Archive for the ‘Book/Film News’ Category

The Story of the Sacketts of Hollywood

Saturday, October 21st, 2017

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The extended Sackett family in front of the Sackett Hotel, in 1898. From left to right: Betsy Otis, H.D. Sackett’s aunt; Mrs. Sackett; Lyman Hathaway, cousin of Mary Sackett; William H. Sackett; unknown; Mary Sackett; Zella Sackett, married to George Dunlap; unknown; Lilly ? ; Dora Miller. (LAPL)

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Horace David Sackett, whose family came to America from England in 1831, was born in Blandford, Massachusetts on December 29, 1843, the son of Leverett and Mary Culver Sackett. When he was eighteen years old, he went to Suffield, Connecticut and started a flourishing general merchandise and farming business that lasted for several years.

On January 15, 1873, Sackett married Ellen Minerva Lyman (b. July 24, 1848) and became the parents of five children, Mary Mariah (b. July 8, 1875), William (b. June 22, 1876), Warren Lyman (b. August 30, 1882), Zella Myra (b. June 11, 1883), and Emily (b. March 1885).

Sackett was a squat, spare, busy man with a short beard. He was cheerful and kindly but firm in his convictions. In 1887, with $10,000 in his pocket, he left Connecticut with his family and moved to Los Angeles. There he heard about land in the North Cahuenga Valley being subdivided for business and residential purposes. This new development called Hollywood was without lights, telephones, paved streets or other modern improvements.

The developer, Harvey Henderson Wilcox and his wife Daeida were looking for men willing to build up the area and attract new residents. Sackett’s daughter Mary recalled that her family was one of the first families in the area. “Mr. Wilcox subdivided his 160-acre ranch and named it Hollywood,” Mary recalled years later. “Both our families settled down there in May, 1888 when I was 12.”

Each lot was going for a fixed price of $1,000 each. But Wilcox gave Sackett, free of charge, three, sixty-five foot lots facing the assigned business area at Cahuenga Avenue and the southwest corner of Prospect (now Hollywood Boulevard), if Sackett made certain improvements before the dummy line (the old steam engine with the open car) reached Wilcox Avenue. .

sackett-store2

By 1888, the railroad was functioning, and Sackett built a three-story hotel building (above) of wood with a mansard roof, consisting of a corner store, and Prospect Avenue lobby and parlor. Behind that was the culinary department. The stairway in the lobby led to the upper two stories with eighteen rooms and a bathroom. Behind the hotel was a barn and corral; surrounding the store and lobby front was a cypress hedge and several two-year-old pepper trees planted by Wilcox, giving the place a very cozy appearance.

The Sacketts ran the first hotel in the Cahuenga Valley, and the second general merchandising establishment within the corporate limits of Hollywood. He also kept a few horses for his clientele and gardens to the blocks east and south of the store, to sell produce in his store.

Sackett bought the lot south of the hotel, two lots facing west on Wilcox Avenue, and south of the two northern lots in the row. Here he ran an overnight and breakfast place for city visitors and a bachelors’ roost for the young single men of the village. At his store, Sackett sold butter and eggs, crackers and cheese, overalls, jumpers, boots and shoes, ribbons and yardage, and canned goods that were becoming popular.

Another Hollywood pioneer associated with the hotel was Dr. Edwin O. Palmer, who later wrote a history of the area. Upon his arrival in California, he rented a room and an office there for his medical practice.

Sackett’s daughter, Mary and her siblings, attended the old Temple Street School through grade school, but didn’t go to the downtown high school because they couldn’t get there on time. Later, Sackett added another store, where in a corner nook he opened Hollywood’s post office; Mary became Hollywood’s first postmistress, running her practiced eye over the little rack of boxes. For her duties, Mary was paid as high as $5 per month.

Tragedy hit the Sackett family in 1899 when his son, William died unexpectedly at 23 years of age and was buried at Rosedale, as there would not be a cemetery in Hollywood for another two years.

Due to competition from the new Hollywood Hotel, built three years earlier at the northwest corner of Prospect and Highland, Sackett closed his hotel in 1905. He sold the property to Henry Gillig, but it remained unoccupied for the next five years except for one store room on the first floor.

