Posts Tagged ‘cecil b demille’

Jeanette Loff, the Hollywood Christmas Parade’s first guest star

Monday, December 24th, 2018

The Hollywood Christmas Parade, which takes place on Sunday evening in Hollywood, is its 89th year (except for three years during World War II) with Grand Marshall Mehmet C. Oz, M.D. and other celebrities, marching bands and of course, Santa Claus.

The ‘Santa Claus Lane,’ formerly Hollywood Boulevard during the Christmas season of 1928 at Highland Avenue.

The first parade, held on December 5, 1928, was known as “Santa Claus Lane” and featured Santa and Jeanette Loff (a last-minute replacement for Lili Damita), a Hollywood starlet. That evening, crowds thronged Christmas-tree lined Hollywood Boulevard (rechristened Santa Claus Lane) from Vine Street to La Brea Avenue. With Jeanette Loff, Santa Claus drove his reindeer-drawn sleigh east on the brilliantly illuminated course to La Brea, and returned over the same route.

The “parade” continued every evening during the Christmas season with a different prominent film player (Lili Damita showed up the following evening) each night.

Jeanette Loff poses on Santa’s sleigh for the first “Santa Claus Lane” parade in 1928

However, Jeanette Loff, the first starlet of what is known today as the Hollywood Christmas Parade, is probably little known today. At the time of the first Santa Clause Lane, Loff had appeared in twelve films since 1926, working her way up to costarring parts in Hold ‘Em Yale (1928) with Rod La Rocque, Annapolis (1928) with Johnny Mack Brown and Love Over Night (1928), again with La Roque.

Jeanette Loff was born on October 9, 1905 (most records claim 1906), in Orofino, Idaho to Marius and Inga (Loseth) Loff. Studio publicity claimed that her father was a famous Danish violinist, but he was in fact a barber and later a farmer.

Photo from Lewiston High School, Idaho in 1922. Arrow points to Loff.

Attempts by Pathe to make Loff a star.

After living for a time in Wadena, Canada, the Luff’s relocated to Lewiston, Idaho. After her high school graduation, the family moved to Portland, Oregon, where Jeanette enrolled at the Ellison & White Conservatory of Music where she learned to play the pipe-organ. When a local theater needed a pipe-organ player, Jeanette got the position. She worked her way up to playing at bigger and better Portland theaters.

Loff’s nude photograph by Edwin Bower Hesser.

Loff’s discovery in Hollywood is open to several versions. Whatever her introduction to films, in 1926, with her extremely wholesome looks, she earned a bit part in Universal’s The Collegian series followed by another extra part in Young April (1926) a film for Cecil B. DeMille’s company at Pathé, where she was put under contract.

DeMille cast her in two Westerns, followed by leading roles in the two films with Rod La Rocque. Over the next few years, she costarred in several good, but not outstanding films. At some point during her early career, she also posed for nude photographs.

Scene from The King of Jazz (1930).

Shortly after appearing as the first actress to ride in Hollywood’s premier Santa Claus Lane, Loff was brought to Universal to audition for The King of Jazz (1930), a possible million-dollar film they were producing. Executives were doubting their original choice for an important leading female role when producer Paul Bern arranged for her to audition. In the audition, she sang the number, “The Bridal Veil,” in a clear lyric soprano that impressed producers to give her the part.

In 1929, Loff’s parents had divorced, and her mother Inga and two sisters, Myrtle and Irene, moved to Los Angeles (her father, Marius, remained in Oregon until his death). That same year, Jeanette was also divorced from her first husband, traveling jewelry salesman Harry Roseboom whom she had secretly married in 1927. She reportedly had affairs with Gilbert Roland, Paul Bern–who tried unsuccessfully to cast her in a film–and lyricist Walter O’Keefe.

After making three more films over the next year, she grew tired of Hollywood and moved to New York, struggling to find stage roles, appearing only in the short-lived Broadway musical, Free for All, which closed after twelve days.

St. Louis Woman (1934), Jeanette Loff’s failed attempt at comeback.

In 1933, she returned to Hollywood when she heard that Universal was planning to re-release The King of Jazz. Thinking it would revive her career, she accepted the leading role in St. Louis Woman (1934) with Johnny Mack Brown (she also worked with Brown in Annapolis) for a poverty row studio. The film did poorly, but she made two shorts and three more films that same year, none of them money-makers. Her last film was Million Dollar Baby (1934) for Monogram Pictures.

From then on, she retired from films. In 1935, she married liquor salesman, Bertram “Bert” Friedlob. The following year, Friedlob produced Bert Wheeler’s Hollywood Stars in Person revue and included Loff in the cast.

Her marriage to Friedlob was rocky; he was a womanizer who had affairs with Lana Turner and many others.

702 North Crescent Drive, Beverly Hills where Jeanette Loff ingested ammonia. (PLEASE NOTE: This is a private home. DO NOT disturb the residents)

On August 1, 1942, Loff ingested ammonia at her Beverly Hills home at 702 North Crescent Drive; she was treated for mouth and throat burns at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital where she died three days later. Loff was only 35.

