Archive for October, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 31st, 2009


Happy Halloween!


Joan Crawford Halloween




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The Haunted Studio

Friday, October 30th, 2009


 Is a Hollywood film studio a set for the paranormal?


Hollywood Center Studios



By Allan R. Ellenberger


Many locations around Hollywood are reported to be haunted. There are theaters, hotels, night clubs and studios that all have their share of ghost stories. Whether or not you believe in ghosts, the possibility of a spirit continuing on after death is fascinating.


I admit to being a believer and am always looking for paranormal stories about Hollywood’s past. One story in particular, which originally had nothing to do with ghosts, caught my eye while searching through pages of microfilm. In this case a headline blared: “Death After Studio Party Called Accident by Police.” The story told about a 31-year-old studio electrician who received fatal injuries from a fall after a wrap party hosted and attended by several well-know film stars.


According to the news report, Edward W. Gray, the father of three, was found near death on the studio lot near midnight on April 4, 1946. He later died two minutes after reaching Hollywood Receiving Hospital. The first account stated that Gray may have been murdered, but a deputy coroner eventually discounted that theory. Upon examination, it was found that Gray suffered a fractured pelvis, numerous internal injuries, a skull fracture and facial injuries. The coroner said that such injuries could only be attributed to falling from a great height or, — being run over by an automobile! Huh?


Gray was found lying at the bottom of a 65-foot backdrop, along the top of which ran a catwalk. A ladder rose to the top at one end, and policy theorized that Gray had climbed to the top, then tumbled off.


Supporting this theory was the discovery of blood on a two-by four jutting from the backdrop fifteen-feet above the spot where Gray’s body was found and which would have been in the direct line of a fall from the catwalk. Oh, and Gray’s blood registered an alcohol content of .29 – today a .08 is considered intoxicated.


The studio where all this happened was a rental lot called General Service Studios, and now known as Hollywood Center Studios at 1040 N. Las Palmas Avenue. Founded in 1919 by set designer John Jasper (1876-1929) who built three production studios on 15 acres south of Santa Monica Boulevard. Billionaire-producer, Howard Hughes filmed Hell’s Angels here; the television shows, Ozzie and Harriett, Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies and the first two years of I Love Lucy also called this lot home. Shirley Temple made her film debut here and you may also remember this lot as the ill-fated Zoetrope Studios founded by Francis Ford Coppola in the early 1980s.



Edward Gray

Ghostly newspaper image of studio electrician, Edward Gray, who fell to his death at the Hollywood Center Studios. Does his ghost now haunt the rafters? 



I recalled stories about reported hauntings at this studio but could not remember what they were. I needed an expert so I contacted my friend, author and film historian, Laurie Jaccobson who, along with historian Marc Wanamaker are the authors of Hollywood Haunted: A Ghostly Tour of Filmland. If anyone would know, she would.


Laurie told me there were always stories of phenomenon on that particular lot including “cold spots, unexplained noises, unusual shadows on sound stages, lights going on and off, things being moved, etc all reported by guards, workers, maintenance workers and film workers on the lot.”


“There were also ‘problems’ with Stage 5,” Laurie recalled, “where Ozzie and Harriet was produced. Many say it happened all through the production. Others believe it is Ozzie himself — a workaholic who died before his time — who haunts the set.”


In the 1920s and 30s, the lot was known as Metropolitan Studios. In later years office workers reportedly heard talking in the empty offices on the second floor. “Those offices were occupied by comedy film pioneer Al Christie from 1925 to 1932,” Laurie said. “Second to Mack Sennett, Christie lost everything in the stock market crash, including his studio. He tried, but never regained his success or wealth. Now in death, he continues the work he’d been forced to give up.”


I found other reports on the internet, reportedly from a former stage manager who claimed the lot was haunted, “particularly on Stage 6, where a gaffer fell to his death decades ago.” He went on to describe the happenings:


“…when you went in to close up the stage for the night, turn off the work lights, secure all the doors, etc., you could hear foot steps in the perms (rafters) above you, following you as you moved from one part of the stage to another. When you stop, it stops. Freaking scary.”


Laurie Jacobson recalled a similar story but it involved a different stage.


“In 1946, a studio worker fell to his death on Stage 4 making the film Stairway to Hell,” she said. “For many years after, there were technical problems on that stage.”