In 1907, Sackett built a six bedroom house on property he had bought at 1642 Wilcox Avenue. Later that same year, in the reception hall of their home, Sackett’s daughter Zella, married George Dunlap, the mayor of Hollywood at the time, and the city’s last since Los Angeles annexed Hollywood in 1910.

In 1910, J.P. Creque, one of the wealthiest men in Hollywood, bought the former hotel property for $28,000 from the estate of Henry Gillig, who was now deceased. Creque razed the abandoned hotel and erected a fireproof two-story cream brick structure that cost approximately $30,000. The Hollywood National Bank leased a portion of the new building; there were three other stores facing on Prospect. The second floor had offices with wide hallways and tile flooring. .

The J.P. Creque Building being built in 1911 on the site of the Sackett Hotel at the southwest corner of Hollywood and Cahuenga.

In 1931, the Creque Building was enlarged by adding two stories; the Art Deco building at 6400-6408 Hollywood Boulevard, is still on the site. .

The Creque Building as it appears today on the site of the Sackett Hotel.

Now retired from the mercantile business, Sackett devoted himself to the management of his private interests and several properties that he owned. He took an active part in the public affairs of Hollywood and Los Angeles for many years and was a man of ability and worth. He was a staunch democrat and was interested in politics, especially in local matters.

It was in their Wilcox Avenue home that Horace Sackett died in 1918, and was buried next to his son at Rosedale. In 1929, his wife Ellen followed him in death at the age of eighty from heart disease.

At the time of Ellen’s death, the area around Hollywood Boulevard and Wilcox had become mostly commercial, and land was being bought for business purposes. Mary Sackett was living in the family home, but instead of demolishing the house, she sold the property in 1929 and moved the house to the San Fernando Valley which was residential.

Remarkably, the old Sackett house is still standing at 10739 Kling Street in North Hollywood. The 1908 residence looks somewhat out of place next to the small bungalow homes built mostly in the 1930s. .

The altered, but original Horace Sackett home, once located at 1642 Wilcox Avenue in Hollywood, is now at 10739 Kling Street in North Hollywood. PLEASE NOTE: This is a private residence. DO NOT DISTURB the occupants.

The rear of the former Sackett home.

On Wilcox, a row of storefronts still stands in place of the old Sackett homestead.

Mary Sackett never married, and in her old age claimed that she never touched liquor, tea or coffee. “I’m an old maid and proud of it,” she insisted to a reporter in 1950. “I’ve never worn a bit of make-up, yet I had three proposals. Men have taken me out but usually with a chaperone. I wouldn’t let them kiss me good-night and to this day no man has ever been allowed to put his arm around me.”

In 1954, at the age of 78, Mary appeared on an episode of the  You Bet Your Life television show with host Groucho Marx and laughingly ruffled the comedians feathers. She asked Groucho to put away his trademark cigar, either lit or unlit, and he grudgingly complied. .

Mary Sackett, 74, spars with comedian Groucho Marx on “You Bet Your Life.”


Click HERE to watch the episode. Mary’s segment begins at 18:45

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When asked if a man might yet come along and sweep her off her feet, Mary replied, “Not a chance. I’m too set in my ways. I don’t want any man cluttering up my house.” When Mary died on January 31, 1969 at age 93 in Rosemead, California, she was the last remaining Sackett. She was buried in the family plot at Rosedale Cemetery. .

The Sackett family marker at Rosedale Cemetery.

Mary Sackett’s marker at Rosedale Cemetery.

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In memory of Pauline Flood… also known as “Baby Sunshine”

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

Today, October 19, 2017, it has been one-hundred years since the tragic death of silent film child actress Pauline Flood, also-known-as “Baby Sunshine.” Little Pauline was almost two years old when, while playing on the Universal Studios lot, she crawled in front of a moving truck. She died shortly afterward at Hollywood Receiving Hospital.