Jeanette Loff’s death certificate (click on image to enlarge)


The coroner was unable to determine if her death was accidental or a suicide. Reportedly at the time, she was suffering from a stomach ailment and accidently took the wrong bottle of medication.

However, wouldn’t she have noticed the ammonia smell? In any event, her death certificate called her death a “probable suicide.” Surprising, some in her family maintained that she had been murdered, but never publicly offered proof.

Jeanette Loff’s niche at Forest Lawn’s Great Mausoleum. Her sister Myrtle is interred with her. (Find-a-Grave)


Jeanette Loff, the Hollywood Christmas Parade’s first hostess, was cremated and interred at Glendale’s Forest Lawn in the Great Mausoleum (Protection Columbarium).

Bert Friedlob later produced several films including The Star (1952) with Bette Davis and Tyrone Power’s Untamed (1955). Friedlob died in 1956.


The Story of the Lasky-DeMille Barn

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013






This month celebrates one-hundred years since director Cecil B. DeMille arrived in Los Angeles and rented a barn in the sleepy village of Hollywood to make The Squaw Man.


By Allan R. Ellenberger


Paramount Pictures traces its beginnings back to the founding of Adolph Zukor’s Famous Players Film Company on June 1, 1912. In 1916, Zukor merged his company with the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company, and with the Paramount Distributing Corp., a subsidiary. The new studio became Famous Players-Lasky Corporation and their films would be distributed under the Paramount name. In 1927 the organization was reorganized under the name Paramount Famous Lasky Corporation. In 1935, the Famous-Lasky name was dropped and the studio officially became Paramount Pictures.


During Paramount’s acquisition of the Lasky Feature Play Company, the studio inherited an unpretentious, at least by Hollywood standards, wooden barn. The origins of that barn have had several incarnations. This is one version.


In 1913, Jesse Lasky, a thirty-three year-old vaudeville producer, knew very little about films and how they were made. What he did know was that the fairly new entertainment medium was cutting into his stage show business. One day as Lasky and his partner, Cecil B. DeMille were going over the plans for the 1913-1914 Vaudeville season, DeMille dropped a bomb on his friend and partner.  DeMille was having problems living on his royalties and his debts were piling up, so he told Lasky he wanted to quit Broadway and go on an adventure. There was a revolution going on in Mexico and he thought about going there. Lasky did not want to lose his best friend so he blurted out an idea that another friend, Sam Goldfish (he later took the name Samuel Goldwyn) had been trying to interest him in—the movies.  Suddenly Lasky made a suggestion. “If you want adventure,” Lasky told him, “I’ve got an even better idea—let’s make some movies.”


DeMille grabbed his hand and said, “Let’s.”


“A portion of the motion-picture industry was built on that one word,” Lasky later said.




From left: Jesse Lasky, Samuel Goldfish (Goldwyn) and Cecil B. DeMille



But Lasky had one condition. He had seen a four-reel feature starring Sarah Bernhardt called Queen Elizabeth (1912) which Adolph Zukor of the Famous Players Film Company had imported from France for exhibition. If they were going to do this, he wanted to “do it in a big way and make a long picture like Queen Elizabeth.”


After lunch they adjourned to the Lamb’s Club on West Forty-Fourth Street to discuss the details. At the club they ran into actor, Dustin Farnum and, while explaining their idea, asked him if he would star in a long feature they were going to produce. Looking around the room, Farnum saw Edwin Milton Royle the author of The Squaw Man. “You get Royle to sell you The Squaw Man and I might agree to join you,” Farnum told them.


After some discussion, Royle was open to negotiating so Lasky called Goldfish and told him “they were in business.”


The Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company was formed with Lasky as president, Goldfish the general manager, and DeMille would be the director-general. They each held a quarter of the stock and Farnum agreed to take the other quarter instead of receiving a salary. They paid $15,000 for the rights to The Squaw Man.


At first they planned to film it Fort Lee, New Jersey, just across the river from New York, but Lasky didn’t think that would satisfy DeMille’s penchant for adventure, so he suggested they go to Flagstaff, Arizona where he knew there were real Indians. “It did not seem necessary for us to go to the then new Hollywood, so we looked at the map and selected Flagstaff, Arizona, as a pretty good name for our producing town,” Lasky said.  


DeMille was agreeable but Farnum balked at the proposal. As long as he could live at home and work across the river he was willing to be paid off in stock, but if he had to travel across the country, he wanted his salary in cash. With the entire proposition on the verge of collapse, Lasky convinced his wife’s uncle and brother to invest and purchase Farnum’s stock. Reportedly, if Farnum had held onto the stock for eight years, he could have sold it for almost $2,000,000.


The new producers hired a cameraman with his own camera and they engaged Oscar Apfel to help direct the production. Lasky and Goldfish remained in New York and attended to the sales and financial details as DeMille and Farnum took the train west.


