The process of researching and collecting Hollywood and movie-related addresses and historical information often a painstaking process of pouring through old census, voting records, studio archives, and public records. It’s actually kind of a sickness which is not really explainable even to myself.
But the places where people lived and what went on at an address is part of what makes Hollywood and the movies so interesting. It’s fascinating that you can walk down any block in or near Hollywood and come across some part, however small, or history. We’ve uncovered litereally tens of thousands of previously-unrecorded addresses and it continues to be fun to find the proverbial diamond in the rough.
I spent some time this morning looking through some 1926 California voter registration records and today’s haul is a good example of what one finds doing this seemingly silly work. Some names are well-known and some maybe vaguely familiar but many are barely recognizable to someone with film history background. But that’s what’s interesting about the work. There are stories literally everywhere, the ones today taking place in Hollywood near Beachwood Canyon. Many of the 250 names I found today have been totally forgotten.
There are dozens of people who filled out voter registration forms and listed their occupation as “actor” or “photoplayer” who don’t have a single credit anywhere, names like Patsy O’Byrne who lived in the rear of 1443½ N. Bronson and Lu Cille Hutton, who was in an apartment at 6118 Carlos Ave. Victor Presbrey, who lived at 2034 Holly Drive, described himself as a “technician.” He has a single credit to show for decades of work in the movies, listed as a “laboratory technician” for the 1926 Blanche Sweet film Why Women Love. One mention to show for an entire career.
To me, equally interesting are the many names, as forgotten as Victor Presbrey, who were known the world over while they lived. Enos Canutt lived in a large house at 1818 Whitley Avenue just below Whitley Heights and listed his occupation as “cowboy – exhibitions.” But as Yakima Canutt was the most famous stuntmen in the history of the movies, appearing in over 500+ films. He appeared in several hundred more but was not credited because so many actors didn’t want people to think they didn’t do their own stunts. Canutt’s stunts remain the benchmark for stuntwork from the first 50 years of film but he is still only remembered by movie historians even though he set the standard for movie stuntwork that has never been met again.
George Chesebro lived in an apartment at 6363 Yucca and appeared in 450+ films during a 40-year career. Ernie Adams owned a large bungalow at 527 Lafayette Park Place and from 1919 to 1947 appeared in 400+ films. Among them were some of the most famous ever made, appearing in character roles like Ed in It’s a Wonderful Life, the bank customer who took $20 rather than breaking the bank. Like Chesebro and Adams, Eddie Hearn, who lived in an apartment at 4427 Russell Avenue, appeared in over 400 films from 1915 to the 1950’s. But for all their success and fame during their careers they are as forgotten as Lu Cille Hutton and Victor Presbrey.
There are also anonymous names who were part of the big events in Hollywood history. Studio executive Charles Eyton lived at 1920 Vine with his actress wife Kathlyn Williams. Eyton had a long career behind the scenes and Williams a solid acting career, but Eyton is remembered by movie historians as the man that Paramount sent to director William Desmond Taylor’s Hollywood apartment the morning the studio learned Taylor had been murdered. Paramount executives assumed that Taylor was likely killed by Charlotte Shelby, the mother of their biggest juvenile star Mary Miles Minter, and sent Eyton there to make sure nothing embarrassing leaked out. Eyton walked out of the house with an armful of papers tying Taylor to Minter, after burning a large pile in the fireplace – while police examined Taylor’s body 10 feet away!
Not too far away from Eyton, two cowboys from Minnesota – brothers Frank and Carl Stockdale – shared a house at 6325 Fountain Avenue and listed themselves as “photoplayers.” Frank only appeared in a few dozen films but Carl had roles in over 300, almost all westerns. But Carl was also part of the Taylor murder case. He was friendly with Mary Miles Minter’s mother Charlotte and told police he was with Charlotte the night Taylor was shot, but it was later proven that he was not, and she remains the chief suspect in the unsolved murder mystery.
One of the most interesting finds today was a listing for “theatrical” William C. Gable, who lived in a large house at 5832 Carlton Way with his wife, a “teacher” named Josephine. The 22-year-old actor met Josephine Dillon after he joined a Portland, Oregon theater troupe the matronly 40 year-old woman managed. When he realized how “helpful” she could be to his career he dumped his fiancé back home and moved to L.A. in 1923. But by the he registered to vote in 1926, William Gable had only appeared in a dozen films, with roles like “ballroom dancing extra” or “soldier in Czarina’s guard.” Casting directors didn’t know what to do with the gangly actor with the huge ears and bad teeth; discouraged, he left Hollywood and returned to regional theater.
Several years later he discarded Dillon for yet another wealthy – and equally matronly – older woman he met at a Houston playhouse. She paid for his new teeth and brought him back to Hollywood, where he leapt into the public eye in a small role in his second film, Painted Desert, in 1931. His first real role made Clark Gable a household name and within a year he was co-starring opposite Greta Garbo and Jean Harlow.
The Gable story is an interesting one but equally interesting is the fact that, with everything written about Gable over the years and all the research about him and his life, the 5832 Carlton Way address has never shown up before, anywhere. That’s understandably probably not that exciting to most people but to those of us interested in movie history, it’s a wonderful find. Doesn’t make the work any more sane, though.