Hollywood’s silent film era may be long gone, but its heritage and history live on in the city, if you know where to look for it. What better way to really get to know the roots of the world’s entertainment industry than by returning to where it all began, and uncovering the stories and people who made it all happen?
Start your day off in Hollywood by paying a visit to some of the film industry’s early pioneers. You won’t find them on a red carpet or sipping drinks at a fancy restaurant – the stars and studio heads of yesteryear are even more accessible than today’s stars. Hollywood Forever, a cemetery full of stories and scandals of its own, is over sixty acres of gorgeous landscaping, featuring tributes and monuments to the stars laid to rest there.
Take a two hour guided tour of the cemetery and you’ll learn all about the sordid history of the cemetery itself, as well as the inside scoop on some of the famous interred, including: Cecil B. DeMille, Rudolph Valentino, Peter Lorre, Douglas C. Fairbanks, Fay Wray, and the family of Charlie Chaplin. The stories of the buried interweave with the history of Hollywood itself, and will leave you curious and eager to learn more about the people in front of and behind the camera of the silent films era.
If you are visiting Hollywood Cemetery between May and September, you have the added opportunity of grabbing a blanket and catching a film screening on the Fairbanks lawn at night (the film is projected onto the side of the mausoleum), or catching an outdoor Shakespeare play while enjoying a picnic dinner and some wine.
After the cemetery, check out a hot spot once frequented by some of the very stars you just “visited.” Musso & Frank Grill is the oldest restaurant in Hollywood, whose red leather booths once held the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, and Humphrey Bogart. The menu and decor have not changed much since the days when Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and William Faulkner used to come here to work on their screenplays. The martinis and Bloody Mary’s are legendary, as are the grilled meats and flannel cakes.
Now that you’ve been to where the Old Hollywood stars reside today, and where they used to hang out in their day, it’s time to end your day by seeing them how they would like to be remembered – on the big screen. Up until a few years ago, The Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax was the only theater in the country still showing solely silent films. Today, the theatre owners show “talkies” as well, but you can still catch silent films at least once a week. Accompanied by live music, you can watch legends like Valentino, Gloria Swanson, and Mary Pickford grace the screen, while sipping a cocktail in a completely restored and elegant 1940’s theatre.
Hollywood’s golden age may have come and gone, but its legacy will live on forever. When you find the time to rediscover its movies, stars, and theaters, Tinseltown still has plenty of stories to tell us.
What & Where:
Hollywood Forever Cemetery (6600 Santa Monica Blvd; For tours, contact Karie Bible at 323-769-0195)
Musso & Frank Grill (6667 Hollywood Blvd; (323-467 5123)
Silent Movie Theatre (611 N. Fairfax Ave; 323-655-2510)
Katie A. King is a freelance writer/producer and aspiring screenwriter living in Silver Lake. She has worked in both film and television production, and has published creative writing and photographs in various print publications. She can be reached at Katieking78@gmail.com.