Ask any Metro bus operator what tourists want to see when they hit Los Angeles and the answer is usually, “Hollywood.” The sad news is that when they finally reach Hollywood, disappointment is inevitable. “Where are the stars?” they ask the operators. The answer, as those of us who live here know, is: sipping espresso in a coffee shop, shopping at The Grove or driving their kids to school.
Unless it’s Academy Awards weekend, as it is this Sunday, it’s pretty much impossible to see stars gathered en masse. A better bet to get us – and tourists — in Oscar mode is to visit Academy Award related sites. We recommend Metro as the appropriate transport, of course.
The first Academy Award winner for best picture was the silent film “Wings,” starring Clara Bow (the only silent film to win an Oscar). That movie was shot in a field in Texas and Paramount Pictures released it. You can’t get to Texas on Metro but you can take a Metro Local bus 10 down Melrose Avenue to see Paramount’s iconic gate at 5555 Melrose Ave. near Gower.
Echo Park is where many of the first studios filmed silent movies and early talkies, including Laurel and Hardy Keystone comedies. There’s not much to see now — most of the studios have been replaced by grocery stories, storage lockers etc. — but in the early 20th Century they bloomed on either side of Sunset Boulevard, just west of downtown L.A. and north of Sunset along Glendale Boulevard. Water scenes were filmed at Echo Park Lake and at Silverlake, near what was then Disney Studios. Groundbreaking films, including “The Birth of a Nation,” were shot in backlots no longer visible, near the intersection of Sunset and Hollywood Boulevard.
In Echo Park near Sunset there’s a plaque that marks the site of the Laurel and Hardy comedy, “The Music Box,” winner of the 1932 Academy Award for short subject. The steep stairs are a short block south of Sunset (Metro Local Line 2), adjacent to 935 Vendome. Exit the bus at Parkman Avenue, walk one block west to Vendome and one block south to the stairs, which are pretty easy to spot. Walk the stairs with or without a piano. Or watch the funny video instead (see above).
The first Academy Awards in 1929 took place in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood-Roosevelt Hotel (7000 Hollywood Blvd., a block west of the Metro Red Line Hollywood/Highland Station). Oscars.org shows that Janet Gaynor won best actress for three films: “7th Heaven,” “Street Angel” and “Sunrise.” Also on that site, check out the photo of the first awards ceremony. It looks more like a church dinner than the beginning of the massive gala it is today. No sequins and cleavage for that event. Janet Gaynor is wearing a dress with a modest Peter Pan collar.
And while we’re at the Hollywood-Roosevelt, the gorgeous penthouse suite has been restored to the glory is was when Academy Award winner Clark Gable and Carole Lombard were in residence for $5 a night. (Yes, $5.) Marilyn Monroe was a hotel resident. The remodeled pool contains a beautiful underwater mural by artist David Hockney. Numerous films and TV shows have been shot there. Many other stars have stayed there. Even today, hotel rooms books up for Academy Awards weekend months in advance.
There are dozens – maybe hundreds – of Academy Award spots around town. Can you suggest a few more? Here’s one: A key scene in the 1977 Academy Award winner for best picture “Annie Hall” was shot at a restaurant then called The Source (nice name) on Sunset Boulevard at Sweetzer. It’s the place where Woody Allen realizes his relationship with Annie Hall is over and the scene leads into the famous Woody Allen character quote that kind of sums up the way Angelenos feel about movie film crews jamming streets and blocking traffic – much like the closure of Hollywood Boulevard at Highland will do this weekend. (And don’t forget that the Red Line Hollywood/Highland Station will also be closed on Sunday.) We love the films. We love the industry. But the traffic? That’s another story.
“Doc, my brother’s crazy. He thinks he’s a chicken. The doctor says, Well, why don’t you turn him in? The guy says, I would but I need the eggs. I guess that’s how I feel about relationships. They’re totally crazy, irrational and absurd but we keep going through it because we need the eggs.”
For The Source, take the Metro Local bus 2 down Sunset Boulevard and look for the building in this picture. The restaurant is no longer called The Source.
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