Jan. 6, 1924: The Times publishes a photo of an Oakland car that was driven up to the Hollywood sign.
Parade magazine claimed in its July 7, 2013, issue that the completed Hollywoodland sign premiered July 13, 1923, but provided no documentation. After investigating the question this week, I believe I have solved when the sign was actually completed, late November 1923.
No newspapers or books from the period contain stories or photos of the Hollywoodland sign from the year 1923, save the Los Angeles Times, which contained a Dec. 30, 1923, story recounting how an Oakland motor car ascended to the Hollywoodland electric sign, and displayed a photo of the car below the sign on Jan. 6, 1924.
Newsreel outtakes do show construction of the Hollywoodland sign, as men and tractors drag material up the hill, and workers wave from the letter H. I consulted Greg Wilsbacher, director of the Fox Movietone Newsreel Collection at the University of South Carolina, to see what the records pertaining to this footage say about when it was shot or delivered to Fox.
Hollywood Leaves, Nov. 16, 1923.
Wilsbacher informed me that records state that the Fox Movietone New York office received the undeveloped footage from their Los Angeles cameraman, Blaine Walker, “November 27th-23.” The punch record created by the office after the film was developed also dates to late November 1923. While Walker could have shot the footage months earlier, his job as Fox’s Los Angeles newsreel photographer was to capture and send newsworthy footage to New York as soon as possible for exclusives.
From further research this week, I discovered this somewhat grainy image in the Nov. 16, 1923, Hollywood newspaper, Hollywood Leaves, displaying a photograph of the Hollywood Hills visible from the tower of the Hollywood Athletic Club. It appears that the sign is only partially constructed, as it looks like only an H, and O, are visible in the upper left side of the hill.
Walker had served as a newsreel cameraman since at least 1922, per the Los Angeles Times, which also calls him the Pacific Coast manager of Fox News. By 1937, he retired from the newsreel business and served as the president of Culver City’s Chamber of Commerce. In 1938, he and the Exposition and Museum Corp. announced plans to hopefully build a $1-million “motion picture exposition and museum” at Culver and Overland boulevards. Architectural firm Walker and Eisen had drawn up plans, and the corporation had submitted grant proposals to the Public Works Administration and Works Progress Administration for much of the funds.