A Special Guest Visits the ARC: Deborah Landis

Deborah Nadoolman Landis - Culver City Historical Society

News from the Costume Chair

by Louise Coffey-Webb, Costume Committee Chair

I wanted to let you know about some very interesting visitors we had the pleasure of hosting at the ARC at the end of last year.

Deborah Nadoolman Landis, and her assistant, Natasha Rubin, came to look at some of our MGM costumes. Why? Well, Deborah is the Senior Guest Curator of an exhibition at the prestigious Victoria & Albert Museum in London on film costumes in 2012. Entitled “Style and Seduction: The Art of Hollywood Costume Design,” the exhibit is scheduled to open October 20th, 2012, followed by an international tour. There will also be a catalogue.

And who is Deborah Nadoolman Landis? She is a costume designer with an illustrious career, creating the iconic looks of Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Blues Brothers, Coming to America, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller among so many more. She has had a distinguished career designing for major motion pictures directed by John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Louis Malle and Costa-Gavras.

Deborah was the President of the Costume Designers Guild and created the now, very glamorous and sought-after “Costume Designers Guild Awards” that precedes the annual Oscars© telecast.

The David C. Copley Center for Costume Design at UCLA

Most recently she has been appointed Founding Director of The David C. Copley Center for Costume Design in the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. This new Costume Center is the first for the study of costume design in the film world. Through bold research and a robust program of conferences, exhibitions and film festivals, the Copley Center will serve not only the UCLA community, but international motion picture historians, cultural anthropologists, and working designers and filmmakers as well.

“Deborah Landis has made the point on many occasions that costume designers are first and foremost storytellers,” said Robert Rosen, former dean of the school. “They are full creative partners in art forms that are intrinsically collaborative, and academic recognition of that fact is long overdue.

While many film scholars have analyzed early motion pictures from its beginnings in the late nineteenth century through its “Golden Age,” the Copley Center will spearhead costume design scholarship in Hollywood history up to the present day, including gathering oral histories of creative collaborators in current production. It will also focus on genre research, such as Western Film Noir, Science Fiction, and Musical design. Additionally, the Center will encompass costume illustration as an art form unto itself, creating a rich source for both academic and artistic study.

Deborah has worked extremely hard to elevate the status of the costume designer, and to emphasize the difference between a costume designer and a fashion designer. She is also an author of several books, notably Dressed: A Century of Hollywood Costume (2007) and Screencraft: Costume Design (2003).

For more information on The David C. Copley Center for Costume Design in the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, please click here.

The Culver City Historical Society is always thrilled to share knowledge about its collections, with other professionals.

It’s Spring — and time to rotate our costume displays. Next time you attend a program at our Archive Resource Center, be sure to look and see what’s new!

Laurel and Hardy On Location In Culver City


by Marc Wanamaker

Laurel and Hardy On Location In Culver City - Culver City Historical SocietyEarly Filming Used CC as “Background”

Before filmmaking became a big industry in Culver City, early film companies used the area as backgrounds for a variety of geographical areas.

First City & Open Areas, then “Backlots”

When producer/director Thomas Ince first sent a unit to the Culver City area around 1913, they used the La Ballona Creek as a location. Others used the open fields and hills for various settings.

By 1920, the newly acquired Thomas Ince/Triangle Studio by the Goldwyn Film Company was expanded to add a backlot with settings that would represent the ‘”world.”

When Ince built a new studio on Washington Blvd. to the east of the first one he built, he added his own backlot. And when famed producer Cecil B. DeMille later took over this Ince Studio, another new backlot was developed, later to be called the “40 Acres,” situated at the end of what is now Ince Boulevard, along the La Ballona Creek.

Culver City Folks See Filming on Local Streets

By 1925, there were five motion picture studios in the Culver City vicinity and all of them used the area in and around Culver City as a background augmenting their own backlots – and since Culver City was founded with the motion picture industry as its economic base, filming on the streets of the little town was commonplace.

As the town grew in population due to the growth of the studios and its workforce, neighborhoods expanded with businesses and civic buildings creating a “downtown” center around Main Street, Washington and Culver Boulevards with the Culver Hotel at its heart.

Hal Roach often “Co-Stars” CC in Films

It seems that the Hal Roach Studio at National and Washington Boulevards used the downtown Culver City center most often, “co-starring” the city with its Roach stars.

