Hollywood Blvd … Then and Now

So it was a little over 80 years ago (like, 80 years, one month and a couple hours) that Howard Hughes’ wartime epic Hell’s Angels premiered to a thronging crowd at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. (It also catapulted Jean Harlow to stardom, but that’s another post.) The glittering premier was the grandest such event Hollywood had ever seen, up to that time. Hollywood was about to enter its prime, its legendary golden age, and the precipice it stood upon that glowing neon night in 1930 is powerfully obvious in the following archival footage:

(The archival footage from this re-release trailer of the comes courtesy of Twitter’s LA History group.)

So indelible are those images of the Boulevard that it rather of got me thinking about the inescapable fact that the infamous Boulevard of Broken Dreams as a part of this city’s living history and its truly fascinating metamorphosis over the decades.

From the quiet, pepper tree-lined Prospect Avenue of turn-of-the-century farm town Hollywood to the glittering, glamorous ground-zero of all things Tinseltown, to  a bitter and moth-eaten has-been, to a sleazy sex-shop porn-o-vard, to its current mutation of squeaky clean, sterile shopping centers and panhandling superheroes …. Hollywood Blvd is like the cockroach that refuses to die.

Or perhaps, more appropriately, a true survivor that refuses to throw in the towel.

Prospect Avenue (soon to be Hollywood Boulevard) c. 1905
Hollywood Blvd from the top of Lookout Mountain, c. 1919
The Hells Angels premiere on Hollywood Blvd, 1930

Christmastime, mid 1940s
Hollywood and Vine, 1947
Hollywood Blvd. in 1955
Hollywood and Highland in the 1950s
Hollywood at Cahuenga in 1956
Hollywood Blvd. in 1965
The Chinese Theatre in 1977
On the Blvd circa 1980

Posted by

Film writer and social media marketing professional. 2019 Social Ambassador for the 10th Annual TCM Classic Film Festival. Previously: social media associate at Warner Archive and script writer for Turner Classic Movies. Working on a Montgomery Clift biography due late 2020.

6 thoughts on “Hollywood Blvd … Then and Now

  1. Those who label it the “Times Square of the West” may have a good analogy. Though it initially reached its status as a mecca several decades after its Manhattan counterpart, both have subsequently experienced rises and falls almost concurrently. Fortunately, both have enough integrity to overcome either sleaze or sterility.

    1. Very well put indeed! It certainly does take integrity to overcome “sleaze and sterility” and is key to developing a defining sense of character, which is something that, love it or hate it, Hollywood Blvd certainly possesses PLENTY of.

  2. Republic Picture’s “Exposed” (1947) uses a beautifully framed Hollywood Blvd as its opening. You can see the Pantages Theater on the right.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s