Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Motion Pictures Production Code (1930)

March 31, 1930 – The Motion Pictures Production Code is instituted, imposing strict guidelines on the treatment of sex, crime, religion and violence in film for the next thirty eight years.

The Motion Picture Production Code was the set of industry censorship guidelines which governed the production of the vast majority of United States motion pictures released by major studios from 1930 to 1968. It was originally popularly known as the Hays Code, after its creator, Will H. Hays.

The Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors Association (MPPDA), which later became the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), adopted the code in 1930, began effectively enforcing it in 1934, and abandoned it in 1968, in favor of the subsequent MPAA film rating system. The Production Code spelled out what was acceptable and what was unacceptable content for motion pictures produced for a public audience in the United States.

The office enforcing it was originally popularly called the Breen Office, named after its first administrator, Joseph I. Breen.

Provisions of the Code

The Production Code enumerated three "General Principles" as follows:

1.No picture shall be produced that will lower the moral standards of those who see it. Hence the sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil or sin.
2.Correct standards of life, subject only to the requirements of drama and entertainment, shall be presented.
3.Law, natural or human, shall not be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy be created for its violation.

Specific restrictions were spelled out as "Particular Applications" of these principles:

Nakedness and suggestive dances were prohibited.

The ridicule of religion was forbidden, and ministers of religion were not to be represented as comic characters or villains.

The depiction of illegal drug use was forbidden, as well as the use of liquor, "when not required by the plot or for proper characterization".

Methods of crime (e.g. safe-cracking, arson, smuggling) were not to be explicitly presented.

References to alleged sex perversion (such as homosexuality) and venereal disease were forbidden, as were depictions of childbirth.

The language section banned various words and phrases that were considered to be offensive.

Murder scenes had to be filmed in a way that would discourage imitations in real life, and brutal killings could not be shown in detail. "Revenge in modern times" was not to be justified.

The sanctity of marriage and the home had to be upheld. "Pictures shall not imply that low forms of sex relationship are the accepted or common thing". Adultery and illicit sex, although recognized as sometimes necessary to the plot, could not be explicit or justified and were not supposed to be presented as an attractive option.

Portrayals of miscegenation (inter-racial marriage and procreation) were forbidden.

"Scenes of Passion" were not to be introduced when not essential to the plot. "Excessive and lustful kissing" was to be avoided, along with any other treatment that might "stimulate the lower and baser element".

The flag of the United States was to be treated respectfully, and the people and history of other nations were to be presented "fairly".

The treatment of "Vulgarity", defined as "low, disgusting, unpleasant, though not necessarily evil, subjects" must be "subject to the dictates of good taste". Capital punishment, "third-degree methods", cruelty to children, animals, prostitution and surgical operations were to be handled with similar sensitivity.


Before the Production Code

City and state censorship ordinances are as old as the movies themselves. However, after the United States Supreme Court ruled in 1915 (Mutual Film Corporation v. Industrial Commission of Ohio) that motion pictures were merely a business and not an art form, and thus not covered by the First Amendment, such ordinances banning the public exhibition of "immoral" films proliferated. The movie studios feared that federal regulations were not far off.

In the early 1920s, three major scandals rocked Hollywood: the manslaughter trials of comedy star Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, who was charged with being responsible for the death of actress Virginia Rappe at a wild party in San Francisco during Labor Day weekend of 1921; the murder of director William Desmond Taylor in February 1922 and the revelations regarding his bisexuality; and the drug-related death of popular actor Wallace Reid in January 1923.

Other allegedly drug-related deaths of stars Olive Thomas, Barbara La Marr, Jeanne Eagels, and Alma Rubens resulted in persistent calls for censorship and "cleaning up" of Hollywood through the 1920s. These stories were sensationalized in the press and grabbed headlines across the country. They appeared to confirm a widespread perception that many Americans had of Hollywood — that it was "Sin City".

Public outcry over perceived immorality in Hollywood and the movies, as well as the growing number of city and state censorship boards, led to the creation in 1922 of the Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors Association (which became the Motion Picture Association of America in 1945), an industry trade and lobby organization. The association was headed by Will H. Hays, a well-connected Republican lawyer who had previously been United States Postmaster General and the 1920 campaign manager for President Warren G. Harding. Hays immediately banned Fatty Arbuckle from the movies and instituted a morality clause to apply to anyone working in films. He also derailed attempts to institute federal censorship over the movies.

In 1927 Hays compiled a list of subjects, culled from his experience with the various U.S. censorship boards, which he felt Hollywood studios would be wise to avoid. He called this list "the formula" but it was popularly known as the "don'ts and be carefuls" list around town. In 1930 Hays created the Studio Relations Committee (SRC) to implement his censorship code, but the SRC lacked any real enforcement capability.

1930 to 1934

The advent of talking pictures in 1927 led to a perceived need for further enforcement. Martin Quigley, the publisher of a Chicago-based motion picture trade newspaper, began lobbying for a more extensive code that not only listed material that was inappropriate for the movies, but also contained a moral system that the movies could help to promote — specifically a system based on Catholic theology.[1] He recruited Father Daniel Lord, a Jesuit priest and instructor at Saint Louis University, to write such a code and on March 31, 1930 the board of directors of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association adopted it formally. This original version became popularly known as the Hays Code, but both it and its subsequent revisions are now generally referred to as the Production Code.

However, Depression economics and changing social mores resulted in the studios producing racier fare that the Code, lacking an aggressive enforcement body, was unable to redress. This era is known as Pre-Code Hollywood.


In response to such movies as Warner Brothers' Baby Face (starring Barbara Stanwyck) and Paramount Pictures' I'm No Angel (starring and written by Mae West), Quigley and Joseph I. Breen, Will Hays's Los Angeles-based assistant, enlisted the Catholic Church to exert pressure on the Hollywood studios. They helped spearhead the creation of the Catholic Legion of Decency as well as boycotts and blacklists of the movies throughout the country.

An amendment to the Code, adopted on June 13, 1934, established the Production Code Administration (PCA), and required all films released on or after July 1 1934 to obtain a certificate of approval before being released. The first film to receive an MPPDA seal of approval was The World Moves On. For more than thirty years following, virtually all motion pictures produced in the United States adhered to the code.[2] The Production Code was not created or enforced by federal, state, or city government. In fact, the Hollywood studios adopted the code in large part in the hopes of avoiding government censorship, preferring self-regulation to government regulation.

The enforcement of the Production Code led to the dissolution of many local censorship boards. Meanwhile, the U.S. Customs Department prohibited the importation of the Czech film Ecstasy (1933), starring an actress soon to be known as Hedy Lamarr, an action which was upheld on appeal.

In 1934, Joseph I. Breen (1888–1965) was appointed head of the new Production Code Administration (PCA). Under Breen's leadership of the PCA, which lasted until his retirement in 1954, enforcement of the Production Code became rigid and notorious. Breen's power to change scripts and scenes angered many writers, directors, and Hollywood moguls. The PCA had two offices, one in Hollywood, and the other in New York City. Films approved by the New York PCA office were issued certificate numbers that began with a zero.

Breen influenced the production of Casablanca, objecting to any explicit reference to Rick and Ilsa having slept together in Paris, and to mentioning that Captain Renault extorted sexual favors from his supplicants. However, both remained strongly implied in the finished version.[3] Adherence to the code also ruled out in advance any possibility of the film ending with Rick and Ilsa consummating their adulterous love, effectively making inevitable the ending with Rick's noble renunciation, one of Casablanca's most famous scenes.[4]

The first major instance of censorship under the Production Code involved the 1934 film Tarzan and His Mate, in which brief nude scenes involving a body double for actress Maureen O'Sullivan were edited out of the master negative of the film. Another famous case of enforcement involved the 1943 western The Outlaw, produced by Howard Hughes. The Outlaw was denied a certificate of approval and kept out of theaters for years because the film's advertising focused particular attention on Jane Russell's breasts. Hughes eventually persuaded Breen that the breasts did not violate the code and the film could be shown.