One of the early Roach films, Putting the Pants on Philip (1927), starred the wonderful comic team of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. The storyline has Oliver Hardy showing his Scottish relative (Stan Laurel) around the town. The relative is wearing the traditional Scottish kilt and hat and draws a lot of unwanted attention from the townspeople. Most of the action takes place on Main Street and Culver Boulevard in front of the Culver Hotel. Scenes like these made Culver City world-famous not only as a studio town but also as a film background location.

The photograph pictured shows Laurel and Hardy on location on Culver Boulevard in front of the Culver City Hall for the film, County Hospital (MGM, 1932). The Roach company used the City Hall building as “The County Hospital’” with Culver Boulevard seen in the background. Here we see director James Parrott and his crew getting ready to shoot a scene in front of the Culver City Hall.

Basically, the plot follows Hardy going into the hospital after hurting his leg (which is bandaged). Stan comes to pick him up at the hospital to take him home. After Hardy is in the car, Stan proceeds to drive through Culver City causing accidents and other mayhem putting Hardy and his leg in more jeopardy!

During the filming on the city’s streets, there were uniformed police officers guarding the production and keeping the public at a safe distance. It was a big event for Culver residents to see their favorite star(s) on location – not unlike today’s fans who still get excited when they see stars working on the streets around the city.

Huell Howser visits the ARC

On July 21st, Huell Howser visited Culver City to film a segment on the Culver Hotel and the ARC.

This photo, taken by Mr.  Howser’s cameraman Cameron in front of Gene Kelly’s striped jacket from Take Me Out To the Ball Game, features (from left) City Historian Julie Lugo Cerra, Howser, Immediate Past President Cathy Zermeno, Costume Curator Louise Coffey-Webb and photographer Fred Yglesias.

Huell Howser’s Culver City show will air on KCET in September or later. Check back here for more details!

UPDATE: Huell Howser’s episode on Culver City will be televised on KCET on Thursday, September 23, 2010 and again on Friday, October 15, 2010, both at 7:30 PM.

Time to Clean Out Your Closets & Garages!

by Louise Coffey-Webb, Costume Committee Chair

Oscar-winning design - Culver City Historical Society

Summer is upon us and I, for one, am trying to clean out the quantities of “stuff” that seem to multiply mysteriously over the years in my garage. I unpack my summer clothes and look at them once more.

Do they still fit? Are they representative of who I am this year? Even though that garment used to be my absolute favorite – isn’t it a bit shabby after all these years?

All this evaluating got me thinking about the readers of this column and what you may have in your garage.

Might There Be Some MGM Auction Items Around?

Although I moved here from England over three decades ago, I was not here for the legendary MGM auction. I have worked at various museums where donors have come in from time to time with items they purchased at the auction saying “it seemed like a good idea at the time!”

And actually it was, because now those objects have been saved from obscurity (as well as Halloween and the grand kids dress-up!), and will be catalogued, researched and preserved for current and future generations to enjoy.

So I am wondering if any of you have items in your garage that may be of interest to the Culver City Historical Society? We are particularly interested in costumes that were acquired at the MGM auction, or other costumes that you may have held onto, because you mother or grandmother worked in the industry, or perhaps you yourself were an actor and held onto a favorite character you played.

CCHS ARC Donation Policy

The policy of the Culver City Historical Society Archives and Resource Center (ARC) states that it “will gratefully accept donations that relate to local history.” However, “the Society reserves the right to decline donations deemed inappropriate to the enhancement of the collection.”

Each donor will receive an official letter of acknowledgement stating the CCHS is a charitable non-profit 501(c)3 organization, with our tax identification number listed along with an inventory or description of the donation.

As it is considered a conflict of interest for the CCHS to appraise your donation, please speak with your accountant about valuing your donation. The IRS often changes such details and sums under which donations need not have an official appraisal, which is why I advise professional advice in such situations.

Academy Award Winner

Here is a photo of a costume that was donated by Ann Bein to the Woodbury Fashion Study Collection, from the MGM auction. It is from the 1962 musical The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm starring Laurence Harvey & an all-star cast, and it won a costume Oscar for Mary Wills.

Again, be reminded that costumes and other film artifacts should be pertinent to the local history of Culver City as well as having connections to our three majors and the minor studios which make us the “Heart of Screenland.”

Now, I wonder what you will discover in your “summer” cleaning…