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 paperâ€™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 â€œThe Heart of Screenland.â€
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. â€œThe Wizard of Ozâ€ 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.
Inceâ€™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 Washingtonâ€™s Mount Vernon estate and was featured in the credits of â€œGone With the Wind,â€ which was shot on stages 11 and 12 in 1939. Over the years, sets were made to look like Jerusalem in â€œThe King of Kingsâ€ (1927), Skull Island in â€œKing Kongâ€ (1933) and many other locations. Perhaps the most famous film shot at Culver Studios was Orson Wellesâ€™ â€œCitizen Kaneâ€ in 1940.
Many of the stars stayed at the Culver Hotel. Opened in 1924, the six-story hotel hosted the casts of â€œGone With the Windâ€ and the â€œThe Wizard of Ozâ€ (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 â€œThe Aviatorâ€) 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.
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)
WORLD - CITY LIVING
Copyright © 2010 Josh Marks
A Look Back at the History of Screenland
Copyright © 2010 Josh Marks
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