Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Hollywood Bowl - Music Under The Stars

A view of Hollywood looking over the Hollywood Bowl.

Since the early 1920s, residents of the Hollywood area have been gathering at The Hollywood Bowl to listen to music outside, under the stars. The "Bowl," a natural amphitheater carved into a hillside in the Hollywood Hills, is the home of the Hollywood Bowl orchestra, the summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the setting for so many other outdoor musical events, such as The Sound of Music Sing-a-long, the Playboy Jazz Festival and many pop concerts. 

An early postcard view of the Hollywood Bowl

Like so many other Angelenos, for me, attending the Hollywood Bowl is developing into an annual summer time experience, although I'm still learning some of the tricks to make the most out of a Hollywood Bowl show. Some attendees arrive to the Bowl early bringing a full picnic spread which they lay out in one of the tree covered spots on the Hollywood Bowl grounds. Attendees come with packed coolers and picnic baskets filled with their favorite libations and yummy bites. The grounds surrounding the bowl feel very woodsy, almost like being on planet Endor, you know, where the Ewoks live in Star Wars? It feels like an escape from the city and the perfect getaway for a picnic. (Excuse me while I slide my glasses up my nose after making that nerdy comparison). If you don't bring your own picnic basket, the Hollywood Bowl does sell picnic baskets which you can order. 

By the way, if you visit the Hollywood Bowl, it is worth taking the time to look at "The Bowl Walk" exhibit.  There are ten stations around the Hollywood Bowl park area displaying images and information on the cultural events and history of the Bowl.

Easter Service at the Hollywood Bowl 1920s

The iconic looking bandshell where the orchestra performs wasn't constructed when the Hollywood Bowl first opened to entertain guests. In 1922, the Bowl only had a simple awning covering the stage and makeshift wooden benches for the audience to sit. Above is one of my postcards showing the Hollywood Bowl during a special Easter service without the bandshell in the background. Below is another of my postcards showing an Easter service, but a few years later with a bandshell.

A later view of the Bowl hosting an Easter service.

There have been several different shells at the Hollywood Bowl. The first shell was built in 1926. At that time the grounds were regraded and the wooden benches were replaced by permanent seating. Although the upgrades to the Bowl provided more seating, the acoustics were diminished by the regrading. Lloyd Wright, the son of Frank Lloyd Wright, was hired to build a new shell. Wright had previously built sets at the Bowl for various theatrical productions and for the shell he designed for the 1927 season, he recycled wood from a Robin Hood set to build a pyramid structure that was supposed to improve the acoustics and complement the rustic setting. Wright's shell was demolished at the end of the 1927 season and in 1928 Wright was hired again to design a second shell. Wright's second shell had a more modern design popular during the time period, however, like Wright's previous shell, his second would also be demolished at the end of the year.

Vintage postcard image of the Hollywood Bowl.

There would be several different versions of the shell at the Hollywood Bowl. The current shell, built in 2004, incorporates elements from some of the previous shells but also integrates the latest state-of-the-art lighting and sound technology.  

Looking east across the Hollywood Bowl.


Several classic films have featured The Hollywood Bowl as a location including A Star is Born (1937), Champagne For Caesar (1956), Hollywood or Bust (1956), Moonlight Murder (1936), and Two On A Guillotine (1965) to name a few. My favorite films that feature the Hollywood Bowl are two classics from the 1940s: Anchors Aweigh (1945) starring Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly and It's A Great Feeling (1949) starring Doris Day, Jack Carson, and Dennis Morgan. Below are some screenshots of the Bowl from Anchors Aweigh and It's A Great Feeling.

Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly try to get into the
Hollywood Bowl in Anchors Aweigh (1945).

Sinatra and Kelly sneak into the Bowl by 
climbing up the back hillside.

Kelly and Sinatra looking down at The Hollywood Bowl.

The entrance to The Hollywood Bowl as seen in the
film It's A Great Feeling (1949).

Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson both try to win
over Doris Day at the Bowl in It's A Great Feeling.

Morgan, Day, and Carson watching a show at the Bowl.

Wifey and Robby at the Bowl for
the Playboy Jazz Festival.

Fantasia at the Hollywood Bowl

Fireworks during Fantasia at the Hollywood Bowl.

Summer is coming to an end, although, it certainly doesn't feel like it will be over anytime soon with how hot it is currently in Los Angeles, but there is still another month of performances at the Bowl. Visit the official Hollywood Bowl website to view the calendar of events by clicking here.