Pauline, born on December 1, 1915, was the daughter of James and Ethel (Kolble) Flood. As “Baby Sunshine,” she apparently appeared in at least nine films, but Imdb has no record of her work. Variety said at the time that she was known as the “tiniest star in films.” Another source cited her tragic death as “…the youngest celebrity ever to have been killed by a car.” Regrettably, there are no known photographs of her.

Pauline Flood’s death certificate (click on image to enlarge)

Pauline is buried at Rosedale in Section 7 (Lot 1, Grave 2N-2W) in a section reserved for children. Her grave is reported to be unmarked.

Within three months, Pauline’s father James, died from diabetes on January 9, 1918, and was buried at Rosedale. He was 49.

Pauline’s mother, Ethel, who was 28 at the time, remarried and died from tuberculosis on October 18, 1925–eight years (shy one day) after Pauline’s death. Her new husband, John Ashbridge, buried her at Odd Fellow’s Cemetery.

If anyone has information to share about Pauline Flood’s life and films, please post your comments here.

 

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Charlie Chaplin’s Stalker: ‘Mad Josefina’

Saturday, October 14th, 2017


Today, reports of obsessed fans stalking well-known actors is commonplace. One of the earlier incidents of star-stalking occurred in 1923 when comedian Charlie Chaplin’s home was invaded by an infatuated admirer, a young Mexican girl, Marina Vega, dubbed by the Mexican press as “Mad Josefina.”

Marina, a beautiful and reportedly well-built girl, was recently married to Jose Rivero, a prosperous rancher, but became bored with the ranchers life and escaped to Mexico City in early March 1923. It was there that she went on an extravagant nine-day visit, literally throwing her money away.

Her husband soon followed her, and on March 10, 1923 — after leading detectives on a merry chase — she was arrested for desertion. A brief reconciliation with Rivero followed, initiated by the city’s inspector general, Almada. However, rumors spread throughout the city that Almada and a General Serrano, had lavishly “entertained” Marina. Almada admitted knowing the girl and giving her money, but only so she could leave the city.

The Mexican press reported the eccentricities of “Mad Josefina” and her desire to become a great motion picture actress. After reportedly buying a thousand pesos worth of dresses and hats, and billing them to Almada, Marina left for Hollywood and her idol — Charlie Chaplin.

Charlie Chaplin’s former home at 6147 Temple Hill Drive in the Hollywood Hills.

Arriving in Los Angeles a few days later, Marina checked into the Alexandria Hotel. On Thursday, March 29, 1923, the buxom admirer found her way to Chaplin’s residence at 6147 Temple Hill Drive in the Hollywood Hills. She gained entrance to the house through the ruse of dropping a diamond ring in the shirt-pocket of his cook who answered the doorbell, dashing by him as he fished for it.

Kono, Chaplin’s valet, and the other servants were unable to remove her so they called director Eddie Sutherland from Chaplin’s studio, as a reinforcement; she was found in the comedians bedroom. After much cajoling, they tricked her into one of Chaplin’s cars and returned her to the Alexandria.

That evening, while Chaplin was entertaining his fiancé Pola Negri, and Dr. Cecil Reynolds, Kono interrupted and excitedly told his boss that Marina had returned and was again in Chaplin’s bedroom wearing his silk pajamas!

‘Mad Josefina’

Reynolds and Kono persuaded Marina to get dressed and then introduced her to Chaplin. She told the comedian that she had come all the way from Mexico City to meet him. After further questioning, Chaplin told her to return to her hotel, and he would buy her a train ticket back to Mexico City. She promised not to bother him again.

The next day, Chaplin heard nothing of his crazed admirer. However, on Saturday evening, March 31, he was again entertaining Pola and Reynolds. As they were sitting down to dinner, Kono rushed in and told Chaplin that Marina had strewn red roses on the driveway and, when she was refused admittance, had shot herself in the head.

Reynolds and Kono carried Marina into the kitchen where she told the doctor that she had taken poison. (Kono thought she had shot herself because, as he looked out from an upstairs window, the moonlight made a oil-stain on the pavement near her head look like blood). An ambulance was called and she was taken to the Hollywood Receiving Hospital.

