The Hollywoodland Sign, in a photo published in the Los Angeles Evening Herald, Dec. 8, 1923.
Originally constructed as a publicity gimmick and branding symbol to help generate sales for a real estate development, the Hollywood Sign is now a worldwide icon just as powerful as Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, and the Statue of Liberty, signifying a land of glamour and opportunity. Myths have always existed about it, from the date of its construction to how the city of Hollywood obtained it. After in-depth research by both historian Bruce Torrence and myself, we can conclusively say the sign was constructed in late November and early December 1923, and illuminated in that first week of December.
Like me, a California transplant involved in history, research, and writing since I was child, Torrence has always been fascinated by Hollywood history, perhaps because his two famous grandfathers contributed much to it. His paternal grandfather, Ernest Torrence, starred in many classic silent films such as “Steamboat Bill Jr.” and “Peter Pan” after a successful career as an opera singer. His maternal grandfather C. E. Toberman could be called the builder of Hollywood for his construction of so many iconic structures around Hollywood Boulevard. Bruce began a photo collection of Hollywood in 1972 with thirty photographs, which has blossomed into thousands. He employed these photos in writing one of Hollywood’s first detailed history books in 1979 called “Hollywood: The First 100 Years.”
Hollywood at Play: The Lives of the Stars Between Takes, by Stephen X. Sylvester, Mary Mallory and Donovan Brandt, goes on sale Feb. 1, 2017.