Some films produced outside the mainstream studio system during this time did flout the conventions of the code, such as Child Bride (1938), which featured a nude scene involving 12-year-old actress Shirley Mills. Even cartoon sex symbol Betty Boop had to change from being a flapper, and began to wear an old-fashioned housewife skirt.

The Code began to weaken in the late 1940s, when the formerly taboo subjects of rape and miscegenation were allowed in Johnny Belinda (1948) and Pinky (1949), respectively. The Moon Is Blue caused controversy due to director Otto Preminger's insistence on keeping "virgin", a word not used in Hollywood films since the early 1930s, in the script. The film eventually was nominated for several Academy Awards.

Kings Row

The character of Cassandra (Betty Field) posed a challenge for Warner Brothers because of incest and promiscuity in the novel Kings Row.A film adaptation of Henry Bellamann's controversial 1940 novel, Kings Row, presented problems for producers at Warner Brothers because of the Production Code. The novel contained significant sexual content, including references to incest, as well as euthanasia and the sadism of one of its principal characters, the town physician. It was initially believed that the Code made a movie adaptation of the novel impossible.[5] Joseph I. Breen, director of the Production Code Authority, which administered the Production Code, wrote to the producers that "To attempt to translate such a story to the screen, even though it would be re-written to conform to the provisions of the Production Code is, in our judgment, a very questionable undertaking from the standpoint of the good and welfare of this industry".[5] Breen objected to "illicit sexual relationships" between characters in the movie "without sufficient compensating moral values", and also objected to "the general suggestion of loose sex...which carries throughout the entire script".[6] Breen said that any screenplay, no matter how well done, would likely bring condemnation of the film industry "from decent people everywhere" because of "the fact that it stems from so thoroughly questionable a novel. He said that the script was being referred to his superior, Will Hays, "for a decision as to the acceptability of any production based upon the novel, Kings Row".[7]

Screenwriter Casey Robinson, producer Hal B. Wallis and associate producer David Lewis[7] met with Breen to resolve these issues, with Wallis saying that the film would "illustrate how a doctor could relieve the internal destruction of a stricken community". Breen said that his office would approve the film if all references to incest, nymphomania, euthanasia and homosexuality, which had been suggested in the novel, be removed. All references to nude bathing were to be eliminated and "the suggestion of a sex affair between Randy and Drake will be eliminated entirely". It was agreed that Dr. Tower would know about the affair between Cassandra and Parris, and "that this had something to do with his killing of the girl".[7] After several drafts were rejected, Robinson was able to satisfy Breen. The film was released in February 1942.[5]

Political Censorship

When Warner Bros wanted to make a film about concentration camps in Nazi Germany, the production office forbade it, with threats to take the matter to the federal government if they proceeded with making it. This policy prevented a number of anti-Nazi films being produced. In 1938, the FBI unearthed and prosecuted a Nazi spy ring, subsequently allowing Warner Bros to produce Confessions of a Nazi Spy.[8]

The 1950s and early 1960s

Hollywood worked within the confines of the Production Code until the late 1950s, by which time the "Golden Age of Hollywood" had ended, and the movies were faced with very serious competitive threats. The first threat came from a new technology, television, which did not require Americans to leave their house to watch moving pictures. Hollywood needed to offer the public something it could not get on television, which itself was under an even more restrictive censorship code.

In addition to the threat of television, there was also increasing competition from foreign films, like Vittorio de Sica's Bicycle Thieves (1948), the Swedish film Hon dansade en sommar (English title: One Summer of Happiness) (1951), and Ingmar Bergman's Sommar med Monika (Summer with Monika) (1953). For De Sica's film, there was a censorship controversy when the MPAA demanded a scene where the lead characters talk to the prostitutes of a brothel be removed, regardless of the fact that there is no sexual or provocative activity. The Swedish films were the first to include nude love scenes, and made an international sensation.

Vertical integration in the movie industry had been found to violate anti-trust laws, and studios had been forced to give up ownership of theatres by the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc. (1948). The studios had no way to keep foreign films out, and foreign films were not bound by the Production Code. The anti-trust rulings also helped pave the way for independent art houses that would show films created by people such as Andy Warhol and others working outside the studio system.

Finally, a boycott from the Legion of Decency no longer guaranteed a commercial failure, and thus the Code prohibitions began to vanish when Hollywood producers ignored the Code and were still able to earn profits.

The MPAA revised the code in 1951, not to make it more flexible but to make it more rigid. The 1951 revisions spelled out more words and subjects that were prohibited, and no doubt increased the opposition of movie-makers to the code.

In 1952, in the case of Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overruled its 1915 decision and held that motion pictures were entitled to First Amendment protection, so that the New York State Board of Regents could not ban The Miracle, a short film that was one half of L'Amore (1948), an anthology film directed by Roberto Rossellini. Film distributor Joseph Burstyn released the film in the U.S. in 1950, and the case became known as the "Miracle Decision" due to its connection to Rossellini's film. That in turn reduced the threat of government regulation that justified the Production Code, and the PCA's powers over the Hollywood industry were greatly reduced.[9]

At the forefront of contesting the code was director Otto Preminger, whose films violated the code repeatedly in the 1950s. His 1953 film The Moon is Blue, about a young woman who tries to play two suitors off against each other by claiming that she plans to keep her virginity until marriage, was the first film to use the words "virgin", "seduce" and "mistress", and it was released without a certificate of approval. He later made The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) which portrayed the prohibited subject of drug abuse, and Anatomy of a Murder (1959) which dealt with rape. Preminger's films were direct assaults on the authority of the Production Code and, since they were successful, hastened its abandonment.

In 1954 Joseph Breen retired and Geoffrey Shurlock was appointed as his successor. Variety noted "a decided tendency towards a broader, more casual approach" in the enforcement of the code.

By the late 1950s increasingly explicit films began to appear, such as Anatomy of a Murder (1959), Suddenly Last Summer (1959), Some Like It Hot (1959), and The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1961). The MPAA reluctantly granted the seal of approval for these films, but not until certain cuts were made. Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot (1959) was released without a certificate of approval due to its themes and became box office hits, and as a result further weakened the authority of the code.

In the early 1960s films began to deal with adult subjects and sexual matters that had not been seen in Hollywood films since the early 1930s. The MPAA reluctantly granted the seal of approval for these films, again not until certain cuts were made. The Code was finally abandoned in 1967. In that year, Warner Brothers wanted to release the new film Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. When Jack Valenti became President of the MPAA in 1966, he was faced with censoring the film's explicit language. Valenti negotiated a compromise: the word "screw" was removed but other language remained, including the phrase "hump the hostess". The film received Production Code approval despite this prohibited language.

The Pawnbroker and the end of the Code

In the early 1960s, British films such as Victim (1961), A Taste of Honey (1961) and The Leather Boys (1963) offered a daring social commentary about gender roles and homosexuality, that violated the Hollywood Production Code, yet the films were still released in America. The American gay rights, civil rights, and youth movements prompted a reevaluation of the depiction of themes of race, class, gender, and sexuality that had been restricted by the Code.

