By All That's Interesting | Checked By Leah Silverman
Published November 26, 2014
Updated October 28, 2019
These incredible photographs of vintage Hollywood present us a vision of life at the height of the American cultural empire.
The quintessential Hollywood landmark, the Hollywood sign was originally an advertisement for a local real estate developer. Eventually, it fell into disrepair and was fixed by The Los Angeles Parks Department, but leaving off the “LAND” to reflect the district, not the housing development. In 1932, the sign was the site of Peg Entwistle’s suicide. She jumped from the H and died of multiple fractures of the pelvis.
From the late 1920s to the early 1960s, Hollywood radiated pure gold. Filmmaking was highly regimented and most movies stuck closely to a genre with all of the associated tropes, though it could be argued that they were also setting the tropes that would persist into the 21st century.
Many film studios glossed over the World Wars and ignored the Depression, instead providing viewers with idyllic fictions to occupy their free time. Off screen, stars had real lives that no one knew about. Politicians did their jobs and ladies were dames. Milk always arrived on time and marriage solved everything. Nowadays, we know better.
Nonetheless, there is something striking about the stars captured by Vaseline covered lenses, the movies where banter was more important than cleavage. Things seemed simpler and love could conquer all. Little did anyone realize that a presidential assassination, race riots and yet another war would soon rip through the United States and leave us trembling.
Yet, like so many stars in Hollywood whose own lives were filled with tragedy, we picked ourselves back up, admitted our failures and kept fighting for something better. So here’s to the melancholic beauty of a weird enclave called Hollywood, a city built upon pure fantasy, the embodiment of the American Dream:
A cultural powerhouse that exuded disillusionment and contempt all over celluloid, James Dean only appeared in three films before he was killed in a car crash. He received two posthumous Academy Award nominations for East of Eden and Giant.
Marilyn Monroe meets with the Queen of England. Source: Live Journal
Rock Hudson, the studly man on the right grasping Elizabeth Taylor in a passionate embrace, was a popular leading man, starring in comedies and dramas, often opposite Doris Day. America was shocked to discover that Hudson was homosexual, though it was commonly known throughout Hollywood. He passed away in 1985, the first major celebrity to die from an AIDS-related illness.Source: Wikimedia
Brigitte Bardot tells Jane Birkin a secret.Source: Live Journal
The Hollywood Canteen was established in 1942 by Bette Davis with help from a friend named Jules Stein, the president of the Music Corporation of America. It was designed as a club for servicemen who traveled through Hollywood. Wearing a uniform got a serviceman in for free and everything was free inside, including sly glances at Rita Hayworth serving up food or maybe a dance with Betty Grable. Other stars helped with cooking, cleaning and entertainment, including Marlene Deitrich, Cary Grant and The Marx Brothers.Source: Martin Turnbull
Cary Grant changed his name from Archibald Leach when he became a legal citizen of the United States in 1942, after emigrating from England. With his debonair charm, good looks and knack for the slapstick after his time in Vaudeville, Grant became a household name. He had five wives, one of whom introduced him to LSD, which he claimed brought him inner peace. You’re stoned, Mr. Grant.Wikimedia
Brigitte Bardot glances at a young Sean Connery.Source: Live Journal
Warren Beatty has had enough of Jack Nicholson and Lauren Bacall's lip.Source: Live Journal
An English film director and producer, Alfred Hitchcock would change the face of suspense and thriller movies, framing shots to maximize fear and tension and mimicking points of view. He made cameos in most of his own films, which always makes for a fun Where’s Waldo moment. He was knighted in 1980, the same year he passed away.Source: Wikimedia
Marlon Brando types away as a kitten warms the small of his neck.Source: Live Journal
A young David Bowie clings tightly to Liz Taylor. Source: Live Journal
Jayne Mansfield was a singer, actress and an early Playboy playmate. She had five children with three husbands, one of which is the actress Mariska Hargitay, daughter of Mickey Hargitay. While Jayne was famous for her beauty, she has unfortunately often been remembered for her death. She died in a tragic car accident in 1967 at 34 years old.Source: Wikia
Best known as wacky housewife Lucy Ricardo, Lucille Ball had a career that spanned the golden age of Hollywood and lasted into the 1980s. Once a pin up model, she pushed the envelope on her television show by denying the typical housewife tropes. She was forced to provide testimony regarding her Communist affiliations but it was determined that the only thing “red about Lucy is her hair, and even that is not legitimate.” Source: Hannah And Husband
Released in 1962, the film “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” was a commercial success largely due to a massive rivalry between the two main divas of the show: Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. This led to a revitalization of each of their careers and also started the Hag horror sub-genre, thus also reviving Shelly Winters’ career.
