It's said that interesting places are actually characters in a story, and such is the case with Hollywood. Much of the satisfaction in writing a historical novel is getting to know the locations and what they were like at the time. Parts of Yours in a Hurry take place in Hollywood, and I was lucky to find the Hollywood Heritage Museum (pictured left) and experience its half-day behind-the-scenes historical tour of old Hollywood with Museum General Manager George Kiel. Richard Adkins, Museum Collections Manager, shared the following about Hollywood in 1910-1912 and how the museum keeps the mystique alive.
The Hollywood Studio Arrives
In 1910, Hollywood merged with the city of Los Angeles to be able to partake of the water and other city services available through the larger municipality. Hollywood was not yet famous for film, as its conservative prohibitionist founders had forbidden the exhibition of movies in Hollywood. Despite that restriction, film maker D.W. Griffith made the first film in Hollywood in 1909, "In Old California" starring Mary Pickford. Mr. Griffith used other locations, but his studio was located in the Edendale (now Silverlake) area of Los Angeles where it had been establish several years before. The prohibition of the sale or serving of alcohol in Hollywood inadvertantly gave birth to the first Hollywood Studio.
The Blondeau Tavern, at the corner of Gower St. and Sunset Boulevard, had been a popular tavern and roadhouse until 1903. Owner Rene Blondeau passed just after the birth of the new city. The tavern remained vacant until Fall of 1911, when David Horsley of the Centaur Film Company of Baltimore, Maryland, had a chance meeting on the train with Frank Hoover, a photographer with a studio not far from Sunset and Gower on Cahuenga Blvd. Hoover learned that Horsley was heading to Los Angeles to establish a studio and suggested that the vacant Blondeau Tavern would make an excellent studio as there was one large building and several small cabins circling and open courtyard. This configuration adapted itself to a studio administration building, dressing rooms, and a place for an outdoor stage, as most films were still photographed out of doors. Mr. Horsley named his new studio the Nestor Studio and began business there in October of 1911. Nestor shot one- and two-reeler comedies and westerns, the first of which were "The Heart of a Racetrack Tout" and "The Law of the Range."
Seven months later, Louis Burns and Harry Revier gave Nestor competition when they opened a studio at Selma and Vine Streets, just one block South of the newly-christened Hollywood Boulevard (formerly Prospect Avenue). Renting a horse and auto garage from Jacob Stern, Burns and Revier established the first rental studio in Hollywood. Cecil B. DeMille of the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company rented the studio the following December. Their project was to film a feature-length western at the studio, Hollywood's first feature-length film, "The Squaw Man." They started shooting December 29, 1913, and finished February 15, 1914. For their modest $3,000 investment, the three partners comprising the Lasky Company (Jesse L. Lasky; his brother-in-law, Sam Goldwyn; and Lasky's best friend and theatrical co-producer Cecil B. DeMille) made $300,000. Their success led hundreds of filmmakers to Hollywood. By 1919, Nestor became part of Universal Studio, and by 1917, the Lasky Company had merged with Adolph Zukor's famous player to become Paramount Pictures.
Initially the only tourist attraction in Hollywood was the art studio of French floral watercolorist Paul De Longpre. A trolley line, calling itself the "Balloon Route," would begin early in the day in downtown Los Angeles, then journey to Hollywood and stop at the DeLongpre art studio, and then venture on to Santa Monica and Venice, California, returning by day's end to Los Angeles. Of course, in time, the DeLongpre home and studio (pictured right) would also be drafted into service by the films. Griffith photographed "Love Among the Roses" at the DeLongpre home in 1909.
Try as they might, Hollywood just couldn't resist the movies.
The barn-studio where "The Squaw Man" was made is now the Hollywood Heritage Museum. It has traveled several places before arriving at its current location, across from the Hollywood Bowl. The museum features a recreation of DeMille's studio office and exhibits equipment, costumes, and props from silent films as well as artifacts of community history. Currently, a recreation of the outdoor stage used to film "The Squaw Man" is underway and will be in place by the Fall of 2015.
Blanche nodded across the room."There's the royalty and the Photoplay photographer right behind them." All turned to see Pickford and Griffith across the room. Anna recognized Pickford from her films. Griffith looked sharply around the room with his deeply set blue eyes. She had wondered what he looked like in person. He was Addison's height, around six feet tall, with thick brown hair and a sharp nose that made him look like a handsome Roman figure.
"I think we should go pay our respect," Ida said to Blanche. "I hear David is filming in the de Longpre's garden soon and I want to know how long it will disturb the neighborhood! Wouldn't you like to come, too, Anna?"
Next time: More strong women- Lady Overland becomes a pilot.
April 23 is World Book Night. It wasn't being celebrated in 1910 when much of Yours in a Hurry takes place, but it made me think about what the characters were reading. Knowing their interests, I can guess.
