Culver City, Where Hollywood Movies Are Made!

Julie Lugo CerraNotes From Your City Historian
by Julie Lugo Cerra

Harry H. Culver’s interest in the emerging movie industry paved the way for Culver City to host three major movie studios, smaller studios and support services. Moviemaking offered a source of employment and generated a significant part of the revenue stream for a balanced community. Many families boasted at least one friend or relative who worked in the industry. The wide scope of occupations ranged from actors to artists, craftsmen, writers, directors, barbers, to drivers and…

MGM Colonnade - Culver City Historical SocietyThe landmark M.G.M colonnade in 1937. Note the signal to the right. One of these,
is on display at the Archives (donated by former Mayor Richard R. Brundo.)

From early times, productions like The Last of the Mohicans, Ben Hur and Gone with the Wind offered locals a bonus, like a box lunch and a little added income to act as “Extras!” Other locals collected autographs at studio gates. Gwen Verdon lived in Culver City, where her mother taught dance. (Her “merry widow” from the movie of that name is currently on display.) Before Culver High was built, Myrna Loy lived in Culver City and attended Venice High. She was a student when she posed for the famous statue in the front of the school. Culver City’s “Mayor Emeritus,” Dan Patacchia, was a limousine driver for the studios before he opened Culver Park Realty. Linda Gray, destined to play Sue Ellen on MGM’s “Dallas,” grew up in the area south of the studio where it was filmed. Most locals have family or friends who worked in the industry. Martha Sigall worked in animation, June Caldwell worked for studio bosses, and our Parrish family boasts generations of prop masters!

This vintage Chamber of Commerce button, donated by the Reese family, is rare evidence of the spirited rivalry between Culver City and Hollywood. (currently on display in the ARC.) - Culver City Historical SocietyAs the movie studios grew, so did the city economy. The industry flourished in spite of The Great Depression. Moviemaking was a source of local pride. The current Culver City seal was designed in 1936. It reads: “Culver City, The Heart of Screenland.”

By the 1930s, most movie credits showed “Made in Hollywood,” or nothing at all. The locals’ irritation at the lack of credit reached its high point. It was estimated at the time that 60% of California releases were made in Culver City. The business community reacted. The Citizen newspaper ran a contest to rename the city. “Filmville” and “Cinema City” were popular entries. “Culver City, where Hollywood Movies are made,” appeared on the stationery of the Culver City Chamber of Commerce in the 1930s! In 1937, as irritation peaked, a “Bury the Hatchet” ceremony was held at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Culver City people rode to the event in vehicles from “The Prisoner of Zenda.” The governor was invited, and local officials watched a hatchet thrust into wet concrete. It was not until 1991 that Culver City was mentioned regularly in any movie credits.

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Renown Historian Marc Wanamaker will reveal how Gone With the Wind Was Made

Marc Wanamaker - Culver City Historical SocietyMarc Wanamaker will present a unique “behind-the-scenes” view on the making of the film Gone With The Wind, which marked its 75th anniversary in 2014, at the general meeting of the Culver City Historical Society, Wednesday, January 21, 2015, at 7:00pm in the Multi-Purpose Room in the Veterans Memorial Building at 4117 Overland Ave.

From David O. Selznick to the technical advisors brought from Atlanta, Wanamaker will explain through a chronological presentation of rare and interesting photos, how the film was made and the people who made it from pre-production, to production, post production, and exhibition. Wanamaker is a renown historian, archivist, and lecturer in film history. In 1971, he founded Bison Archives in Los Angeles, a leading repository of research and photographs of motion picture history. He assisted in forming the American Film Institute facilities in Beverly Hills in 1969 and was an AFI staff member for seven years.

His extensive list of publications includes over a dozen books as well as articles in the Los Angeles Times and interviews in numerous documentaries related to motion picture history.

The public is invited to enjoy this free program and students are encouraged to attend.

Gone With The Wind - Culver City Historical Society

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Harry Culver’s 7 Rules of Success

Chris Wilde next to a “A Moment in Time,” a public art piece in front of the Culver Hotel depicting Harry Culver, his wife Lillian, and their baby Patricia, who would become Wilde’s mother.by Harry Culver’s younger grandson, Chris Wilde

Harry Culver’s dream that became Culver City is inspiring. Young Harry was not rich. But he had a plan. Many said it was risky starting a town in the middle of nowhere. But his idea became reality. Today, Culver City stands proud.

As Harry Culver’s grandson, people ask me if Harry’s success came from some secret technique. The answer is, “Yes.” He often called it the “Culver Way.” He developed a thoughtful marketing strategy plus a set of rules that relied on optimism, honesty and hard work.

Harry Culver’s Rules that Built Culver City

  1. Follow the Golden Rule (Treat others as you’d be treated.)
  2. Always offer a “Square Deal.” (Be honest, be open and fully inform.)
  3. Treat competitors like partners. Share knowledge and praise them.
  4. Understand the buyer’s “worries” better than they do.
  5. It’s better to undersell than oversell.
  6. Smiling will not build relations, but lack of a smile can loose them.

7. Responsibilities are not handicaps. They are stepping stones.

My grandfather would later advance to President of both the California and National Association of Realtors. Many major newspapers in the mid-1900s reported that he continued to promote these same rules across the country.

Harry Culver’s full marketing strategy is a longer story. But just looking at these seven rules reveals Harry Culver’s integrity. It’s easy to see that he truly looked beyond “just selling” and cared about the people and businesses wanting to call Culver City their home.

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Winter 2015 Message

President’s Message
by Michelle Bernardin, President

Michelle Bernardin, PresidentDear Members,

I hope this note finds you and your family enjoying the wonderful delights and scents of the holidays.

Your Historical Society had a busy 2014, and we continue to acquire more wonderful pieces of our city’s history, catalogue the beautiful costumes collection with the help of awesome volunteers, and celebrate a few movie anniversary milestones! You will see a few photos on the back page from our October General Meeting, which featured noted author Aljean Harmetz, her reflections on the 75th Anniversary of The Wizard of Oz, and a surprise visit from a very wicked witch. Our upcoming January General Meeting will highlight another movie from that grand year of 1939, Gone with the Wind, and our own Marc Wanamaker. I look forward to seeing you there!

An area that I hope we can continue to build on and grow is in the area of content for our website. I announced in our Fall 2014 newsletter that we re-launched our website (www.CulverCityHistoricalSociety.org) with a new look and new features. Because our organization is over 30 years old, some of our newsletters were printed before the time of Microsoft Word. We want to put as many of those articles on the web, so they can be searched by historians, history buffs, and students alike. This is where we need your help! From wherever you sit at your computer, we can send you a PDF of an article that we need retyped in Word. You type, send it back to us, and we will then put it up on the web! If you would like to assist us with this ongoing project, please email me directly at michelle@CulverCityHistoricalSociety.org.

Speaking of our newsletter, as you will read below, Judy Stangler has resigned her post as the Society’s longtime editor. I want to personally thank her for 17 years of service. While I have not been with the Historical Society nearly as long, I have truly appreciated her breadth of and enthusiastic zest for our city’s history.

To close, I send you my very best wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year, and as always, thank you for supporting your Culver City Historical Society!

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Walk With a Doc – THIS Saturday, December 20

Walk With a Doc is this coming Saturday morning, December 20! Julie Lugo Cerra, City Historian (and our Museum/Archives VP), has designed a walking route that is manageable, and jammed pack with history. The tour/script can be downloaded here or can be picked up when you join the group! This is a great opportunity to get in some holiday exercise, and a painless local history lesson!

Walk With a Doc

Walk With a Doc

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