In 1964, the Holocaust film The Pawnbroker, directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Rod Steiger, was initially rejected because of two scenes in which the actresses Linda Geiser and Thelma Oliver fully expose their breasts, and because of a sex scene between Oliver and Jaime Sánchez which it described as "unacceptably sex suggestive and lustful". Despite the rejection, the film's producers arranged for Allied Artists to release the film without the Production Code seal, with the New York censors licensing The Pawnbroker without the cuts demanded by Code administrators. The producers also appealed the rejection to the Motion Picture Association of America.[10]

On a 6-3 vote, the MPAA granted the film an "exception" conditional on "reduction in the length of the scenes which the Production Code Administration found unapprovable". The exception to the code was granted as a "special and unique case", and was described by The New York Times at the time as "an unprecedented move that will not, however, set a precedent".[11] The requested reductions of nudity were minimal; the outcome was viewed in the media as a victory for the film's producers.[10]

The Pawnbroker was the first film featuring bare breasts to receive Production Code approval. In his 2008 study of films during that era, Pictures at a Revolution, author Mark Harris wrote that the MPAA's action was "the first of a series of injuries to the Production Code that would prove fatal within three years".[11]

The British-produced, but American financed film Blowup (1966) presented a different problem. After the film was denied Production Code approval, MGM released it anyway, the first instance of an MPAA member company distributing a film that didn't have an approval certificate. There was little the MPAA could do about it.

Enforcement had become impossible, and the Production Code was abandoned entirely. The MPAA began working on a rating system, under which film restrictions would lessen. The MPAA film rating system went into effect on November 1, 1968 with four ratings: G, M, R, and X. In 1969, the Swedish film I Am Curious (Yellow) directed by Vilgot Sjöman, was initially banned in the U.S. for its frank depiction of sexuality; however this was overturned by the Supreme Court.

The M rating was changed to GP in 1970 and to the current PG in 1972. In 1984, in response to public complaints regarding the severity of horror elements in PG-rated titles such as Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the PG-13 rating was created as a middle tier between PG and R. In 1990, the X rating was replaced by NC-17, in part because the X rating was not trademarked by the MPAA whereas pornographic bookstores and theatres were using their own trademark X and XXX symbols to market their products.

See also

Comics Code Authority, which functions similarly for the comics industry.

Pre-Code Hollywood

Censorship in the United States

ESRB|Entertainment Software Ratings Board, which offers ratings for video games in a similar grouping to Motion Pictures.

PMRC, a similar group which sought to control musical content with the Parental Advisory sticker.

The Celluloid Closet

This Film Is Not Yet Rated


1.^ Leff, Leonard J. Dame in the kimono Hollywood, censorship, and the production code from the 1920s to the 1960s. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1990. Print. pp.9
2.^ Doherty, Thomas "The Code Before 'Da Vinci'" Washington Post (May 20, 2006)
3.^ Censored Films and Television at University of Virginia online
4.^ Harmetz, pp.162–166 and Behlmer, pp.207–208 and 212–213
5.^ Wood, Brett. "Kings Row". TCM website. Turner Classic Movies.
6.^ Friedrich, Otto (1997). City of nets: a portrait of Hollywood in the 1940's. University of California Press (reprint). pp. 86–89. IS
7.^ Behlmer, Rudy (1985). Inside Warner Bros. (1935-1951). New York, NY, U.S.A.: Viking. pp. 135–141.
8.^ The Brothers Warner (2008) documentary.
9.^ Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), Hollywood Be Thy Name, Prima Publishing, p. 325.
10.^ Leff, Leonard J. (1996). "Hollywood and the Holocaust: Remembering The Pawnbroker" (PDF). American Jewish History 84 (4): 353–376.
11.^ Harris, Mark (2008). Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood. Penguin Group. pp. 173–176.

Further reading

Miller, Frank, Censored Hollywood; Atlanta: Turner Publishing, 1994
Lewis, Jon, Hollywood v. Hard Core: How the Struggle Over Censorship Saved the Modern Film Industry; New York University Press, 2000
LaSalle, Mick, Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood; New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000

Monday, March 29, 2010

Celebrity Grave: Johnnie Cochran, Lawyer

Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. (October 2, 1937 – March 29, 2005) was an American lawyer best known for his leadership role in the defense and criminal acquittal of O. J. Simpson for the murder of his former wife Nicole Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.
Cochran also represented Sean Combs (during his trial on gun and bribery charges), Michael Jackson, actor Todd Bridges, football player Jim Brown, rapper Snoop Dogg, former heavyweight Champion Riddick Bowe, and Reginald Oliver Denny, the trucker beaten by a mob during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. He also defended athlete Marion Jones when she faced charges of doping during her high school track career. Cochran was known for his skill in the courtroom and his prominence as an early advocate for victims of alleged police abuse.
Johnnie Cochran died at his home in Los Angeles on Tuesday, March 29, 2005 from a brain tumor. In April 2004, Cochran underwent surgery, which led to his staying away from the media. Shortly thereafter, he told the New York Post he was feeling well, and that he was in good health.
Public viewing of his casket was conducted on April 4 and April 5 and a memorial service was held at Little Union Baptist Church on April 8, 2005 in Shreveport. His remains were interred in the Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California. The funeral was attended by numerous former clients and friends. Among them were Michael Jackson, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Reverend Al Sharpton, Sean "Diddy" Combs, O.J. Simpson, Stevie Wonder, Magic Johnson, actress Angela Bassett, Gloria Allred, former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, Abner Louima, and others.
In honor of Cochran, on January 24, 2006, Los Angeles Unified School District officials unanimously approved the renaming of Mount Vernon Middle School, Cochran's boyhood middle school, to Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. Middle School, saying he was an "extraordinary, superb lawyer with movie-star celebrity status." There have been mixed reactions about the board of education's decision, primarily because of Cochran's work as a lawyer. For instance, the sister of Nicole Brown Simpson has expressed her disappointment with the decision, although she called Cochran "a great defense attorney." Since the school was renamed, others have voiced their ideas of naming a street after Cochran. City Councilman Herb J. Wesson Jr. wants the city to rename a section of 17th Street, because he feels Cochran was "a great attorney and a great role model who contributed to this community."

In 2007, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles opened the new Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Brain Tumor Center, a research center headed by noted neurosurgeon Keith Black, who had been Cochran's doctor.

Celebrity Grave: Paul Henreid, Actor

Paul Henreid (10 January 1905 – 29 March 1992), whose birthname was Paul Georg Julius Hernreid Ritter von Wassel-Waldingau, was an Austrian actor and film director.
In 1942, Henreid appeared in his two most important films. In Now, Voyager, he and Bette Davis created one of the screen's most imitated scenes, in which he lights two cigarettes and hands one to her. Henreid's next role was as Victor Laszlo, heroic anti-Nazi leader, in Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.
Henreid died of pneumonia in Santa Monica, California and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery. He was buried with a fan letter from one Mildred Jacobs which he received in 1937, before he became famous, and which he said meant more to him than any award he had won.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Celebrity Grave: Hugh O'Connor, Actor

Hugh Edward Ralph O'Connor (April 7, 1962 – March 28, 1995) was an American actor, known for his role as Det./ Lt. Lonnie Jamison on the television drama In the Heat of the Night from 1988-1995.
Hugh O'Connor was born in Rome, Italy. When he was six days old, he was adopted by Carroll O'Connor and his wife Nancy. Carroll was in Rome filming Cleopatra. He was named after Carroll O'Connor's brother, who died in a motorcycle accident in 1961. When he was 16, he was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. He survived the cancer with chemotherapy and two surgeries, but became addicted to drugs. He had been taking prescription drugs for the pain and marijuana for nausea. He quickly became addicted to harder drugs. Despite numerous stays at rehabilitation clinics, he never conquered his addiction.
He was married to Angela Clayton, a wardrobe assistant on In the Heat of the Night, on March 28, 1992, and their son Sean Carroll O'Connor was born in 1993.