That caught my attention since 1946 was the year that the electrician from my story fell to his death and the name of the film was the classic, Angel on My Shoulder, which, at the time it was being made, had a working title of – Stairway to Hell. It made me wonder if there could  be some truth to this haunting after all so I dug a little deeper.


Angel on My Shoulder


There were enough questions about whether Gray’s death was an accident so that an inquest was held. Reportedly, Gray and another friend were “uninvited guests” at ‘a gay party’ that was hosted by the film’s star, Paul Muni to celebrate the completion of the film. Neither Gray nor his friend had worked on the film but showed up anyway.


The party began at 6 pm and a bar was set up on the sound stage, and more than a score of tables had been arranged in front of the huge papier-mâché reconstruction of “Hell” – a familiar scene in the film.



Click on the above “Angel on My Shoulder” film clip which shows the “Hell” set where the wrap-party was held and where studio electrician, Edward Gray, fell to his death from the rafters above.



Angel on My Shoulder’s stars, Paul Muni and Anne Baxter were both called to give testimony at the inquest. Muni stated that he felt he could be of very little help, having left the party early.


“What was called ‘a gay party’ didn’t seem gay to me as I had been working all day and was very tired,” he told the jury. “Without seeming facetious, if that was a ‘gay party,’ I wonder what a dull one would be. All the people were tired. The idea was just to throw a little shindig to show good will. We were very tired, dog tired.”


“Did you see any drinking?” asked Dep. Dist. Atty. S. Ernest Roll.


“Oh, yes,” Muni replied. “Miss Baxter had milk, Miss (Joan) Blair had Coke, I had a scotch and soda, and Mrs. Muni had a sherry. Others went to the bar. I don’t know what they were drinking.”


Muni told the jury that he didn’t know Gray, although other witnesses said he sat at Gray’s table for a while and that he and Mrs. Muni left about 7:45 p.m. He added that he didn’t see anyone intoxicated.


Anne Baxter said she also was an early leaver after posing for some pictures on the film set, where the bar and tables had been set up. “Some people were drinking, others eating at steam tables,” she recalled.


Three cases of Bourbon, a case of Scotch and four cases of beer were consumed, according to the caterer.


“Wasn’t there any liquor left?” inquired Deputy Coroner Frank Monfort.


“Oh no, nothing was left,” the caterer replied.


Several witnesses agreed that Gray was intoxicated, although not quarrelsome. Along with all other technicians who worked on the film, he had been invited to attend, “as is custom.”


One friend, Allan Seiger, a property man, said that Gray was hardly able to walk from the party, and he assisted him to the gate to call a cab. But as soon as Seiger walked away, Gray ran back into the studio, according to the Gate Guard, who said earlier in the evening he had seen Gray fall down “two or three times on the set.”



Hollywood Center Studios

Edward Gray was escorted by a friend to this gate (above) to get a taxi but instead was by seen by the gate guard returning to the studio where he eventually met his death.


It was after the taxi incident, testimony disclosed, that Gray apparently climbed the high backdrop, from where he either stumbled or fell off. According to another witness, it was common for studio workers who had been drinking to climb up high to “get out of sight.”


Studio officials emphasized that everyone had left the studio long before Gray was found dying. According to the caterer, the party ended at 8:45 pm when the liquor supply was exhausted.


Gray’s widow was represented by future Los Angeles mayor, Sam Yorty, who argued that the dead man may have been in a fight or run over by a car. However, expert medical, scientific and police testimony claimed his injuries were most likely caused by a fall.


The nine-man jury found Edward Gray’s fatal injuries were “received from a fall while intoxicated.”


Could Edward Gray be haunting the sound stages of the Hollywood Center Studios? Perhaps he was murdered and his soul can’ not find rest. Unlike the characters of the film whose wrap-party he crashed, instead of hell, he chose to walk the rafters of the studio that was his last memory.



Hollywood Center Studios


So this Halloween, take a walk past the gates of Hollywood Center Studios and perhaps you’ll see the spirit of Edward Gray hailing a taxi instead of returning to the studio – and to his death.



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August Coppola Obituary

Friday, October 30th, 2009


August Coppola dies at 75; professor was father of Nicolas Cage and brother of Francis Ford Coppola


 August Coppola


The educator taught comparative literature at Cal State Long Beach and was a California State University system trustee before moving to San Francisco State.


By Claire Noland
Los Angeles Times
October 30, 2009


August Coppola, a former literature professor who was the father of actor Nicolas Cage and brother of filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola and actress Talia Shire, has died. He was 75.


