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William H. Clune at Hollywood Forever

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Apr 27th, 2014
2014
Apr 27

HOLLYWOOD FOREVER CEMETERY

William H. Clune: Pioneer theater and film producer

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By Allan R. Ellenberger

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William Henry Clune was a pioneer motion-picture theater owner, whose name is associated with the early days of film production. Born in Hannibal, Missouri, on August 18, 1862, Clune came to California in 1887. His interest in railroading ceased with the successful termination of a real estate venture, which provided him with sufficient capital to enter the field to which he devoted himself—the motion picture industry.

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Clune began with a film exchange in 1907 which distributed the films of the pioneer producers including the old Essanay, Edison, Biograph and others. While operating the exchange, he opened his first theater, a penny arcade on Main Street, in Los Angeles. This was followed by the building of Clune’s Theater on Fifth at Main Streets where the Rossyln Hotel now stands. His next venture was leasing the property on Broadway between Fifth Avenue, and Sixth Street, where he built Clune’s Broadway Theater. Then he took over the Clune’s Auditorium at Fifth and Olive Streets, later renamed the Philharmonic Auditorium. He also built Clune’s Pasadena Theater and Clune’s Santa Ana Theater. At one time, his chain included theaters in Los Angeles, Pasadena, San Bernardino, Santa Ana and San Diego.

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Clune’s Broadway Theater as it appeared in 1910… (Cinema Treasures)

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Clune’s Broadway Theater (later called the Cameo), as it looked in 1999 (lapl)

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Clune’s Auditorium, originally located at Olive and Fifth Streets

across from Pershing Square, is now a parking lot.

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Clune’s Pasadena Theater is believed to be the city’s first movie house.

The building, no longer a theater, still shows the original name. (hometown-Pasadena)

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In 1913, Clune and his wife Agnes sold their Pasadena mansion at 1203 Fair Oaks Avenue at the corner Monterey Road. The site is now a Pavilions grocery market. At this time, Clune separated from his wife and moved into an apartment at the Los Angeles Athletic Club at 431 West 7th Street. Agnes and their son James took up residence in another mansion at 314 South New Hampshire Avenue.

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In 1915, Clune assumed control of Adolph Zukor’s Famous Players Studios on Melrose. On the property, Clune built rental studios for lease to independent production companies.

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Clune’s Studio on Melrose (now Raleigh Studios).

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At this studio, Clune produced and filmed Ramona (1916), the famous book dealing with early California life. Following that, Clune made other films including The Eyes of the World (1917) from the story of Harold Bell Wright.

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William Clune stood out in motion picture production. In his room on the twelfth floor of the Los Angeles Athletic Club, many of the largest movie deals made were negotiated. Clune had faith in D.W. Griffith, and backed the director financially and agreed to exhibit The Clansman, which was later retitled The Birth of a Nation (1915) at Clune’s Auditorium where the world premiere was held.

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As the executive head of a chain of screen houses, Clune was an active and shrewd showman. For a number of years, he fought an enforcement of old city ordinances prohibiting electric sign displays. City bureaus complained against Clune’s electrical advertisements, but Clune refused to budge from his determination to “light up Broadway.”

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Clune liked to use electricity to “light up Broadway” much to the dismay of the city council.

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In 1924, Clune retired from the theatrical business, having sold all his theaters and leased his studios on Melrose to the Tec-Art Company. Retirement from film production did not mean retirement from active business as he had acquired large holdings in downtown real estate, dating back to 1900, and had many other interests.

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Shortly after noon on October 18, 1927, William H. Clune died of a stroke in his apartment at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. His body was taken to the Sunset Mortuary at 8814 Sunset Boulevard and he was interred in the Cathedral Mausoleum at Hollywood Cemetery.

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William H. Clune’s crypt (no. 994) in the Cathedral Mausoleum at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

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In addition to his other activities, Clune was on the regional board of the Bank of Italy, a member of the Brentwood Country Club, Jonathan Club and Elks Club.

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Clune’s estate was bequeathed to his son James, the president of Clune’s holding company. Thought to be a millionaire several times over, yet few were able to estimate his actual fortune. His wife Agnes, according to his will, was not named but received her share of the estate by a property settlement years earlier. Publicly, the only estimate of the value of Clune’s estate at the time said that it “exceeds $10,000,” but most experts determined that it was close to $6 million which in today’s exchange would be around $81.5 million.