On March 28, 1995, the third anniversary of his marriage, O'Connor called his father to tell him he was going to end his life. He told his father he believed he could not beat the drugs and could not face another drug rehabilitation program. Carroll called the police, who arrived at Hugh's Pacific Palisades, California home just as he shot himself in the head. The police later determined he had cocaine in his blood.
Hugh O'Connor was cremated and his remains were originally buried at the Church of St. Susanna in Rome, Italy. Later, his remains were moved to the North American College in Rome. Today, he has a cenotaph at the Church of St. Susanna and at his father's gravesite in Los Angeles, leading many people to believe that he is buried at either place.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Celebrity Grave: Billy Wilder, Filmmaker

Billy Wilder (22 June 1906 – 27 March 2002) was an Austrian-American journalist, filmmaker, screenwriter and producer, whose career spanned more than 50 years and 60 films. He is regarded as one of the most brilliant and versatile filmmakers of Hollywood's golden age. Wilder is one of only five people who have won three Academy Awards for producing, directing and writing the same film (The Apartment).


He first became a screenwriter in the late 1920s while living in Berlin. After the rise of Adolf Hitler, Wilder, who was Jewish, left for Paris, where he made his directorial debut. He relocated to Hollywood in 1933, and in 1939 he had a hit with the screwball comedy Ninotchka. Wilder established his directorial reputation after helming Double Indemnity (1944), a film noir he co-wrote with mystery novelist Raymond Chandler. Wilder earned the Best Director and Best Screenplay Academy Awards for the adaptation of a Charles R. Jackson story The Lost Weekend, about alcoholism. In 1950, Wilder co-wrote and directed the critically acclaimed Sunset Boulevard.


From the mid-1950s on, Wilder made mostly comedies. Among the classics Wilder created in this period are the farces The Seven Year Itch (1955) and Some Like It Hot (1959), satires such as The Apartment (1960), and the romantic comedy Sabrina (1954). He directed fourteen different actors in Oscar-nominated performances. Wilder was recognized with the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1986. In 1988, Wilder was awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. In 1993, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts. Wilder holds a significant place in the history of Hollywood censorship for expanding the range of acceptable subject matter.

Billy Wilder - Westwood Cemetery

Wilder died in 2002 of pneumonia at the age of 95 after battling health problems, including cancer, in Los Angeles, California and was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, Los Angeles, California next to Jack Lemmon. Walter Matthau is mere steps away. Marilyn Monroe's crypt is located nearby. Wilder died the same day as two other comedy legends: Milton Berle and Dudley Moore. The next day, French top-ranking newspaper Le Monde titled its first-page obituary, "Billy Wilder is dead. Nobody is perfect." This was a reference to the famous closing line of his film Some Like it Hot spoken by Joe E. Brown after Jack Lemmon reveals he is not female.

Jack Lemmon - Westwood Cemetery
Walter Matthau - Westwood Cemetery

Friday, March 26, 2010

Deathday: Raymond Chandler, Mystery Writer

Raymond Thornton Chandler (July 23, 1888 – March 26, 1959) was an Anglo-American novelist and screenwriter who had an immense stylistic influence upon the modern private detective story, especially in the style of the writing and the attitudes now characteristic of the genre. His protagonist, Philip Marlowe, is, along with Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade, considered synonymous with "private detective."

Early life

Chandler was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1888, but moved to the United Kingdom in 1900[1] with his Irish-born mother after they were abandoned by his father, an alcoholic civil engineer who worked for a North American railway company. His uncle, a successful lawyer, supported them.[2] In 1900, after attending a local school in Upper Norwood, Chandler was classically educated at Dulwich College, London (the public school that also taught P.G. Wodehouse to write prose[2] and which also taught C. S. Forester). He did not attend university, instead spending time in Paris and Munich. In 1907, he was naturalised as a British subject in order to take the Civil Service examination, which he passed with the third-highest score. He then took an Admiralty job lasting just over a year. His first poem was published during that time.[3]

Chandler disliked the servility of the civil service and resigned, to the consternation of his family, becoming a reporter for the Daily Express and the Bristol Western Gazette newspapers. He was an unsuccessful journalist, published reviews and continued writing romantic poetry. Accounting for that time he said, "Of course in those days as now there were...clever young men who made a decent living as freelances for the numerous literary weeklies..." but "...I was distinctly not a clever young man. Nor was I at all a happy young man." [4]

In 1912, he borrowed money from his uncle (who expected it repaid with interest), and returned to North America, eventually settling in Los Angeles with his mother in 1913[5]. He strung tennis rackets, picked fruit and endured a lonely time of scrimping and saving. Finally, he took a correspondence bookkeeping course, finished ahead of schedule, and found steady employment. In 1917, when the US entered World War I, he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, saw combat in the trenches in France with the Gordon Highlanders, and was undergoing flight training in the fledgling Royal Air Force (RAF) in the United Kingdom at war’s end.[2]

After the armistice, he returned to Los Angeles, California. He soon began a love affair with Cissy Pascal, a married woman eighteen years his senior.[2] Cissy divorced her husband, Julian, in 1920 in what was an amicable separation but Chandler's mother disapproved of the relationship and refused to sanction marriage. For four years Chandler had to support both his mother and Cissy. But when Florence Chandler died on 26 September 1923, Raymond was free to marry Cissy on February 6, 1924.[6][2] By 1932, during his bookkeeping career, he became a highly-paid vice-president of the Dabney Oil syndicate, but a year later, his alcoholism, absenteeism, and threatened suicide[2] contributed to his firing.

Pulp writer

To earn a living with his creative talent, he taught himself to write pulp fiction; his first story, “Blackmailers Don't Shoot”, was published in Black Mask magazine in 1933; his first novel, The Big Sleep, was published in 1939. Literary success led to work as a Hollywood screenwriter: he and Billy Wilder co-wrote Double Indemnity (1944), based upon James M. Cain's novel of the same name. His only original screenplay was The Blue Dahlia (1946). Chandler collaborated on the screenplay of Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (1951) - a story he thought implausible - based on Patricia Highsmith's novel. By then, the Chandlers had moved to La Jolla, California, an affluent coastal neighborhood of San Diego.

Later life and death

In 1954, Cissy Chandler died after a long illness, during which time Raymond Chandler wrote The Long Goodbye. His subsequent loneliness worsened his natural propensity for clinical depression, he returned to drink, never quitting it for long, and the quality and quantity of his writing suffered.[2] In 1955, he attempted suicide; literary scholars documented that suicide attempt. In The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved, Judith Freeman says it was “a cry for help”, given that he called the police beforehand, saying he planned to kill himself. Chandler’s personal and professional life were both helped and complicated by the women to whom he was attracted — notably Helga Greene (his literary agent); Jean Fracasse (his secretary); Sonia Orwell (George Orwell's widow); and Natasha Spender (Stephen Spender's wife), the latter two of whom assumed Chandler to be a repressed homosexual.[7] (Unfortunately, Judith Freeman's book perpetuates errors dating back to the Frank MacShane biography relating to the death of Florence Chandler and a number of residences.[6])

After a respite in England (Chandler regained US citizenship in 1956.[3]), he returned to La Jolla, where he died (according to the death certificate) of pneumonial peripheral vascular shock and prerenal uremia in the Scripps Memorial Hospital. Greene inherited the Chandler estate, after prevailing in a lawsuit vs. Fracasse.

Raymond Chandler is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery, San Diego, California, as per Frank MacShane's, "The Life of Raymond Chandler" Chandler wished to be cremated and placed next to Cissy in Cypress View Mausoleum, but was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, by the County of San Diego, Public Administrator's Office because he left an estate of $60,000 with no will (intestate) apparently found. The lawsuit over his estate complicated life for Helga Greene, but didn't take place until 1960.

