Springtime in a California Paradise

Poppies and Lupines by Frank Moore (1877-1967), The Irvine Museum
Poppies and Lupines by Frank Moore (1877-1967),
The Irvine Museum

The paintings in Paradise Found:  Summer in California, evoke a sunny natural landscape —  the sparsely populated Southern California of the past.  Spring brought fresh, green grass, orange poppies and purple lupines, shown above.   Even now, the hills and mountains turn green this time of year.

Beverly Hills by Paul Grimm (1891-1974), Private Collection, Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
Beverly Hills by Paul Grimm (1891-1974), Private Collection, Courtesy of The Irvine Museum

Beverly Hills is no longer known for its natural landscapes.

Around 1900, people stepping off ships near Los Angeles were in luck if they arrived in springtime.  They could see, forty miles north, fields of California poppies shimmering orange in the sunshine, on a gentle slope rising above Pasadena and just below mountains.

Poppies Near Pasadena by Benjamin Brown (1865-1942). Private Collection, Courtesy The Irvine Museum
Poppies Near Pasadena by Benjamin Brown (1865-1942). Private Collection, Courtesy The Irvine Museum

Max Factor’s Hollywood Magic


Max Factor, “the father of modern make-up,” bought a  building in Hollywood and turned it into the ultimate salon for movie stars and the public. Glass bits in the columns sparkle in the afternoon sun.


He took this plain storage facility and had it decorated in Hollywood Regency Art Deco.

He had four make-up rooms for women of different hair color.  Each was painted to flatter a woman’s complexion, a woman with that hair color.


In this blue room, Max Factor turned Marilyn Monroe into a blonde.  That’s a dress she wore when entertaining troops oversees.


The natural brunette Lucille Ball, who had been a platinum blonde showgirl, became a redhead in this green room.  She looks lovely in this magazine ad for Max Factor cosmetics.  These ads always stated the title of the star’s current movie.

The room with the sign on the door “For Brunettes Only,” was for dark-haired beauties like Liz Taylor.  The pink walls flattered these ladies.


One more room.  One more hair color.


A brownette has brown hair with reddish or blondish highlights.


Here is Max Factor with brownette Judy Garland at age 13 or 14.

These rooms are only part of the Hollywood Museum, which has thousands of photos, costumes, and other items from old and recent movies and television.

Winter Warmth: Historic La Quinta Resort

Climb the stairs for a margarita on the plaza.

When this resort opened in 1926 as a desert hideaway, it began to attract Hollywood stars like Katherine Hepburn; Joan Crawford, who brought her children; and that wonderful Robin Hood, Errol Flynn.

Eighty-seven years later, the expanded resort is known more for its world-famous golf courses. It has more than forty swimming pools. I’ve been slipping away to La Quinta for the last twenty-five years.

The La Quinta Resort is near Palm Springs, California, but is located in the city of La Quinta. The city is the only one in the U.S. named after a hotel.


The landscape was pretty bare in 1927 except for the Santa Rosa Mountains.


Now it is lush year round. While visiting, I found a plaque outdoors. I love discoveries on vacations.


The plaque states that director Frank Capra first came to La Quinta in 1934 to turn the story “Night Bus,” which he read in a Palm Springs barbershop, into a movie script called “It Happened One Night.” The film won the five most important Oscars, including one for director Capra, who then brought his wife regularly to his “lucky” resort, where he wrote other classic films, such as “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

The Best Actor Oscar for “It Happened One Night” was awarded to Clark Gable, who often vacationed here with his wife, Carole Lombard.


Hollywood’s First Cinema


Sometimes you just get lucky.  The investors of the first theater in Hollywood selected an Egyptian theme.  Five weeks after it opened its doors, King Tut’s tomb was discovered, and everything Egyptian became the cat’s pajamas.  The year was 1922.

One of the men who built the Egyptian was Sid Grauman, who would later build Grauman’s Chinese Theater, where the handprints and footprints of the stars attract visitors today.  Sid was a marketing genius, in my book.  The movies shown at the Egyptian were world exclusives for six months, while the rest of the country eagerly waited for them to come to their local movie houses.

While the feature-length silents played in this glamorous venue, their titles shone in lights in front of the courtyard.  Today the lights spell the name of the organization that took this decrepit building where homeless people slept, restored it, and presents a wide variety of movies there today.  Picture the sign below with “Robin Hood” or  “Thief of Baghdad,” brightly lit at night.


Sid Grauman also rolled out the red carpet for the stars at the movie’s premieres.  Long, red carpets had been used similarly in ancient times, but Sid was the first to use them for movie stars.  Now planters with palm trees take up much of the courtyard, but in the Twenties, there was room for fans to star-gaze.


The flappers and their fellas paid five dollars a head for the premiere, and between seventy-five cents and a dollar-fifty for an everyday showing.  With prices that high, it must have been a special occasion calling for dressing up.

As the movie-goers entered the auditorium, singers standing in theater boxes serenaded them as they found their seats.  Then live actors performed a prologue or short piece with the same theme as the movie.

If you visit Hollywood, or if you live nearby, relive the history of movies by watching the wonderful documentary,”Forever Hollywood,” at the Egyptian, Hollywood’s first movie theater.

“Give Me a Ring Sometime”

From Champaign County Historical Museum. Photograph taken by Dori (dori@merr.info).

Before 1900, some Western cities had telephone service, but most folks who lived on farms or ranches had to go into town to use the phone.  Telephone poles and lines connected towns, but it wasn’t until later that they extended to individual rural homes.  Stores and saloons in towns installed telephones for the townspeople to use.

This very common early phone was mounted on the wall, so a caller had to stand to use it.  There were bells, a stationary mouthpiece, and a receiver you held to your ear.  To begin, you turned a crank on the side to generate electricity.  I believe the caller turned the crank when the conversation was over, too.

The telephone pictured has a dial for phone numbers, but other ones did not have this.  You spoke to a person, an operator, and he or she connected you.

In When I Grew Up Long Ago, Alvin Schwartz writes that callers tended to raise their voices when they spoke, not because they had to, but for psychological reasons, because the people were blocks apart.

In the late 1800s and later, a “call” was the term for a visit.  “Callers” were visitors, and “gentleman callers” were often suitors.  The phrase “telephone call” meant a visit conducted by telephone, and it has stayed in our language over a hundred years.

January 1 — 150 Years Since the Emancipation Proclamation

The newspaper's headline indicates an article about the Emancipation Proclamation.  By H. L. Stephens, untitled watercolor, c. 1863.
The newspaper’s headline indicates an article about the Emancipation Proclamation. By H. L. Stephens, untitled watercolor, c. 1863.

January 1, 2013 marks the 150th anniversary that the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect.  This declared permanent free status for all slaves in Confederate states at war with the U.S.  These slaves were not liberated until the Union Army regained control of their area.  Later, freedom for all was added to the constitution in the Thirteenth Amendment after a fight for it to pass Congress, which was dramatized in the recent movie Lincoln.

Slaves gathered in churches on that New Year’s Eve to wait until midnight.  This link mentions this as well as the slaves’ previous New Year’s Eves, which were sometimes sad occasions:


Where in the World?

I hope you enjoyed my last three posts about Rome.



This is not Europe — here’s a detail of one of the figures on the ceiling above.


See the headband? She’s a flapper. All of these photos are of the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, which was built in 1923.


Right now it’s decorated for Christmas.


Have a beautiful and blessed Christmas.