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Courthouse Wall of Fame

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Jan 10th, 2011
2011
Jan 10

FILM HISTORY

Wall of Fame recalled Star’s visits to courthouse press room

 

 

Above is the County Courthouse that was located at Temple and Broadway in downtown Los Angeles where the Wall of Fame resided in the press room. Notice the low granite wall at the bottom of the photo. Remarkably, portions of this wall still remain. (lapl)

 

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

The Civic Center in downtown Los Angeles is where several courthouses mete out their justice, sometimes to Hollywood celebrities. Before many of the building that now stands there were erected, there stood an old brownstone Courthouse located at Temple Street and Broadway. It stood for forty-five years until it was razed after being damaged in the Long Beach earthquake of March 1933.

 

When it was finally demolished in 1934, it took with it the old press room and its unique Wall of Fame and the signatures of stars, who for this or that reason had been in court, or the marriage license bureau. Scrawled in either pencil or crayon, one could find the names of Charlie Chaplin, Tom Mix, George Bancroft, Harry Langdon, Eugene O’Brien, Doris Kenyon, Ethel Clayton, Constance and Natalie Talmadge, Pauline Starke, Jean Harlow and Bebe Daniels. There were a lot more and each one had its own story.

 

Of course, not all the screen stars who appeared in court, inscribed their names on the Wall of Fame. Some, the reporters failed to corral; others could not be lured to the press room. There were some who flatly refused. Among the latter was William Powell, who had come with Carole Lombard, for a marriage license. Powell, when confronted by the wall, glared reproachfully at the reporters and demanded: “Gentlemen, isn’t anything sacred?” The reporters thought he was kidding until he turned and stalked out of the press room fairly oozing indignation.

 

 

 

 

Jack Hoxie was first to sign the wall and his signature was the largest. Oddly enough, Tom Mix’s name was one of the smallest and Charlie Chaplin’s was the hardest to read.  

 

And what did they appear for? Harry Langdon, asserting he had but $40 with which to pay $60,000 his divorced wife sought as property settlement. The case was dismissed and Harry was smiling when he signed the wall. Divorce also steered the Talmadge sisters into the press room. Natalie Talmadge was fighting Buster Keaton over custody of their children. Constance was a witness. The prolonged contests between Charlie Chaplin and Lita Grey Chaplin, also concerning the care of their children is well known. When the reporters tried to lure Lita to the press room she balked, saying she always wanted to know what she was expected to do before she went places with strangers.

 

Besides the signature of James Quirk of Photoplay magazine, was pasted the headline announcing his death. His wife, May Allison, also signed. Reporters tried to get Paul Bern to sign the wall when he and Jean Harlow applied for their marriage license, but both refused to visit the press room because they were “radiantly happy and in a terrible hurry.” A few months later, dressed in widow’s attire, Jean returned to probate Paul Bern’s will. This time she signed the wall.

 

Doris Kenyon, widow of Milton Sills, was considered by a majority of the court reporters, as the grandest girl to affix her signature to the Wall of Fame. They designated Polly Moran as “the hard egg with the soft heart.” Polly crashed the press room the day she appeared to legally adopt a 16-year-old boy she had taken from an orphanage when he was only a few months old.

 

One of the funniest incidents connected with signing the wall centered on Richard Barthelmess who was suing to recover securities alleged to have been misappropriated. His wife was with him and they consented to have a picture taken together. She sat in a chair and Barthelmess stood beside her. The photographer snapped his picture and after the couple had gone, remarked to the reporters: “I think I got a good picture of that dame but I had an awful job keeping that rube out of it, he was standing so close.” The reporters, on informing him that the “rube” was Richard Barthelmess, used language which allegedly made even the signatures on the wall blush.

 

 

Richard Barthelmess, his wife and family

 

 

The names of Ben Lyon and Bebe Daniels graced the wall as the result of the trial of Bebe’s lunatic lover.” Edna Murphy signed when she got her divorce from director Mervyn LeRoy. Gertrude Olmstead was a witness at the trial and also signed. The reporters recalled, however, that Gertrude was rather embarrassed by the ordeal of clambering on the table in order to write her name.

 

George Bancroft divided honors with Jack Hoxie as the most massive man to have perpetuated his signature. He appeared in court to contest an agent’s claim for $30,000 of commissions. Hoxie had been up on alimony charges.