When DeMille finally arrived at Flagstaff, it was raining, so they boarded the train again and continued west to Hollywood. Once there, he sent a telegram to Lasky: “Flagstaff no good for our purpose,” DeMille wired, “Have proceeded to California. Want authority to rent barn in place called Hollywood for $75 a month. Regards to Sam. Cecil.”


Goldfish was furious. Lasky defended DeMille’s decision even though he was not sure it was the right one. After arguing for hours they finally agreed to let the company stay in Hollywood. “Authorize you to rent barn but on month-to-month basis,” Lasky wired back, “Don’t make any long commitment. Regards. Jesse and Sam.”


The barn that became their studio was located in a grove of orange and lemon trees on the southeast corner of Selma and Vine. Built in 1895, it was once a part of the estate of Colonel Robert Northam, whose mansion was located across the street where the Broadway building now stands. In 1904, Northam sold the estate to Jacob Stern, a realtor who, in March of that year, sold the barn to Harry Revier, a producer-director. In December 1913, Revier rented it to DeMille.


Remodeling the barn into a studio to fit their needs began immediately. The horse stalls were removed and the space gained was transformed into a storage area for equipment the company hoped to buy. The carriage stand was turned into offices, a projection room and a primitive laboratory. The washing block was surrounded by walls and called a vault and the hay and feed section was made into an office, shared by DeMille and Lasky. A 30-foot square platform was built to adjoin the barn on the south side. This platform, the company’s first stage, was covered with a sail rigged to a mast, which could be adjusted to regulate sunlight.


Shortly, DeMille wired Lasky that production was starting the next day. On December 29, 1913, DeMille ordered “camera” for the first scene of The Squaw Man. The excitement that the production was finally beginning convinced Lasky to come out to Hollywood.






When Lasky arrived at the old Santa Fe Station, he told a taxi driver that he wanted to go to Hollywood. “He gave me a puzzled look,” Lasky recalled, “but said, ‘Get in boss—we’ll find it.’” After conferring with other drivers at the Alexandria Hotel, they found their way over dirt roads, past endless orchards and the occasional farmhouse until they came to the Hollywood Hotel. Lasky introduced himself to the clerk and made inquiries about the film company.


“This is my first trip here and I’m not sure where our studio is located,” he told the clerk. “Would you please direct me?”


“I’m sorry,” said the clerk, “I never heard of it.”


“Perhaps I should have told you that the director-general of the company is Cecil B. DeMille,” Lasky stated.


“Never heard of him,” the clerk said. Disappointed, Lasky was leaving when the clerk called him back.


“Tell you who might help you,” he said. “Drive down this main road till you come to Vine Street. You can’t miss it—it’s a dirt road with a row of pepper trees right down the middle. Follow the pepper trees for about two blocks till you see an old barn. There’s some movie folks working there that might know where your company is.”


When Lasky heard “barn” he knew he had the right place. He found the barn at Selma and Vine with a sign that identified it as the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company. When he opened the door he heard someone say: “There’s the chief.” Outside there was a two-ton Ford truck with the company’s name inscribed on its side. When DeMille saw him, he grabbed his hand and gathered the company around and gave a speech of welcome. Afterward he had a photographer take a photo of Lasky and the company against the truck.




Cecil B. DeMille (right) directs a scene from “The Squaw Man”


DeMille finished The Squaw Man in three weeks, and Oscar Apfel took over the one stage for his production of Brewster’s Millions (1914), another successful stage play. Edward Abeles, who had starred in the stage production, was brought to Hollywood for the film, which was followed by The Master Mind (1914) and The Only Son (1914).


When The Squaw Man was released, Lasky received a telegram of congratulation from Adolph Zukor, then president of Famous Players. Lasky thought it was generous of him to do so and knew the value of the telegraphic dispatch so he asked Zukor’s permission to use his congratulatory message in their advertising.


Further improvements were made on the barn and the studio lot. In May 1914, electrical illumination was used for the first time to augment sunlight, when tow spotlights arrived from the East and were used in the production of Steward Edward White’s story, The Call of the North (1914). Meanwhile, the studio was expanding. The platform attached to the barn was outgrown, and a larger, open-air stage was constructed. This received the title of Stage Number One, and when the end of this stage was glassed over, Stage Number One became the pride of the studio and the wonder of Hollywood. Sheds extending from the Selma Avenue side of the barn formed the cutting rooms, carpenter and paint shops, and the first dressing rooms were constructed.


The first feature film to be made on this stage was DeMille’s Rose of the Rancho (1914). This picture marked a definite step forward in the life of the studio, for this was the first film which was shot, in part, on location away from the stages. At this period the first major influx of stars started. H.B. Warner, Max Figman, Theodore Roberts and Mabel Van Buren joined the Lasky forces. Dustin Farnum returned to the studio to star in the first film version of Owen Wister’s novel, The Virginian (1914), under DeMille’s direction. In the east, Marguerite Clark made her screen debut in The Goose Girl (1915).


Stage Number One was inadequate to handle the expanding production of the studio and a barley field to the south was annexed and Stage Number Two, an exact replica of Number one, was constructed. Soon a third stage was built, and then a fourth.