Marina was treated and released, although doctors questioned whether she had swallowed poison. A half-hour later, reporters found her at the Alexandria Hotel eating ice cream. However, Marina declared that her love for Chaplin had chilled – but not for long.

The former Chaplin home as it looks today. This is all that is visible from the street as the estate is now surrounded by twenty-foot hedges. (Please note, this is a private residence. Do not disturb the occupants!)

The following Tuesday, Kono discovered a trail of muddied footprints on the sidewalk outside Chaplin’s home. The police were called, and a search of the area found Marina in a rented room at a nearby Beachwood Drive residence. A policewoman from the Hollywood division removed “Mad Josefina” to the Business Girl’s Home on Bonnie Brae Avenue.

Chaplin released a statement saying that “the girl’s case is very pathetic and I am willing to pay her way back to her home.” The ever-dramatic Pola Negri was reportedly ill from the excitement.

“Mad Josefina” apparently returned to Mexico, and was never heard from again.

 

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Dia de Los Muertos at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

THROUGHOUT THE CEMETERY GROUNDS

Saturday, October 28, 2017

NOON — MIDNIGHT

There is going to be a caravan taking place afterward with the elektroroller scooters, so bring your scooter and your mask.

Tickets are $20 at hollywoodforever.ticketfly.com
MORE INFO : ladayofthedead.com

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Louise Emmons: unique, mysterious and unforgettable

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

For Halloween month, we showcase Louise Emmons, an unknown actress today, except for truly hardcore students of film. Her unusual looks have caused many film-goers to squirm in their seats from her silent film roles to her last appearance in Tod Browning’s horror classic, Mark of the Vampire (1935).

Louise Emmons began her career late, at age 56, yet she worked steadily for the next twenty years in small and extra roles. A woman of mystery and misperception, nothing is known of her early life and there is little written about her film career. There are no interviews that would give a hint about the woman who was described as having “the kind of face that could stop a clock.” Yet, Emmons has endeared herself to fans by her distinctive look and moving performances.

First, to refute some of the erroneous information about her: She was not born in Germany, or during any of the birth years attributed to her. Regrettably, the month and date of her birth is still a mystery. In some cases, Emmons herself is the source of the incorrect facts. What follows is only a hint of this enigmatic actress’s early life:

Louise Emmons was born with the unusual first name, Louie—Louie A. Adkison–sometime in 1858, and most likely at, or near, Camptonville, Yuba County, California. She was the middle child of D. O. (David Oliver) Adkison (at the time a miner), and his second wife Mary A. Johnson.

Juliet J. Adkison, the older sister of Louise Emmons, died at age ten. Is there a family resemblance? (Findagrave)

After spending a brief time in Sonoma County, the family moved again to Virginia City, Nevada, where she spent her childhood and most of her early adult years. Louie, or Lucy as she was called as a young girl, had two siblings: an older sister Juliet (1856-1866), who died at the age of ten from typhoid, and a younger brother Oliver Charles (1860-1861), who was not yet one-year-old when he passed from infant fever. Both are buried in Virginia City’s Silver Terrace Cemeteries.

Throughout her childhood in Virginia City, Lucy lived downtown on South C Street and outside the town limits on Geiger Grade Road. Her father, originally from Indiana, was a well-respected man of multiple talents. During his time in Nevada, Adkison served as the Speaker of the Nevada Assembly; a justice of the peace; Virginia City’s postmaster, and as a judge.

When Lucy was twelve (1870), she attended the Young Ladies Seminary in Benicia, California. There she developed her artistic talents and by 1881 (she now went by the name Lou), she prophesied that she would “become famous as a landscape artist.” However, her local “fame” and talent developed more as a portrait painter. In fact, a journalist for the Reno Gazette boasted that the likeness of local businessman J. J. Becker, “painted by Miss Lou Adkinson [sic] of Virginia City, is by far the best oil painted likeness this reporter has ever seen by a Nevada artist, and compares favorably with those having national reputations as portrait painters.” Indeed, her talent was so celebrated that the following year, in September 1882, Lou had an exhibition of her work at Reno’s Pavilion during Fair Week.