 

Several of the signatures recalled the tragic death of Alma Rubens. They were obtained during the libel suit brought against Photoplay and James Quirk by Ruben’s mother, and included Eileen Percy’s and Claire Windsor’s. ZaSu Pitts was another witness, but would not sign. The reporters declared her to be the most “publicity shy” screen star they encountered. She also eluded the news-hounds when she divorced her husband, Tom Gallery. The Courthouse scribes were not certain which cases brought Tom Mix, Edwin Carewe and Mae Murray to the Wall of Fame, as their court appearances was so numerous. Legal battles over the Mix children and property disputes made Mix a familiar figure and both Mae Murray and Carewe were central figures in countless suits over property, contracts and other things. Pauline Starke’s court appearance was mainly due to the protracted battle with her former husband, Jack White.

 

The reporters captured director Robert Vignola and Eugene O’Brien when they appeared in court as character witnesses for a young man who had gotten into trouble and Stanley Fields immortalized himself by apprehending a burglar in his apartment.

 

 

Above a rare image of the Wall of Fame located in the County Courthouse press room 

 

 

Most of the females who signed the wall were space conservers. That is except Constance Cummings and Vivian Duncan, whose names stand out like sore thumbs. Cummings had just won a contract suit, while the half of the famous Duncan sisters won a divorce from Nils Asther on the ground of too much mother-in-law. Another signer brought to the wall by the divorce route was Lola Lane when she parted company with Lew Ayres.

 

Duncan Renaldo was the only signer of the Wall of Fame who had gone to jail, though this happened later than when he actually signed the wall. His name was obtained when he was the central figure in the alienation case against Edwina Booth, which came as the aftermath to a “location” trip to Africa.

 

Snub Pollard also appeared on the wall as did that of Lowell Sherman, whose matrimonial adventures with Pauline Garon and later with Helene Costello brought him into the press room.

 

When the fate of the old courthouse was sealed, the reporters lost interest in their famous wall, knowing it soon would be destroyed. The visitors of the last few months were not asked to sign. During the last two or three months there were many noteworthy eligible’s including Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, Estelle Taylor, Colleen Moore and Marian Nixon. Crawford was one of the last asked to sign, the occasion being her divorce from Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. She refused. The reporters asserted she was so nervous and shaky it was doubtful if she could have written her name of the floor, much less on the wall.

 

Signing the Wall of Fame grew to be quite a ceremonial and somewhat of an athletic function. It was necessary to step onto a chair and then mount onto a table in order to reach the designated spot and in addition to the gentlemen of the press, court attachés and sometimes the judges themselves would assemble to witness the event. In fact, gazing up at a movie star was really something to talk about afterward.

 

It’s too bad that the Wall of Fame could not have been saved or moved to another location. When the new courthouse was built, there was another press room, but it was never the same.

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Celebrity Christmas Cards

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Dec 24th, 2010
2010
Dec 24

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

Hollywood Christmas Cards

 

 (lapl)

 

By Alma Whitaker
Christmas 1928

 

Christmas Eve round the fire – opening joyous piles of Christmas cards. Perhaps not quite so many utterly luxurious ones from Hollywood this year – because, oh, well, the “talkies” and other things have marred the prosperity of a few.

 

Five beautiful religious ones. Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner (Louise Dresser) send an exquisite Madonna and Babe, with lambs, against a Holy Land background, the whole giving a church window effect. Mr.  and Mrs. Antonio Moreno, a blissful Holy Baby, seemingly sleeping in a celestial spotlight. Ramon Novarro an impressionistic version of the Madonna and Babe, outlined in heavy blue with golden haloes. John Boyce Smith, a white embossed view of the Holy Land, with camels and donkeys, palms and mosques, against a golden sky.

 

Lina Basquette, a snow mountain against a black sky, with two elongated emaciated sleighers floating down it. Doris Dawson, gilded Christmas trees against a turquoise sky and an unknown animal. Mr. and Mrs. Edmund Lowe, two elongated attenuated dancers on a few blue leaves.

 

Tec-Art Studios go in for heavy parchment, a terra cotta city and a palm higher than a church steeple. Billie Dove and Irving Willat send three emaciated reindeer racing down a black rainbow across a purple sky, with a yellow moon. Fanchon Royer’s card, red on silver, shows a very Mephistophelian gentleman apparently making offerings to some Christmas candles. Warner Baxter goes in for black and gold voluptuous architecture against a gray sky striped with red and gold.

