Centers of Progress (26): Los Angeles (cinema)

Posted on January 1, 2023


An article from Human Progress

Our twenty-sixth Center of Progress is Los Angeles during Hollywood’s Golden Age (1910s-1960s). The city was the source of new cinematic styles that were quickly adopted around the world, giving the world some of its most iconic and beloved films. The Hollywood district of Los Angeles is synonymous with cinema, representing the city’s unparalleled cinematic contributions.

With some four million inhabitants, Los Angeles is only the second most populous city in the United States. However, it is perhaps the most glamorous as many celebrities and movie stars call it home. The city is also known for its impressive sports centers and concert halls, its shopping and nightlife, its pleasant Mediterranean climate, its terrible traffic, its beautiful beaches and its relaxed atmosphere. Two famous locations are Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood, movie-related theme parks that attract around 18 million and 9 million visitors a year, respectively.

The site where Los Angeles now stands was first inhabited by indigenous tribes, including the Chumash and the Tongva. The first European explorer to discover the area was Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, who arrived in 1542. Cabrillo Beach in Los Angeles still bears his name. Spanish settlers founded a small herding community on the site in 1781, calling it The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels, which means “the city of Our Lady the Queen of Angels”. The name was soon shortened to town of angels.

The Mexican War of Independence transferred control of the city from Spain to Mexico in 1821. Then, at the end of the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), the future State of California was ceded to the States -United.

That same year, gold was discovered in California. Hopeful miners flocked to the area, and when California became a state in 1850, migration intensified. True to its ranching roots, Los Angeles quickly boasted the largest herds of cattle in the state. The town gained a reputation as the “Queen of the Cow Counties”, as it provided beef and dairy products to feed the growing population of northern gold diggers.

While most of Los Angeles County was ranch land, there were also a number of farms devoted to growing vegetables and citrus fruits. (To this day, the Los Angeles area remains one of the top producers of broccoli, spinach, tomatoes and avocados in the country). With the prosperity of the local food industry, the town proper began to expand, growing from about 1600 inhabitants in 1850 to nearly 6000 in 1870.

In 1883, Harvey Wilcox a politician and real estate developer, and Daeida, his much younger second wife, moved to town. The couple wanted to try their hand at ranching and bought over a hundred acres of groves of apricots and fig trees. After their ranch failed, they used the land to build a community of upscale homes. They named the new subdivision “Hollywood”.

One story claims that Daeida was inspired by a domain of the same name in Illinois or a city of the same name in Ohio. Other theories hold that the Wilcoxes were inspired by a native red-berry shrub called toyon, or “California holly,” which grows abundantly in the area. In homage to this theory, the Los Angeles City Council named toyon the city’s “official native plant” in 2012. While the true origin of the name “Hollywood” remains disputed, Daeida has been dubbed the “Mother of Hollywood” for his role in the story. (ironically, she was considering Hollywood as a Christian “temperance community”, free from alcohol, gambling and the like).

Anyway, Hollywood started out as a small but wealthy enclave that, in 1900, boasted a post office, hotel, stable, and even a streetcar. HJ Whitley, banker and real estate magnate moved to the housing estate in 1902. He continued to develop the area, building more luxury homes and installing electricity, gas and telephone lines in town . He has been called the “Father of Hollywood”.

Hollywood was officially incorporated in 1903. Unable to independently manage its water and sewer needs, Hollywood merged with the city of Los Angeles in 1910. At that time, Los Angeles had a population of approximately 300,000. In 1930, the number of inhabitants rose to one million, and in 1960 it reached 2.5 million.

The city’s explosive growth can be attributed to one industry.

The first film made in Hollywood is The Count of Monte Cristo, in 1908. The cinema was still young, and this film was one of the first to convey a fictional narrative. Filming began in our former Progress Center in Chicago, but by finishing production in Los Angeles, the film crew made history. Two years later, saw the light of day the first film produced from start to finish in Hollywood, titled In Old California. Los Angeles’ first motion picture studio appeared on Sunset Boulevard in 1911. Others followed, and what started out as a trickle soon turned into a deluge.

What drove so many filmmakers to settle in Los Angeles?

The climate allowed year-round outdoor shooting, the terrain was varied enough to provide a multitude of sets, land and labor were cheap, and most importantly the city was distant from the state of New Jersey where the prolific inventor Thomas Edison lived.

Thanks to the exclusive control of many technologies necessary for the production of films and the operation of cinemas, the Motion Picture Patent Company Edison had secured a virtual monopoly on the industry. Edison holds over a thousand different patents and is known for litigation. Additionally, Edison’s company was infamous for employing mobsters to extort and punish those who violated its movie-related patents.

California was the perfect place to escape Edison’s wrath. Not only was she estranged from the East Coast Mafia, but many California judges were reluctant to enforce Edison’s intellectual property rights.

The Supreme Court eventually to intervene, ruling in 1915 that Edison’s company had engaged in unlawful anti-competitive behavior that was strangling the motion picture industry. But by this time, and certainly by the time Edison’s motion picture patents had all expired, the motion picture industry was already firmly established in California. Edison was nicknamed “the unwitting founder of Hollywood” for his role in moving filmmakers from the country to the West Coast.

Hollywood became the world leader in narrative silent films and continued to be so after the commercialization of talkies, or sound films, from the mid to late 1920s. At first, these films were exclusively shorts. Then, in 1927, Hollywood produced The jazz singerthe first feature film to include the voice actors. It is a success. More and more aspiring actors and film producers are flocking to Los Angeles to join this booming industry.

In the 1930s, Los Angeles studios competed to wow audiences with innovative films. The Academy Awards, or Oscars, were first presented at a private dinner at a Los Angeles hotel in 1929 and first broadcast on radio in 1930. They remain the most prestigious awards to this day. of the entertainment industry. Distinct film genres soon emerged, including romantic comedies (including the beloved It Happened One Night, which won the Oscars and boasts a near-perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes), musicals, westerns and horror movies, among others.

Innovations from that era continue to influence films today. The premiere of King Kong took place in 1933. In 2021, the homonymous giant ape appears in his twelfth feature, this time battling Godzilla. Hollywood gave the world its first animated feature in 1937 with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs by Walt Disney. In 1939, Hollywood popularized color productions with the release of the Wizard of Oz. Although not the first color film, it was one of the most influential in promoting the widespread adoption of this technology.

In the 1940s, the iconic Hollywood sign first appeared in its present form, replacing a sign that read Hollywoodland erected in 1923. The following decades saw the production of some of the most beloved classic films in history. quote Citizen Kane (1941), Casablanca (1942), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Singin’ in the Rain (1952), Rear Window (1954), 12 Angry Men (1957), Vertigo (1952), Psycho (1960), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) et The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). Many of them remain top-notch productions, beating decades of more recent films to make it into the 100 best films of the year.Internet Movie Databaseranked by user rating.

In transforming itself from a humble ranching town into a geographic center of cinema, Los Angeles came to define a new art form. Cinema enriches humanity by providing entertainment, inspiration, laughter and thrills. Furthermore, films create cultural experiences that can bring people together, serve as artistic outlets and even shift worldviews. Hollywood created modern cinema. Thus, anyone who has ever enjoyed a film, even produced elsewhere, owes a debt of gratitude to Los Angeles. It is for these reasons that Los Angeles is our 26th Progress Center.

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