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At the studios Clune owned on Melrose (across the street from Paramount), Douglas Fairbanks made The Mark of Zorro (1920) and The Three Musketeers (1921), Walt Disney rented space in the 1930s and the Hopalong Cassidy television series was filmed here, as were Superman. Robert Aldrich filmed Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and Ronald Reagan hosted Death Valley Days. In 1979, the heirs of William Clune sold the film plant and it became Raleigh Studios. The studio that William Clune created is believed to be the oldest continuously operating film studio in Hollywood.

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Raleigh Studios (the old Clune Studios) today…

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Eugene Plummer, the Last of the Dons

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on May 25th, 2012
2012
May 25

HOLLYWOOD HISTORY

Eugene Plummer, the Last of the Dons

 

 Eugene Rafael Plummer (Los Angeles Public Library)

 

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

He was straight of stature, succinct of speech, and as well-versed in nature as he was in the old days when Hollywood was not yet a dream and Los Angeles was a dusty pueblo.  Eugene Rafael Plummer, the man for whom Plummer Park in West Hollywood was named, was born in San Francisco on January 8, 1852. His father, John Cornelius Plummer  was a Canadian sea captain and his mother, Maria was half Spanish and half Irish, a mixture which gave the younger Plummer the fire and romance of old Spain and the devil-may-care temperament of the Irish.

 

When Eugene was 16, Captain Plummer moved his family to Los Angeles where he homesteaded 160 acres of land where the Ambassador Hotel once stood. He later acquired property which is now bounded by Wilshire and Beverly Boulevards and La Brea Avenue and Vine Street.

 

In 1828, the land that now encompasses Plummer Park was a part of the 4,439 acre Rancho La Brea, granted by Governor Echandia to Antonio Rocha. After several selling’s, the property was sold to Major Hancock in 1865 for $2.50 an acre. In 1874, Plummer acquired the official title to the Plummer Rancho which comprised 160-acres between Sunset and Santa Monica Boulevards and La Brea and Gardner Avenues.  

 

That same year, on the three acres of land that eventually became Plummer Park, Captain Plummer’s sons, Juan (John) and Eugene built their home, a typical ranch house.

 

 

Plummer House, the home of Eugene Plummer that stood in Plummer Park for over 100 years. (Los Angeles Public Library)

 

 

In the early days Plummer’s home was the only habitation from Hollywood to the Plaza district and rattlesnakes, cactus and bandits were his only companions. Later his home was the headquarters for the Vaquero Club, a group of adventurous horse riders.

 

In 1881 Plummer married Maria Amparo La Moraux and the couple had a daughter they named Frances. As a court reporter for 25 years, he would befriend the pueblo’s Mexicans and act as their interpreter in court cases.

 

As early as 1922 the acreage was unofficially called Plummer Park. Six years later options were offered by a committee of prominent bankers and businessmen to make it official. Plummer hoped to make around $25,000 from the deal but nothing ever came of it. In 1925 his wife Maria died and was interred at Hollywood Cemetery next to his father John.

 

By this time Eugene Plummer was Hollywood’s oldest resident and his homestead became its oldest residence. Each year he would host the old-timers picnic which was open to as many of Hollywood’s original residents that were still living.

 

Gradually Plummer’s debts continued to mount until he was forced into foreclosure. Ironically, Plummer once owned 142 acres where the Hollywood Bowl now is and sold it to a company named Burnoff & Teal for $2,400. In the 1930s that same area was worth millions.  In 1935 Plummer Park was registered as a landmark. Finally the county stepped in and acquired the Plummer land in 1937 for $15,000. Plummer was sad at the passing of his heritage, but never bitter.

 

Development of the park began the following year with the construction of a recreation building called the Great Hall/Long Hall at a cost of $65,000. The Spanish style structure made of stucco and a red tile roof included a dining room which seated 300 persons. The building also had a library and reading room. The patio adjacent to the kitchen would seat 600 and was shaded by three ancient olive trees.

 

One condition of the purchase was that Senor Plummer be permitted to occupy the premises as long as he lived. The county designated him as the historical guide for the park. Plummer Park was filled with a fine collection of rare trees and plants. One pepper tree had a branch growing out horizontally over seventy-five feet in length. The limb was trained by Plummer by keeping a horseshoe on the end of it for many years.

 

The old frame home built by Plummer and his brother in 1874 was now used as the headquarters of the Audubon Society and office of the park superintendent. A modern home adjacent to the parks property became Plummer’s new home where he lived for the remainder of his life.

