December 3, 2013 § Leave a Comment
On my recent trip to England I spent a weekend in Margate, a lovely old seaside resort on the southeast coast. (I was invited there by the playwright Heath Woodward, whose musical about Peg Entwistle “Goodnight September” was in rehearsals, one of which I attended and greatly enjoyed.) Margate is famous for several reasons, the most important of them having to do with art. The great landscape painter J. M. W. Turner painted in Margate throughout his life, producing about 100 canvases there. Many of them are seascapes whose dramatic clouds I thought were exaggerated until I saw them for myself and realized that Turner took no liberties.
Then there’s the T.S. Eliot connection. Readers of “The Wasteland” will remember the passage in Part III: On Margate Sands/I can connect/Nothing with nothing. Perhaps the most moving expression of alienation in modern poetry, it was written in Margate when Eliot was recovering from a nervous breakdown in 1921. While staying at the stylish Albermarle Hotel in Margate’s Cliftonville district, Eliot worked on his masterpiece at the Nayland Rock Shelter, a three-sided glass pavilion on the Promenade. But the Margate Sands were already famous: while other English resorts have pebbled shorelines, Margate’s beaches boast the kind of golden sand associated with Italy and Spain.
The Albermarle is long gone, but the Walpole Bay Hotel, where I stayed, is a worthy successor. A graceful Victorian-era landmark just off the Promenade, the Walpole Bay features cream teas, Sunday lunches and a museum of Victorian and Edwardian artifacts collected by its charming owner, Jane Bishop.
There’s also a gallery of artwork drawn on the hotel’s linen, a tradition begun when a guest started sketching on his napkin in the dining room. One of the contributors to the Napery is the Turner Prize-nominated conceptual artist, recent CBE and all-around badass Tracey Emin, a Margate native who stays at the hotel during her visits, but most aren’t as famous, or even necessarily visual artists. I found the collection fascinating, and when Jane presented me with a napkin at the end of my stay I knew exactly what I would do. The result is pictured above: the view of the Hollywood Sign from my upstairs window, painted with acrylics.
November 29, 2013 § Leave a Comment
When my plane from San Francisco was descending over LAX on Monday, I made sure to look for the Hollywood Sign. It was easy to spot: a white line of letters on a distant mountainside, unobstructed by buildings or trees. Perhaps that’s why people who visit Los Angeles are surprised that the Sign is located in a residential neighborhood, and that houses and trees crowd the area below it. Since I live only a mile away from the Sign and a mile below it, I mostly glimpse it between tree branches, houses and telephone wires. Like the moon on a cloudy night, the Sign shifts in and out of view, surprising me with its appearances.
Today it rained, a welcome change from the drought that has plagued California during the past several years. At times it was sunny, and late this morning it managed to be sunny and rainy at the same time. Around 4:30pm, I went for a walk and took this photo of the Sign partially obscured by trees. A short time later, walking down Beachwood Drive, I looked up at the beautiful sky–blue, amber and dotted with clouds.
Next time: My painting for the Walpole Bay Hotel
November 23, 2013 § Leave a Comment
One was a politician, the other a writer, but both were philosophers. They died fifty years ago yesterday, one assassinated in the prime of life, the other carried off in early old age by cancer. If Aldous Huxley’s death had occurred on another day, it would have received far more attention–he was, after all, the author of Brave New World and many other works of fiction and nonfiction, and in later life had became famous for his experiments with LSD. As it happened, Aldous Huxley’s obituary was a footnote to that infamous day. (When I interviewed Huxley’s widow Laura in 2007, she said he was aware that the President had been shot, but not that he had died.)
Fifty years later, it’s striking to recall Kennedy and Huxley by their words. The quotes below are from both men, with the key to who said which at the bottom.
1. “Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you.”
2. “Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.”
3. “History is a relentless master. It has no preesent, only the past rushing into the future. To try to hold fast is to be swept aside.”
4. “That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is one of the most important of all the lessons of history.”
5. “If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.”
6. “The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.”
Answers: 1,4,6 by Aldous Huxley; 2,3,5 by John F. Kennedy.
November 12, 2013 § 1 Comment
Since I moved to upper Beachwood Canyon in 2005, the deer have grown rarer while every other animal seems to have grown more common. Yesterday alone brought a fat squirrel in search of acorns to my door and a large red tail hawk to my deck–it was trying to get my lovebird, who was outside in a cage. On my way home last night at 7:30, I passed a coyote standing nonchalantly on the sidewalk a block north of the commercial district.
But the best recent animal sighting took place on the 3000 block of North Beachwood Drive, when the bobcat pictured above stopped to enjoy someone’s garden.
November 9, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Peg Entwistle and the Hollywood Sign
by Hope Anderson
My interest in the actress Peg Entwistle, who in 1932 committed suicide from the Hollywood Sign (which then read Hollywoodland), began in 2006, when I began researching the neighborhood’s history for my documentary, Under the Hollywood Sign. Though seventy-four years had passed since her death, she was a local legend, her memory refreshed by occasional claims of sighting her ghost at the Hollywood Sign.
October 29, 2013 § 3 Comments
My new eBook contains previously unpublished writing about the actress’s life and death, as well as essays that have appeared on this blog. It also features photos and film stills from my short film, “Peg Entwistle’s Last Walk,” one of which appears on the cover.
Peg Entwistle and The Hollywood Sign is available from Amazon, Barnes and Nobel and other eBook sellers for $9.99.
October 23, 2013 § Leave a Comment
As film historian Kevin Brownlow pointed out, “The Crowd” influenced many subsequent films and their directors. Billy Wilder owes the biggest debt to Vidor, as “The Apartment” contains not only its office scenario–the huge room full of clerks especially–but exterior shots of New York skyscrapers and thronged streets. (Not to mention that the Jack Lemmon character in “The Apartment” could arguably be seen as a more responsible version of “The Crowd’s” John.) In “The Hudsucker Proxy” The Coen Brothers used many of the same visual elements, along with a John-like wide-eyed clerk played by Tim Robbins. No less a genius that Vittorio DeSica told Vidor that he based “Bicycle Thief” on “The Crowd,” and clearly he took the street and theater scenes from it. Yet despite its influence, “The Crowd” was forgotten for decades and only recently reconstructed. I hope Warner Bros. will release it on DVD soon for the larger audience it deserves.
Those who missed “The Crowd” can still catch tomorrow night’s film, Ernst Lubisch’s “The Student Prince in Old Heidleberg,” starring Ramon Novarro, Norma Shearer and Jean Hersholt. Released in 1927 from MGM, “The Student Prince” was the brainchild of Irving G.Thalberg, who hired Lubisch to adapt a 1924 operetta based on the 1989 novel of the same name. Those unacquainted with “The Lubisch Touch” will see it in action here. For tickets, go to http://www.oscars.org/events-exhibitions/events/index.html