On June 28, 1916, the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company was merged with Adolph Zukor’s Famous Players organization, whose most important asset was Mary Pickford.  Zukor and Lasky combined forces and capital and purchased Paramount Pictures on July 19, 1916 and announced the formation of the $25 million Famous Players-Lasky Corporation, which included Paramount as its distributing channel. Zukor was elected president and Lasky was placed in charge of production.




The Lasky Studios looking southeast from the corner of Selma and Vine.

The barn is on the far left of the photo.


Within three years they acquired the entire block between Selma and Sunset on which the former barn was located. The barn was transformed into a small property room and the business offices were moved into a new administration building which extended practically the length of the entire block facing Vine Street. A new glass stage was erected 60 by 200 feet, and another glass stage of the same length. New carpenter and property construction shops were built 300 by 100 feet in size. The studio had extended its walls a full block.



An aerial view of the Lasky lot (center)


Further expansion continued and a vacant block on Argyle Street to the east was bought and was referred to as the “back yard,” containing fourteen garages and the street sets for outdoor filming. A new double deck paint frame was erected, eight times the size of the former paint frame, which at the time of its construction, was the largest on the Pacific Coast. Over 150 new dressing rooms were built for the stars, members of the organization and the extras. The studio also controlled the Morosco-Pallas Studios at Occidental and Council, and there, a new stage was built and the plant adjusted so that it could handle at least six companies.


Beginning with a total staff of fifteen, just three years after The Squaw Man was completed the Lasky Company now had nearly a thousand on its weekly payroll. It had a complete printing plant on the grounds, which was used not only for printing sub-titles, but for preparing all stationary and the like. From having two automobiles, one of which was the personal property of Cecil B. DeMille, the Lasky Company now had fourteen cars, as well as three trucks. At the rear of the garages a complete machine shop was erected and all repairs were made by an expert mechanic and his crew. A concrete building was put up especially for the housing of transformers for the electricity for lights on the stages and the adjacent outdoor lot.


A thousand-acre ranch near Burbank (now Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills) was acquired as a site for out-door action. It was on this ranch that the studio’s growing collection of horses, cow ponies and cattle were held.


On the studio’s twelfth anniversary, about 200 stars and well-known film executives attended and gathered in the old barn, now referred to as the “little grey home in the West,” for the celebration on December 14, 1925. Those attending included Ethel Wales, who was a casting director, secretary and, when needed, a leading lady; Mabel Van Buren, James Neill, Theodore Roberts, Dustin Farnum and others. Lasky was presented with a bronze tablet which was placed on the spot where the old barn stood.


A month later, Famous Players-Lasky purchased the United Studios a few blocks south on Melrose Avenue and Marathon Street, reportedly for $5 million. Lasky would move their operations from the old Sunset and Vine lot to the new studio on May 1, 1926. “Although our studio in Hollywood has long been considered the best equipped plant in the country,” Lasky said, “it is not big enough to take care of the productions which we have scheduled for this coming year. The United Studios has nine stages and its 26 acres will enable us to expand our activities to take care of the production program we have in mind.”


At the time there were no plans on what to do with the old lot, but Lasky was sentimental about the old barn and the studios beginnings, so he had it picked up and trundled over to the new location. In addition, the window frame that he used to gaze out from was removed and placed in his new private office.






Top: An aerial view of the new Paramount lot. Note at the top is

Hollywood Cemetery and the new Cathedral Mausoleum on the far right.


On the new Paramount lot, the old barn served as the studio library and later as the gymnasium. It became part of the studio’s western set, and a porch and railroad tracks were added outside. It was later used as part of the Bonanza television series set.  On December 26, 1956, the barn was dedicated as California Historical Landmark No. 554.




The dedication to declare the barn a California landmark. From left:

Samuel Goldwyn, Cecil B. DeMille, Jesse Lasky, Leo Carillo.





The barn remained on the lot until October, 1979 when Paramount gave the barn to the Hollywood Historic Trust, a cultural heritage arm of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Until a decision could be made on what to do with the structure, it sat in the parking lot of Dennis Lidtke’s Palace, just north of Hollywood Boulevard on Vine Street. For the next three years it sat there becoming an eyesore to the community. Even though money was raised to restore the historic barn, there still was no permanent site to be found.


When Jack Haley, Jr. wanted to film a television special at the Palace, he asked that the barn be moved. The Historic Trust offered to have the barn go to Universal, but preservationists knew it would become just another part of the studios tour. Eventually, Haley and Lidtke backed down on their request and the barn was allowed to stay until a site was found.




The barn on the move.


Meanwhile, Marion Gibbons, co-founder of Hollywood Heritage, and a board member of the Hollywood Chamber, proposed that her organization find the barn a permanent home. In May 1982, the Hollywood Historic Trust signed over the barn to Hollywood Heritage. They found a site on a grassy piece of land across from the Hollywood Bowl on Highland Avenue and signed the lease with the county on September 29 of that year. Gibbons and her volunteers finished painting the barn and getting it ready for removal from the Vine Street parking lot to the Bowl location. When completed, the barn was dedicated in December 1985 as The Hollywood Studio Museum.