Critical reception

Critics and writers from W. H. Auden to Evelyn Waugh to Ian Fleming, greatly admired Chandler's prose.[2] In a radio discussion with Chandler, Fleming said that the former offered “some of the finest dialogue written in any prose today.” [8] Although his swift-moving, hardboiled style was inspired mostly by Dashiell Hammett, his sharp and lyrical similes are original: "The muzzle of the Luger looked like the mouth of the Second Street tunnel"; "The minutes went by on tiptoe, with their fingers to their lips", defining private eye fiction genre, and leading to the coining of the adjective 'Chandleresque', which is subject and object of parody and pastiche. Yet, Philip Marlowe is not a stereotypical tough guy, but a complex, sometimes sentimental man of few friends, who attended university, speaks some Spanish and, at times, admires Mexicans, is a student of classical chess games and classical music. He will refuse a prospective client’s money if he is ethically unsatisfied by the job.

The high critical regard in which Chandler is generally held today is in contrast to the critical pans that stung Chandler in his lifetime. In a March 1942 letter to Mrs. Blanche Knopf, published in Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler, Chandler complained: "The thing that rather gets me down is that when I write something that is tough and fast and full of mayhem and murder, I get panned for being tough and fast and full of mayhem and murder, and then when I try to tone down a bit and develop the mental and emotional side of a situation, I get panned for leaving out what I was panned for putting in the first time."

Although his work enjoys general acclaim today, Chandler has still received criticism for certain aspects of his stories; in one interview, Washington Post reviewer Patrick Anderson described his plots as "rambling at best and incoherent at worst", and chastised his treatment of black, female and homosexual characters, calling him a "rather nasty man". Anderson did, however, acknowledge Chandler's importance as a lyrical writer, and said that, despite his flaws, "he often wrote truly beautiful scenes and descriptions".

Chandler’s short stories and novels are evocatively written, conveying the time, place and ambience of Los Angeles and environs in the 1930s and 1940s.[2] The places are real, if pseudonymous: Bay City is Santa Monica, Gray Lake is Silver Lake, and Idle Valley a synthesis of rich San Fernando Valley communities.

Raymond Chandler also was a perceptive critic of pulp fiction; his essay "The Simple Art of Murder" is the standard reference work in the field.

All but one of his novels have been cinematically adapted. Most notable was The Big Sleep (1946), by Howard Hawks, with Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe. William Faulkner was a co-writer on the screenplay. Raymond Chandler's few screen writing efforts and the cinematic adaptation of his novels proved stylistically and thematically influential upon the American film noir genre.



1.^ 1900 U.S. Census, Plattsmouth, NB
2.^ Iyer, Pico (December 6, 2007). "The Knight of Sunset Boulevard". The New York Review of Books: pp. 31–33.
3.^ [1]
4.^ Raymond Chandler: Raymond Chandler Speaking (Dorothy Gardiner and Kathrine Sorley Wakker, ed.) p.24 (Houghton Mifflin Company (1962) ISBN 978-0520208353.
5.^ Florence arrives 12/1912 - Passenger Manifest S.S. Merion
6.^ Raymond Chandler's Shamus Town Timeline and Residences pages using official government sources (death certificate, census, military & civil - city & phone directories)
8.^ Chandler/Fleming discussion, BBC Home Service, 10th July 1958

Further reading

Dorothy Gardiner and Katherine Sorley Walker (eds.; 1962), Raymond Chandler Speaking. Boston: Houghton Miflin.
Bruccoli, Matthew J. (ed.; 1973). Chandler Before Marlowe: Raymond Chandler's Early Prose and Poetry, 1908-1912. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press.
MacShane, Frank (1976). The Life of Raymond Chandler. N.Y.: E.P. Dutton.
MacShane, Frank (1976). The Notebooks of Raymond Chandler & English Summer: A Gothic Romance. N.Y.: The Ecco Press.
Chandler, Raymond (1976). The Blue Dahlia (screenplay). Carbondale and Edwardsville, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.
Gross, Mirian (1977). The World of Raymond Chandler. N.Y.: A & W Publsihers.
MacShane, Frank (ed.) (1981). Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler. N.Y.: Columbia University Press.
Chandler, Raymond (1985). Raymond Chandler's Unknown Thriller (unfilmed screenplay for Playback). N.Y.: The Mysterious Press.
Hiney, Tom (1999). Raymond Chandler. N.Y.: Grove Press. ISBN 0-80213-637-0
Hiney, Tom and MacShane, Frank (eds.; 2000). The Raymond Chandler Papers: Selected Letters and Nonfiction, 1909-1959. N.Y.: Atlantic Monthly Press.
Ward, Elizabeth and Alain Silver (1987). Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles. Woodstock, N.Y.: Overlook Press. ISBN 0-87951-351-9
Howe, Alexander N. "The Detective and the Analyst: Truth, Knowledge, and Psychoanalysis in the Hard-Boiled Fiction of Raymond Chandler." CLUES: A Journal of Detection 24.4 (Summer 2006): 15-29.
Howe, Alexander N. (2008). "It Didn't Mean Anything: A Psychoanalytic Reading of American Detective Fiction". North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 0786434546
Moss, Robert (2002) "Raymond Chandler A Literary Reference" New York Carrol & Graf
Freeman, Judith (2007). The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved. N.Y.:Pantheon. ISBN 978-0-375-42351-2 (0-375-42351-6)


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Celebrity Grave: Nunnally Johnson, Filmmaker

Nunnally Hunter Johnson (December 5, 1897 - March 25, 1977) was an American filmmaker who wrote, produced, and directed motion pictures.

Johnson was born in Columbus, Georgia. He began his career as a journalist, writing for the Columbus Enquirer Sun, the Savannah Press, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and the New York Herald Tribune. He also wrote short stories and a collection of these, There Ought To Be a Law, was published in 1930.

Johnson's first connection with film work was the sale of screen rights to one of his stories in 1927. Johnson asked his editor if he could write film criticism articles in 1932. When this request was denied, he decided to relocate to Hollywood and work directly in the film industry.

Quickly finding work as a scriptwriter, Johnson was hired fulltime as a writer by 20th Century-Fox in 1935. He soon began producing films as well and co-founded International Pictures in 1943 with William Goetz. Johnson also directed several films in the 1950s, including two starring Gregory Peck.

Johnson was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Screenplay in 1940 for The Grapes of Wrath and the Directors Guild of America Best Directors Award in 1956 for The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.

Johnson died of pneumonia in Hollywood in 1977 and was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Celebrity Grave: Peter Lorre, Actor

Peter Lorre (26 June 1904 – 23 March 1964) was an Austrian-American actor frequently typecast as a sinister foreigner.

He made an international sensation in 1931 with his portrayal of a serial killer who preys on little girls in the German film M. Later he became a popular featured player in Hollywood crime films and mysteries, notably alongside Humphrey Bogart and Sydney Greenstreet, and as the star of the successful Mr. Moto detective series.

Lorre had suffered for years from chronic gallbladder troubles, for which doctors had prescribed morphine. Lorre became trapped between the constant pain and addiction to morphine to ease the problem. It was during the period of the Moto films that Lorre struggled and overcame this problem.

Overweight and never fully recovered from his addiction to morphine, Lorre suffered many personal and career disappointments in his later years. He died in 1964 of a stroke. Lorre's body was cremated and his ashes interred at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood. Vincent Price read the eulogy at his funeral.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Celebrity Grave: Walter Benjamin Lantz, Animator

Walter Benjamin Lantz (April 27, 1899 – March 22, 1994) was an American cartoonist, animator, film producer, and director, best known for founding Walter Lantz Productions and creating Woody Woodpecker.

Early years and start in animation

Lantz was born in New Rochelle, New York to Italian immigrant parents, Francesco Paolo Lantz (formerly Lanza) and Maria Gervasi. According to Joe Adamson's biography, The Walter Lantz Story, Lantz's father was given his new surname by an immigration official who Anglicized it. Walter Lantz was always interested in art, completing a mail order drawing class at age twelve. He saw his first animation when he watched Winsor McCay's cartoon short, Gertie the Dinosaur.