Do you have any fond memories or experiences from visiting The Hollywood Bowl? Do you have any tricks or tips to share for visitors?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pushover (1954) - Film Locations

Pushover (1954)

In the 1954 film, Pushover, Fred MacMurray plays detective Paul Sheridan, a single, middle-age detective who falls in love with a bank robber's girlfriend, played by an irresistible blonde, Kim Novak in her first major starring role. When Novak learns that MacMurray is a detective, she uses her allure to convince him to kill her mobster boyfriend so the two can run away together with the robber's loot. MacMurray is a "pushover." He goes through with the plan but in the process of killing the mobster, MacMurray accidentally kills a cop. The suspense builds as MacMurray must deceive his fellow detectives and keep them off his tracks.

Pushover has often been compared to the earlier MacMurray film, Double Indmenity (1944), directed by Billy Wilder. Instead of an insurance salesman who falls for the wife of one of his clients, MacMurray is a detective who falls for the girlfriend of one of the crooks he is supposed to capture. Only in Pushover, Novak plays the femme fatale role that Barbara Stanwyck played in Double Indemnity. Although there may be many similarities between the two films, Pushover is an enjoyable noir thriller that is a classic in its own right.

Ben's Cocktails, Magnolia Blvd, Burbank, Ca

The film opens with MacMurray first meeting Novak in a movie theater parking lot. That movie theatre was the Magnolia Theatre located at 4403 West Magnolia Blvd in Burbank, California.  In the opening scene we get a glimpse of a bar called "Ben's Cocktails" (see screenshot above) which was located next to the theater. I'm not sure if Ben's was a real bar or not, but the building has since been demolished as you can see in the photograph below. The old Magnolia Theater building is still standing and can be seen on the right side of the photograph. The Magnolia Theater closed in 1977, but then operated as a recording studio. The building currently appears to be available for lease.

The Magnolia Theater is on the right.

The parking lot next to the theatre where MacMurray meets Novak.

The former Magnolia Theatre building.
4403 W. Magnolia Blvd, Burbank, Ca

The Magnolia Theater marquee as seen in Pushover.

Patrons leave the Magnolia Theater in the film Pushover.

The police department that is seen in the film is the Burbank City Hall building located at 275 East Olive Avenue. Construction on this beautiful art deco building was completed in 1943 and was funded by the Federal Works Agency, Works Project Administration (WPA) . The outside of the building features bas relief sculptures, many art deco details and a gorgeous fountain. The inside features large murals by the painter Hugo Ballin, who also painted murals in the Griffith Observatory.

The Police Department in Pushover.

Burbank City Hall

Fountain in front of Burbank City Hall.

Flying fishes on the fountain outside Burbank City Hall

275 E. Olive Ave, Burbank City Hall

A relief sculpture on the side of Burbank City Hall

If you haven't seen Pushover, the film is available on home video.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

On Vacation: The North Woods Part Two

Senator John Warner and Elizabeth Taylor
(Photo from Ministry Health Care Facebook Page)

This post is the second part related to my trip to the North Woods of Wisconsin. To read my first vacation post on the Little Bohemia Lodge, the site of the John Dillinger shootout with the FBI and the filming location for the film Public Enemies, click here. In today's post I visit a site related to the grand actress, Elizabeth Taylor.

Elizabeth Taylor spent ten of her childhood summers fishing, hiking and playing in the woods at her uncle Howard Young's estate, Cedar Gates, in Minocqua, Wisconsin. This small North Woods town,  sometimes referred to as "Island City," is surrounded by thousands of lakes and rivers. Young's estate was situated on Lake Minocqua, "one of whose islands Sara [Elizabeth's mother] had renamed 'Elizabeth's Island,'" according to Alexander Walker in his biography, Elizabeth: The Life of Elizabeth Taylor.  The island reminded Sara of J.M. Barrie's enchanted island in his play Mary Rose. One can imagine a young Taylor, play acting on the island, like a character out of one of Barrie's plays.

Minocqua, Wisconsin - "Island City"
Photo Credit: Jesse Canfield

When Taylor and her family had to go into town, Leslie Rusch, who owned a local dime store, remembered in a July 4, 1977 People magazine article, that Taylor "used to look at the coloring books and play the penny slot machine." I remember when I was a kid how fun it was to go and visit the small shops in Minocqua. As a boy, I was more interested in the sling-shots and the toy bow and arrows that I would have my parents buy so that I could go "hunting" outside when we got back to the cottage.

Like myself, Taylor always had fond memories of the summers she spent in Minocqua and would sometimes return to the area as an adult. On one occasion in 1977, Taylor visited Minocqua with then husband, Senator John Warner, for the dedication of the Howard Young Medical Center, a new state-of-the-art hospital. Taylor's uncle Young was a wealthy art dealer, who in 1972, surprised residents of the area when he bequeathed $20 million so that the area could build a new hospital and attract the best doctors. The photo at the top shows Taylor and Warner at the dedication ceremony. 

