Human Billboard Lights Up Hollywood Boulevard

Exhibitors Herald-World, July 6, 1929:


“Probably the first human billboard ever constructed for exploitation of a motion picture was erected to publicize the opening of the M G M’s ‘Hollywood Revue of 1929’ at Grauman’s Chinese theatre.

“This sign, the letters of which were formed by living girls in scanty costumes, was erected on the busiest boulevard of Los Angeles and for five blocks in either direction the streets were roped off to traffic.

“The sign measured 40 feet in length and 35 feet high, was set on a silhouette of Hollywood’s skyline, base with an effigy of Grauman’s Chinese theatre placed in the center.  The letters in the sign spelled Hollywood Revue and were of the raised type covered with silver cloth with the girls in the channels. The whole sign was lighted with colored lights and made a striking appearance.

Bessie Love acted as master of ceremonies and pulled the cord which unveiled the display. Thousands of people who had gathered to see the display gave a thundering applause which was recorded by the newsreel photographers.”

The Hollywood Review of 1929

Cezar Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, a three-volume history of borough theatres. The first two chosen 2010 OUTSTANDING BOOK OF THE YEAR by the Theatre Historical Society. Final volume published in September 2014.
He is available for theatre talks and walks in 2015: historical societies, libraries, senior centers, etc

Now selling “vintage” on Etsy


Sid Grauman on Hollywood

Part Two: The 90th anniversary of Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre

Following the opening of his Egyptian Theatre, on October 18, 1922, Sid Grauman took a look at the future of Hollywood.

Holly Leaves, November 3, 1922:

“Men of sane reason dare not prophecy of what Hollywood may become in another score of years. Personally I cannot be too conservative in my views, for I am a dreamer and my vision senses a grander prospect than I would dare to put into words. We all know the elements of nature and humanity on which Hollywood  has been building-and we all know the possibilities of modern development.

“What these are to bring to Hollywood and Los Angeles is screened in the mystic veil of the future, but I have given play to my dreams of what await and the Egyptian Theater, a model of the beauteous architecture that antedates even the dawn of history, is the result.

“I trust it may prove the incentive to Hollywood that Hollywood has become to me; that the slow flowing years may find its popularity keeping pace with the growth of this city, and that the commingling of Art, Drama and Beauty may prove to be the union of three graces that shall ever be as a guardian and a guiding spirit to the fame and glory of Hollywood.”

Above postcard: Forecourt of the Egyptian Theatre (1923)

Photograph of the East Gates of the Forecourt (2002) by Betty Sword, all rights reserved.

Both images are part of the Theatre Talks Collection

Cezar Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, chosen 2010 Best Book of the Year by the Theatre Historical Society.

Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90028

On October 20th, 2012, Hollywood’s first movie palace, Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre , celebrates its 90th Anniversary.

From their website:

“Please join the American Cinematheque in honoring the legacy of the Egyptian Theatre, the home of the first Hollywood movie première.

Join us for an evening of 1922 style entertainment featuring silent short films (including some Egyptian theme novelty films), vaudeville acts, dancing to premiere vintage orchestra Dean Mora’s Modern Rhythmnists, make your own Hollywood Screen Test, 1920s libations, a buffet fit for King Tut, gaming in our speakeasy gambling den, docent-led tours of the Egyptian’s private spaces.”

A month before its opening, the theatre somehow found its way into a talk on “the temples and religions of  Egypt during the reign of  Queen Hatchepsiut”  given by “well known Egyptologist” Captain D. Stuart Corbett, I. A. R. at the Krontona Institute ( known today as the Krotona Institute of Theosophy).

From Captain Corbett’s lecture as reported in Holly Leaves, September 9, 1922:

“Grauman’s Hollywood Theatre may not last a century but its art was old when the pyramids were built. The careful attention given to detail may be traced in the hieroglyphics on the walls. The reproduction of the cartouche from the royal scarab, bearing the inscription, ‘O Let me not my Heart bear Witness against me,’ is a wonderful exact in detail.

“Another notable bit of detail is the lighting system. Scientists and historians agree that the Egyptian temples were illuminated by a light said to have been handed down to the high priests  of Egypt  by the priests of Lost Atlantis. This effect is beautifully brought out by the hidden illumination in the Grauman Hollywood Theater, enhancing  the beauty of the architecture and giving it an artistic and almost religious atmosphere.

“In conclusion the speaker complimented Mr. Grauman on the realization of his ideals in giving to Southern California the most beautiful and artistic cinema temple in the world.”

Above photograph from a 35mm slide dated October 1983, photographer unknown, part of the Theatre Talks collection.

Cezar Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, chosen 2010 Best Book of the Year by the Theatre Historical Society.