January 31, 2008

Capra’s masterpiece is full of great stories akin to naming Mr. Gower after the famous street in Hollywood. In the early days of Hollywood, the area of Gower north of Sunset was full of tiny studios and known as “Gower Gulch” for the plethora of westerns being made there. Every morning real cowboys and authentic Native Americans lined up at the bottom of Gower looking for day work. $5 a day, $10 if you had your own horse. A young Gary Cooper was among the dusty actor wanabes. The studios were so small and known for their struggles that the area was also called “Poverty Row” and the studios known as “Poverty Row” studios.

Another interesting story involves Bert the cop and Ernie the cab driver. When Jim Hensen began his Muppet shows, he borrowed “Bert & Ernie” from It’s A Wonderful Life. Frank Faylen – “Ernie” – later played Dobie Gillis’ father in the TV show and had a daughter that married Regis Philbin. Ward Bond – “Bert” – was a huge star who appeared in almost 300 films. On November 5, 1960 he was scheduled to meet singer Johnny Horton in Dallas so Horton could sign a contract to appear on “Wagon Train.” But Horton was killed when his car was hit by a drunk driver in the early morning hours, and Bond himself died the same morning of a heart attack. Years earlier his best friend John Wayne accidentaly shot him during a hunting trip; Bond left the shotgun to Wayne in his will.

Lionel Barrymore – “Mr. Potter” – was pushed around in a wheelchair not because the character was crippled but because he was suffering from terrible arthritis during the end of his life.

Thomas Mitchell – “Uncle Billy” – was among the few to garner the Triple Crown during his long career. He won an Academy Award for Stagecoach (1939), an Emmy as television’s Best Actor in 1953 and a Tony for “Hazel Flagg” in 1953.

H.B. Warner – “Mr. Gower” – starred in 150 films, as Christ in the deMille Classic King of Kings (1927), with Thomas Mitchell in Lost Horizon (1937), with Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) and his final film, another deMille classic The Ten Commandments (1956).

Beulah Bondi – “Mrs. Bailey” – played Jimmy Stewart’s mother in four different films. Besides It’s A Wonderful Life, the others were Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Of Human Hearts (1938) and Vivacious Lady (1938). She died at her Whitley Heights home at 92 of complications from injuries sustained after tripping over her cat.

Adrienne Caselotti – she was a singer at Martini’s Bar – only appeared in one movie and a couple of TV shows. She made a career after Walt Disney personally chose her as the voice of his character “Snow White.”

Sheldon Leonard – “Nick” the bartender… “Hey get me, I’m handing out wings!” – took the role so he could make some money to buy Dodger tickets and went on to become one of the most successful producers in the history of television. He won 5 Emmy awards for series like “Make Room for Daddy,” “Gomer Pyle,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” and “I Spy.”

Samuel S. Hinds – “Pa Bailey” – was a wealthy Pasadena lawyer who graduated from Harvard, but he lost everything in the 1929 market crash and turned to acting to survive. He appeared in over 150 movies and eventually was among the founding members of the renowned Pasadena Playhouse.

Charles Lane – Potter’s rent collector – and Tom Fadden – the bridge toll collector who fell off his chair when Clarence said he was an angel – both appeared in the long-running series “Petticoat Junction.” Lane (“Homer Bedloe” on the Junction) appeared in over 350 films and Fadden (“Ben Miller” on Junction) appeared in over 200.

Bert Moorhouse – Nick’s bouncer – appeared in almost 400 films from 1928 to 1954 before committing suicide in Hollywood in 1954.

The film is so full of stories I’ll have to do another post with more!


Mr. Gower

January 31, 2008

Don’t you wonder how many people make the connection between Gower Street and Mr. Gower in “It’s a Wonderful Life”?  I think that when I read stuff like this.  Fashion is not cool, until it’s history.

Silverlake Tour

January 24, 2008

Sunset Junction TourThe New York Times Los Angeles Travel Guide usually has some well thought-out options. Today’s a is a walking tour of the Sunset Junction area by Silver Lake.

Eat and shop all you want with those recommendations. But, we like to check out history and the neighborhoods and the homes. This Silver Lake website page has a terrific collection of architecturally significant homes with great history.