The aging Charlie Chaplin with the vibrant Paulette Goddard.Source: Live Journal
Arguably the first star of the silent film era, Mae Murray got her big fame off of The Merry Widow. She was also one of the first female actresses to have her own production company. She married who she thought was a prince and he swindled her out of all of her money and forced her to lose custody of her only son. A founding member of the Motion Picture and Television Fund, they helped care for her in her old age, along with George Hamilton’s mother.
Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon square off beneath the Eiffel Tower.Source: Live Journal
Catherine Deneuve exchanges words with her sister, Françoise Dorléac.Source: Live Journal
A young Marlene Dietrich hits the beach. Source: Live Journal
Opened by Wilson Mizner, the most famous of a chain of Brown Derby restaurants in Los Angeles was shaped like a derby hat. The second Brown Derby was the branch that was an influential part of Hollywood history, providing a meeting place for the stars, appearing in two I Love Lucy episodes and inventing the Cobb Salad. The Brown Derby has since been replaced by a mall, but the hat sits on the third floor of the building. Source: Wikimedia
Clint Eastwood with his first wife, Maggie, in 1955. Source: Live Journal
Born Norma Jean Mortensen, the woman that would become the singer, actress and sex symbol known as Marilyn Monroe would star in a number of successful films and also start her own production company. Plagued by controversy, miscarriages, failed marriages and depression, her death in 1962 of an overdose has been the basis for much conjecture involving murder and the CIA. Source: Thirteen
Judy Garland with her daughter Liza Minnelli. Source: Live Journal
The TCL Chinese Theatre was once known as Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, was opened in 1927 and has been the site of many movie premieres including Star Wars in 1977. Designed as a palace styled theatre, it would further become famous for the forecourt that features footprints, handprints and signatures of popular movie actors from the 1920’s to present. In 2013 it was converted to an IMAX but the Chinese styled features were retained reminding everyone of a time when oriental was an acceptable term. Source: Blogspot
Audrey Hepburn plays games with a fawn. Source: Live Journal
A young Jane Fonda fools around in the back of a car. Source: Live Journal
A Los Angeles Department of Water and Power dam, the Mulholland Dam is in Hollywood Hills and holds the Hollywood Reservoir. In the 1974 disaster film, Earthquake, the dam threatens to collapse because of damage. Source: Water And Power
Francis Ford Coppola showing Akira Kurosawa his new polaroid. Source: Live Journal
Veronica Lake was another popular actress during the golden age and was one of the most reliable box office draws in Hollywood. Popular for launching the peek-a-boo hairstyle, Veronica would acquire her pilot’s license in 1946 and would fly herself and her children to New York when she left her second husband. Source: Wikipedia
Stanley Kubrick stands erect next to a penis. Source: Live Journal
The Cocoanut Grove nightclub was located in The Ambassador Hotel and was a popular party locale for the stars. The club also hosted excellent entertainers like Judy Garland, Lena Horne and Frank Sinatra. Its decline began in 1968 because it was the location of the Robert Kennedy assassination. Coupled with drug use and gang activity in the neighborhood, the hotel and club were forced to shut down. After some use as a private rental facility, it was demolished in 2005. Source: Blogspot
Woody Allen and Diane Keaton laugh on set. Source: Live Journal
Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate stroll together. Source: Live Journal
With her bright platinum blonde locks, Jean Harlow had a meteoric rise to fame appearing in at 36 films in ten years, as well as short movies. Married three times, she divorced her first and third husbands, but the second was found shot to death in her home, which only increased her popularity. She died in 1937 of kidney failure at the age of 26. Source: Wordpress
Michael Caine and Nancy Sinatra wine and dine together.Source: Live Journal
When Harry S. Truman announced that the war was over with Japan, the world—along with Hollywood--rejoiced. The crowds sang, made impromptu confetti and started a parade. This also meant that every actress working at the Hollywood Canteen received impromptu smooches from the servicemen in attendance.Source: Blogspot
Jon Voight with newborn Angelina Jolie. Source: Live Journal
Signed to MGM at age 16, Lana Turner would find fame as the femme fatale from the late 1930s throughout the 1950s. In 1958, her daughter stabbed Turner’s lover, Johnny Stompanato to death. While many theories were floated through the media, the murder was deemed justifiable homicide. Source: Wikimedia
While not actually located in Hollywood, Gay’s Lion Farm was a significant part of Hollywood history. The farm in El Monte housed the MGM lion along with multiple lions used in Tarzan. The site was open to visitors until it closed in 1942 due to lack of funds. Nowadays it would close due to a mauling. Source: Blogspot