 

 

 (Los Angeles Public Library)

 

In his later years Senor Plummer would sit beneath the shady pepper trees of Plummer Park, rolling cigarettes from loose tobacco or else break store-bought cigarettes into three lengths and smoking them a few puffs at a time in an old amber holder. Between puffs he would conjure up memories of the “good old days” for anyone who asked. Pepper trees were his favorites. “They kept the flies away,” he maintained. There was the time he chased a deer all the way up to what is now the corner of Hollywood and Highland and lassoed it. Nearby in a little arroyo he killed a giant brown bear after it had been gored in three places by a wild bull.

 

Once, in Laurel Canyon he shot an antelope on the hillside and then couldn’t find the bullet hole. “You scare him to death, senor,” said the old Indian who was with him. But it was later found that the bullet went right up the spine and lodged in the antelope’s brain. “Once in a million times,” said the Don concisely.

 

When Helen Hunt Jackson was writing “Ramona” she used to visit Senor Plummer at his home for advice on early day California life. “If anybody is Alessandro, I am,” he said once during an interview, “for I showed Mrs. Jackson how young Spaniards and Indians made love.”

 

 

Senor Plummer welcomes actress Ruth Roland and banker G. G. Greenwood to Plummer Park 

 

 

Plummer delighted in wearing a tan leather jacket given to him by his friend Buffalo Bill. Another of his friends in the early days was the bandit Tiburcio Vasquez, who was shot by authorities in 1875. Plummer’s presence at the park gave it an air that no other presence could.

 

The plan was to keep the park in its original state for a unique gathering place for groups and societies. Barbecues and songfests under the old peppers and the eucalyptus trees were planned as the whirl of Hollywood traffic sped by. Visitors were sheltered by the towering blue gums, the gnarled old olives and the gigantic cypress that Plummer planted with his own hand in the late 1800s. Besides the old ranch house, the servant’s houses, the old barns, the barbecue pit, the old windmill and the rodeo grounds, it became a chapter of the past brought into the present for the public.

 

Year after year Senor Plummer continued to enthrall and entertain the visitors to his park. To the last his mind and memory remained keen and filled with humorous memories. It was 69 years ago this past week that the Don suffered a heart attack in his home at Plummer Park. He wanted to remain at his hacienda with his collections of saddles, boots and guns, but friends convinced him to go to the hospital where he sank into a coma from which he never recovered. Senor Eugene Plummer died on May 19, 1943. He was 91 years old.

 

Rosary for Eugene Plummer was recited in the chapel of Pierce Bros. Hollywood Mortuary. Mass was celebrated the following day at St. Ambrose’s Church at Fountain and Fairfax Avenues. More than 300 persons, most of them descendants of some of California’s oldest families, attended the rites. Plummer was interred next to his father and wife at Hollywood Cemetery.

 

 

 The Plummer Family marker at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The names of  Plummers father and Eugene’s wife Maria are engraved. For whatever reason, Senor Plummer was never marked.

 

 

 

 

As for the Plummer House, it was known as the “Oldest House in Hollywood” and was designated as State Historical Landmark No. 160 in 1935. The Audubon Society continued to use Plummer’s old homestead to house their library and exhibits until 1980. Sadly, vandals set fire to it twice and ruined the Audubon’s library and exhibits. The house was almost destroyed and stood abandoned and filled with trash for over two years. It was almost razed. Happily the Leonis Adobe Association heard about the house’s fate and arranged with county to move the front part to the Leonis Adobe grounds. The house has since been repaired and restored and is now a Visitor’s Center and Gift Shop.

 

 

 The old house that Plummer and his brother built was moved to Leonis Adobe grounds in Calabassas

 

Plummer Park is once again in the news for the drastic changes that are planned by the city of West Hollywood. If you asked people who visit Plummer Park, or members of West Hollywood’s city council, who Eugene Plummer was, they probably wouldn’t know. Virtually nothing remains of the park that Don Plummer knew and loved and sadly there is only one plaque that mentions his name. Hopefully the new plan for the park will do something to correct that.

 

 

 

When in Los Angeles, visit Plummer Park at 7377 Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood.

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Edwin Carewe Marked at Hollywood Forever

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Sep 12th, 2009
2009
Sep 12

HOLLYWOOD FOREVER CEMETERY

Director Edwin Carewe’s grave is marked after more than 69 years

 

Edwin Carewe (with megaphone) directing a scene as Mabel Normand looks on

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

Recently at Hollywood Forever, I discovered that the grave of director Edwin Carewe had a grave stone installed after more than 69 years of being unmarked. I don’t know who marked him but it is always great news when someone that has been forgotten finally gets identified with a marker. The director, who discovered Dolores Del Rio and many other famous stars, died in Hollywood on January 22, 1940 from an apparent heart attack.