Click here to continue reading the Los Angeles Times obituary for August Coppola



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Lou Jacobi Obituary

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009


Lou Jacobi dies at 95; character actor


 Lou Jacobi


Toronto native had a long career on Broadway and TV and in film, including a memorable cross-dressing scene in Woody Allen’s ‘Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex.’


Associated Press
October 27, 2009


Lou Jacobi, an actor who was known for comic roles and won praise in dramatic ones over a long career in the theater and movies, including Woody Allen’s “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex” and Barry Levinson’s “Avalon,” has died. He was 95.


Click here to continue reading the Los Angeles Times obituary for Lou Jacobi


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Hollywood Bohemians

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009


Hollywood Bohemians:

Transgressive Sexuality and the Selling of the Movieland Dream


by Brett L. Abrams


Hollywood Bohemians


Between 1917 and 1941, Hollywood studios, gossip columnists and novelist featured an unprecedented number of homosexuals, cross-dressers, and adulterers in their depictions of the glamorous Hollywood lifestyle.


Actress Greta Garbo defined herself as the ultimate serial bachelorette. Screenwriter Mercedes De Acosta engaged in numerous lesbian relationships with the Hollywood elite. And countless homosexual designers brazenly picked up men in the hottest Hollywood nightclubs. Hollywood’s image grew as a place of sexual abandon.


This book demonstrates how studios and the media used images of these sexaully adventurous characters to promote the industry and appeal to the prurient interests of their audiences.  (from the book jacket)


  • “an insightful and intriguing read” — Philadelphia Gay News


  • “In Hollywood Bohemians, Brett Abrams has provided all film historians with a brand new take on Hollywood. This social study should be must reading for all scholars. Rather than simplistic assertions, Abrams offers documents that will be new to all.” — Douglas Gomery, Professor of Journalism and Film Studies Emeritus, University of Maryland and author of Shared Pleases: A History of Movie Presentation In the United States and the Hollywood Studio System: A History.


Brett L. Abrams is an archivist with the National Archives and Records Administration.


Click here to purchase Hollywood Bohemians



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Hollywood Wilshire YMCA

Saturday, October 24th, 2009


Hollywood Branch YMCA


Hollywood YMCA


 Hollywood Wilshire YMCA

1553 N. Schrader Blvd.

Hollywood, California



YMCA groundbreaking - LAPL

 Groundbreaking for the Hollywood Branch YMCA May 15, 1923 (LAPL)



By Allan R. Ellenberger


 The Young Mens Christian  Association in Hollywood broke ground at 1 pm on May 15, 1923 for the first unit of the Hollywood Branch YMCA building at Selma and Hudson Streets (now Schrader Blvd.).


Chairman W. J. Palmer assigned the honor of turning the first shovelful of earth to Dr. William H. Snyder, principal of Hollywood High School, and member of the committee of management of the Hollywood YMCA. He was followed by A. J. Walllace, ex-Lieutenant-Governor: W. S. Hunkins, chairman of the building committee, and F. E. Eckhart, president of the Los Angeles YMCA.


Rev. Samuel J. Skevington of Hollywood Baptist Church, expressed sentiments of solicitation and thankfulness in the invocation. He was followed by General Secretary Harry F. Henderson, who voice the hope that this spot would mark the rallying place for the boyhood of Hollywood, “in whose hands is the future of this community.”


The first phase of the building was officially dedicated on February 19, 1923 at 8 pm. F. E. Eckhart presided and Willsie Martin, pastor of the First Methodist Church of Hollywood, delivered the address and the Hollywood High School Orchestra provided the music.



YMCA 1930s

 Hollywood YMCA (1928 addition) in the early 1930s (LAPL)



 Hollywood YMCA - today

 Hollywood Wilshire YMCA as it looks today



Hollywood YMCA entrance




Hollywood YMCA




Hollywood YMCA-balcony



Hollywood YMCA 1928 cornerstone

The cornerstone for the 1928 addition of the Hollywood YMCA



Hollywood YMCA




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Soupy Sales Obituary

Friday, October 23rd, 2009


Soupy Sales dies at 83; slapstick comic had hit TV show in 1960s


Soupy Sales

George Washington (KABC-TV Channel 7In this undated photo, Soupy Sales does his best George Washington act for a KABC-TV Channel 7 show in Los Angeles broadcast around Washington’s birthday.


