With the archives closed over the weekend, we were keen to make full use of our time in Hollywood and explore all of the main tourist sites. As Prof. Steve Chibnall said, “LA is a city that is the spiritual home of movie making, so for film students – and film academics – it is perhaps a place of pilgrimage”. At the top of our “must see” list was the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and the Hollywood Sign.
On Saturday the whole group met outside the Jim Henson Company, just off of Sunset Boulevard. To the right of a big metal gates, was a small doorway, with a painting of Charlie Chaplin, and a set of footprints in concrete; the Historic Charlie Chaplin Studio. I felt it was quite apt to begin my Hollywood sightseeing escapades with a small nod to one of the most prominent, well-known figures of the silent era.
As we approached the start of the Walk of Fame, it was wonderful to be immediately greeted by the ‘Goddess Gazebo” – a statue featuring legendary screen actresses such as Anna May Wong and Mae West. After stopping to take a hundred photos with Anna May Wong, we began to talk down the street; again, stopping every few steps to take a picture with/of our favourite movie and music icon’s Stars. With the Walk being constructed in the 1950s, it was amazing (and quite touching) to see how many early actresses and industry figures also had Stars along the street. Jean Harlow, Lois Weber, Madeleine Carroll and Norma Shearer, are just a few of those whose Stars I was so incredibly excited to see. We also had our first glimpse of the Hollywood Sign in the far distance!
We took our time making our way down the street, stopping in various film memorabilia and vintage shops, searching through rare posters, books, theatre playbills, and original movie Press Kits; taking extra time to hunt for interesting treasures to bring home.
We ended our day at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, on Hollywood Boulevard; famous for the array of handprints and footprints of film industry icons impressed into the concrete blocks outside the theatre. The highlight of my day was getting to put my hands into the handprints of silent and early sound actress and producer Mary Pickford; I was even more thrilled to discover that they fit perfectly.
On Sunday, the CATH Postgraduates took a trip to Griffith Park – about an hour drive from Beverly Hills – to begin our hike up to the Hollywood Sign. Considering it was the 4th July weekend, it wasn’t as busy as we had feared; but there was enough people around to feel confident that we would not get lost up a mountain in the 30-degree heat. It took us about 1 and half/2 hours to walk to the sign viewing point, and the views along the way were just as spectacular (again, we all took many, MANY photos). Despite having seen the sign countless time in films and on TV, seeing it in reality felt a little overwhelming. It was unbelievably impressive, and it’s such a significant film landmark, that it felt very much like “dream come true” moment.
After stopping for lunch in the much needed shelter of some trees, we started our (significantly slower) decent back down, and then followed the trail to the Griffith Observatory. Having recently become obsessed with the film La La Land – I was looking forward to spotting, and photographing, recognisable locations from the movie. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get tickets for the Planetarium show, but we did get to see a demonstration of the Tesla Coil, as well as look around the exhibitions (both of which feature in La La Land).
At the end of the day, we took a gentle/very exhausted walk back down through Griffith Park, in serious need of an early night, ready for an intense day of Studio Tours the following morning.