 

Edwin Carewe was born Jay Fox in Gainesville, Texas on March 5, 1883. He attended the University of Texas and the University of Missouri majoring in dramatics. Early in his career when his flair for acting was expressed, a fellow New York actor suggested that he change his name, thinking that Fox was not good professionally. So he took the name Edwin from his favorite actor, Edwin Booth, and for his last name chose to use that of a character that he was playing in stock.

 

Carewe’s first stage experience was with the Dearborn Stock Company and he made his debut on Broadway with Chauncey Olcott. He appeared in plays with such stage actors as Otis Skinner, Rose Coghlan and Laurette Taylor in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles. Later, he entered motion pictures in 1912 with the Lubin Company.

 

 

Ramona

 

 

As a director, he produced such films as Resurrection (1927), Ramona (1928), Revenge (1928), Evangeline (1929), and The Spoilers (1930), winning fame for its realistic fight scenes. Besides Del Rio, he encouraged the talents of Warner Baxter, Wallace Beery, Francis X. Bushman and Gary Cooper. His brother, Finis Fox (1884-1949), wrote many of his scenarios.

 

Over his career, Carewe directed films for Metro, Paramount, First National, Fox and others and at one time had his own lot, Tec-Art, on Melrose Avenue, opposite Paramount, where he made his biggest successes.

 

In 1925, he and actress Mary Aikin (whom he also discovered), eloped to Mexico. There he met Jaime Del Rio and his wife Dolores. He suggested that she return with him to Hollywood for a screen career. Carewe helped Dolores Del Rio become one of the biggest stars in silent films.

 

At one time Carewe was considered a millionaire. His percentage on Ramona and Resurrection, both with Del Rio, was close to $400,000. However he lost most of his fortune in a Texas garbage disposal deal.

 

Carewe’s health began to fail in July 1939 when he had a heart attack while driving his car and was taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital. Not wishing to remain in the hospital, his doctor’s would only allow him to leave if someone was constantly with him. He agreed to move to 5603 Lexington Avenue in Hollywood into an apartment across the hall from his nephew, Winston Platt.

 

 

5603 Lexington Ave., Hollywood

Edwin Carewe died in his apartment here at 5603 Lexington Avenue, Hollywood. 

 

 

On January 22, 1940, a doctor was summoned to Carewe’s apartment and administered a sedative to him around 4 a.m. Carewe fell asleep and Platt stretched out on a couch in the next room. At 8 a.m. Platt was awakened and found his uncle dead.

 

Funeral services were conducted at the Pierce Brothers Mortuary (across from Hollywood Cemetery) by Rev. Willsie Martin of the Wilshire Blvd. Methodist Episcopal Church. More than 200 of Carewe’s friends gathered to pay their final farewell.

 

Among those who attended were Dolores Del Rio, garbed in black, who sat in front with her husband, Cedric Gibbons, the art director at MGM. She sobbed throughout the rites.

 

On the whole, the chapel was filled with property men, electricians, cameramen, carpenters, grips, painters, other technicians and friends who made up the director’s crews when he was filming. Others who were present included Charles Murray, Guido Orlando, Rex Lease, Eddie Silton, William Farnum, Ivy Wilson, Wilford Lucas, James Gordon, Hank Mann, Roland Drew, George Renault, John Le Roy Johnston, John Boles and John Hintz.

 

In the ceremony and eulogy, Dr. Martin touched briefly on his pioneer endeavors in films and his making of Are We Civilized? (1934), his final film.

 

“He never failed a friend, he never carried bitterness in his heart and he was generous to a fault – a great attribute,” Martin said. “He was a man who never quit, a test of a thorough bred.”

 

Besides his widow, Mary Aiken, Carewe left five children, Sally Ann, William Edwin, Carol Lee, Rita and Mary Jane and two brothers, Finis and Wallace Fox.

 

After his interment at Hollywood Cemetery in 1940, Carewe’s grave went unmarked – until recently when an unknown benefactor placed a stone there.

  

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 Edwin Carewe’s new grave marker at Hollywood Forever

 

Edwin Carewe’s grave is located in Section One, Grave 471, in the northeast part of the cemetery, very near to the east wall, in the same area as Flora Finch.

 

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