July 17 General Meeting and Program

The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop: A Presentation that Literally Goes Behind the Scenes

The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop, a book by Richard M. Isackes and Karen L. Maness, is a large format book that includes sumptuous photos of movie backdrops, and the stories of the scenic artists that produced them.

As revered film historian Leonard Maltin wrote, the book “reveals a facet of moviemaking that even savvy film buffs may not know about … You will be amazed, as I was, at the number of familiar scenes from films as varied as The Wizard of Oz, North by Northwest, and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events that make use of these canvases … This is truly an eye-opening book and a valuable contribution to our understanding of how movies are created.”

On Wednesday, July 17, at 7 p.m. Karen Maness will give a talk and presentation all about the subject matter of The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop.

Ms. Maness collaborated in the 2017 Art Directors Guild Archives Backdrop Recovery Project, which recovered over 200 MGM backdrops from Hollywood’s golden age of film for display and study. She is a professor of scenic art, figurative painting, and practical special effects for UT Live Design at the University of Texas at Austin Department of Theatre & Dance and Scenic Art Supervisor at Texas Performing Arts. A limited number of books will be available for purchase, and Ms. Maness will be available for a book signing after the program.

Historical Society members and the general public are invited to enjoy this free program in the Multipurpose Room in Veterans Memorial Building, located at 4117 Overland Avenue. The entrance to both the ARC and Multipurpose Room is through the back of the building and open to the public.

 

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April 17 General Meeting and Program

From Barney Fife to Beats: Culver City’s 40 Acres Backlot

From 1927-1976, the backlot known as 40 Acres played host to Tarzan, Superman, Rhett Butler, King Kong, Captain Kirk, Batman, and Gomer Pyle. It was roughly bordered by Higuera to the north, Lucerne to the west, and Ballona Creek and Jefferson to the south and east, and though it may have been as large as 42 acres at first, it eventually became more like 29 acres due to the construction of Jefferson Boulevard, and flooding from Ballona Creek before it was paved over.

At various times, the 40 Acres Backlot was owned by Cecil B. DeMille, David O. Selznick, Howard Hughes, Desi Arnaz, and Lucille Ball. It had areas known as the African Jungle Set, Mayberry, the Arab Village, Stalag 13, and Tara, and buildings known as “Ship Deck,” “Submarine Enclosure,” “Adobe Indian Hut,” and “Meat House.”

Today, the area that included and surrounds what was 40 Acres has become known for architectural marvels by Eric Owen Moss, offices that are home to companies like Apple’s Beats by Dre and restaurant Vespertine.

Authors and historians Marc Wanamaker and Steven Bingen will give a presentation based on their book Hollywood’s Lost Backlot: 40 Acres of Glamour and Mystery. There will be copies of the book for sale, and the authors will hold a book signing after the program.

The public is invited to this free program at 7pm on Wednesday, April 17. The entrance to the ARC is from the back parking lot.

 

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January 16 Annual Business Meeting and General Membership Program

HISTORICAL ECOLOGY AND THE BALLONA WATERSHED   

When you bike or walk along Ballona Creek you see a concrete-lined flood control channel. Once you go under the Marina Freeway overpass on the bike path you see fields that are called wetlands, but they don’t look very wet at all.

Artist rendering of Los Angeles Basin, c. 1850. (Southern California Coastal Water Research Project)

But Ballona Creek was once a picturesque natural waterway fed by runoff from swamps and rainwater, lined with sycamores and willow trees that ended at Ballona Lagoon, a freshwater marsh with ponds, vernal pools, and wet meadows. The Lagoon actually extended from the base of the Westchester bluffs in the south all the way to the intersection of Main St. and Abbot Kinney to the north, and as far east as Overland Blvd. During rainy seasons Ballona Swamp covered all of the low-lying land from Culver City to Inglewood Mesa, about ten square miles.

Dr. Eric Stein of the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP) will bring us back to the days before West Los Angeles covered up and redirected its natural waterways, bringing us what is sure to be a fascinating look at the flora and fauna of what was.

We’ll also take a look at the City of Culver City’s Ballona Creek Revitalization Project, which seeks to enhance habitats, open space, and landscaped areas.

 

Historical Society members and the general public are invited to enjoy this free program on January 16th at 7 P.M. in the Multipurpose Room at Veterans Memorial Building, located at 4117 Overland Avenue. The entrance to both the ARC and Multipurpose Room is through the back of the building and open to the public.