The realism in London's writing has caught on with today's readers. New books on his early development, adventures, and politics continue to be published. Many of Purl's Pacific Ocean experiences are based on London's collected short stories and his 1907 world cruise on the yacht Snark. He was a passionate socialist and a war correspondent during the Russo-Japanese War. His writings reflected empathy for many cultures, but he feared Asian immigration, coining the term 'the yellow peril,’ which many, like Hiram Cowell in YIAH, felt flamed intolerance. The Hartles were avid readers and interested in politics, so London would have been a favorite.
Samuel Clemens said that he came in with Halley's Comet in 1835 and he expected to go out with it in 1910. Some would agree that the author of many notable books of the last century, such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson, was, like the ancient god Mercury, an eloquent messenger. Like London, he spent several years in the west as a reporter. By 1883, the irreverent writer was one of the most popular and famous in America. We can't imagine that any child, even today, hasn't read a book by Twain. His humor faded and his egocentrism created both problems with his family and a rivalry with the President of the United States, but he was good at predicting his future: Twain died of a heart attack one day after the Comet appeared at its brightest in 1910.
Until he died in 1969, Purl Hartle spoke with respect of his hero, Teddy Roosevelt. Some in the family thought Purl joined the Army Cavalry in 1908 for that very reason since the Spanish-American War and the Rough Riders were still fresh in memory. Who didn't know the stories of how Roosevelt overcame childhood illness to become the strong, intelligent, muckraker, world traveler, and politician. We often forget his great contributions as an author documenting his times. My spouse has most of his books—stories on the west, the wilderness, historic wars at home and overseas, big game hunting, and his political views, just to name a few.
In The Bully Pulpit, Doris Kearns Goodwin quotes William Sturges Bigelow in a letter to Henry Cabot Lodge describing Roosevelt: "He was just as much interested in the next thing as if the last one had never happened." It actually describes many young men's enthusiasms about the new century and its opportunities—including Purl’s and Addison’s.
If you haven't picked your book for World Book Night, choose one of these authors and transport yourself back in time or read about them in one of the sources below.
Jack London and his Times, Joan London
Jack London, Earle Labor
The Collected Jack London, Steven J. Kasdin
Wolf: The Lives of Jack London, James Haley
The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism, Doris Kearns Goodwin
Mark Twain and the Colonel, Philip McFarland
The Rough Riders, Teddy Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt, David McCullough
Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight-The Great Heat Wave of 1896 and the Making of Roosevelt, Edward Kohn
Colonel Roosevelt, Edmund Morris
Next time: How did the first motion picture studio came to be?
Have you ever walked down Hollywood Boulevard, tourist bustle and cacophony surrounding you? Did you wonder what the street looked like one hundred years ago? You probably didn't know that the cofounder and heart of Hollywood was a woman, who is responsible for the first sidewalk in the city in front of her home at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Prospect Street. She happens to be a distant cousin of the Hartle siblings, and Anna fortunately finds her when she moves to Los Angeles.
A Girl from Ohio
Daeida ‘Ida’ Hartell Wilcox Beveridge was born near Hicksville, Ohio in 1862, and her first occupation was milliner. She had excellent taste in husbands. Her first, Harvey Henderson Wilcox, an older, wealthy widower, was already successful in Kansas real estate when they married in 1883. Ida was good at real estate and an equal partner when they moved to California in 1886.
The couple purchased a large tract of land west of Los Angeles for $150 per acre. Harvey's plan to be a farmer didn't last long, and they soon began subdividing the land and selling lots for $1,000 each. The area was known as Nopalera (named after a local Mexican cactus species), but on a train ride back from visiting Ohio, Ida met a woman who called her summer home outside Chicago “Hollywood.” Ida liked the sound.
By 1887, their respective families joined them, and Ida's mother adopted a variation of the family name, changing it to Hartell. Rumor had it that Amelia thought it looked more refined for their new circumstances.
After Harvey died in 1891, Ida chose wisely again. New in town, businessman Philo Beveridge was blonde, 6'2", and outgoing in contrast to prohibitionist Harvey. They worked well together and had a huge impact on Hollywood.
Ida gave back to the Hollywood community, donating land, founding organizations, and influencing others to move there and succeed. She never took “no” for an answer! She donated land for the first schools, three churches, post office, and police and fire stations. She and Philo built Wilcox Hall where, on the second floor meeting room, leaders met and made decisions affecting the growing suburb.
Ida (my second cousin, three times removed) died in 1914 at age 52. If you want to visit Ida's resting place in the Cathedral Mausoleum in Hollywood Forever Cemetery, simply look on the map for Rudolph Valentino—Ida's just around the corner.
