Reel Culver City
by Marc Wanamaker[Ed. Note: Marc Wanamaker is on assignment. In his absence, we are reprinting the wonderful article that famed director George Sidney wrote for the 2000 Millennium Winter issue of Culver Historical Highlights.]
George Sidney, along with an extraordinary list of film credits, was a CCHS Patron member.
Among his many classic films include The Harvey Girls, Show Boat, Kiss Me Kate, Anchors Aweigh, Bye Bye Birdie and Viva Las Vegas. He was a dear friend to the Society and here are his fond memories of his “Dream Street.”
by George Sidney
Everyone has a favorite street – Broadway, Bond Street, Canal Street, Rue de la Paix, State Street, Basin Street, Via Veneto, even the Yellow Brick Road.
I first saw mine and walked on my “dream street” in 1930: Washington Boulevard in Culver City, California. Contained within a mile on that fabulous thoroughfare is the aorta of this capital of entertainment. My footprints shared the path with the entertainment greats – factual, historical and fictional – who worked at the studios of the reel cinema world which were created and built along its curbs, such as Triangle, MGM, RKO, Pathé and Desilu.
From Thomas Ince, C.B. DeMille, Louis B. Mayer, Hal Roach and David O. Selznick came forth a mecca of creativity which encouraged the talents of Thalberg, Freed, Stromberg, Welles, Ford, Stevens, Capra and Flemming, as well as Minnelli, Pasternack, Koch, Franklin, Lubitsch, Wyler, Wilder, Dassin, Zinnemann, Adler, Leonard, Frankenheimer and Spielberg, among so many others. These were the manufacturers of dreams – entertainment, comedy, drama, romance, music, dance — all creating this miracle mile in the real Hollywood: Culver City, USA.
My footsteps echoed alongside those of the Munchkins, Garbo and Lassie, Trader Horne and Lena Horne, Clark Gable and Captains Courageous, Lawrence Tibbet and Elvis (along with Frank and Bing), Astaire and Kelly and the Nicholas Brothers.
They shared the road with Edward G. Robinson, Robinson Crusoe and The Great Caruso; the Three Musketeers, Three Marx Brothers, Three Ritz Brothers, Three Stooges, three Barrymores – John, Ethel and Lionel (any number can play); Sylvia Sidney and George (the first) Sidney and George (the second) Sidney, as well as Sidney Fox, Sidney Sheldon, Sidney Skolsky, Sidney Carton, Sidney Poitier, Sid Caesar, Julius Caesar, and Caesar Romero; Lana Turner and Ted Turner; Joan Crawford, Peter Lawford and Laurel & Hardy; L.B. Mayer and Roger Mayer.
And the ladies: Barbara Lamarr and Hedy; Scarlett O’Hara and the Red-Headed Woman; Marie Dressler, Marie Antoinette, Mrs. Miniver and Sadie Thompson – to name but a few among the multitude of beauties, saints, sinners and vixens.
I walked through The White House and Tara; visited with Santa Claus, Tarzan, Lincoln, Washington, F.D.R., the Indomitable Teddy, Napoleon and Citizen Kane. I journeyed along the Hudson River, the Nile, Thames, Showboat on the Mississippi, Volga, and Yangtsee; traveled to the North Pole, China, Japan, Shangri-La, Hawaii, England, Europe, Africa, under all the seas and into outer space.
I watched Mickey and Judy grow up; Our Gang remaining kids forever; Tom and Jerry wreaking havoc. I experienced the burning of Atlanta and Gone with the Wind, the San Francisco earthquake, locusts and The Good Earth, and Singin’ in the Rain. I watched chariots race in Ben Hur, sport cars in Grand Prix, and Buster Keaton on a locomotive. I knew The Wizard of Oz, Gunga Din, The Great Ziegfeld and The Greatest Show on Earth.
I strutted along with all of these stars and celluloid giants who paved the way for those who will continue to matriculate on this street for the entertainment of 2000 and beyond. It all happens on my “dream street” in Culver City.
I look forward to the time when the most important film festival is not in New York, Europe, or the Orient, but in the birthplace of the studio system – where fans and aficionados will come annually, as well as daily to share and marvel at the work of the greats of the past and be introduced to the ingenious imaginations of the future entertainment makers – here in the Garden of Eden of entertainment – CULVER CITY.
PS: Can’t forget The Thin Man, Nora and, of course, “Asta.”