The Historical Society Archives & Resource Center (ARC) will be open for you to come and see our latest exhibits.

 

About Eric D. Stein, D.Env.: Dr. Eric Stein is a principal scientist at the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP), where he is head of the Biology Department. Dr. Stein oversees a variety of projects related to in-stream and coastal water quality, bioassessment, hydromodification and environmental flows, watershed modeling, and assessment of wetlands and other aquatic resources. His research focuses on effects of human activities on the condition of aquatic ecosystems, and on developing tools to better assess and manage those effects. Dr. Stein has authored and co-authored over 100 journal articles and technical reports and participates on numerous technical workgroups and committees related to water quality and aquatic resource assessment and management. Prior to joining SCCWRP in 2002, Dr. Stein spent six years as a Senior Project Manager with the Regulatory Branch of the Los Angeles District Corps of Engineers, and four years with a private consulting firm.

About the SCCWRP: The Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP) is a leading U.S. environmental research institute that works to develop a scientific foundation for informed water-quality management in Southern California and beyond. Since its founding as a public agency in 1969, SCCWRP has been a champion of sound interdisciplinary approaches to solving complex challenges in water management. The agency investigates not only how to more effectively monitor and protect Southern California’s ocean and coastal watersheds, but also how to bridge the gap between water-quality research and the management community that relies on this science.

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October 17 General Meeting and Program

Early Culver City Movie Locations Then and Now

Hal E. Roach Studios, 1921 (Culver City Historical Society)

From the early days of filmmaking, Culver City was at the epicenter. We can spot Culver City locations in recent movies and TV shows with ease. But it takes a lot more time and effort to identify locations from silent films and early talkies.

Chris Bungo was born and raised in New Jersey, but he can spot Culver City and other Los Angeles locations from 1920s and 30s movies like a native. He then photographs what is there now, and dissolves in and out from the past to the present in his popular Then and Now videos on YouTube. He will present some of these videos, with a focus on Culver City locations, at our program.

Hal Roach expert Richard Bann, co-author of Our Gang: The Life and Times of the Little Rascals and contributor to the book Laurel & Hardy and the home video release Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection, will also present a brief history of Culver City’s Roach Studios, which produced many comedy shorts on the streets of The Heart of Screenland.

The public is invited to this free program. The entrance to the ARC is from the back parking lot.

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July 18 General Meeting and Program

The History of Los Angeles Agriculture, Past and Present

July General Meeting Features Authors of Book on Southern California Farming History

In today’s concrete and asphalt-lined megalopolis, it’s sometimes hard to remember that Los Angeles was once the agricultural center of North America up until the 1950s, with Culver City having played a large part.

On Wednesday, July 18, Rachel Surls and Judith Gerber, co-authors of From Cows to Concrete: The Rise and Fall of Farming in Los Angeles, will give an illustrated look back at our farming heritage and explore such history as the Tongva people who lived along Ballona Creek, the missionaries that brought European agricultural knowledge to the area, the rancho owners that cultivated West Los Angeles and raised cattle, and the beginnings of California’s citrus and winemaking empire.

We’ll also look at “fantastic farm” tourists attractions like Culver City’s own Monkey Farm, the malathion spraying of the 1980s that began in Culver City, and efforts to bring back urban farming amidst the current locavore and “eat local” movement.

Historical Society members and the general public are invited to enjoy this free program on July 18 at 7 P.M. in the Multipurpose Room at Veterans Memorial Building, located at 4117 Overland Avenue. The entrance to both the ARC and Multipurpose Room is through the back of the building and open to the public.

The Historical Society Archives & Resource Center (ARC) will be open for you to come and see our latest exhibits.

 

About Rachel Surls: Rachel Surls is the Sustainable Food Systems Advisor for the University of California Cooperative Extension in Los Angeles County. Cooperative Extension is part of the UC’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. As Sustainable Food Systems Advisor, she conducts research and extends information on a variety of food systems topics, including community and school gardens and urban agriculture. Rachel earned her BS in agronomy at Virginia Tech, her MS in Agricultural Sciences at Cal Poly, Pomona, and a Ph.D. in Education from Claremont Graduate University.

About Judith Gerber: A second-generation Angeleno, Judith Gerber is a farm and garden authority who has written about sustainable and urban farming, local foods, and organic gardening for more than twenty years. She is also the author of Farming in Torrance and the South Bay.

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