Los Angeles just got uglier.
Despite protests, the Mary Pickford Building on West Hollywood's The Lot has been destroyed by its current owner, the CIM Group. (See video below.) The Lot, as previously reported on this site, was built in the 1910s, when it was known as The Hampton Studios. Silent-era superstars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks purchased the place, which they renamed the Pickford-Fairbanks Studios. That's where Pickford's and Fairbanks' 1920s blockbusters – Robin Hood, Rosita, Sparrows, and The Thief of Bagdad among them – were shot.
Independent producer Samuel Goldwyn also worked on the lot, where he made most of his later films: Frank Tuttle's Roman Scandals with Eddie Cantor, Titanic's Gloria Stuart, and Lucille Ball in a bit part; William Wyler's The Little Foxes with Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall, and Teresa Wright; Wyler's Wuthering Heights with Laurence Olivier, Merle Oberon, and David Niven; and Joseph L. Mankiewicz' Guys and Dolls with Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, and Frank Sinatra.
Also filmed there were United Artists releases such as Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot, with Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, and Tony Curtis, and Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins' multiple Oscar winner West Side Story, starring Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer.
In the '80s, Warner Bros. temporarily set up shop at the studio, which became known as the Warner Hollywood Studios – to differentiate it from the larger Warners lot in Burbank. Since 2000, the studio has been known simply as The Lot. Among those who have worked there in recent years are Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, and Sharon Stone.
In a press statement, CIM Group claimed that it “respects the history of The Lot.”
The Mary Pickford Building was erected in 1927. According to reports, the next building to go will be the Samuel Goldwyn Building, erected in 1932. Save Pickfair is trying to prevent further destruction on The Lot. Check out their website. The video below asks you to contact the West Hollywood City Council, where CIM Group received the go ahead to tear down some of The Lot's buildings. Their phone number is (323) 848-6460.
And make sure to check out the recent fate of the Mary Pickford Institute (see further below).
Mary Pickford Building photo via Save Pickfair Facebook page.
Mary Pickford Institute in Danger
The Mary Pickford Foundation is named after one of the biggest movie stars ever and one of the film industry's most important pioneers. Mary Pickford was one of the four founders of United Artists – along with Douglas Fairbanks, Charles Chaplin, and D.W. Griffith – and, nearly a decade later, was one of the founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She was also a Best Actress Academy Award winner (for Coquette) at the second Academy Awards ceremony.
A week ago, I learned that the old Pickford-Fairbanks Studios in West Hollywood is about to be torn down, with the Mary Pickford Building scheduled to be demolished in the near future. I've just learned that the Mary Pickford Foundation has ceased funding for the Mary Pickford Institute, which, in the words of silent film historian Joseph Yranski, “has worked for over a decade to raise the public awareness of the achievements of one of the founders of the cinema industry in the Unites States. Between screenings, documentaries, and live programs the Institute [has] been very creative in getting the word out on the first female superstar of the movies.”
It's disheartening. But perhaps there's something we can do. Those opposing the Foundation's move have created an online petition to “help us preserve the legacy of Mary Pickford … Let The Mary Pickford Foundation know that you believe preserving film history and using Mary's example as a role model to teach young children about film history and socially conscious filmmaking, is the best way to see her legacy carried into the 21st Century.
“In a year when the neglected art of silent cinema has been placed on center stage, thanks to multiple Oscar-winning films like The Artist, and Hugo, it seems ironic that an organization founded by and dedicated to the legacy of the most important woman in the history of film would decide to pull its funding for a non-profit that has been working specifically to preserve her legacy.”
Click here to sign the petition now.
To learn more about The Mary Pickford Institute for Film Education (MPI), visit www.marypickford.com.
Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks: Pickford-Fairbanks Studios
Save Pickford-Fairbanks Studios Protest
Filmmaker Allison Anders will be present at a protest “to lead all supporters” of the old Pickford-Fairbanks Studios, which is set to be (at least partially) torn down in the near future. Located at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Formosa in West Hollywood, the studio currently known as The Lot was bought by the CIM Group, which intends to expand facilities by demolishing near-century-old buildings.
The protesters, who have named April 1 “Pickfair Day,” are scheduled to assemble outside The Lot at 1 p.m. According to the Save Pickfair Studio website, protest organizers “will, as time and technology allows, be live tweeting and blogging our protest.”
Organizers suggest that protesters should “bring your friends and all the press,” in addition to video and phone cameras. They explain that street parking shouldn't be a problem on a Sunday.
I'd never heard of the Pickford-Fairbanks Studio referred to as “Pickfair,” but that's certainly a convenient shortening of the name. The Pickfair I know was the Beverly Hills estate of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, which was all but razed by Pia Zadora and husband Meshulam Riklis.
Initially the Hampton Studios, Pickford-Fairbanks later became the United Artists Studios (Pickford and Fairbanks were co-founders of the studio), the Samuel Goldwyn Studio, and the Warner Hollywood Studios.
In addition to the Royal Family of Hollywood, among those who worked on the lot at some time or other were Laurence Olivier, Merle Oberon, Bette Davis, David Niven, Myrna Loy, William Wyler, Herbert Marshall, Teresa Wright, Charles Chaplin, Miriam Hopkins, Sam Peckinpah, Joel McCrea, Gary Cooper, Marilyn Monroe, Michael Douglas, Sharon Stone, Tony Curtis, Tom Hanks, Natalie Wood, Jack Lemmon, Sandra Bullock, and even Titanic's Gloria Stuart, who co-starred with Eddie Cantor in the 1933 Samuel Goldwyn-produced musical Roman Scandals (which also featured then Goldwyn Girl Lucille Ball).
Among those who have signed a petition to save the old Pickford-Fairbanks Studios are actors Brooke Adams, Gabriel Byrne, Martha Plimpton, Rosanna Arquette, Jason Schwartzman, Eric Stoltz, Tony Shalhoub, and Mamie Van Doren; filmmakers Edgar Wright, Amy Redford, Monte Hellman, Joe Dante, and Guy Maddin; The Artist executive producer Antoine de Cazotte; Douglas Fairbanks Jr's widow Vera Fairbanks; film critics Roger Ebert and David Ansen; and screenwriters Howard Rodman, Lucy Dahl, Joey Syracuse, and Lisa Adario.
Now, the Save Pickfair site claims that the City of West Hollywood has named April 1 “Kardashian Day,” in honor of the reality-TV stars opening a store in the city limits. Their source is an outlet called Weho Daily, which about a year ago claimed that the city was going to have a “Lindsay Lohan Day.” Needless to say, that was an April's Fools joke. “Kardashian Day” sounds very much like the same.