Howard Young Medical Center

In the next-door town of Woodruff, 2,500 people came out for the dedication of the new hospital, but mainly to see Elizabeth Taylor. "This would have been the proudest day of Uncle Howard's life," Taylor, as quoted in People, told the audience. Taylor told the audience how beautiful the area still was and explained that it was in Minocqua that she learned to fish, but that on this trip, her husband John fished without her. "He came back dangling a poor little fish," Taylor said. "He said, 'Honey, here's your breakfast." 

Now, you may be wondering, other than being a die-hard Elizabeth Taylor fan who must see everything related to Taylor, why would anyone want to visit this hospital? Well, for one, continuing in the tradition of Howard Young's passion for art as a dealer and collector, the hospital regularly displays artwork by local artists. These include paintings, drawings, photography and three-dimensional artwork. Even the outside of the hospital, was designed to be a copy of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, one might say an architectural piece of art. Second, inside the hospital is a display and video kiosk showing the history of Howard Young that is pretty interesting.

Video kiosk inside Howard Young Medical Center

The most interesting parts of the video kisok for me were the scenes of Howard Young at his Minocqua estate, which include some scenes of Elizabeth Taylor and Young's friend, President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Young considered Eisenhower a close friend and even played a big part in Eisenhower getting into the 1952 presidential race.

Video kiosk showing Howard Young Fishing in Minocqua

Prior to the new state-of-the-art hospital built using the money bequethed by Young, the first major hospital built in the Lakeland area also has an interesting back-story. Local doctor, Kate Newcomb had envisioned a hospital for the area and through contributions and volunteer help, construction began on a new hospital. Unfortunately there was not enough money to complete the project.

Students at the Arbor Vitae-Woodruff School, at the suggestion of their geometry teacher Otto Burich, started a campaign to collect a million pennies. This started the Million Penny Parade and the money collected would go towards the completion of the hospital.

In March 1954, Dr. Kate visited California for a doctors convention and ended up being the surprise guest of the TV program, "This is Your Life." Dr. Kate's appearance on the popular TV show inspired people all over the country to donate money to the campaign. With these additional donations enough money was raised to finish the hospital. 

The World's Largest Penny - Woodruff, Wisconsin

The hospital completed with funds from the Million Penny Parade.

Dr. Kate Museum, Woodruff, Wisconsin

Around the corner from the Lakeland area hospital which was built using money raised from the Million Penny Parade, is a museum dedicated to the legacy of Dr. Kate. It's an interesting stop worth peeking into. There is a screening room which shows the episode of "This is Your Life" that Dr. Kate appeared on and a short documentary on her life. There are also several artifacts on display including the letters sent in from people all over the United States who sent in money for the Million Penny Parade, the snow shoes Dr. Kate wore during the blustery and snowy Wisconsin winters to make "house" calls, as well as many photographs. 

Letters sent in from the Million Penny Parade

If you are interested in learning more about the Lakeland area here are some other sites to visit:

Monday, August 8, 2011

On Vacation: The North Woods Part One

Entrance to the Little Bohemia Lodge
Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin

Following in the footsteps of many classic Hollywood stars including Bing Crosby, actresses Janet Gaynor, Joan Crawford and Elizabeth Taylor, my wife and I took a vacation to the North Woods of Wisconsin. Although, it wasn't the Hollywood connections that attracted us to the area, but the same things that have attracted so many people to the area: the fresh aroma of pine trees, crystal clear lakes, fishing, boating, wildlife and a peaceful and serene atmosphere.

As a kid, I looked forward to vacationing in the North Woods every summer. I had not visited in over 15 years and had longed to go back, as well as show my wife, a born and raised Los Angeles city girl, what life in the woods is like. The moment we arrived in northern Wisconsin we were greeted by the familiar scent of pine. We saw bald eagles, loons (a common bird in the area), turtles, fish, otters, plenty of deer, woodpeckers, and numerous other wild critters. It was a landscape far different from the cityscape we left behind in LA. We were in the middle of the woods, far from most everything but nature. It's no wonder why so many of the big Chicago gangsters of the 1930s and 1940s also came to the North Woods of Wisconsin to get lost. 

Little Bohemia Lodge, Site of the John Dillinger Shootout

Yes, that's right, gangsters. During the 1930s and 1940s, whenever things got heated in Chicago, many of the gangsters would flee to the North Woods to hide out from the law. Many gangsters had cabins in the area or stayed at one of the small lodges in the woods. Sometimes the gangsters weren't hiding out. They were just looking for a relaxing vacation. Even gangsters need a little R&R.

