Saturday, July 31, 2010

Tom Breneman's "Breakfast in Hollywood"

Tom Breneman with audience member. (c) LIFE

Radio entertainment was never more popular than it was in the 1940s. During this time radio stations were popping up all over Hollywood. Vine Street was a particular hub for radio. Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Edgar Bergen, and Milton Berle were some the names that ruled the air waves and their fans flocked to Hollywood, or "Radio City" as it was sometimes called, to be members of the studio audience - much the same way audiences sit in on some television shows.

Breakfast in Hollywood (1946)

One of the popular radio programs that broadcasted from Vine Street in Hollywood was Tom Breneman's "Breakfast in Hollywood." This morning show was an unscripted program with much audience participation and fans lined up outside the studio as early as 5am to take part. 

In 1946 Breneman and United Artists released a film called Breakfast in Hollywood as a way to promote the radio program. The film is not very good but worth watching to get an idea of how the radio program went and for some interesting cameos by Hedda Hopper and the Nat King Cole trio.

Breneman originally hosted Breakfast in Hollywood from the former Tropics nightclub on Vine but later bought the Hollywood Recreation Center next door, converting the bowling alley into a restaurant and radio studio. Most of Tom Breneman's Hollywood Restaurant is torn down, however, the facade still remains. If you look at the two photos below you can see how the streamlined facade has been incorporated into what is now a condominium and retail space.

Tom Breneman's Hollywood Restaurant on Vine Street

Vine Street, Hollywood, California

Facade of former Tom Breneman's Hollywood Restaurant

On April 28, 1948, just before the broadcast of Breakfast in Hollywood was to begin Breneman had a heart attack and died. Garry Moore took over hosting duties but the show quickly failed without Breneman. After the radio program ended Sammy Davis Jr. and investors purchased the building. The next tenant would be ABC which used the space for ABC Radio Center. Eddie Cantor and Frank Sinatra both became disc jockey's at ABC and Louella Parsons did an interview show with celebrities at the Vine Street location.

Looking Southwest down Vine at Tom Breneman's

Former location of Tom Breneman's

Your thoughts?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Joan Crawford's Wild Ride

Joan Crawford, photo from

Many people when they think of Joan Crawford probably think of the "Mommie Dearest" version, the lunatic woman who can't stop cleaning, who abuses her adopted children, and screams "No more wire hangers!" Author Bob Thomas, in his biography on Joan, shines a fair light on the actress, showing that she was not just some psycho, however, he does include a few anecdotes that show how she did present some eccentricities, especially in her later years. Here is an interesting story from Thomas's biography.

Sportsmen's Lodge, Studio City, California

In the early 1950s, at the time Joan Crawford was working on the film Female on the Beach for Universal Studios, she was seen going on dates with different men. One evening Joan was to go on a date with a businessman from Chicago. The man was quite nervous about going on a date with such a huge star so he asked his friend Tony Owen and his wife Donna Reed if they would join him on his date with Joan. Reed, who had never met Joan (she joined MGM after Joan had moved on to Warner Bros.) but who had corresponded with Joan and wanted to meet the legendary actress agreed to the double date.

The Owens and the businessman were to meet Joan at her dressing room (probably a bungalow) on the Universal lot then go to the Sportsman's lodge for dinner. Joan was living in the dressing room while filming Female on the Beach. When the Owens and friend arrived at the studio they went to Joan's dressing room where they exchanged pleasantries. Then Joan turned and exclaimed, "Oh, dear, the dogs have tinkled on the carpet." Joan got on her hands and knees and began scrubbing with a towel and soda water, vigorously brushing the floor. When she was done, Joan washed her hands, came back to the group and nonchalantly asked, "Shall we go?"

Joan suggested they take the freeway from Universal to the Sportsmen's Lodge but Owen said, "Don't you think we should go on Ventura Boulevard? The Sportsman's Lodge is only a couple miles away." Owen was right, it made sense to take Ventura but Joan replied, "No, the freeway is better."

