May 15, 2013 § 3 Comments
Recently I was driving through Hancock Park, my former neighborhood, when I noticed a house with a sign reading “Armed Guard on Premises.” Although break-ins are common there–I was a victim twice–this seemed an extreme measure, so I asked my niece who lives nearby about it. “They just say that,” she said. “There’s no armed guard.”
Now I live in Hollywoodland, where a steady stream of tourists headed for the Hollywood Sign passes my house each day and coyotes patrol by night. Actually, coyotes patrol by day as well, as these photos, taken on a recent midday–attest. This is the big-eared coyote that appeared in a post a few months ago, and these days I see it often. At night, I often hear coyotes hunting vermin on the hillside above my house, a circle-of-life function that goes naturally with nocturnal lurking.
May 8, 2013 § Leave a Comment
April 29, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I first noticed American movies released with drastically changed titles when I was in Paris in 1994. [Apologies in advance for the missing accent marks in this post.] The film in question was a 1993 Bruce Willis vehicle called “Striking Distance”–admittedly not the easiest title to translate–whose French title was “Piege en Eaux Troubles.” Why “Plight on Troubled Waters” was presumed a better title, I have no idea. But over the years I’ve noticed that the French almost always retitle American films, even when the original is perfectly translatable. Last year, “The Life of Pi” became “L’Odysee de Pi” in France, while Canada chose “L’histoire de Pi.” (The Canadian version of “Striking Distance,” by the way, was “Sur le Traces de l’Enemies,” proving Quebec a worthy rival to France, translation-wise.)
Surpassing the French and Quebequois for title changes are Spanish-speaking countries. The ever-morphing “Striking Distance” became “Persecucion Mortal” in Spain and “Zona de Impacto” in Argentina. As for “The Life of Pi,” while Spain, unusually, translated it literally, as “La Vida de Pi,” Argentina went with “Una Aventura Extraordinaria,” thus becoming the only country in the world to drop the Pi.
Lately Argentina seems to have emerged as the worldwide champion of creative renaming, according to this list that a friend sent me last Christmas:
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK – EL LADO LUMINOSO DE LA VIDA
ZERO DARK THIRTY – LA NOCHE MAS OSCURA
PARENTAL GUIDANCE – S.O.S. UNA FAMILIA EN APUROS
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD – LA NINA DEL SUR SALVAJE
QUARTET – RIGOLETTO EN APUROS
While I don’t have a problem with “The Girl of the Savage South,” translating “Zero Dark Thirty” as “The Darkest Night” seems a bit much. After all, the title doesn’t mean anything in English to those who haven’t served in the military, so why not “Zero Oscuro Treinta”? As for “Parental Guidance” and “Quartet,” “apuros”–trouble–is so reductive that seeing the films seems beside the point. I’d love to be a fly on the wall in whatever Buenos Aires office handles this work; no doubt the translators think their titles are an improvement on the originals, though they’re not.
Happily, there’s one country that almost never changes a title: Japan. On my recent trip there, I was amused to see “Flight” rendered in katakana as “Furaito,” even though there is a perfectly good Japanese word for it (hishou). But the Japanese use “furaito” more than hishou; not for nothing do they publish an annual dictionary of “new words,” many of which are foreign-derived. Unlike the French, the Japanese have no fear of language corruption, welcoming foreign words into their language full tilt. Thus “Zero Dark Thirty” and “The Life of Pi” were released with their original titles, like almost every American movie in Japan. But even the Japanese have their limits: for “Striking Distance” they used the U.S. working title, “Three Rivers.”
April 23, 2013 § Leave a Comment
From Stewart Edward Allen comes this photo of his two grandmothers with their friend Peter the Hermit. It’s the first color photo I’ve seen of Peter, and comes with this description:
I had two very eccentric grandmothers by the names of Thareen Auroraa and Mimi Reed.
They were terrific women who worked in Burlesque and “Showbiz” for many years.
They lived on Reklaw Drive from 1946 until their deaths in 2005.
They knew Peter the Hermit.
They loved him. They told stories of how we would come and visit them and sit in their home and say “This place has good vibrations.”
They said he would hang out. They would have something to eat with him. Knowing my grandmothers I am sure they had
a little drink or two too.