After a fire in September 1996, the museum remained closed until July 1999 when it was renamed the Hollywood Heritage Museum in the Lasky-DeMille Barn. When in Hollywood, be sure to visit the old barn where much of the early history of film took place. The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday from noon until 4PM. For more information, visit their website at .





The movies arrive

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011


The Movies get moving



Early filmmaking in Hollywood (LAPL)


By Jim Bishop


Hollywood wasn’t always an open air asylum. It was founding in 1887 by retired bluenoses as a prohibition town. No drinks, no excitement.  A horse could not turn a corner at a speed greater than six miles per hour. It was a nice place if you were an orange.


Movies were unheard of in Hollywood, even in 1900. The flickering shadows were devised in a place called Fort Lee, N.J. It had forests, rocks, cliffs for cliff-hanging, and the Hudson River.


The movie industry had two problems. The weather was unpredictable, and Thomas Edison sued producers who used his invention. A romantic two-reeler could be made in three days for $1,000 if the rain stopped and if the process servers got lost on the Dyckman St. ferry.


The Selig Polyscope Co. heard from a director, Francis Boggs, that a tiny town called Hollywood, Calif., had everything. There was perpetual sunshine, palm trees, the Santa Monica Mountains for westerns, a beach for provocative mermaids, and an ocean for sea stories.


William Selig, the owner, went to see Edison. They organized the Motion Picture Patent Co. Selig was ready to go west. All he had to move were a couple of hand-cranked cameras, a director, a leading man and a leading lady, and a dozen unemployed actors.





In March 1909, Selig arrived in Los Angeles. He didn’t have to bring scenery. It was all in place. His two-reelers created envy in the East. In the autumn, Biograph and D.W. Griffith moved to Los Angeles. By spring, Pathé, Vitagraph, Lubin and Kalem had gone west.


Strangely, they not select the small town of Hollywood. The studios were in Glendale, Pasadena, Santa Barbara, San Diego and Santa Monica. It was not until 1911 that David Horsley moved his Nestor Co. west. The prohibition town, Hollywood, had an abandoned saloon at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street.


The prohibitionists learned too late that, while it was desirable to have no booze, Hollywood also had no water. The little town was forced to incorporate itself with Los Angeles. Local ordinances became invalid.


At the same time, the suburban towns yanked the welcome mat from the movie people. William Fox moved to Hollywood. Carl Laemmle bought the Nestor studio. Essanay and Vitagraph made it unanimous.


Mack Sennett shot his comedies at the beach or in the middle of the street. His actors pushed their way into public parades and skidded automobiles over dusty roads to create excitement.





Millions of people were paying a nickel a head to see these epics. Charlie Chaplin arrived. So did Harold Lloyd. A teen-ager named Mary Pickford was seen in a nightie, yawning and holding an automobile tire with a credo: Time to Retire.


The brought her out. And Mabel Normand, Tom Mix and William Farnum could actually ride a horse. So could William S. Hart. Movie plots became longer, more intricate. High-ceilinged studios were built. The prohibitionists left Hollywood in dismay. To them, it became a place of sin.


Cecil B. DeMille heard that Griffith had spent $100,000 on The Birth of a Nation, featuring the Gish sisters. He decided to spend more on sophisticated movies like Why Change Your Wife? and Forbidden Fruit.


The movie-goers admired certain actors. This led to the star system. In 1909, a star was paid $5 a day. Five years later, Mary Pickford was earning $1,000 a week. An English comic, Charlie Chaplin was paid $150 a week in 1913 by Mack Sennett. Two years later, he was getting $10,000 a week.


What had started as nickel theater became a gigantic industry. Some studios built their own theaters across the nation. Movies seduced the emotions of America two hours at a time—laughter and tears.


Where there is big money there are fights, consolidations and codes. The independent producer was squeezed out or bought out. Movie magazines, which pretend to purvey the private lives of the stars, flourished.


Pretty girls in Iowa and Maine were told “you ought to be in pictures.” They went out west and, with few exceptions, became hash slingers or worse. Hollywood became the magic Mecca of make-believe.


It was, in those days, a sparkling city of fame and light. Today (1979) it is smog and freeways, freaks and drugs, cults and sexual religions, front money and mortgages, stupendous hits and duds, economic knifings and gossip columnists, movie agents and press agents.


Baby, you’ve come a long, long way.



Toto the Story of a Dog

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011




Fans of the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz will celebrate the dedication of a full size bronze memorial sculpture of Toto, Dorothy’s beloved dog on Saturday, June 18 at 11 a.m. at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Blvd. To commemorate the event, following is a biography of Toto.



By Allan R. Ellenberger


The most indulged of all the spoiled lovelies of Hollywood during the Golden Age were the canine actors who worked in films. They had their own hotel—The Hollywood Dog Training School—where at one time, seventy-five of the best known dogs of the screen lived in tranquil comfort.


