Posts Tagged ‘roger noble burnham’

The dream of sculptor Roger Noble Burnham

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017

Sculptor Roger Noble Burnham stands by his bust of horticulturalist Luther Burbank . (Los Angeles Public Library)

By Allan R. Ellenberger

The noted sculptor, Roger Noble Burnham, may not be a familiar name, but if you attended the University of Southern California, or are a fan of silent film star Rudolph Valentino, you are aware of his more famous works. Burnham created the well-known “Tommy Trojan,” the most popular unofficial mascot at USC. The following year, he was commissioned to create “Aspiration,” a memorial to the late Rudolph Valentino at Hollywood’s De Longpre Park.

Students gather around the base of the Tommy Trojan statue at USC in front of the Bovard Auditorium. The bronze plaque depicting Helen of Troy on the east side of the base is visible. (Los Angeles Public Library)

 

Burnham’s “Aspiration” — a tribute to silent film star Rudolph Valentino at De Longpre Park.

Other of Burnham’s works include the 12-foot bronze statue of Gen. MacArthur in McArthur Park; “The Spirit of ‘98” at the Los Angeles National Cemetery; the Scholarship Medal for the University of California, and he was a collaborator on the Astronomer’s Monument which  stands in front of the Griffith Observatory.

Memorial to General MacArthur. (By Jontintinjordan)

Burnham was born in Hingham, Massachusetts on August 8, 1876. With a Harvard degree in art history and architecture, he attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and toured with a theatrical company. Afterward, he studied sculpture with Caroline Hunt Rimmer, taught modeling at Harvard’s School of Architecture, and spent time in Rome and Hawaii before arriving moving to Los Angeles in 1925. There, he taught at Otis Art Institute until 1932. In addition, Burnham, a religious man, designed Christmas displays for the windows of a downtown department store.

But for all his works, two of his most beloved projects never were realized. One was to create a 160-foot “Neustra Senora, La Reina de Los Angeles,” that would overlook the city from the Hollywood hills. The other was to sculpture a colossal figure of Christ, to be sited above the Hollywood sign; it was entitled, “The Answer.”

The statue would depict a benevolent Christ with out swept arms and a gentle smile, standing 150 feet tall on a quarter-sphere 60 feet high—equivalent to a 19-story building. It would be finished in fused gold and cost about $250,000. To pay for his dream, Burnham spoke at local churches and planned to sell replicas of several sizes of his statue across the country. To envision his dream, in May 1951, the Los Angeles Times created a composite photo of the planned messianic statue.

Burnham’s vision for the total 210 foot “The Answer,” which he hoped would be placed on Mount Lee, overlooking Hollywood. The tower on the right is 300 feet tall and the letters of the Hollywood sign are 30 feet tall. (Los Angeles Times)

Sadly, for Burnham, his dream was never realized.

Roger Noble Burnham lived another decade and died in Los Angeles on March 14, 1962 at age 85.

 

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Valentino in the Park…

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

VALENTINO WEEK

DeLongpre Park

 

 

  

 By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

Developed in 1924 for $66,000, De Longpre Park is named after painter Paul De Longpre, whose celebrated home at Hollywood Boulevard and Cahuenga Avenue was the first tourist attraction in Hollywood.

 

On May 5, 1930 (Valentino’s 35th birthday), at twelve o’clock in De Longpre Park, actress Dolores del Rio drew back a velvet curtain to reveal the bronze figure of a man with face uplifted.

 

 

The statue, entitled “Aspiration,” was designed by sculptor Roger Noble Burnham and was paid for with contributions from fans and admirers. The inscription reads: “Erected in the Memory of Rudolph Valentino 1895-1926. Presented by his friends and admirers from every walk of life — in all parts of the world, in appreciation of the happiness brought to them by his cinema portrayals.”

 

 

 

A week later, neighbors, who insisted that they were not consulted on the matter (and that the only statue in the park should be of De Longpre himself), made an official protest. Regardless, nothing came of the matter and the statue remained. No more was heard of the statue until a few years later when a woman named Zunilda Mancini came forward, claiming to have donated $6,900 towards the statue, which actually cost only $1,500. She sued Valentino’s former manager, George Ullman in court and was awarded the difference of $5,400.

 

“Aspiration” as it appeared in the 1930s

 

The year after the unveiling, a fourteen-year-old girl was found on a bench near the statue. Police said she had been chloroformed and most likely sexually assaulted. She died at Hollywood Hospital without regaining consciousness. Three years later, on November 1, 1934, the caretaker of the park found the lifeless body of thirty-year-old Ann Johnston in a rest room just a few feet away from “Aspiration.” Next to her was an empty poison bottle. Since she left no note, it remained unclear whether her suicide was related to Valentino or, as the police surmised, was due to a nervous breakdown she recently suffered.

 

The statue has been the object of vandalism several times over the years. On February 2, 1952, it was found broken from its base and lying on the park lawn. Taken to the city service yard for repairs, it was not returned for nearly twenty years.

 

Close-up of repairs made in the 1970s

 

In July 1979 a bronze bust of Valentino sculpted by Richard Elllis and paid for from the estate of one of his fans, was mounted on a tall, white pedestal several feet from “Aspiration.”

 

 

 

 

 Bust of Valentino that has stood in DeLongpre Park for almost thirty years

 

Shortly afterward a group of concerned neighbors initiated a campaign to revamp the neglected park. To this day, “Aspiration” is the only monument ever erected to honor an actor in Hollywood.

 

Warning: De Longpre Park is surrounded by a metal fence and locked up at night. Please take reasonable precautions when visiting.

 

 

 

If you are in the Los Angeles-Hollywood area this Saturday, August 23, be sure to drop by the Rudolph Valentino Memorial at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The service is held at the Cathedral Mausoleum and begins at 12:10 p.m. – the time of Valentino’s death in New York. Arrive early as seats go quickly. See you there.

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 EMAIL: Hollywoodland23@aol.com

 

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