The HFPA has Hollywood in its name and, indeed, Hollywood has been our beat and our hq for 70 years. THEO KINGMA climbed every mountain, hill and rope to investigate what was going on with the internationally famous sign that hovers over our neighborhood. This is his report (and some amazing photographs):
Back in 1923, when real estate developers put up a large sign spelling HOLLYWOODLAND above the hills of a still rural Hollywood, they did so in the hope of selling parcels of orange groves.
Those interested the area, promoted as “a superb environment without excessive cost”, were even offered a free night stay at the only available hotel – The Hollywood Hotel.
In 1949, with the sign in decay, the City of Los Angeles decided to restore the sign, though with no need to promote the land, dropped the last four letters.
Today, the Hollywood sign stands among the most recognized signs in the world. The letters are 45 feet high and 31 to 39 feet wide. The total length is 350 feet.
Like so many starlets, the sign’s Hollywood career has known its drama. In 1932 a Broadway actress committed suicide by jumping off the sign. In the 1940s, the signs caretaker – somewhat under the influence – rolled down the hill in his Ford Model A, destroying the letter ‘H’. In the 1970s, the first ‘O’ broke in half and turned into a ‘U’. Shortly thereafter, the second ‘O’ tumbled down the steep hills.
Like so many aging stars that live below below her, the 89-year-old sign, is currently receiving a facelift.
Over a ten week period, each letter will be carefully stripped, primed and repainted white. The refurbishing efforts will require approximately 110 gallons of primer and 275 gallons of Emerald Exterior paint.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Grants and Installation Lunch was widely covered by news organizations, magazines and television stations across the country who devoted much space and airtime to the celebrity-studded affair.
More than $1.5 million was given away by the association to various film-related charities and organisations, including $350,000 to the Film Foundation, which was accepted by Leonardo DiCaprio for the preservation and restoration of classic films.
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More than “Roman Holiday,” “Sabrina,” “My Fair Lady” or any of her many other films, the signature image of Audrey Hepburn for which she is most remembered –the long elegant black dress, the stylish hair-do, the string of pearls, and of course the impossibly long cigarette holder– belongs to “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
With her performance in that movie and her wardrobe designed by her friend, Givenchy, Hepburn cemented her reputation as a fashion icon and Hollywood’s reigning queen of chic, never mind that her part was really that of prostitute.
“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” was adapted from a novella by Truman Capote, who was not pleased with the dramatic changes that Paramount Studios and screenwriter George Axelrod made to his work. For one thing Capote’s story was somewhat dark and gritty and not “a valentine to New York,” as he later complained. For another, the author wanted Marilyn Monroe for the part of Holly Golightly, a free-spirited party girl of dubious origins who wants to marry the richest man in world, but whose only companion is a nameless cat. It was not to be, despite the writer’s pleas, since Monroe was under contract to 20th Century Fox, and Hepburn was Paramount’s brightest new star.
The starring cast was completed by George Peppard as Paul Varjak, a struggling writer who falls in love with Holly, but who is “helped” by a rich “patron” played by Patricia Neal.
One of the best elements of the picture is “Moon River”, the song with words by Johnny Mercer and music by Henry Mancini, that Hepburn sings with a guitar sitting on the outside stairs of her apartment after she’s washed her hair. Ironically, it is reported that when the movie was previewed, Martin Rackin, head of Paramount production, said, “that f*ing song has to go,” while Hepburn had to be restrained by her then husband, Mel Ferrer, screaming back, “over my dead body.”
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the film is Mickey Rooney’s stereotypical portrayal, with buck teeth and a phony accent, of Mr. Yunioshi, the Japanese landlord. Political correctness was not in vogue then, but why Hepburn didn’t say anything is not known; four years before, she was offered the part of a Japanese bride in “Sayonara” with Marlon Brando, which she refused saying, “I couldn’t possibly play an Oriental. No one would believe me. They’d laugh. And if you did persuade me, you would regret it, because I’d be terrible.”
In 1962, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” won two Golden Globe nominations, as a Best Motion Picture – Comedy and for Audrey Hepburn as a Best Motion Picture Actress – Musical or Comedy.Read More »
By Jorge Camara
Typical of the period, the picture was a romanticized and not quite accurate biography of famous songstress, Jane Froman, whose real voice was used in all the singing sequences. Froman was in an airplane crash on an USO tour during World War II. Her valiant refusal to be seen as a cripple, and her efforts to reclaim her career without the use of her legs, form the dramatic core of the film. Romantic entanglements ensue between the singer and her husband (David Wayne) who managed her and made her a star, and the pilot (Rory Calhoun) who survived the same accident. Many of the unavoidable tendencies to schmaltz and sentimentality are thankfully and firmly squashed by the incomparable Thelma Ritter, appearing in the role of a nurse who refuses to allow her ward to wallow in self-pity. In a small role credited with making him a star, a very young Robert Wagner plays a shell-shocked soldier who comes to life when Hayward sings to him.
More than two dozen songs that Froman made famous are used in the movie, including “Blue Moon,” “That Old Feeling,” “It’s a Good Day,” “Get Happy,” “I’m Through with Love,” “Give My Regards To Broadway,” “California Here I Come” and, of course, the one that serves as the film’s title.
Three years later, Susan Hayward would play another troubled singer, Lillian Roth, in another fake biography, I’ll Cry Tomorrow (this one dealing with alcoholism), in which Hayward’s voice would again be dubbed by the actual singer.Read More »