 

Elegant simplicity is favored by Dick Barthelmess – white embossed crest on an expensive white background, and no vulgar originality about the greeting. Bebe Daniels has a gold crest on aristocratic gray, winged griffin rampant, motto, “Semper Paratus.” Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Goldwyn’s crest on gold and red is made up of a red S and gold G. Lois Weber and Harry Gantz send chaste open-work greetings in gold. William Cowan and Leonore Coffee’s crest is apparently a fist with a laurel wreath – motto, “Invictus maneo.” Estelle Taylor leaves Jack [Dempsey] off her cards and sends “Estelle” laced into a tulip leaf.

 

Now we come to the intentionally comic. Distinctive among these is a regular bill poster from James Cruze and Betty Compson, filled with naughty caricatures of their guests. That one deserves a story all to itself. Every kind of guest gets a dirty dig – the one who drinks too much, stays too late, sits on good chairs in wet bathing suits, makes tactless remarks, ruins flower beds, et al. Well, the only time they invited me, they forgot – and had already dined. I’m going to get a naughty one out on hosts one of these days.

 

Johnny Hines pictures himself playing golf and shouting “Fore” – “for good times”… which, really now, might be telling ‘em to get out of the way. Colleen Moore, made up as Topsy, is gazing woefully at us from a green card, and the greeting properly Topsyish – in Colleen’s own hand-writing. Katherine Albert sends greetings in ten languages – but no English. Francine and Morse Mason come violently cubistic and very nude. The Milton Sills send three pairs of socks on a laundry line – ostensibly belonging to Milton, Doris and Baby. Dorothy Yost and Dwight Cummings give us a Christmas scenario of ourselves. Ida Koverman could not resist a touch of politics – big candles, elephants, amongst the persiflage, on wrapping paper. Some of the other “comic” ones are a trifle labored, so we won’t expose them.

 

And then come the pile of the simple little ordinary cards – the kind I send myself. Some of them with darling little personal messages, all of them sweetly sentimental, some of them home-made – every whit as precious as the expensive, gorgeous ones. Most of those listed above are frightfully stylish, and came in envelopes as grand as the cards themselves. I counted fifteen that cost over 10 cents postage!

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Valentino Tributes…

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Aug 23rd, 2008
2008
Aug 23

 VALENTINO WEEK

Valentino Tributes

 

 

Today is the 82nd anniversary of the death of actor Rudolph Valentino. Dozens of fans will assemble at Hollywood Forever Cemetery at 12:10 pm to celebrate the memory of the man.

 

Upon the death of Rudolph Valentino, more than 100 tributes were published from the efforts of the publicity team formed by S. George Ullman and United Artists Studios. Not before or since has such an outpouring of reaction to an actor’s death been collected. All were issued within 24 hours of Valentino’s death by newspapers around the world, which chose only select ones for publication. The following are seven tributes from friends and collegues, all of whom are also interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

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NORMA TALMADGE

 

 

“Millions will mourn Rudolph Valentino but I know no spot in the world will feel his loss so keenly as here in Hollywood, where we knew and loved him.”

  

 

 

 

BEN LYON

 

 

“I am deeply shocked at his death. The motion picture industry has lost one of its most wonderful actors.”

 

 

  

 

 

 

MARION DAVIES

 

 

“The news of Rudolph Valentino’s death came as such a shock that I cannot yet believe it. I feel that with his passing the screen has lost a great actor and his associates have lost a great friend. He was a wonderful artist, a staunch friend, a fine, manly young man and a good loyal American.”

 

 

 

 

JESSE LASKY

 

 

“Please convey to Miss Negri and to Rudolph Valentino’s grieving friends my most sincere condolences. His death is an irreparable loss to screendom. His passing causes me to mourn the loss of a great artist, a true friend and an admirable man.”

 

 

 

 

ESTELLE TAYLOR

 

 

I cannot believe yet he is really gone. He was so young and strong looking. It is hard to associate him with death.”

  

 

 

 

CECIL B. DE MILLE

 

 

“In Mr. Valentino’s death we have lost a great artist. But fortunately we can look on death as progress and not as the finish.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

JUNE MATHIS

 

 

“My long association with Rudolph Valentino endeared him to me, as he has become endeared to everyone who knew him. My heart is too full of sorrow at this moment to enable me to speak coherently. I only know that his passing has left a void that nothing can ever fill and that the loss to our industry is too great to estimate at this time.”

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EMAIL: Hollywoodland23@aol.com

 

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