After the deaths of both her parents in 1887, Lou moved to San Francisco where she continued to make her living as a portrait artist. Because of her unusual first name, she was known professionally as Miss Louie A. Adkison or Miss L. A. Adkison (sometimes misspelled, or perhaps purposely, as Adkinson).

Around 1903, Lou lived briefly in Santa Barbara. There she met her future husband, Roswell G. Emmons, a machinist who was thirteen years her junior. They married on April 24, 1904. Not long afterward, the couple move to Los Angeles where she continued with her painting. Within two years, they had a son, Marion.

From the 1910 census. Emmons gives her age as 37 but she was actually 52-years-old. They were living at 1021 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles. (click on image to enlarge)

1920 census. Louise (as Lewis) is widowed and living with her son at 1625 Echo Park Avenue, Los Angeles (click on image to enlarge)

Confusion about her age and name probably got their start from the 1910 census; even though she was in fact 52-years-old, she gave her age to the census enumerator as 37 (making her two years younger than her husband), and her name as Louis (her profession was still artist/painter). In the same census, and in other records, Roswell is credited as a ‘photographer for motion pictures,’ possibly for shorts where he would receive no credit. Yet, it’s likely that it was through his efforts that his 56-year-old wife first entered motion pictures in 1914; her first billing was as Mrs. Emmons, then Mrs. Louise A. Emmons, Mrs. L. A. Emmons and finally—when she was credited—simply, Louise Emmons.

Over the next two decades, classic movie fans would get glimpses of her in small roles, many times uncredited, in such films as Judith of Bethulia (1914), and three Rudolph Valentino films: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921), The Conquering Power (1922) and Blood and Sand (1922). In addition, she appeared in von Stroheim’s Foolish Wives (1922), Rex Ingram’s Scaramouche (1923), DeMille’s King of Kings (1927), and more, for a total of seventy-four films. Her unique look often typecast her in mostly offensive sounding roles such as Hag, Smiling Hag, Old Hag, Crackling Hag, Gypsy Hag, and many variations of Gypsy and Old Woman. Still, she kept busy appearing in multiple films each year until her death.

Death certificate of Emmons’ husband, Roswell. (click image to enlarge)

On November 22, 1919, Roswell Emmons died from heart problems; he was buried in the Masonic section of Glendale’s Forest Lawn Cemetery. However, to further confuse matters, on his death certificate, while Louise is the informant (as Lewis A. Emmons), she states that Roswell’s wife is Laura A. Emmons. And again, just several months later for the 1920 census, she has herself listed again as Lewis Emmons. For the remainder of her life, she would refer to herself legally as Lewis or Louis Emmons.

Another mystery concerns her son Marion. He was reportedly born in 1906 in California, yet there is no record of his birth under that name. Considering that Louise would have been 48-years-old at the time, it’s possible that he was adopted. At any rate, other than the 1910 and 1920 censuses, there are no official records of Marion P. Emmons to be found—he has simply vanished.

By 1935, Louise and her many aliases was living at 5738 Waring Avenue in Hollywood. On March 6, she died from heart disease and pneumonia at nearby Hollywood Hospital. She was either 76 or 77 years old. Her death certificate is under the name Louis Emmons; information given by her informant Ralph Burbank, an electrician at one of the studios. However, he didn’t know her birthday, but approximated her age at 73.

Louise Emmons’ death certificate. Her mother is listed as Juliet Johnson, however, she was her maternal grandmother. Her mother was Mary Johnson. (click on image to enlarge)

Louise Emmons was buried at Hollywood Cemetery (now Hollywood Forever) in a grave paid for by the Actor’s Fund. Why she didn’t join her husband at Forest Lawn is not known. For the next 79 years, Emmons gravesite remained unmarked and as mysterious as her life. That is, until March 23, 2014, when through the efforts of a dedicated group of fans (Lon Chaney biographer Michael F. Blake, animator Jenny Lerew, and Mike Hawks of Larry Edmunds Bookshop), her grave was finally given a marker and can now be visited by a new group of devotees.

