with many Hollywood residents. The hollywoodphotographs.com website has many vintage Schwab’s Pharmacy photos of actors and actresses eating at the soda fountain. There are images of Jess Barker, Sidney Skolsky and Angela Landsbury dining at the eating counter.

Many Celebrity Clients

t was unique among local hot spots in that it welcomed business from all rungs of the film industry ladder, and everyone was treated with equal deference. In the '30s and '40s you could spot Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Orson Welles, Ida Lupino, the Marx and Ritz Brothers, Marilyn Monroe, and Ronald Reagan rubbing shoulders with the rabble here. Chaplin and Harold Lloyd came to play the pinball machines, and it was a favorite trysting place for F. Scott Fitzgerald and his lover Sheilah Graham. Schwab's was particularly solicitous of Tinseltown's "underemployed"; credit was guaranteed, and struggling young performers could always drop in for a free meal. One of them, Ava Gardner, landed a job behind the soda fountain while waiting for her big break. Stories like this are a dime a dozen when it comes to Schwab's, and in fact, many tales of the "it happened at Schwab's" variety became Hollywood lore.

Schwab's Pharmacy

Lana Turner Tale

Probably the best known Schwab's story was that actress Lana Turner was "discovered" here while sitting at the soda fountain counter.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Lana was discovered by William “Billy” Wilkerson at Tops Café just down the street from Hollywood High School. Even Lana claims the discovery took place at a malt shop across from Hollywood High School. True Hollywood scholars scoff at the Schwab's version, and tell explain  that Turner's big break did happen, but down the street at Tops Cafe, which was at 6750 Sunset Blvd, and a heck of a lot closer to Hollywood High.

The hollywoodphotographs.com website had many vintage photos of Sidney Skolsky who wrote a daily column for most of the country’s newspapers and movie magazines. Other tales were told about author F. Scott Fitzgerald, who hung around there in his screenwriting days, who had a heart attack there in 1940 while buying a pack of cigarettes. It's also said that composer Harold Arlen wrote "Over the Rainbow" for The Wizard of Oz after dropping in to use the counter space to jot down a tune that came to him. Hollywood has a tendency to make the ephemeral into legend; as time goes by who's to say these tales aren't true anymore?

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Other Stores

Schwab's became a popular local mini-chain for the brothers, who eventually operated a handful of locations in the city, but none were ever as hallowed as the original Sunset Blvd location, which was open the longest. Others included outposts at 6255 Hollywood Blvd. in Hollywood, 401 N. Bedford Dr. in Beverly Hills and 430 N. Roxbury, in Beverly Hills; Marilyn Monroe's plentiful prescriptions were filled at the one on Bedford. Its popularity held into the following decades, and as the popular music scene began to take hold in that part of town, well-known performers of the 70s would frequent Schwab's. In 1976, it was still considered one of the best spots in town to grab a plain old cup of coffee.

Schwab’s Pharmacy Closes

It took the wrecking ball a couple of more years to knock down Schwab's, but in 1988 the building came down, making way for a large retail complex. In 1992 the Virgin Megastore opened, and, although it was a much-loved place, it never served as "headquarters" and it certainly didn't serve as long. 

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