The school was set on a pleasant ten-acre site, covered with oaks and willows, near Laurel Canyon Boulevard five miles north of Hollywood. Three hundred feet back from the road stood a cream colored frame house and back of it were two kennels, each 150 feet long. It featured southern exposure, long runs to each kennel, a large grass playground, showers in each section, and several porcelain bathtubs with hot and cold water, an electric drier and a special kitchen where, every day, a tempting cauldron full of vegetable and beef bone soup was cooked for dinners of the distinguished boarders.



 Carl Spitz with dogs from his training school


The dogs, like all other actors, employed a manager—the amiable Carl Spitz—who drove as hard a bargain for his clients as any other agent in Hollywood. The German-born Spitz first took up the work of schooling dogs in Heidelberg where his father and grandfather were dog trainers. Spitz trained dogs for military and police service in World War days. He saw Red Cross dogs search for dying men in no man’s land—and he devoted his life to educating man’s best friend.


Leaving Germany, Spitz arrived in New York in 1926, moved briefly to Chicago and soon found himself in Los Angeles, where, the following year he opened his first dog training school at 12239 Ventura Boulevard. Sometime around 1935 he moved the facilities one mile north to a ten-acre spot at 12350 Riverside Drive, where he remained for almost twenty years. “This is a school, where dogs go to classes just like children,” Spitz said. “We have grammar school, high school and college.



 Above is the location of Carl Spitz’s first dog training school at 12239 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, CA



 Advertisement for Spitz’s school at his new location on Riverside Drive



At first his services were for the public but soon the movies came calling. The transition to sound films required Spitz to drop his verbal commands and develop a series of soundless visual hand signals.


His first sound film was Big Boy (1930) starring Al Jolson in which he trained two Great Danes. This one was followed by the John Barrymore classic, Moby Dick (1930). It was too expensive for studios to create their own specially trained dogs so Spitz suddenly found himself in big demand.


Canine stars soon began to emerge such as Prince Carl, the Great Dane appearing in Wuthering Heights (1939). The first big dog star to appear from Spitz’s stable was Buck the Saint Bernard who co-starred with Clark Gable and Loretta Young in Call of the Wild (1935). Others included Musty (Swiss Family Robinson), Mr. Binkie (The Lights that Failed) and Promise (The Biscuit Eater). However, probably the best known dog star to emerge from the Spitz kennel that is known today is arguably Toto from The Wizard of Oz (1939).



Clark Gable with Buck in Call of the Wild (1935)


Toto, a purebred Cairn Terrier, was born in 1933 in Alta Dena, California. She soon was taken in by a married couple without children in nearby Pasadena—they named her Terry. It soon became apparent that Terry had a problem with wetting the rug, and her new owners had very little patience with her. It wasn’t long before they sought the services of Carl Spitz’s dog training school in the nearby San Fernando Valley. Spitz put her through the usual training and in a few weeks she was no longer watering the carpet.


However, by the time her training was completed, Terry’s owners were late on the kennel board. Spitz attempted to contact them but their telephone had been disconnected. With nothing else to do, Carl’s wife suggested that they keep her.


Terry sort of became the family pet until one day Clark Gable and Hedda Hopper stopped by the kennel for some publicity on Gable’s new film, Call of the Wild. One of Carl’s dogs, Buck the St. Bernard, had a large role in the film and Hedda wanted some photos of him with Gable. That day Terry made himself known to the Hollywood people and Carl took note and the next day took her to Fox Studios to audition for a part in the new Shirley Temple film, Bright Eyes (1934).



Jane Withers and Shirley Temple with Terry in Bright Eyes (1934) 


Spitz put her through her paces—playing dead, leaping over a leash, barking on command—for the executives and was then presented to Shirley for the final say. Terry was placed next to a Pomeranian named Ching-Ching, who wasn’t part of the film but was Shirley’s own dog. Terry stood there for a moment, while Ching-Ching looked at her. Finally Terry rolled over, was sniffed and both dogs began running around Shirley’s dressing room. At last, Shirley picked up Terry and handed her to Spitz, grabbed her dog and skipped to the door. “She’s hired,” Shirley giggled as she left the room. Bright Eyes, which co-starred Jane Withers, would be Terry’s first film.


That same year Terry made another film, Ready for Love (1934) at Paramount. Next she appeared in The Dark Angel (1935) with Fredric March and Merle Oberon. Other films followed including Fury (1936) with Spencer Tracy; The Buccaneer (1938) for director Cecil B. DeMille and an uncredited part in Stablemates (1938) with Wallace Beery and Mickey Rooney.



Franciska Gaal with Terry in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Buccaneer (1938)


One day it was announced that MGM was going to produce L. Frank Baum’s children classic, “The Wizard of Oz.” Spitz knew that Terry was a mirror-image for Dorothy’s dog, Toto based on sketches throughout the book. So he began teaching her all the tricks from the book, and sure enough, in two months, he received a call from MGM for an audition.