While working as an auto mechanic, Lantz got his first break. A wealthy customer named Fred Kafka liked his drawings on the garage's bulletin board and financed Lantz's studies at the Art Students League. Kafka also helped him get a job as a copy boy at the New York American, owned by William Randolph Hearst. Lantz worked at the newspaper and attended art school at night.

By the age of 16, Lantz was working in the animation department under director Gregory La Cava. Lantz then worked at the John R. Bray Studios on the Jerry On The Job series. In 1924, Lantz directed, animated, and even starred in his first cartoon series, Dinky Doodle. He moved to Hollywood, California in 1927, where he worked briefly for director Frank Capra and was a gag writer for Mack Sennett comedies.

The Oswald era

In 1928, Lantz was hired by Charles B. Mintz as a director on the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon series for Universal. Earlier that year, Mintz and his brother-in-law George Winkler had succeeded in snatching Oswald from the character's original creator, Walt Disney. Universal president Carl Laemmle became dissatisfied with the Mintz-Winkler product and fired them, deciding instead to produce the Oswalds directly on the Universal lot. While schmoozing with Laemmle, Lantz wagered that if he could beat Laemmle in a game of poker, the character would be his. As fate would have it, Lantz won the bet, and Oswald was now his character.

Lantz inherited many of his initial staff, including animator Tom Palmer and musician Bert Fiske from the Winker studio, but importantly he decided to select a fellow New York animator, Bill Nolan, to help develop the series. Nolan's previous credentials included inventing the panorama background and developing a new, streamlined Felix the Cat. Nolan was (and still is) probably best known for perfecting the "rubber hose" style of animation. In September 1929, Lantz finally put out his first cartoon, Race Riot.

By 1935, Nolan had parted company with Lantz. Lantz became an independent producer, supplying cartoons to Universal instead of merely overseeing the animation department. By 1940, he was negotiating ownership for the characters he had been working with.
The Woody Woodpecker era

When Oswald had worn out his welcome, Lantz decided that he needed a new character. Meany, Miny and Moe (three ne'er-do-well chimps), Baby-Face Mouse, Snuffy Skunk, Doxie (a comic dachshund) and Jock and Jill (monkeys that resembled Warner Brothers' Bosko) were some of the personalities Lantz and his staff had come up with. However, one character, Andy Panda, stood out from the rest and soon became Lantz's headline star for the 1939-1940 production season.

In 1940, Lantz had married actress Grace Stafford. During their honeymoon, the couple kept hearing a woodpecker incessantly pecking on their roof. Grace suggested that Walter use the bird for inspiration and make him into a cartoon character. Taking her advice, though a bit skeptical about its success, Lantz debuted Woody Woodpecker in an Andy Panda short, Knock Knock. The brash woodpecker character was similar to the early Daffy Duck, and Lantz liked the results enough to build a series around it.

Mel Blanc supplied Woody's voice for his first three cartoons. When Blanc accepted a full-time contract with Leon Schlesinger Productions/Warner Bros. and left the Lantz studio, gagman Ben Hardaway, who was the main force responsible for Knock Knock, became the bird's voice. Despite this, Blanc's distinctive laugh was still used throughout the cartoons.

During 1948, the Lantz studio had a hit Academy Award-nominated tune in "The Woody Woodpecker Song", featuring Blanc's laugh. Mel Blanc sued Lantz for half a million dollars, claiming that Lantz had used his voice in various later cartoons without his permission. The judge, however, ruled against Blanc, saying that he had failed to copyright his voice or contributions. Even though Lantz had won the case, he paid Blanc the money in an out-of-court settlement when Blanc filed an appeal, and went off to search for a new voice for Woody Woodpecker.

In 1950, Lantz held anonymous auditions. Grace, Lantz's wife, had offered to do Woody's voice; however, Lantz turned her down because Woody was a male character. Not discouraged in the least, Grace went about secretly making her own anonymous audition tape, and submitted it with the others for the studio to listen to. Not knowing whose voice was being heard, Lantz picked Grace's voice to do Woody Woodpecker. Grace supplied Woody's voice until the end of production in 1972, and also appeared in other non-Woody cartoons. At first, Grace voiced Woody without screen credit, because she thought that it would disappoint the children to know Woody Woodpecker was voiced by a woman. However, she soon came to enjoy being known as the voice of Woody Woodpecker, and allowed her name to be credited on the screen. Her version of Woody was cuter and friendlier than the manic Woody of the 1940s, and Lantz's artists redesigned the character to suit the new voice personality.

Lantz's harmonious relationship with Universal, the studio releasing his cartoons, was interrupted when new ownership transformed the company into Universal-International and did away with most of Universal's company policies. The new management insisted on getting licensing and merchandising rights to Lantz's characters. Lantz refused and withdrew from the parent company by the end of 1947, releasing 12 cartoons independently through United Artists during 1948, into the beginning of 1949. Financial difficulties forced Lantz to shut down his studio in 1949. Universal-International re-released Lantz's UA (and several of his earlier) cartoons during the shutdown and finally came to terms with Lantz, who resumed production in 1951. From this point forward Lantz worked quicker and cheaper, no longer using the lush, artistic backgrounds and stylings that distinguished his 1940s work.

The baby boomer generation came to know and love Lantz as the creator of the Woody Woodpecker cartoons. He used his TV appearances on The Woody Woodpecker Show to show how the animation was actually done. For many of those young viewers, it was the first time they had seen an explanation of the process. That same generation later knew him for entertaining the troops during the Vietnam War and visiting hospitalized veterans. Walter Lantz was good friends with movie innovator George Pál. Because of this, Woody Woodpecker makes a cameo appearance in every feature film in which Pál was involved.


By the 1960s other movie studios had discontinued their animation departments, leaving Walter Lantz as one of the only two producers still making cartoons for theaters (the other was Friz Freleng). Lantz finally closed up shop in 1972 (by then, he later explained, it was economically impossible to continue producing them and stay in business), and Universal serviced the remaining demand with reissues of his older cartoons.

In his retirement, Lantz continued to manage his studio’s properties by licensing them to other media. He also continued to draw and paint, selling his paintings of Woody Woodpecker rapidly. On top of that, he worked with Little League and other youth groups around his area. In 1982, Lantz donated 17 artifacts to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, among them a wooden model of Woody Woodpecker from the cartoon character’s debut in 1941.

In 1993, Lantz established a ten thousand dollar scholarship and prize for animators in his name at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. Walter Lantz died at St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California from heart failure on March 22, 1994, aged 94.
Walter Lantz's grave can be found at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.


Some of the characters in the Lantz universe (both cartoons and comics) are Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Space Mouse, Woody Woodpecker, Homer Pigeon, Chilly Willy, Andy Panda, Charlie Chicken and many more.

Walter Lantz "Cartunes"

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit (1929–1938, 1943)
Cartune Classics (1934–1942, 1953–1957) (miscellaneous characters, seen in the-new Technicolor)
Andy Panda (1939–1949) (usually voiced by radio and film actor Walter Tetley)
Scrub Me Mama with a Boogie Beat
Woody Woodpecker (1941–1949, 1951–1972)
Swing Symphonies (1941–1945) (musical cartoons, often featuring top boogie-woogie musicians)
Musical Miniatures (1946–1948) (offshoot of the Swing Symphonies, featuring classical melodies)
Chilly Willy (1953–1972) (a penguin character, inspired by mystery novelist Stuart Palmer)
The Beary Family (1962–1972) (situation-comedy series with Mom, Pop, and Junior Bear)
Inspector Willoughby(1960-1965) (it's a human mustached like to kidnap bandits, similar to Tex Avery's "Droopy")


1959 Lantz was honored by the Los Angeles City Council as "one of America's most outstanding animated film cartoonists".
1973 the international animation society, ASIFA/Hollywood, presented him with its Annie Award.
1979 he was given a special Academy Award, "for bringing joy and laughter to every part of the world through his unique animated motion pictures."
1986 he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Celebrity Grave: Macdonald Carey, Actor

Edward Macdonald Carey (March 15, 1913 – March 21, 1994) was an American actor, best known for his role as the patriarch Dr. Tom Horton on NBC's soap opera Days of our Lives. For almost three decades, he was the show's central cast member.

