The Dreamers and the Doers

But with the mixing of water and oil and land speculation for good measure, movies are what made Los Angeles a city of dreams. Years before, in 1887, Hollywood was founded — as a temperance sub-division! Later deprived of its water supply, it became part of Los Angeles. After D. W. Griffiths’ "Birth of a Nation" in 1914, L.A. became the "permanent and recognized seat of the motion picture industry." There was no stopping it!


What came to be known as the “Dream Machine” was in reality a very down-to-earth business, carefully structured by companies that called themselves “studios” — mainly 20th Century Fox, Paramount, MGM, RKO, Universal, and Warner Brothers. These were 30- or 40-acre walled lots once described as “fairyland on a production line.” The filmmakers claimed L.A. was their home because of the lighting and the variety of terrains; skeptics said it was to be beyond the reach of the owners of the patents to Edison’s movie camera.

Movie palaces sprung up throughout L.A. and the rest of the country, many owned (until the government intervened) by the studios. The epitome of these exotic castles was, many agreed, Grauman’s Chinese, which opened in 1927.

For some, fame was achieved overnight; for others, gone the next morning. Films showed Americans the ideal American life that the film moguls actually invented themselves. Costumes and screenplays took people out of their day-to-day struggles and introduced them to Kings and Queens, high adventure on the seas, the Western experience, the world of the future, and the struggles of the past.

With the movies, the good life was in sight, fame and glory within an ordinary person’s grasp. The actors they loved and emulated became movie “stars” who lived in a galaxy the whole country aspired to. And the whole country changed, as “morality” battled with “progress.”

Even in architecture, the film industry influence of experimentation and fantasy was felt.

In the area known today as “Mid-Wilshire”, one grand building after another was built, some by movie stars for movie stars, and others as “apartment hotels” to house the players, directors, producers and crews, and those who came to L.A. to become one of these.

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