Now on Display at the Museum

To honor Women's month in March, the Hollywood Heritage Museum hosted author and film maker Mallory O'Meara, who presented a program of images and spoke at length about her book, "The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick."  Ms. O'Meara shared stories of why she wrote the book and of the trials and tribulations of writing a book about a woman that some in the business wanted to forget. 

 

Loving film monsters, Mallory dug deep into the life and work of Milicent Patrick, designer of the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the only woman to design one of Universal's classic monsters. She used her own experience in the business to amplify some of the issues that cloud women's participation in film both then and now.

The creature comes to the Hollywood Heritage Museum from the estate of Thomas C. Null, founder of Saraband Records, later Varese Saraband Records, the largest manufacturer of soundtrack albums of film scores and select classic music. Through his interest in soundtracks, Mr. Null became close friends with Hans Seltzer, composer of the score for "Lagoon." Although much research is till to be done on this donation, it appears that with Varese Saraband's release of scores for science-fiction films and Mr. Null's friendship with Mr. Selzer, the record producer and the creature formed a bond.

Mr. Null also released the reissue soundtrack for the 1966 rerelease of "The Ten Commandments" and received the original art for the poster by Frank McCarthy which was also donated to the museum by his estate. Our special thanks for this evening go to Daryl Maxwell of the Reseda Public Library, and to Jerry Ragland, executor of the Thomas B. Null Estate and to Stephen Bonds, representing the Null Estate.

THE BEGINNING OF "THE GOLDEN AGE" of Hollywood generally refers to the period between 1917, when Famous Players-Lasky acquired the Paramount Distributing Company, becoming the first studio to produce, distribute and exhibit their own movies. The end of this period began with the "Paramount Decision" of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1940 in which the movie companies were restricted to being able to operate in only two of those three areas, leading studios to sell off their theaters in the belief that the American moving-going public would still flock to see their films. The studios had weathered the transition to sound, color and the loss of their potential audiences to radio, so they believed they could survive the Paramount decision as well. 


Because of World War II, the Paramount decision was not enforced and Hollywood flourished in the 1940s despite the absence of an international film market. After the war, the studios began selling off their theaters and, in the case of Paramount which had been pioneering television broadcasts, selling off its television holdings, too. Television was also beginning to grow in popularity and other legal cases negatively affected the studios as well.


In reaction to their diminishing public, the studios began offering films with features television could not provide, in addition to color, wide-screen, stereophonic sound and three-dimensional effects were added to both major and minor studio releases to attract people into the theater. Science Fiction became popular and to attract a younger audience, rock 'n' roll personalities were added to the casts of films. As the production codes were relaxed in the late 1950s, more adult themes were employed to increase attendance. One of the most tried-and-true formats, the "Spectacular," was made by all the studios, and among those the "sword and sandal" ancient and/or biblical stories  could lead to box office success. 


Throughout this time period there are films such as "Quo Vadis," "Julius Caesar," "Samson and Delilah," David and Bathsheba," "The Ten Commandments," and "Salome," all earning great ticket sales. In 1959, the biblical epic "Ben-Hur" became the second-highest grossing film of all time, just behind "Gone With the Wind," and did so in a very short time following its debut. One of the advantages of the film for M-G-M, was that it owned the story, having successfully produced it in 1925. Around this same time, newly installed 20th Century Fox president Spyros Skouras believed his studio could do the same thing and began a plan to produce a new version of "Cleopatra" a film they had made in 1917 which had been the top box office earner of that year. Perhaps the time was right for a remake.

Thus began an almost five-year journey stretching from Hollywood to London and finally, to Rome, with a rotating cast of directors and actors which finally stopped at Elizabeth Taylor, Rex Harrison and Richard Burton. Cost overruns, star health crises and changing studio leadership were all part of this film's story. In the end, the film cost 35 million to make and took ten years to return its investment even though it was the top box office film of 1963.


Seven Art Directors and Three Set Decorators collectively were awarded the Academy Award© for the set design of this film: Art Direction: John DeCuir, Jack Martin Smith, Hilyard M. Brown, Herman A. Blumenthal, Elven Webb, Maurice Pelling, and Boris Juraga; Set Decoration: Walter M. Scott, Paul S. Fox, and Ray Moyer.

 

From a scene in Cleopatra's palace are these two statues.


 

 

 

 

Reclining figures of the Egyptian Jackal/human god, Anubis. Fiberglas castings with black and gold paint.
Anonymous donation.

 

Hollywood Heritage’s own Angie and Chris Schneider presented a history of animals on film from the silent era to the present.  Trainer Tom Roach and celebrity dog Seven from “The Walking Dead” gave the audience a behind the scenes look at the life of an animal actor.   

 

The display includes posters, photos, and costume pieces ranging from Rin Tin Tin to Roy Rogers’ Trigger to Turner and Hooch. Come by and take a look! 

Now on display in the Oakie Room at the Hollywood Heritage Museum are artifacts from our February Evening at the Barn, ANIMALS IN HOLLYWOOD. 

Hollywood Heritage Museum + Archive + Preservation Society

2100 N. Highland Ave.

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