He was married to Elizabeth Hecksher from 1943 until their divorce in 1969. They had six children. Later, he dated Lois Kraines. The couple remained together until from 1973 until Carey's death.

Carey's six chilren are: Lynn, Theresa, Lisa, Steven, Edward Macdonald Jr., and Paul. Theresa is the mother of Survivor: Panama Exile Island winner Aras Baskauskas. Lynn Carey was a 1970s Penthouse Pet and well respected singer, providing music for Russ Meyer's legendary cult classic film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

He is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California, alongside a space already set aside for his daughter Lisa.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Celebrity Grave: Harvey Wilcox, Founder of Hollywood

Harvey Henderson Wilcox (1832 - March 19, 1891) owned a ranch to the west of the city of Los Angeles, which his wife Daeida named their ranch Hollywood, and where the center of the American cinema industry developed in the early 1900s. She learned of the name from Ivar Weid her neighbor. Ivar Weid heard the name from HJ Whitley.


Harvey Henderson Wilcox was born in New York State, probably in Monroe or Ontario County, the son of Aaron and Azubah (Mark) Wilcox. The family moved to Michigan during the 1830s and Harvey was raised on his parents' farm in Ogden Township, Lenawee County, Michigan. He was stricken with polio in 1845 when he was about 13 years old and confined to a wheelchair the rest of his life. Whether in a wheelchair or not, Harvey accomplished great things during his lifetime, a testament to the Wilcox strength and spirit. He is described as being a Kansas Prohibitionist in histories written after his death, but that tells only a small, insignificant part of his story and there is no original source stating with any certainty that he actually was a prohibitionist.

In September 1850 Harvey was described as being an apprentice shoemaker in the Horace Sheldon household in Blissfield, Lenawee County. His apprenticeship was probably because he could not work on the farm due to his handicap. He completed his apprenticeship during the 1850s and in 1860 he was living near Edgerton, St. Joseph Township, Williams County, Ohio, and working as a shoemaker. On December 26, 1861, he married Ellen E. Young in Bryan, Williams County, Ohio. He got into politics in Williams County and ran for, and was elected to, several local offices, including County Recorder in 1860, Justice of the Peace (Magistrate) in 1860, and Notary Public for Williams County in 1866.

He also gave up shoemaking to deal in real estate in Bryan in the firm of Wilcox & Langel, a career that he would follow the rest of his life. Coincidently, Elon Langel later moved to Topeka, Kansas and died there of tuberculosis.

The local Bryan newspaper says in April 1868 that Harvey and Ellen Wilcox were moving to Topeka, Kansas where, in October, 1869, Harvey published "H.H. Wilcox's Real Estate Publisher" and in July 1870 he was described as a real estate agent and his wife a housekeeper. Before March 1875 they had added G.M. Stanley, the son of Ellen's sister, Alvira, to their family, but they never had any children of their own. In June 1880 Harvey was still in real estate and Ellen was running their boarding house on Kansas Avenue.

Harvey must have enjoyed being in politics in Bryan because in Topeka he got into politics again, serving as president of the city council for at least one term in 1870; joined several other men to found the town of Rossville, Kansas, in 1871; served as Topeka city clerk from at least 1877 through 1880; and owned a ranch and relatively large herd of cattle (that his adopted son, George M. Stanley, managed) near El Dorado in Butler County, Kansas.

Harvey and Ellen were in the 1880 census of Topeka with George M. Stanley, the son of Ellen's sister, Alvira Stanley, in their household. Ellen contracted tuberculosis and spent the winter of 1881-1882 in California, probably staying with her sister, Mary Jane (Young) Bond in Santa Barbara, "chasing the cure." Ellen returned to Topeka, uncured, in early 1882. She was kept alive on the train with "powerful stimulants" and died at the age of 37 soon after her arrival home. She is buried in Topeka Cemetery.

Harvey married as his second wife, Daeida "Ida" Hartell, a girl more than thirty years his junior, on December 6, 1882, in Topeka and in October 1883 it was reported that "Harvey Wilcox of Topeka, Kansas" was back in Ohio and Michigan visiting relatives and friends. This was probably the last time most of his relatives back East saw him and the trip was probably made in anticipation of his permanent move to California.

Harvey and Ida moved from Topeka to Los Angeles in early 1884 and tradition says that Harvey rode in the baggage car with two of his prized horses. In Los Angeles Harvey formed the real estate company of Wilcox and Shaw. Harvey and Ida had one child, a son named Harry, who died in 1886 at the age of 18 months. Family tradition says that to console themselves over the death of their baby, Harvey and Ida would take buggy rides to the beautiful canyons west of Los Angeles. Harvey purchased one of their favorite areas for $150 per acre. It was in an agricultural area of fig and apricot orchards. Harvey tried his hand at raising fruit, but failed and decided to subdivide the land, selling lots for $1,000 each. His wife named the tract "Hollywood." On February 1, 1887 Harvey filed a plat of the subdivision with the Los Angeles County Recorder's office.

Harvey and Ida were not the only members of the family to move to California. At his encouragement, his sister, Sarah Luke, brother-in-law Elisha Luke, their daughter and son-in-law, Sam and Rosetta Young, with their young son, Almon, and Harvey's recently re-married brother Lewis, left Ogden in February 1887 to settle in Los Angeles where Elisha would also become a real estate agent and land developer. The "Blissfield [Michigan] Advance" said in its Friday, February 18, 1887, edition that "Sam Young and wife and Elisha Luke and wife started for California last Thursday. Thus Ogden loses two of its staunch farmers, and the Prohibs, two valuable members."

Their mother, Azubah, probably accompanized them. Lewis Wilcox would soon leave California to return to Lenawee County where he would continue as a minister of the United Brethren church in Dundee, Michigan until his death ten years later. Azubah died in Los Angeles in 1888 and was buried on the Luke family lot in Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery.

Harvey's brother, Horace, is often credited as being the founder of Hollywood, but Horace, who was one of Harvey's younger brothers, stayed in Michigan where he married first Amanda McCourtie and after her death in 1880, Martha Lord. Horace raised purebred Shropshire sheep on his farm in Woodstock Township, Lenawee County, Michigan, until his death in 1916.

Interestingly, there is no original source that says Harvey H. Wilcox was a Prohibitionist, although he probably was. The only known active Prohibitionists in the family were his sister, Sarah, and her husband, Elisha Luke, and almost certainly Harvey's brothers, twins Lewis and Luther, both of whom were ministers.

Harvey was about fifty-nine years old when he died at his sister-in-law Sylvia Connell's home where he had come two weeks earlier so he could be closer to medical care in Los Angeles. He left a twenty-eight year old widow. His funeral was held from the First Methodist church in Hollywood, of which he was a member.

Harvey's obituary in the Adrian newspaper, Michigan Messenger, April 1, 1891, says that he left a fortune of $100,000 ($2.37 million in 2008 dollars), so obviously he did not die penniless as some histories suggest. This obituary also confirms his place in the Aaron and Azubah Wilcox family, mentioning his brother, Lewis Wilcox, who at that time lived in Adrian.

He was buried next to his mother on his sister Sarah Luke's lot in Rosedale Cemetery (now called Angelus-Rosedale Cemedtery). His remains were moved by his second wife's family to what is now Hollywood Forever Memorial Park on November 13, 1922.

Three years after Harvey's death, Daeida, then aged 31, married Philo J. Beveridge, the son of a former governor of Illinois, and a man thirteen years her senior. They had three children.