One of the most famous incidents involving gangsters in the North Woods is the shoot-out between the FBI and John Dillinger and his gang. If you've seen the film Public Enemies, starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, you know the shoot-out I'm talking about. Both the actual shoot-out and the scene in the film took place at the Little Bohemia Lodge, located on Little Star Lake in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin. All the pictures in this first part of my trip report are of the Little Bohemia Lodge.

The balcony where Dillinger and gang escaped FBI.

In April of 1934, John Dillinger, a.k.a. public enemy number one, arrived in Manitowish Waters, along with his gang, to spend the weekend. The gang included Lester Gillis ("Baby Face Nelson"), Tommy Carrol, Homer Van Meter, and Pat Reilly. They were also accompanied by five women.

Dillinger and his gang were on the lam after a killing and robbery spree that took them across the Midwest. The FBI, headed by J. Edgar Hoover, were ready to do anything to catch Dillinger who had embarrassed the department when he was able to escape capture once before. On Sunday, April 22, 1934 the FBI received a tip that Dillinger and his gang were staying in Manitowish Waters at the Little Bohemia resort. Hoover gave orders for FBI agents in St. Paul and Chicago to head up to Manitowish Waters immediately.

The FBI's surprise attack on Dillinger and his men was a disaster. FBI men surrounded the lodge and when three innocent bar patrons left the lodge, the FBI opened fire on their car, killing one of the patrons immediately. Dillinger and his gang heard the gunfire and started their escape out a rear window and headed towards the shore of Little Star Lake. Baby Face Nelson, who was in another cabin, took off toward Highway 51, where he came across more agents in a car. Nelson opened fire on the agents, killing one and then taking their car to escape. The FBI continued firing bullets and tear gas at the lodge, but when they entered, only the five women who were left behind were found. Dillinger was ultimately gunned down three months later when he was leaving the Biograph Theatre in Chicago.

Bullet holes in the 2nd floor balcony.

In the above photo you can see the balcony where Dillinger and his men escaped. The bullet holes in this balcony were recreated for the filming of Public Enemies, but you can see real bullet holes from the actual shoot-out in other areas of the lodge. Further below are some photographs of the actual bullet holes.

Actual WANTED ad for John Dillinger.

Items left behind by Dillinger and gang.

Original newspapers headlining Dillinger's escape from the FBI.

The main bar at the Little Bohemia lodge.

Looking into the bar.

The suitcase Dillinger used to carry their stolen money.

Items left behind by Dillinger's gang.

A photo of Johnny Depp dressed as Dillinger with 
the current owners of the Little Bohemia lodge.

The sign above the lodge restaurant.

Real bullet holes in the window.

Bullet holes.

Dining room with bullet holes everywhere.

Real Bullet Holes.

Clothes left behind by Dillinger.

More clothes left behind by Dillinger and gang.

The room where Dillinger and gang stayed.

Another view of the room where Dillinger stayed.

The bathroom next to Dillinger's room.

The Little Bohemia Lodge Restaurant.

My wife and I, along with my parents, had a late breakfast in the restaurant at the Little Bohemia lodge. The portions were quite large and everyone seemed to enjoy what they ordered. I was more hungry for lunch, so I ordered the "Dillinger Dip," Little Bohemia's take on a French dip sandwich.

If you stop by to visit Little Bohemia, which I definitely recommend, it is worth eating in the restaurant. Our friendly server, Vince, was also full of knowledge regarding the filming of Public Enemies. My favorite story was regarding all the pine needles on the ground. Before the filming started, Vince was raking the grounds around the Little Bohemia lodge, clearing the area of all the fallen pine needles and pine cones. This is before he knew they would be using the lodge for the film. By the time Vince finished raking the grounds he found out that the film crew was shipping in $5,000 worth of pine needles from New Hampshire!

Looking at the lodge from the lake side.

The back side of Little Bohemia lodge.

Little Star Lake behind the Little Bohemia Lodge

Above is Little Star Lake, right behind the Little Bohemia lodge. It is along the shore of this lake that Dillinger and his gang made their escape. During the filming of Public Enemies, our server Vince and his friends were able to watch the filming take place from their boat on the lake. 

It was also nice to hear everyone speak kindly of Johnny Depp. People said he was a nice guy and that he took time to pose for photographs.

If you ever make it to the North Woods of Wisconsin, the Little Bohemia lodge is certainly worth a stop. Later I'll post some more of my North Woods trip.


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