Joan and her date got in her car and drove off out the studio gate, made a left on Lankershim Boulevard and onto the Hollywood Freeway before Owen could argue. Owen and Reed got in their car and quickly tried to catch up. "My God, she's going east." said Owen. "The Sportsmen's Lodge is west!"

"We've got to catch her" said, Reed. They passed the Hollywood Bowl and kept going. Finally, Owen and Reed caught up with Joan in the Silver Lake district. Owen gestured to Joan that she was going the wrong way. Joan nodded, exited the freeway and then got back on heading west.

"How on earth can she get out of this situation?" Reed thought. "What can she possibly say?"

"I can't imagine," said Owen.

Joan stepped out of her car in front of the Sportsman's Lodge and said, "Didn't I tell you - the freeway's great!"

Quite the story don't you think? I wonder what was going through Joan's head at the time. At least she covered for herself rather creatively.

Sportsmen's Lodge, Studio City - photo from

The Sportsmen's Lodge is a hotel on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, California and has been a landmark in the valley for over a century. Until the 1970s, there was even a lake for trout fishing. People would come to the Sportsmen's Lodge, catch their own fish out of the lake, and then have the Lodge restaurant prepare the fish. Even celebrities came to fish, including Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, Bette Davis, and numerous other big time celebrities.

Stars still head over to the Sportsmen's Lodge for the restaurant and hotel. The Sportsmen's Lodge also hosts many special events such as political gatherings, weddings and anniversaries.

Your thoughts?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Possessed (1947) - Film Locations

Joan Crawford in Possessed (1947)

Well, after a bit of summer traveling I'm ready to get back to blogging and what better way than to start with a film location post. I know the location posts are probably the most popular. To kick things off here are a few of the filming locations for the classic Joan Crawford noir, Possessed (1947).

In short, Possessed tells the story of a woman (Joan Crawford) who is obsessed with her ex-lover and over the course of the film loses her sanity. The movie opens with the credits coming up over a shot of 7th Street in downtown Los Angeles. If you look at the images below you can match. up the film shot with the present image by looking at the tall building in the far right.

7th Street, Los Angeles

7th Street, Los Angeles

As the credits continue to roll we see Joan Crawford walking aimlessly through the streets of downtown Los Angeles. Below, she walks right past the Brack Shops building located on 7th Street near Grand Avenue. The Brack Shops awning is no longer but the building still stands and is known as "The Collection." There are metal markings in the sidewalk that read "Brack Shops" in front of the old store entrance.

Joan Crawford in front of Brack Shops, Los Angeles

"The Collection" formerly "Brack Shops"

Sidewalk in front of The Collection building
7th Street, Los Angeles

7th Street, Los Angeles

7th Street, Los Angeles

Joan Crawford walks down 7th Street

Looking down 7th Street, Los Angeles

As you can see above, the view down 7th Street has changed since the late 1940s when the film was made and how it appears today. There were no trees growing from the sidewalks and one of the buildings on the left is now gone, but a lot still remains the same. I was able to find this location by matching up the windows and stairwells of the tall building on the left.

Once the camera finally does a close-up on Joan Crawford we see her heading "across the street" towards a church. There is no church across the street and the one in the film does not look familiar to me. I'm guessing the church was built on a soundstage at Warner Bros. If anyone knows if the church is real leave a message!

After wandering the streets Joan Crawford is picked up and rushed to a hospital in an ambulance. The hospital used was the historic Los Angeles County hospital located in the east LA neighborhood of Boyle Heights. The hospital is an amazing looking building that is a towering landmark in the neighborhood.

Looking down Zonal Ave as seen in Possessed

Looking down Zonal Ave in front of hospital

Ambulance rushes Crawford to hospital.

Entrance to hospital.

Hospital entrance as seen in film Possessed.

Los Angeles County Hospital

Possessed was originally going to be a film vehicle for the actress Bette Davis, however, Davis was pregnant and needed to go on maternity. Joan Crawford, who got her start at MGM was enjoying a second career as a star at Warner Bros. during this time and so the film went to Crawford.


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