The city of Hollywood was incorporated in 1903. In 1910, the city of Hollywood was incorporated into the city of Los Angeles because the former was in need of a water supply. Hollywood became a suburb of Los Angeles at that time.

Though it is commonly thought that Wilcox named the subdivision "Hollywoodland", it wasn't until 1923 that real estate developers Woodruff and Shoults decide to build a housing development in Beachwood Canyon above Hollywood. They call their development "Hollywoodland" and advertised it as a "superb environment without excessive cost on the Hollywood side of the hills." Some historians claim that Hollywood was originally named by H.J. Whitley in 1886, but there is no documentation to support the claim.

In 1924, they contracted the Crescent Sign Company to erect a huge sign on the hillside reading Hollywoodland. The sign company owner Thomas Fisk Goff (1890-1984) designed the sign in letters 50 feet (15 m) high and illuminated by 4,000 bulbs. The light bulbs lasted only until they burned out or were stolen a year or two later and were never replaced.

In 1949 the sign was refurbished and the end of the word Land was omitted.

In 1978, the sign was fully rebuilt with sheet metal and steel beams and have been repainted and repaired regularly to this day.

The Hollywood sign is a landmark that is known around the world.


Wilcox was originally buried alongside his mother, Azubah (Mark) Wilcox, in Rosedale Cemetery, but on November 13, 1922 his remains were moved to Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery, today named Hollywood Forever Memorial Park where he is interred next to his second wife, Ida. Harvey's first wife, Ellen, is buried in Topeka Cemetery in Topeka, Kansas.


Bandit Tiburcio Vásquez Hanged

"A spirit of hatred and revenge took possession of me. I had numerous fights in defense of what I believed to be my rights and those of my countrymen. I believed we were unjustly deprived of the social rights that belonged to us."
Tiburcio Vásquez (August 11, 1835–March 19, 1875) was a California bandit who was active from 1857 to 1874. The Vasquez Rocks, 40 miles north of Los Angeles, were one of his many hideouts and are named for him.

Early life

Tiburcio Vásquez was born in Monterey, California, a descendant of some of the earliest settlers of California. His great-grandfather had arrived in California with the DeAnza expedition of 1776. Vásquez was slightly built, about 5 feet 7 inches in height. His family sent him to school, and he was fluent in both English and Spanish.

At the age of 17, Vásquez was present at the slaying of Constable William Hardmount in a fight with Vásquez's cousin at a fandango. Vásquez denied any involvement, but fearing arrest, he became an outlaw. Vásquez would later claim his crimes were the result of discrimination by the norteamericanos and insist that he was a defender of Mexican-American rights.

By 1856, he was actively rustling horses. A sheriff's posse caught up with him near Newhall, and he spent the next five years behind bars in San Quentin prison.

After his release, Vásquez made attempts to be law abiding, but eventually returned to crime. He was captured after a robbery in 1867 and sent to prison again for a short time.

Final years

In 1871, Vásquez was wounded after a stage coach robbery, but avoided capture. In 1873 he gained statewide notoriety. Vásquez and his gang stole $200 from Snyder's Store in Tres Pinos, in San Benito County, killing three innocent bystanders in the process. Posses began searching for him, and Governor Newton Booth placed a $1,000 reward on his head.

Vásquez moved to Southern California, where he was less well known. With his two most trusted men, he rode over Tejon Pass, through the Antelope Valley, and rested at Jim Heffner's ranch at Elizabeth Lake. Vásquez' brother, Francisco, lived nearby. After resting, Vásquez rode on to Littlerock Creek, which would become his first Southern California hideout.

Vásquez returned to the San Joaquin Valley, and committed another robbery at Kingston in Fresno County on December 26, 1873, making off with $2,500 in cash and jewelry.

Governor Booth was now authorized by the California state legislature to spend up to $15,000 to bring Vásquez to justice. Posses were formed in Santa Clara, Monterey, San Joaquin, Fresno, and Tulare Counties. In January 1874, Booth offered $3,000 for Vásquez's capture alive, and $2,000 if he was brought back dead. These rewards were increased in February to $8,000 and $6,000, respectively. Alameda County Sheriff Harry Morse was assigned specifically to track down Vásquez.

Heading towards Bakersfield, Vásquez and his gang rode south to the rock promontory now known as "Robbers Roost" after him. From there, the gang could rob coaches from the silver mines near Owens Lake. However, pickings were poor. Vásquez also shot and wounded a man who didn't obey his orders. Because of this, the stages would add a shotgun rider beside the driver.

The gang moved to Elizabeth Lake and Soledad Canyon, robbing a stage of $300, stealing six horses and a wagon near present day Acton, and robbing lone travelers. Vásquez was believed to be hiding out at Vasquez Rocks. For the next two months, he escaped attention. However, he then made an error that led to his capture.


Vásquez took up residence in the Hollywood Hills at "Greek George's" ranch, located on the San Fernando Valley side of the Cahuengas Mountains. Greek George was a former camel driver for General Beale in the Army Camel Corps. Allegedly, Vásquez seduced and impregnated his own niece. Either the girl's family or Greek George's wife's family betrayed Vásquez to Los Angeles Sheriff William Roland. Roland led a posse to the ranch and captured Vásquez on May 13, 1874. He was caught at a location which is now in, or close to, West Hollywood, CA. The ranch of "Greek George" by one account was at or near the present intersection of Fountain Ave. and King's Road in West Hollywood. This was, ironically, very close to where the movie industry would, in a few decades, set up shop.

Vásquez remained in the Los Angeles County jail for nine days. He had numerous requests for interviews by many newspaper reporters, but agreed to see only three: two from the San Francisco Chronicle and one from the Los Angeles Star. He told them his aim was to return California to Mexican rule. He insisted he was an honorable man and said he had never killed anyone.

In late May, Vásquez was moved by steamship to San Francisco, California. He would eventually stand trial in San Jose. Vásquez quickly became a celebrity among many of his fellow Hispanic Californians. He admitted he was an outlaw, but again denied he had ever killed anyone. A note written by Clovidio Chavez, one of his gang members, was dropped into a Wells Fargo box. Chavez wrote that he, not Vásquez, had shot the men at Tres Pinos. Nevertheless, in January 1875 Vásquez was sentenced to hang for murder. His trial had taken four days and the jury deliberated for two hours before finally finding him guilty of two counts of murder in the Tres Pinos robbery.

Visitors still flocked to Vásquez's jail cell, many of them women. He signed autographs and posed for photographs. Vásquez sold the photos from the window of his cell and used the money to pay for his legal defense. After his conviction, he appealed for clemency. It was denied by Governor Romualdo Pacheco. Vásquez calmly met his fate in San Jose on March 19, 1875. He was 39 years old.


"A spirit of hatred and revenge took possession of me. I had numerous fights in defense of what I believed to be my rights and those of my countrymen. I believed we were unjustly deprived of the social rights that belonged to us." (Dictated by Vásquez to explain his actions)

Vásquez was asked just before his execution, "Do you believe in an afterlife?" He replied, "I hope so... for then soon I shall see all my old sweethearts again." The only word he spoke on the gallows was pronto - soon.


Even today, Tiburcio Vásquez remains controversial. He is seen as a hero by some Mexican-Americans for his defiance of what he viewed as unjust laws and discrimination. Others regard him simply as a colorful outlaw.

The actor Anthony Caruso played Vasquez in a 1954 episode of the syndicated western television series, Stories of the Century, starring and narrated by Jim Davis.

Places named for Vásquez:

Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center, in Hayward, California

Vasquez Rocks

Vasquez Canyon in Saugus, California

Vasquez day use area in the Angeles National Forest

Vasquez High School of the Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District—named after the Rocks, not the bandit. The athletic teams are named the Mustangs and not the Bandits, contrary to rumor.