The comedian acquired a cult-like following among adults with a show ostensibly meant for children. His signature routine, which he elevated to an art form, was pie-throwing.


By Elaine Woo
Los Angeles Times
October 23, 2009


Soupy Sales, a comic with a gift for slapstick who attained cult-like popularity in the 1960s with a pie-throwing routine that became his signature, has died. He was 83.


Click here to continue reading the Los Angeles Times obituary for Soupy Sales






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Joan Crawford’s Charcoal Broiled Steak

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009


Joan Crawford





Charcoal Broiled Steak


First of all be sure that the steak is a thick one, and that the coals are glowing red before starting to cook it. In case you oven broil the steak the secret is to have the oven at just the right temperature — say pre-heated to 450 to 500 degrees. To prepart the steak for broiling, first wipe it with a damp cloth. Then salt and pepper and rub with a clove of garlic. When this is complete, brush with butter. Arrange the steak on the pan at least one and a half inches from the flame. (For thick steaks at least two inches) broil it first on one side, and then on the other. I have discoved that twelve to fifteen minutes is sufficient for a rare steak, fifteen to eighteen minutes for medium well-done and twenty to thirty for well-done. Here is a tip for oven broiling, try leaving the oven door ajar while cooking and see what a difference it makes.




Broil steak as above. The sauce is made as follows: mix together the beaten roquefort chesse, mustard and melted butter. After turning, and just before the steak is done, spread on the sauce and let broil until brown. This is delicious. Sauce: 4 tablespoons butter, 1 square roquefort cheese, 1 tablespoon prepared mustard.


— Joan Crawford



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Vic Mizzy Obituary

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009


Vic Mizzy dies at 93; film and TV composer wrote ‘Addams Family’ theme song


Vic Mizzy


He also composed the theme music for the 1965-71 rural comedy ‘Green Acres.’


By Dennis McLellan
Los Angeles Times
October 20, 2009


Vic Mizzy, a film and television composer best known for writing the memorable theme songs for the 1960s sit-coms “Green Acres” and “The Addams Family,” has died. He was 93.


Click here to continue reading the Los Angeles Times obituary for Vic Mizzy


Green Acres theme




The Addams Family theme




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Carla Laemmle’s 100th Birthday

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009


Carla Laemmle


Carla Laemmle


By Allan R. Ellenberger 


Today is the 100th birthday of actress and dancer Carla Laemmle, who is also the niece of Universal Studios founder, Carl Laemmle.


Carla Laemmle was born Rebecca Isabelle Laemmle on October 20, 1909 in Chicago, Illinois. According to the 1910 census, when Carla was 6 months old, she was living with her family at 4244 Vincennes Avenue, and may have been born there.


Carla was the daughter of Joseph Laemmle, who was Carl’s older brother. Joseph was 76 when died in March 1929. Her mother, Carrie Belle Norton Laemmle, was born in Connecticut and died in March 1962 at age 91. Carla also had a half-brother, Universal director, Edward Laemmle who died in 1937.



Carla Laemmle in Dracula

 Carla Laemmle is thrown onto the laps of fellow passsengers in the opening sequence of Dracula (1931)


Carla had an uncredited role as a ballerina in The Phantom of the Opera (1925) and continued in smaller parts in Universal films. In 1931 she had the opportunity to speak the first line of dialogue in the horror classic, Dracula. She plays a bookish young girl who reads to her fellow passengers while riding in a coach. Today she is the only surviving cast member of the film.


Click below to watch Carla Laemmle in Dracula. She appears at one minute and 19 seconds into the film.



Besides Dracula, Carla had small roles in several films of the 1920s and 30s such as Topsy and Eva (1927), The Broadway Melody (1929), King of Jazz (1930) and the Mystery of Edwin Drood (1935). Also a dancer, she appeared in many venues including the one below at the Shrine Auditorium on June 11, 1931.


 Carla Laemmle ad


In 1936 she played Princess Quan Mui Mai in Her Majesty The Prince at the Music Box Theater. In 2001 Carla appeared in The Vampire Hunters Cluband this year co-authored a book about growing up on the Universa lot from 1921  to 1937 called Growing Up With Monsters: My Times at Universal Studios in Rhymes. Still active at 100, she recently attended the Cinecon banquet this past September. Happy Birthday Carla!


Carla Laemmle

Carla Laemmle at the recent Cinecon banquet in September (Photo by Allan R. Ellenberger)



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