The grave marker of Louise Emmons after being unmarked for 79 years. Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Section 2W, #99, east of the peacock cages. (click on image to enlarge)

 

(NOTE: Information for this story was pieced together through census reports, newspaper articles, family trees and death records.)

 

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Douglas Fairbanks Sr.

Friday, September 29th, 2017

The fourth Annual Motion Picture Golf Tournament at the Lakeside Country Club. Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. dressed in a black jacket and white pants, leaning in front of a sign promoting the golf tournament as he chats with two unidentified men who stand behind the sign.

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Anne Jeffries 1923 – 2017

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

“Hey, we’re lucky! There’s a full moon tonight. Listen! Those voodoo drums – that’s the death beat you hear. We’ll have to hurry. If you see a corpse walking around… that’s a zombie.” -Anne Jeffries as Jean LaDance in the 1945 film, Zombies on Broadway.

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Hugh Hefner 1926 – 2017

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

“Historically the Puritans left England to escape religious persecution, and they promptly turned around and started persecuting the people they didn’t agree with – the scarlet letter A, and the stocks and the dunking board came from that. That puritanism is still there.” -Hugh Hefner

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James Waller Somers: “He knew Lincoln…”

Friday, September 15th, 2017

It’s surprising how many Hollywood Forever Cemetery residents have a unique connection to Abraham Lincoln. There is Senator Cornelius Cole, a close friend who visited Lincoln on the day of his assassination. And Joseph Hazelton, who as a boy, was present at Ford’s Theatre on that night. Now we profile James Waller Somers, who knew Lincoln in his boyhood in Urbana, Illinois, and continued that friendship into adulthood.

James Waller Somers, the son of Dr. Winston and Mary (Haines) Somers, was born at Mt. Airy, North Carolina, on January 18, 1833. His father was a physician, and in 1843, moved his family to Urbana, Illinois. Somers became friends with Abraham Lincoln while in Urbana, one of the towns of the Eighth Judicial Circuit where Lincoln once practiced law.

“My recollections of Lincoln,” Somers said, “date back to 1843 or 1844, when as a boy ten years old, I arrived in Urbana, Champaign County, Illinois, with my father’s family from North Carolina. Urbana was then a mere village, containing a population of perhaps 150 persons. The Courthouse was a double, one-story frame structure, unpainted, and of primitive architecture. It was in the center of the village, surrounded by about an acre of ground enclosed. It was in this court yard I remember first seeing Mr. Lincoln. He was tall and ungainly but of very striking appearance.

“It was court week, and he was striding across the yard toward the Courthouse, in that peculiar manner characteristic of him, a sort of meditative shambling gait, head drooped forward and his hands behind him. He was lank and angular, with a massive head, covered with a short, stubby, dark-brown hair, brushed up in front, without any pretense of parting in the middle or anywhere else. He had a high forehead, thick lips, cheek bones of an Indian-like prominence, and a wart on the side of his face near his large nose, which was eliminated from his later photographs by the retoucher’s brush. His face was smooth shaven. His ears, hands and feet were abnormally large and his arms unusually long.”

At the age of 21, Somers studied law in the office of his uncle, William D. Somers, with whom he became a law partner after being admitted to the bar in 1856.

“When I was studying law with my uncle, Judge Somers, Mr. Lincoln frequently came into our little one-story office, near the hotel, to swap stories with ‘Uncle William,’ who was himself a good story-teller, though Lincoln far surpassed him as he did everyone one else. He used to sit on a rush bottomed chair with his feet on the rung, telling stories, hour after hour. He frequently laughed more heartily than anyone else, but the laughter was neither boisterous nor vulgar. His whole body swayed with merriment, wholesome and infectious, and his eyes would sparkle with amusement, while he ran his fingers through his close cropped hair, always standing on end.”

Originally a Whig, Somers helped to organize the state Republican Party and actively campaigned for Lincoln in 1858 and 1860. Henry Clay Whitney called Somers “the promising orator of our Circuit of the young men.”

