Back again with the second part of the article Hollywood: The Blessed and the Cursed. As you may recall from last week this article by Robert E. Sherwood is about how it all came about. How did the American film industry decide to find it’s way to find it’s home in California? This week we start in the Mojave Desert:
“So the highway across the Mojave Desert were clogged with immigrants, following with pathetic confidence the path of the blistering sun, seeking the ‘thing (whatever it was) that had been gained with apparent ease by such bewildering beings as Gloria Swanson, Richard Barthelmess, Clara Bow and Jackie Coogan. Some few of the hundreds of thousands of unsolicited immigrants had been provident enough to bring with them funds sufficient for their support for a week or so in California; others were positive that they had only to knock once upon the studio portals to achieve the miracle of recognition.”
“The enormous increase in population thus promoted in the Los Angeles district was naturally gratifying to the Chamber of Commerce boosters, but it imposed a terrific strain upon the local charitable organizations. The swarms of candidates for fame and fortune became public charges and consequently damned nuisances. The employees of the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Christian and Hebrew Associations, the Salvation Army, the Motion Picture Relief Fund, etc., were constantly having to listen to the same tale: “I’ve come all the way from New Bedford (or Quito, or Maida Vale, or Eisenach) and they told me at the studios ‘No Casting Today’ but if you can only help me out until tomorrow I know I’ll get a break!”
“The break always came, but it was usually in the form of a compound fracture of the illusions. Probably no more than one-fifth of one per cent of those who have journeyed to Hollywood in quest of employment have ever managed to earn a bare living out of the movies.”
“It must be said for the regular inhabitants of Hollywood that they have all done all they could to correct the appallingly false impression of their adopted home town. They were embarrassed and horrified by the stories of fancy vice that were being circulated by gossipy journalists. They believed (erroneously) that this sort of notoriety would hurt their business. Through the offices of the film czar, Will H. Hays, and that impressively named organization, the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences, propaganda was spread to persuade mankind that Hollywood was neither Xanadu nor Mecca, but, in reality, a reputable community of church-going, God-fearing, temperate, and commendably sexless Puritans.”
And that’s a Wrap and so it was. Not the greatest of endings for an article, but the experiences that Robert E. Sherwood have shared about life during the pioneering days of Hollywood were well relayed. And, well, I hope this article has helped you learn plenty about the Great Era of early Silent Film, but I’ll be back again next week, with some more facts about the Silent Era, which, yet again, will be taken directly from the pens of the people who lived those pioneering days. Till next week then!