Movies might be make-believe, but their magic is undeniably real. And although kinetoscope inventor Thomas Edison built the first motion picture studio in West Orange, New Jersey, the film industry quickly centered its spotlight on one place: Los Angeles, California, and, more specifically, Hollywood.
In 1911, the first film studio was built on Sunset Boulevard, and “the industry,” as it’s known, gained momentum during the Roaring Twenties. Though the “Golden Age” ended in the 1960s, you can still find places reminiscent of Old Hollywood in Greater Los Angeles. Here are seven sites that capture the magic.
The Frolic Room
The Frolic Room transports visitors back to the Dial M for Murder era. Originally a speakeasy (it went legit when Prohibition ended in 1934), L.A.’s self-proclaimed “oldest dive bar” has hosted both the famous Charles Bukowski (whose image is above the cash register) and infamous Black Dahlia murder victim Elizabeth Short.
The no-frills watering hole is next to the historic Pantages Theater owned by Howard Hughes. Hughes and other celebrities, such as Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland, were often seen sipping here. Today, you might catch a glimpse of Brad Pitt or Kiefer Sutherland (who reportedly orders Scotch).
Musso and Frank’s
Nothing says “Golden Age of Hollywood” like the gin-soaked Thin Man movies, and nobody does a martini like legendary Hollywood restaurant Musso and Frank’s, serving Tinseltown elite since 1919. Charlie Chaplin was an early-morning regular in the grill’s red-leather booths, while Humphrey Bogart often bellied up to the mahogany bar. Even the restaurant’s pay phone, the first to be installed in Hollywood, was privy to many private conversations.
Musso and Frank’s is so closely aligned with the film industry that it has its own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Make sure you order the restaurant’s famous fettuccine alfredo. Silent film stars Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford brought the original recipe back from the restaurant Alfredo’s in Rome, where they were honeymooning.
Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
Two years after it opened in 1925, the Roosevelt Hotel’s Blossom Ballroom hosted the very first Academy Awards, which only lasted 15 minutes. A group of Hollywood heavy-hitters (including Louis B. Mayer, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford) financed the 300-room Spanish Colonial Revival structure, which cost a whopping $2.5 million and featured ornate wrought iron and elaborately tiled fountains.
Clark Gable and Carole Lombard stayed in the penthouse suite, although the rate has since increased from five dollars a night. Before she was famous, Marilyn Monroe rented a bungalow, and her first major photo shoot was completed at the pool. Today, the Roosevelt is the oldest continuously operating hotel in Hollywood.
The most extensive collection of Hollywood memorabilia in the world is housed in the historic Max Factor Building on Highland Boulevard. Factor, a Polish man who made Marilyn Monroe a blonde and Lucille Ball a redhead, was known as the “Make-up King.” Today, the building serves as the Hollywood Museum, packed with treasures, including Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz (1939), the alien head from Ridley Scott’s space drama Alien (1979), and “Bruce,” the 25-foot-long great white shark model from Jaws (1975).
It takes a lot to get kicked out of this secluded, Gothic-style castle surrounded by hedges on Sunset Boulevard. However, Bette Davis almost burned the place down after falling asleep with a cigarette, and Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham drove a motorcycle through the lobby, earning the band only a relocation from the main building to a bungalow.
James Dean jumped through a window to get a part in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), and The Doors’ Jim Morrison reportedly swung from balconies — Tarzan-style. Columbia Pictures co-founder Harry Cohn’s advice to actors still stands: “If you must get into trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont.”
The Hollywood Bowl
Anyone who’s anyone has played at this iconic, open-air concert hall, from both Billies (Eilish and Holiday) to the Beatles, to even Bugs Bunny. Since opening in 1922, “the Bowl” has hosted 100 years of historic performances. Rolling Stone calls the amphitheater “One of the 10 Best Outdoor Music Venues in America,” and Angelenos are quick to agree.
The concentric-ringed bandshell sits in Bolton Canyon, with the Hollywood Hills (and the world-famous Hollywood Sign) in the background. Don’t miss the museum, with memorabilia from the many renowned performers who’ve graced the stage.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery
The Griffith Observatory is a great place to observe the heavens. For earthly stars, Hollywood’s grand cemeteries are the final resting place for many household names. At Hollywood Forever Cemetery, you’ll find the graves of luminaries like The African Queen director John Huston, punk icons Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone, and Academy Award-winner Hattie McDaniel.
The cemetery also hosts concerts, films, and other cultural events. Over at Forest Lawn, you can pay your respects to cowboy singer Gene Autrey, Buster Keaton, Lucille Ball, and Kill Bill’s David Carradine.