Peter certainly got around. Readers of this blog will know that he was widely photographed throughout his life in Los Angeles, and that his image turns up in all kinds of unexpected places. Coincidentally, just today I was shown another photo of Peter–an unusual cyanotype portrait done in the 20s by a well-known Hollywood photographer. I hope I’ll be permitted to show it in the future.
The Millennium Hollywood Project’s Historical Precedent: M. H. Sherman, the Water Board and the Development of the San Fernando Valley
April 17, 2013 § Leave a Comment
As it happens, there is a precedent for this circumstance in Los Angeles’ civic history. While doing research for my documentary Under the Hollywood Sign, I learned that one of Hollywoodland’s key developers, Gen. M. H. Sherman, was buying up huge tracts of agricultural land for development in the San Fernando Valley during the same period–the late teens and early 20s. At that point, Sherman–for whom Sherman Way and Sherman Oaks are named–was also serving as Water Commissioner on the board of DWP, thereby controlling the commodity that was essential to the Valley’s transformation. Conflict of interest? Of course! But no one suggested he recuse himself from civic office, and we all know what happened to the farms and orchards that once filled the Valley. By wearing two hats, Sherman enriched both himself and his legacy as a City Father.
Until now, I thought such shenanigans were a thing of the past, yet here we see William Roschen about to benefit from the very project he is in the process of approving. Conflict of interest? You might think so, but at City Hall it’s only business as usual–just as it was a century ago.
March 30, 2013 § 1 Comment
As readers of this blog know, Hollywood was once an independent city, culturally and politically distinct from Los Angeles. In fact, it was the anti-Los Angeles: religious, semi-rural and dry. From 1903 to 1910, Hollywood passed its own laws and collected its own revenues. It not only outlawed alcohol but forced Los Angeles to send liquor westward in a circuitous route around it. Life would have probably continued in that vein for a few more years if not for the matter of water. In an arid region, Hollywood’s survival depended on water from the California Aqueduct, then under construction. But the only way for Hollywood to tap into the Aqueduct was to become part of Los Angeles, so like a lot of other little towns, it did.
Change came immediately. There was massive new development in the form of movie studios and houses for the new stars and moguls of that industry, and by 1920 Hollywood had surpassed downtown Los Angeles as an urban hub. Its glory days were shortened by the Great Depression, and over the decades Hollywood became a seedy and crime-ridden place. Despite various attempts at rejuvenation, things didn’t really turn around until a decade ago, with the completion of Hollywood and Highland in 2002.
Since then, Hollywood has became not only a tourist destination but a kind of Nightlife Ground Zero for suburbanites from miles around, drawn here by restaurants, clubs, theater and concerts. Anyone attempting to drive through Hollywood on a weekend night can see the difference: streets that not so long ago were the nighttime domain of panhandlers, hookers and homeless people are now thronged with young women in tight dresses and stiletto heels and the men who want to meet them. Hollywood Boulevard, once so blighted that the average tourist spent only 20 daytime minutes there, is now vibrant, glittering and packed with pedestrians–and lots and lots of cars.
Unfortunately, the major aspect of Hollywood that hasn’t changed is the streets–essentially the same ones laid out by Harvey and Daeida Wilcox in the 1890s. The exponential increase in traffic has overburdened them to the point where certain streets such as Franklin Avenue are now congested day and night. During rush hour, gridlock is common, and on Franklin drivers often jump the median line in an attempt to gain some advantage, terrifying the oncoming traffic.
Given the evidence, it’s safe to assume that few of Hollywood’s visitors arrive by public transport, yet this is what Mayor Villaraigosa thinks will happen if a massive new project call Millennium Hollywood is built. Occupying a large swath of land north of Hollywood and Vine, the development features two towers over 50 stories (dwarfing the current tallest building in Hollywood, at only 20 stories) as well as numerous other buildings. Where all the cars for the new residents and workers are supposed to go is anyone’s guess–certainly the developers and City Hall haven’t given it much thought. The objections of 40 neighborhood organizations have just been dismissed, and it seems obvious that some version of the scheme pictured above will be built.
Of course there’s so much more to the story–including a clear conflict of interest at City Hall that uncannily mirrors one of a century ago. The more things change in Los Angeles, the more things stay the same: needless to say, I’ll be writing more about Millennium Hollywood and its antecedents in the future. In the meantime, I’m taking a couple of weeks off to do other, non-Hollywood things, and will be blogging again in mid-April.