Spitz and Terry met with the producer, Mervyn LeRoy who had been inspecting an average of 100 dogs daily for the past week. “Here’s your dog, all up in the part,” Spitz said to LeRoy when he submitted Terry for scrutiny. Terry could already fight, chase a witch, sit up, speak, catch an apple thrown from a tree, and took an immediate liking to Judy Garland. Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley and the rest of the cast were accepted on first acquaintance with the dog. On November 1, 1938, Terry won the role of Toto without a test.



 Judy Garland singing “Over the Rainbow” to Toto in The Wizard of Oz (1939)


Terry received a weekly salary of $125, which was more than the studio paid the Munchkins. Before filming began, Terry spent two weeks living with Judy Garland, who fell in love with her and tried to buy her from Spitz. Of course he refused. Judy’s daughter, Lorna Luft, once said that her mother told them that the dog had the worst breath in the world. “It all made us laugh,” Luft said, “because the dog was constantly put in her face [with its] silly panting, and she did everything but wince because poor little Toto needed an Altoid.”


Terry did everything required of her, although she hesitated at being put in a basket and standing in front of the giant wind fans, simulating a tornado. One day they were filming on the Witches Castle set with dozens of costumed “Winkies” when one of them stepped on Terry’s paw. When she squealed everyone came running including Judy who called the front office and told them that Terry needed a rest. Until Terry returned a few days later, they utilized a stand-in for her.


The remainder of filming went smoothly for Terry and even though she appeared in approximately fifteen films, The Wizard of Oz was ultimately her best known. When the film was released, Terry appeared along with the cast at the premiere held at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. She became so famous that her paw print brought top prices among autograph seekers. Soon she began making public appearances and became so popular, that Spitz officially changed her name to Toto.



Terry, now billed as Toto with Virginia Weidler in Bad Little Angel (1939) 


That year was a busy one for Toto. Besides The Wizard of Oz, Toto also made a cameo appearance in MGM’s The Women (1939) starring Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford and had a larger role in Bad Little Angel with Virginia Weidler. The next few years had her appearing in Calling Philo Vance (1940), Twin Beds (1942), and Tortilla Flat (1942), again with Spencer Tracy and Hedy Lamarr and John Garfield. Her final film was George Washington Slept Here (1942) starring Jack Benny and Ann Sheridan. That year Toto retired to Spitz’s huge facility on Riverside Drive until she died sometime in 1944. Even though several of Spitz’s dogs were interred at the Camarillo Pet Cemetery in Ventura, he chose to bury Toto on the school property.


Carl Spitz continued to train dogs. In 1938, he wrote a handbook, “Training your Dog,” which contained a foreword by Clark Gable. As far back as 1930 Spitz tried to get the Army to let him train dogs for war use. But nothing came of it. Finally in the summer of 1941 they took him up, in a limited way. Spitz agreed to furnish the Army fifty trained sentry dogs—at no cost. He delivered six, had twelve more under training, and already spent $1500 of his own money in the process.




Spitz trained the first platoon of war dogs installed in the continental United States just prior to World War II. He was an expert advisor to the War Department in Washington DC and helped formulate the now famous K-9 Corps for both the US Army and Marine Corps. He became prominent nationally as a dog obedience judge at dog shows. Carl Spitz died on September 15, 1976 and is buried at Forest Lawn in Glendale.



 Aerial view of the site of Spitz’s Hollywood Dog Training School on Riverside Drive. Toto was buried somewhere on this site.


Around 1958, the Ventura Freeway was being built through the San Fernando Valley and the route went through Spitz’s school, forcing him to relocate. Today the Hollywood Dog Training School is still in existence at 10805 Van Owen Street.


Sadly, not only did the freeway erase the school, but it also obliterated Toto’s grave.


It’s appropriate that Toto’s Memorial Marker is being installed at Hollywood Forever Cemetery this Saturday, June 18 at 11 a.m. Many of the people that worked with Toto are interred there including Victor Fleming, Harold Rosson (The Wizard of Oz, Tortilla Flat); Cecil B DeMille, Maude Fealy (The Buccaneer); Erville Anderson, Carl Stockdale, Franz Waxman (Fury); Arthur C. Miller (Bright Eyes); Sidney Franklin, Gregg Toldand (The Dark Angel); Ann Sheridan (George Washington Slept Here). She is in good company.



Oscar Winners at Hollywood Forever…

Thursday, February 19th, 2009


Academy Award Winners!



Janet Gaynor and Oscar

 Janet Gaynor the first Best Actress


By Allan R. Ellenberger


It probably comes as no surprise that there are many Academy Award recipients residing at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Many of Hollywood’s film pioneers rest there including several Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences founders such as, Douglas Fairbanks, Cecil B. De Mille, Jeanie Macpherson, Carey Wilson, Frank E. Woods, Charles H. Christie and Jesse L. Lasky.


Of those interred at Hollywood Forever, there are 45 nominees that received a total of 178 nominations. Of that number there are 33 awards that were received by 27 winners. The following are the recipients in the Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, and Best Screenplay categories and the Honorary and Irving G. Thalberg Awards.








