Looking for Hollywood history and David Lynch’s Los Angeles: Part 4

HOLLYWOOD

Detail from the 1937 map Hollywood Starland : Official Moviegraph of the Land of Stars, Where They Live, Where They Work and Where They Play

See an INDEX for this series of blog posts.

In this part: Paramount Studios / The Hollywood Walk of Fame / The death scene in Inland Empire / The Frolic Room / Cinerama Dome / Alto Nido Apartments / Hollywood Center Motel / Hollywood Athletic Club / Crossroads of the World / Capitol Records / Mural at Sunset and Vine / Philip Marlowe’s office / Amoeba Music

PARAMOUNT STUDIOS

During my trip to L.A., I took the Paramount Studio Tour—a fun time for movie fans. The $60, two-hour tour takes you through the backlots where film crews are at work.

I didn’t spot any movie stars, but I still got a thrill out of sensing the work of movies being made nearby. And I loved seeing those big beige buildings where filmmakers create their fictional worlds—including one where Alfred Hitchcock’s team surreptitiously excavated the floor to create more vertical height for the set of Rear Window. (That’s the story our tour guide told us, anyway.)

Bronson Gate

Bronson Gate used to be Paramount’s main entrance, but the studio complex expanded, taking over the street in front of it. It’s visible in many movies, including Billy Wilder’s 1950 classic Sunset Boulevard and David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. In Lynch’s film, the same car that was featured so prominently in Sunset Boulevard—the luxurious 1929 Isotta Fraschini 8A owned by silent film star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson)—is seen parked just beyond Bronson Gate.

It’s said to be good luck to touch the metal of the Bronson Gate as you enter Paramount. But our tour guide warned us: When you’re walking out through the gates, it’s bad luck to touch them.

The former offices of Alfred Hitchcock at Paramount, where he blocked these windows with bookcases.
An area of the Paramount complex nicknamed Star Trek Alley, because Star Trek movies and shows have been filmed in the buildings along here.
Paramount films water scenes at this blue parking lot next to a fake sky (after adding water, of course). This is where Charlton Heston as Moses parted the Red Sea in 1956’s The Ten Commandments.
A props warehouse
Some of the fake New York City streets at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, which have been used in many films and TV shows.
These New York subway stairs lead down one flight, ending at a wall.

THE HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME

I didn’t realize that the Hollywood Walk of Fame sprawled across quite as many blocks as it does. When I arrived in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles, two of the first stars I noticed in the sidewalks were those honoring Oliver Hardy and Orson Welles.

I couldn’t help noticing the shoddy condition of the stars in some areas of Hollywood. Most of the damaged stars I noticed were blank ones.

THE DEATH SCENE IN INLAND EMPIRE

Seeing those stars on Hollywood’s sidewalks got me thinking about one of the most memorable moments in David Lynch’s 2006 movie Inland Empire: the scene where Laura Dern’s character dies on a Hollywood Boulevard sidewalk, surrounded by street people who are either unfazed by her dire condition and oblivious to it.

“You dyin’, lady.”

As Dern recalled in an interview with Los Angeles Magazine: “My character dies on a star near Hollywood and Vine. Right on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Not that far from Grauman’s.”

In the film, Dern’s character (or her characters?) wanders back and forth on these streets. At times, the geography may be deliberately jumbled, like the movie itself.

Dern is near a pay phone at 6330 Hollywood Boulevard when she sees her doppelgänger across the street. At another point, she’s near a pay phone at 6331 Hollywood Boulevard, over on that side of the street.

6330 Hollywood Boulevard, as seen in Inland Empire
Google Streetview of 6330 Hollywood Boulevard (April 2019)

Dern enters a nightclub somewhere in the vicinity. Later, when she is back on the streets, she is stabbed—right next to the sidewalk star for actress Dorothy Lamour, at 6332 Hollywood Boulevard.

But after the stabbing, Dern is seen walking north on Vine Street, going through the intersection of Hollywood and Vine, and heading west on Hollywood Boulevard.

Images from Inland Empire

A Starbucks currently occupies the corner space in a building seen behind Dern as she walks through the intersection.

