Reel Culver City
by Marc Wanamaker
CULVER CITY TO BE CALLED “HOLLYWOOD?”
The unthinkable happened in June of 1937 when the Culver City Chamber of Commerce sent out petitions to call for an election on the question of the city changing its name from Culver City to Hollywood!
The president of the Culver City Chamber said: “Our board of directors was unanimous in voting to change the name of Culver City to Hollywood. We believe the registered voters of the town will be almost 100 per cent in backing the suggestion. Sixty percent of the motion pictures made in California are made in our city, but we don’t get credit for it!” (The studios located in Culver City at that time were MGM, RKO/Pathe-Selznick, Hal Roach, and Victory along with other small production companies.)
THE HOLLYWOOD CHAMBER RESPONDS
When the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce heard of such a plan they were, to say the least, “angry” and “threatened.” It just so happened, that at that same time, Carl Bush, secretary of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, had led a drive to obtain a “Hollywood” postage postmark for the Los Angeles branch post office there.
A press release immediately went out, stating that Hollywood was the only suburb of Los Angeles, being within that incorporated city since 1910 when it dropped its own government to obtain Los Angeles water supply access.
“We have three plans to thwart the move!” Mr. Bush said. “First to confer with the Culver City Chamber and show them the confusion that would occur. Second is to obtain an injunction in Superior Court pointing out that it would be bad public policy to call the election because of the confusion the name change would create. Third, and this is our real ace in the hole, is to have the U.S. Post Office Department refuse to recognize the name change, if made, and still cancel their mail with the ‘Culver City’ mark.”
Of course, the Hollywood Chamber’s board was especially angry that the tourist business could be affected by such a change!
For days, newspapers in Los Angeles were front-paging the story of the circulation of petitions in Culver City calling for the special election. Both chambers of commerce issued statements deploring the other.
The feud resulted in the possibility that Los Angeles would be brought into this controversy and that the Hollywood studios would secede from Los Angeles if the worst came to be. Screen actors John Boles and Richard Dix formed the “Hollywood – for – the– Hollywoodians” division saying, “It would be a crime to sit idly by and permit Culver City to usurp the name of Hollywood!”
By October, 1937, the Culver City Chamber of Commerce gave up on the petition drive due to the incredible pressure that was applied by the studio heads in both Culver City and Hollywood. A “press conference” (which was actually a publicity stunt) was held on October 6th at the famed Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. A “hatchet-burying” ceremony was held in the forecourt of the theatre, ending the feud between Culver City and Hollywood over the right of Culver City to use the Hollywood name.
The first film to use the “Made in Culver City” caption on the beginning credits was Selznick International’s production of The Prisoner of Zenda. The Selznick studio sent a contingent of period uniformed soldier/actors to officiate the “hatchet-burying” ceremonies.
Shortly thereafter, MGM Studios began to place Made in Culver City, California on all their productions. Previously they had been using Made in Hollywood on all their major films which seemed to be misplaced to the locals in Hollywood as well as Culver City!
Postscript: Sony Pictures Entertainment has continued the tradition and uses Made at Sony Pictures Studios, Culver City, CA on their productions.
Ed. Note: In the Summer issue of Culver Historical Highlights, Romayne Studios was misspelled in several instances. Its proper spelling is “Romayne Studios.”