Best Picture


The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)




Total Nominations: 3












Best Actress in a Leading Role


7th Heaven (1927)

Also for Street Angel (1928) and Sunrise (1927)


Total Nominations: 2



Janet Gaynor grave









Best Actor in a Leading Role


Network (1976)

Nomination and award were posthumous. Finch became the first posthumous winner in an acting category.


Total Nominations: 2



Peter Finch's grave



Best Actor in a Leading Role


The Story of Louis Pasteur (1935)


Total Nominations: 6



Paul Muni grave









Best Actor in a Supporting Role


The Life of Emile Zola (1937)


Total Nominations: 1



Joseph Schildkraut









Best Director


Gone With the Wind (1939)


Total Nominations: 1



Victor Fleming grave





Best Director


The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)


Total Nominations: 5



John Huston grave








(1) Best Writing, Original Story


The Story of Louis Pasteur (1935)

Shared with Sheridan Gibney

(2) Best Writing, Screenplay


The Story of Louis Pasteur (1935)

Shared with Sheridan Gibney


Total Nominations: 2





Pierre Collings grave



Best Writing, Screenplay


Mrs. Miniver (1942)

Shared with James Hilton, Claudine West, Arthur Wimperis


Total Nominations: 2



George Froeschel grave






Best Writing, Screenplay


The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)


Total Nominations: 8




John Huston's grave




Best Writing, Original Screenplay


Woman of the Year (1942)

Shared with Ring Lardner, Jr.


Total Nominations: 2



Michael Kanin




Best Writing, Story and Screenplay


Interrupted Melody (1955)

Shared with William Ludwig


Total Nominations: 2



Sonya Levien




Best Writing, Screenplay


The Informer (1935)

Refused to accept his award because of the antagonism between several industry guilds and the academy over union matters. This marked the first time an Academy Award had been declined. Academy records show that Dudley was in possession of an Oscar statuette by 1949.


Total Nominations: 4



Dudley Nichols












Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award






Cecil B. DeMille







Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award





Sidney Franklin's grave










Commemorative Award


Recognizing the unique and outstanding contribution of Douglas Fairbanks, first president of the Academy, to the international development of the motion picture (Commemorative Award).



Fairbanks tomb





Cinematographers, Composers, Film editors




Hollywood at Home…

Friday, October 17th, 2008

 Architectural Digest





Everyone knows the best distraction for the real problems of the world is celebrity culture, and rather than go check to see how the stock market is doing, let’s thumb through Architectural Digest, which has just published its Hollywood At Home issue. A shot of the still-on the market Cecil DeMille estate (chopped and now listed at $23.95 million) is available, while here’s the backstory on Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall’s old Benedict Canyon home:


“Previously owned by Hedy Lamarr, it consisted of eight rooms, stood on six and a half acres, and had a pool, a picket fence and eight coops, where the Bogarts kept an ever-expanding population of chickens, roosters and ducks. With the help of decorator Bill Yates, Bacall did most of what Movieland called the “interior planning” in a mixture of Dutch, Early American and French provincial furniture.”



Cecilia DeMille Harper’s Birthday…

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

Happy 100th Birthday

Cecilia DeMille Harper!


Cecilia DeMille

Cecilia,  an excellent equestrian is shown at a horse show in the 1920’s.


Cecilia DeMille, the only natural born child of director Cecil B. DeMille, appeared in some of her father’s films, including The Squaw Man, the 1913 production that is cited as Hollywood’s first major movie.



  • BORN: October 5, 1908, Orange, New Jersey
  • DIED: June 23, 1984, Los Angeles, California
  • CAUSE OF DEATH: After a brief illness
  • BURIAL: Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Garden of Legends (Section 8 )


Cecilia DeMille Harper's grave



Cecilia DeMille, C.B DeMille, Katherine and Mrs. DeMille

Cecilia DeMille, C. B. DeMille, Katherine, and Mrs. DeMille on the grounds of their home



Cecil B. DeMille on Wallace Reid…

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

Cecil B. DeMille Talks About…



Wallace Reid




Wallace Reid, one of  the outstanding stars of his time, was first brought to DeMille’s  attention in D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation (1915).


“He [Reid] played the part of blacksmith in the picture, and I was very impressed with the marvelous fight he put up. He was probably on the screen not more than seventy-five feet, but his magnificent physical strength and appearance was striking.


“However, Wally wasn’t very much of an actor in those days. He was stiff and rather wooden, and it was difficult to make him unbend. I sent for him and we had a chat. He was very much a kid, but I put him under contract fro a small amount, something like $60 or $75 a week. I gave him important leads to do and later public opinion made a star out of him.


“The first thing he did for me was with Geraldine Farrar in Maria Rosa (1916), then with Farrar in Carmen (1915), and later with the same star in Joan the Woman (1917). Then I decided to allow him to carry a picture, without starring in it, and I called the picture The Golden Chance (1915). Cleo Ridgely played opposite him in it, and it proved indeed to be Wally’s golden chance. It was a big success and Wally was a very big success in it.”

— Cecil B. DeMille


NOTE: I think DeMille had some problems with his chronology


The preceding is taken from an interview that DeMille gave the Los Angeles Times on August 21, 1932.