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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Look Back at the History of Screenland

by Josh Marks (writer), Washington, D.C., February 05, 2007

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Culver City is going through a renaissance. New restaurants, bars, art galleries and cultural centers such as the Kirk Douglas Theatre, are garnering national attention.

As recently as last Sunday the New York Times published a feature piece in the paper’s travel section on the resurgence of Culver City. With all the great ink the city has deservedly been getting, it is worth a look back at the roots of the place known for years as “The Heart of Screenland.”

Harry Culver, a real estate entrepreneur from Nebraska, founded Culver City in 1913. He chose the area because of its ideal location between Los Angeles and Venice. The entertainment industry came in 1915 when Culver convinced silent filmmaker Thomas Ince to move his studio to Culver City.

Other studios followed, the most famous being Metro-Goldwyn Mayer. “The Wizard of Oz” was shot there in the 1930s and the original Yellow Brick Road is still located in one of the stages on the studio lot. Since 1990 the original MGM Studios has been home to Sony Pictures.

Ince’s historic Culver Studios, now owned by Sony, churned out some of the most memorable movies in the history of Hollywood.

The Culver Studios mansion was modeled after George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate and was featured in the credits of “Gone With the Wind,” which was shot on stages 11 and 12 in 1939. Over the years, sets were made to look like Jerusalem in “The King of Kings” (1927), Skull Island in “King Kong” (1933) and many other locations. Perhaps the most famous film shot at Culver Studios was Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane” in 1940.

Many of the stars stayed at the Culver Hotel. Opened in 1924, the six-story hotel hosted the casts of “Gone With the Wind” and the “The Wizard of Oz” (including the 124 Munchkins in the cast). People such as Clark Gable, Buster Keaton and even Ronald Reagan kept part time residences in the hotel.

According to the hotel website, there is an old rumor that Charlie Chaplin once owned the Culver Hotel but sold it to John Wayne for a dollar in a poker game. The historic landmark was renovated and reopened in 1997.

Culver City has also been at the forefront of technology. From Howard Hughes locating his aircraft plant in the area (Culver City is referenced several times in the 2004 Hughes biopic “The Aviator”) to the city recently becoming the first municipality in Los Angeles to offer the public free wireless Internet access.

The secret is out about the comeback of Culver City so it is a good time to take advantage of the mix of old and new. The city has done a great job of preserving the past while building towards the future. Downtown Culver City is easily accessible. It is located just west of the 405 and south of the 10 freeway, where Washington and Culver Boulevards intersect.

VISITOR INFORMATION

Culver City (www.culvercity.org)
Downtown Culver City (www.downtownculvercity.com)
Kirk Douglas Theatre (www.centertheatregroup.org)
Sony Pictures Studios (www.sonypicturesstudio.com)
Culver Studios (www.theculverstudios.com)
Culver Hotel (www.culverhotel.com)


About the Writer

Josh Marks is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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2 comments on A Look Back at the History of Screenland

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By V on February 05, 2007 at 08:27 pm
Whenever coming out to the USA in the past, I've always stayed with a friend who has lived in Culver City for nearly 15 years. It has grown up so beautifully. The Munchkin hotel I've always found hilarious. I have heard tales of 124 drunken/disorderly Munchkins, running amuck during their stay ...
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By Steven Lane on February 06, 2007 at 01:39 am
I owned the Culver theatre and the Palms theatre in the mid 70's, It went from nice to bad, and now is on the way back. Good article
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