I like getting the lay of the land using Virtual Earth. For example, this home caught my eye on the Silver Lake site. Check out that same location in the context of the surroundings. What a great backyard!

So pick some shops, a couple of places to eat, pick a few neighborhood homes to hunt for, maybe a few stops from TMD, toss them into Google Earth, or Yahoo Maps, and you’ve got your own DIY Los Angeles Guide!

Movieland Geek

January 22, 2008

OK…here are a couple of diversions. At the top of the right margin here at the blog, check out a couple of links. The first, Entertainment Newsmap, is what I might call a “weighted graphic display” of entertainment industry headlines from Google News. (Here’s the complete description). diversion.jpg Kinda fun, and if you go to the site where Entertainment Newsmap originates, you will find other nifty little geek tricks. My teenagers thought the artsy little time-waster, MediumGrid 09, was pretty cool.

tmdgraph.jpgThe other geek link here, TMD Graph, is a visual representation of some of the technical infrastructure for The Movieland Directory. It’s a clever, artistic and attractive method to communicate a subject which can be pretty…technical.

Find A Death

January 19, 2008

No special reason for this post but to visit online an old friend. Just a link to a tried-and-true original, Scott Michaels’ Find A Death. A site where you can always find a good story. Lots of LA history. Lots of Movieland history. Lots of…death. It might not be for you. In which case, you would leave.

If you decide not to leave, then you might be someone who would enjoy taking any of the sixteen driving tours of Los Angeles, complete with turn-by-turn directions, from E.J.’s first book: “Hollywood Death and Scandal Sites”

“The Hills” Tour

January 19, 2008

We don’t spend too much time talking about today’s celebrities or anything overly trendy. We’ll let TMZ and the rest take care of that. But, we read and we always like seeing a nicely put together do-it-yourself tour. Here’s a tidy tour and map of sites pulled from “The Hills”, put together at Pick any stop on that tour and you can add stops of interest from TMD. For example, if you visit gridskipper’s suggested stop in Studio City, The Movieland Directory offers hundreds of stops just in Studio City. So, click around until you find a name you recognize, like…Matthew Broderick.

Even if you decide you don’t want to leave your desk, go ahead and take advantage of the fact that TMD passes our address information directly to the major search engines. You simply click. On any screen where you see a hyperlink to Yahoo, Google, or Virtual Earth, click nd TMD will pass the address to that site. Here’s the Virtual Earth look at the Studio City address Matthew Broderick used to call home.

Unique LA Tour

January 12, 2008

The Movieland Directory hooks into the big three mapping engines. We like do-it-yourself intelligent tours, and we like maps. Stopped in today at UIC’s Gallery 400 which was set up with this ‘Radical Cartography’ collection, one of the many locations around Chicago which have put together shows for a Festival of Maps. Some very creative work. Some great historical exhibits. Anyway, one click led to another and I came across this quite different tour of a few parking lots around Hollywood which, to quote their site, “looked at the emerging relationship between neighborhood resident groups, speculative developers, architectural preservationists and, of course, tourism.” The site includes a PDF. So…go do it yourself.

Neat Paul Bern Research Story

January 5, 2008

Paul Bern - 1928EJ’s next book is about producer-director-Jean Harlow-husband, Paul Bern. EJ thinks that beyond the glam Jean Harlow hook, Paul’s is an interesting story.

In addition to the many hours in film libraries, in, and digging through his other secondary research sources, EJ talks to people. One thing led to another, and he was on the phone this past week with Paul’s grand-nephew, a professor at Syracuse University. And, here’s “the rest of the story” (to steal a phrase!):

In EJ’s manuscript, which is thisclose to being finished for publication this year, is this little story: “Thalberg thought they needed the best writers available to create scripts for sound films but didn’t believe they were in Hollywood. So, Paul’s first assignment was a trip to New York to look for plays and playwrights. On the 18th he flew east aboard a U.S. Mail plane, sitting atop mail sacks in an open-cockpit bi-plane that made ten stops. But he was in New York in 36 hours. Thalberg followed by train. ”

An interesting story which conjures up an image of flying during the age of Lindbergh. You can imagine EJ’s delight when amongst the materials sent over by Paul’s grand-nephew was this never-before-seen picture of Paul taken in 1928. Maybe the very day of that story!