On the block of Hollywood Boulevard west of Vine Street, there’s a club called Dejà Vu Showgirls …

Along with the star for Gloria Swanson, among others …

And there’s a lot where a promotional display for the movie It Chapter Two was being dismantled at the time of my visit…

And the Church of Scientology’s L. Ron Hubbard Life Exhibition was open late at night, with a bust of Hubbard visible through the open doors, sitting in front of a shimmering screen. This place is visible in the background of the scenes in Inland Empire.

But soon after Dern is seen walking west on the street, another shot shows her walking east on the same block, with some of the buildings on Ivar Avenue behind her.

Images from Inland Empire

At nighttime, some of the storefronts on this block were covered by metal shutters, just like the ones seen behind Dern as she dies in Inland Empire.

This is what the south side of the street looks like:

Google Streetview (January 2017)

The grainy, digital look of Lynch’s Inland Empire makes it difficult to decipher details such as the names on the stars in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. So I wasn’t able to pinpoint exactly where Dern is shown vomiting up blood and dying. But I do know I was somewhere on the same block. (Or were the final moments of that scene filmed inside a studio, as the movie itself suggests?)

THE FROLIC ROOM

A block east from this scene, the Frolic Room is one of Hollywood’s most famous bars—an old-school joint that opened to the public in 1934 (after operating as a private speakeasy lounge called Freddy’s).

Charles Bukowski was said to be a regular, and the Frolic Room was reportedly the last place that Elizabeth Short, the murder victim known as the Black Dahlia, was seen alive. Brian DePalma’s 2006 movie of The Black Dahlia used the bar as a location, as did L.A. Confidential. And Howard Hughes owned both this place, along with the adjacent Theatre, from 1949 to 1954.

I stopped in for a beer, eavesdropping on a young guy down the bar who was talking about Quentin Tarantino.

CINERAMA DOME

I saw a movie on the curved screen at the Pacific Theatre’s Cinerama Dome—a new digital restoration of the 1956 travelogue documentary Seven Wonders of the World. Like other movies in the Cinerama format, it was filmed with three side-by-side cameras. That triptych is projected onto the curved screen inside this geodesic dome.

I watched half of the movie from a seat close to the screen, which created an odd effect: The images off on the far left and far right sides were in my peripheral vision if I looked straight ahead. If I glanced over to one of the sides, the images there were remarkably sharp and focused.

Rick Schuler, location manager for Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood told Fandango: “DiCaprio and Pitt drive by the theater where the premiere of Krakatoa, East of Java is taking place…”
“Designed by Welton Becket and Associates and completed in 1963, the Cinerama Dome was originally designed as a prototype to be used throughout the country to showcase the new Cinerama process, but only a few other Cinerama theatres were ever built…”

ALTO NIDO APARTMENTS

1851 North Ivar Street, the apartment building where Joe Gillis (William Holden) lives in Sunset Boulevard.

HOLLYWOOD CENTER MOTEL

A location seen in L.A. Confidential … The vacant motel was looking pretty desolate when I visited.

HOLLYWOOD ATHLETIC CLUB

In director Robert Aldrich’s great 1955 film-noir Kiss Me Deadly, this is where detective Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) finds the “great whatsit”—a briefcase containing a mysteriously hot and glowing substance—inside a locker.

CROSSROADS OF THE WORLD

In L.A. Confidential, “Designer Robert Vincent Derrah’s ‘pedestrian village’ in Hollywood is the site of Sid Hudgens’ (Danny DeVito) cluttered Hush-Hush office,” the Curbed Los Angeles website notes.

CAPITOL RECORDS

MURAL AT SUNSET AND VINE

PHILIP MARLOWE’S OFFICE

Author Raymond Chandler’s detective character Philip Marlowe “famously worked on the seventh floor of the ‘Cahuenga Building’—actually the former Security Bank Building at the corner of Hollywood and Cahuenga,” the ScoutingLA.com website says. “Opened in 1922, it served as a branch for the bank, as well as rental office space.”

AMOEBA MUSIC

Continued in Part 5.

See an INDEX for this series of blog posts.
In this part: Paramount Studios / The Hollywood Walk of Fame / The death scene in Inland Empire / The Frolic Room / Cinerama Dome / Alto Nido Apartments / Hollywood Center Motel / Hollywood Athletic Club / Crossroads of the World / Capitol Records / Mural at Sunset and Vine / Philip Marlowe’s office / Amoeba Music

Photos by Robert Loerzel unless noted otherwise.