Hartle Heritage, Richard Hartle, MD, Lancaster, Ohio
The Story of Hollywood: An Illustrated History, Gregory Paul Williams
Hollywood Heritage Museum
http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=2062 Photo of Daeida Hartell Wilcox Beveridge is used from this website with permission of the contributor.
Map of Hollywood- Los Angeles Public Library Collection, History Department (public domain)
Next Time: Learn what Addison and Purl were reading in 1910.
On April 15, 1912, the world opened newspapers to one of the greatest human tragedies when over 1,500 'souls' perished aboard the invincible Titanic. Three women awoke in France that day, expecting one of them to be an international front page sensation.
Can you imagine being Harriet Quimby, first woman to fly across the English Channel, only to have your story in only a few lines in the international press? Although she was disappointed, I'm certain that as a famous journalist herself, she understood.
A Woman of Many Vocations
Addison and Anna meet Harriet in Yours in a Hurry through Hiram Cowell, Anna's mentor and a friend of Harriet's parents. Harriet was famous long before she started working for Leslie's Illustrated Weekly--a journalist in San Francisco with Jack London, an actress and screenwriter with D.W. Griffith, drama critic, photographer for Around the World with a Camera (1910), and much more. She was also beautifully photogenic—dark hair, green eyes, model perfect and sophisticated. She is most remembered as the first American woman to achieve a pilot's license.
'I Have No Fear'
She became interested in flying by writing about it and being influenced by other aviators, especially John and Matilde Moisant. After an aviation exhibition in Mexico, her goal was to be the first woman to fly across the English Channel. She engaged aviator Louis Bleroit to assist and in spring, 1912, left with friends, Carrie Vanderbilt and Linda Arvidson, D.W. Griffith's spouse.
Her April 16 flight was successful, but the Titanic sunk shortly before her flight. The hoped for hero's welcome in New York was further delayed by a large, unpopular suffragist parade taking place in the city. The independent, confident Harriet was not popular with either side of the issue. She wasn't sympathetic to the crowd mentality of the suffragists, and New York was not in the mood to welcome an assertive woman. But, Harriet continued flying and writing winning articles about aviation, social causes and issues of interest to women until she died.
While researching women flyers of the period, I was fortunate to find a Harriet Quimby display at the International Women's Air and Space Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, including a replica of Harriet's signature purple flying costume.
The best source of information on Harriet I found was The Harriet Quimby Scrapbook, The Life of America’s First Birdwoman, by Giacinta Bradley Koontz (2002) 2012 edition, which can be purchased at Running Iron Publications www.lulu.com.
Another excellent source, including many of Harriet's Leslie's articles is Harriet Quimby: America's First Lady of the Air (1993), by retired U. S. Army Colonel, Ed. Y. Hall.
Next Time: A founder of Hollywood was another talented woman.
In 1909 it's unusual for a smart, single woman from an established family to decide on her own to leave her small village and cross the country to start a new life. Anna Hartle has nurtured her siblings since their parent's unexpected death. But her fortitude is tested after leaving Ohio for California. Like her brothers, Addison and Purl, she is swept into the American western migration at the turn of the last century.
Wyandot County, Ohio
When well to do Adam Milo and Rhoda Hartle died of pneumonia in 1901, their eight children are sent to live with relatives. Anna, the eldest at sixteen, abandons her plan to attend Oberlin College and becomes a teacher in a one room schoolhouse. By the start of the story in 1908, she feels the need to leave the confines of her small village. It's been hard to keep a distance from her students and school board members who are friends and family.
During a real estate transaction she impresses the agent, Hiram Cowell, and he invites her to move to California with his family to help establish his business. Two fateful meetings change Anna's life—only one for the better. Hiram introduces her to Daeida "Ida" Hartle Wilcox Beveridge, a cousin she was unaware of, a founder of Hollywood, who helps Anna through difficulties in her new environment. Anna also meets Martin Jackson, five years younger, whom she unfortunately marries. Twists in the plot involve Martin's past.
Some of the action is described through letters among the characters, all far from home. Anna taught them well, so they are good readers and writers. Her brothers are always on the move, Purl in the Pacific with the Army Cavalry, and Addison, pursuing the fledgling aviation industry.
The photo of Anna the teacher on the 1906 class memory book shows an unpretentious individual. What a difference when her photograph appears in newspapers in 1911. The sophisticated Anna is the perfect Gibson girl. Her chestnut hair is in a pompadour. She's about 5'8", slim, and her long, graceful arms and legs give a healthy, athletic appearance. It's obvious that she has also learned the art of make-up.
Regardless of the change in her appearance, one theme is consistent for Anna. To borrow from Thomas Wolfe, 'you
can't go home again'.
In the next blog, one character's plans are affected by the Titanic disaster.