December 26, 2013 § 3 Comments
I was surprised to find this vintage postcard in the collection of Tommy Dangcil because I had not previously heard of poinsettias being grown in Hollywood. Judging from the single building in the hills, the image dates back more than a century, to when Hollywood still had large agricultural tracts. Most were planted with lemons and oranges, crops that would soon give way to movie studios and other commercial properties.
What makes the postcard even more striking is the fact that the poinsettia was not well-known at the time, and less a commercial crop than a curiosity. Native to Mexico, the plant–despite its red color–was not even particularly identified with Christmas. Its popularization was largely the work of Paul Ecke, a San Diego County grower who not only tirelessly promoted the poinsettia as the Christmas “flower” (in fact, the red parts are leaf-like bracts, while the yellow centers are the flowers) but who, with his son Paul Jr., created the white, pink, yellow and variegated types that are available today. Because of Ecke, Encinitas has long been the undisputed capital of poinsettia cultivation, producing 80% of the world’s plants. In light of its long history in Encinitas, discovering the poinsettia’s early connection to Hollywood was an unexpected pleasure.
March 12, 2013 § 4 Comments
From Tommy Dangcil’s postcard collection comes this magnificent view of Hollywoodland and Lake Hollywood by night. Its date is obvious from the handful of houses sprinkling the hills: no later than 1925. At that point, Hollywoodland was just two years old, and what houses existed were newly built. In the coming decades, hundreds of new houses would spring up in Holllywoodland, but the contours of the land would remain the same. Also unchanged is Lake Hollywood, whose shape was determined by the canyon–Holly Canyon–that was flooded for its construction.
February 20, 2013 § 5 Comments
In early 20th century Los Angeles, it was stylish to send postcards of local houses–whether your own, a friend’s or a movie star’s–to the folks back home. When I met the local historian Tommy Dangcil last month, I was struck by the number of such cards in his collection. Because he had published a collection of postcards that included Hollywood homes (Hollywood 1900-1950 in Vintage Postcards, Arcadia) I knew about the phenomenon, particularly in regards to the mansions of local grandees. But I was more impressed by postcards of houses that were utterly ordinary–except, of course, for their exotic location.
The messages on such cards invariably express delight about life in Southern California–the houses, flowers and climate. The sense of departure from old norms is still palpable today, as in the card pictured above. Though the house is a tiny, unlandscaped cabin, it is brand new and–as the writer proudly attests–“Just three rooms but all we need for we are ‘Seldom inn’ unless it rains.”
Next time: “I Love You, California”: the song, the era and the ad.
January 11, 2013 § 7 Comments
His vast collection includes many well-known images and many more I had never seen before. Series of postcards depict the long-gone Hollywood mansions of Silent and Early Talkie movie stars, Hollywood streets (including such fascinating subsets as Hollywood Boulevard at Christmastime and the defunct Hollywood Flower Parade), the Krotona Colony and Hollywood churches. His knowledge of Hollywood history is encyclopedic, encompassing not only the development of the movie industry but the lives of its denizens over the past century. Dangcil, who was born and raised in Hollywood and attended Hollywood High, says he first became interested in Hollywood history by watching old movies on television. After graduating from college, he became a lighting technician and has spent over twenty years making movies including, “The Master,” “The Bourne Legacy” and “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Another book is in the works; in the meantime, Tommy has graciously allowed me to reproduce some of his images in my blog. As the first rule of historical documentaries is no words without pictures, I’m grateful in advance for these artifacts of Old Hollywood.
Books by Tommy Dangcil:
Hollywood 1900-1950 in Vintage Postcards, Arcadia, 2002
Hollywood Studios, Arcadia, 2007