By 1860, Somers had developed serious hearing problems which made the practice of law difficult. He wrote to Lincoln seeking advice on his future career. Lincoln responded on March 17, 1860, recommending that he resettle in Chicago where Whitney had offered him a partnership. Lincoln closed saying that his advice was given, “with the deepest interest for your welfare.” A week later Lincoln wrote a recommendation:

“My young friend James W. Somers I have known from boyhood and I can truly say that in my opinion he’s entirely faithful and fully competent to the performance of any business he will undertake.”

In 1861, President Lincoln appointed Somers to a position in the Department of the Interior, which led to a distinguished career of 25 years of public service in Washington.

During the Civil War, Somers received news that two of his nephews, both minors, had been forced to join the Confederate Army in North Carolina and were captured as prisoners of war in Elmira, New York. Somers asked Lincoln to have them released and sent to Urbana, with the assurance that they would not take an active part in the war.

“I was cordially received at the White House,” Somers said, “in his old familiar way. After talking a few moments on home affairs I stated my errand and he at once wrote an order to Adjt.-Gen. Fry of the War Department, directing the release of the young men and upon their taking the oath of allegiance to send them to their uncle in Urbana. In a few days my cousins were on their way West and did not again take up arms against the North.”

When Somers retired from the Department of the Interior in 1895, he moved to San Diego where his brother resided. In 1903, he moved to Hollywood to live with his niece, Mrs. H. G. (May) Condee at her home on what is now Cherokee Avenue. The library was adorned with some of Somers valuable collection, which included various portraits, busts and autographed letters from Lincoln.

On June 6, 1904, at 7:25 pm, Somers was returning from the post office and was crossing Hollywood Boulevard at Whitley Avenue when he was struck and killed by an electric cable car. At that intersection there was a strong arc light, and it was supposed that Somers confused it with the headlight of the electric car and, not being able to hear the warning bell, crossed the track just as the car came upon him.

J. W. Somers funeral was held at the home of his niece and interment was at Hollywood Cemetery.

The grave of James Waller Somers at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. It is located in Chandler Gardens (Section 12), just a short distance behind the J. Ross Clark family mausoleum.

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L. Frank Baum — The Wizard of Cherokee Avenue

Tuesday, September 5th, 2017

 

L. Frank Baum, the author of numerous children’s classics including “The Wizard of Oz,” left his impression on the world – in particular the literary and film world. Few people know that Baum spent the last nine years of his life living in Hollywood and was one of its earliest residents.

At his home, located at 1749 N. Cherokee Avenue (at the corner of Yucca), which he christened “Ozcot,” Baum wrote many of his best loved “Oz” books, including “The Emerald City of Oz” (1910), “The Patchwork Girl of Oz” (1913), “The Lost Princess of Oz” (1917) and many more.

Lyman Frank Baum was born in Chittenango, New York on May 15, 1856. After graduating from Syracuse Academy in 1880, he found newspaper work. Two years later, he married Maud Gage of Fayetteville, New York. Baum was the editor of the Dakota Pioneer of Aberdeen, South Dakota, from 1888 to 1890, and the Chicago Show Window from 1897 to 1902. During that time, he wrote books and plays. His first effort was “Mother Goose in Prose,” published in 1897.

Next, Baum joined forces on a children’s book with his friend and artist, W. W. Denslow. “Father Goose, His Book,” published in 1899, was a best-seller. One of the five books he published in 1900, also based on stories he had told his sons and illustrated by Denslow, was “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” which instantly broke sale records and made Baum a celebrity.

More Oz books followed, and over the next two decades he wrote over 35 non-Oz books under various pseudonyms aimed at various audiences. Always looking for new channels for his creativity, Baum became interested in films. In 1909, he founded a company to produce hand-colored slides featuring characters from his Oz books. These were shown while he narrated the story, and an orchestra played background music.

Frank Baum and his wife lived here at 2322 Toberman Street with their son Frank, when they first moved to Los Angeles in January 1910 (NOTE: This is a private residence, please do not disturb the residents)

In failing health, Baum and his wife arrived in Los Angeles in January 1910 to create his own fairyland. Their son, Frank, was living at 2322 Toberman Street. The Baum’s lived there before renting an apartment on Park Grove Avenue near downtown.

