Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Sid Grauman and the celebrities of Hollywood

No single individual did more to create the Hollywood cult of celebrity than theatrical genius Sid Grauman.  As a youth, Grauman worked in the ramshackle towns of the Alaska Gold Rush as a paperboy.  Newspapers were scarce and expensive, costing up to one dollar each.  Grauman met a store owner who purchased one of his newspapers for $50. The store owner then charged admission to local miners to whom he read the paper aloud in his store. Grauman learned that people would pay handsomely to be entertained.

Grauman built a series of theaters that would define the “movie palace” of Hollywood’s Golden Era.  The Egyptian theater, built in 1922, was the setting for the first-ever Hollywood premiere, Robin Hood, starring Douglas Fairbanks, on Wednesday, October 18, 1922.  The exterior and interior walls of the theater contained Egyptian-style paintings and hieroglyphics. The four massive columns that mark the theatre's main entrance are 4+12 feet wide and rise to a height of  20 feet, the large courtyard in the front, complete with a fountain and palm trees, was specifically designed to host the theater’s famous red carpet ceremonies.

 Grauman built an even more magnificent theater in 1927 further up Hollywood Boulevard, the Chinese Theater. The Chinese Theater was modeled on a Mandarin palace. Not satisfied with the fusion of opulence and stardom, Grauman imbued the Chinese Theater with a mystic aura for millions of movie fans: it was Grauman’s brainchild to invite movie stars to place their hands and feet in the wet cement of the theater’s patio. The dried imprints became like holy relics to movie fans, the imprints also allowed fans to measure their own hands and feet against these relics of their saints.

The hand and feet prints of Marilyn Monroe are said to be the most popular relics.

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