Wanting their own home, Baum found the sparsely settled village called Hollywood, which at the time, was mostly citrus groves. He bought a plot of ground and built a two-story frame house that he christened “Ozcot.” In 1910, the street was known as Magnolia, but was renamed Cherokee two years later.

On the second floor, he had a long enclosed porch with a view of the distant mountains, and downstairs there was a large sunroom where he grew flowers. He built a large bird cage, big enough for a zoo, where he had hundreds of rare and exotic song birds. In his garden he planted roses, dahlias and chrysanthemums. Before long, he was recognized as a champion amateur horticulturist in Southern California.

Even though Baum had traveled the world, he developed a great affection for his new home: “Travels through Sicily, Italy, or a winter on the Upper Nile, all have their attractions but from what I have learned by actual experience, none of these countries compares with Southern California. There is a charm in the very atmosphere, an indefinable something which attracts and holds,” Baum once said.

At the time of his move to Hollywood, he was working on what he hoped would be the last “Oz” book, “The Emerald City of Oz.” Baum continued to turn out children’s stories at an amazing rate. To avoid flooding the market with books under his own name, he did one series after another, for both boys and girls, under the pen names – Floyd Akers, Edith Van Dyne, Captain Hugh Fitzgerald, Laura Bancroft, Suzanne Metcalf and Schuyler Stanton.

Baum’s arrival in Hollywood, just a year before the advent of motion pictures, made it inevitable that he would be drawn into the fledgling industry. An earlier attempt at filmmaking in Chicago lost him a great deal of money, and in June 1911 he was forced to declare bankruptcy. However, with royalties coming in from his books, he was by no means a charity case. In 1914, a venture into the film business, the Oz Film Company, produced six movies but there were severe distribution problems and that effort also failed, though not as disastrously.

The Oz Film Mfg Co. located at the corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and Lodi.

The site as it looks today, only one block from Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Baum and his wife Maud lived quietly at Ozcot, gardening, writing stories, and answering the hundreds of letters he received from Oz-struck children.

In February of 1918, Baum took ill at Ozcot and was operated on at Angelus Hospital. Maud blamed his illness on the hard work of his newest novel, “The Tin Woodman of Oz,” which was due to be published in the fall.

Baum, now immobile due to his illness, was restricted to minor tasks throughout the day. The pressure and strain contributed to attacks of angina pectoris, as well as unpredictable gall bladder problems, and excruciating sharp pain jabs across his face.

In a coma for twenty-four hours, L. Frank Baum died at Ozcot at 7 p.m. on May 6, 1919, supposedly uttering his last words, “Now we can cross the Shifting Sands,” just a minute before expiring. Baum was survived by his wife Maud and four sons, Frank, Robert, Harry and Kenneth.

Baum’s funeral services were held at the Little Church of the Flowers at Glendale’s Forest Lawn Cemetery. Rev. E. P. Ryland, a close friend of the author, officiated and said of Baum: “He was a man who knew the heart of a child, and was a friend of men.”

The grave of L. Frank and Maude Baum and members of his family.

A quartet from the Los Angeles Athletic Club’s, Uplifters’, of which Baum was an organizer, sang several selections including, “Eternity,” with Harold Proctor as a soloist. The authors’ oldest son, Captain Frank J. Baum was in France at the time serving in World War I.

Two of Baum’s works, “The Magic of Oz” (1919) and “Glinda of Oz” (1920) were both published posthumously.

Maud Gage Baum continued to live at Ozcot and died there on March 6, 1953. After breaking her hip, she had been confined to bed the greater part of the last four years of her life. She was 91.

Ozcot was razed in the late 1950s and a non-descript apartment building replaced it. It’s doubtful that the current residents are aware of the literary history that occurred on this site.

Ozcot as it appeared in Baum’s life time.

 

The site of Ozcot as it is today.

NOTE: On August 15, 1939, The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland, premiered at Grauman’s Chinese Theater – only 3 blocks from Ozcot.

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