On March 10, 1933, “The Long Beach Earthquake” hit Los Angeles.
From May 1933:
Hollywood came through the earthquake practically unscathed. Long Beach and Compton business districts, only a score of miles away, were virtually demolished.
But the sustained temblor, which wrecked these cities, caused Hollywood to shake up on its foundations, and people rushed panic-stricken into the streets. No one knew when the buildings, swaying like trees in a gale, would fall upon them. Hollywood was plenty scared.
Broadway stage folk who had recently arrived stood with white faces and open mouths, terrifiedly wishing themselves back in New York. And those who had lived in Hollywood all their lives were just as badly paralyzed with fear.
Perhaps the most dramatic thing that happened during the entire shock was on the “Dead On Arrival” set, at Paramount, where Ricardo Cortex was performing an operation on Gloria Stuart. First the operating table rolled away and Gloria sat up. The cameraman, leaving his electrically-driven camera still running, rished to the doors. But the whole cast was trapped on the huge sound proof stage. And as the building swayed, the lights trembled and the dazed crew stopped, virtually paralyzed, the still grinding camera photographed the entire terror-stricken scene until the current was cut off. The players finally forced the doors and rushed into the street.
On another sound stage a few yards away Carole Lombard, Alan Dinchart and the rest of the “Supernatural” cast were making a spooky scene wuth the whole set dimly lighted and with weird sound effect. At first everybody thought the quake was a part of the picture, but when the realization hit them the panic was on.
Individual stars felt the upheaval wherever they were. Claudette Colbert was walking in the studio wardrobe when the floor started to shimmy and a dummy rooled out of the shadows right to her feet in the darkness. Claudette gave one wild whoop and was on her way.
Irene Dunne was in a dentist’s chair. She, the nurse and the dentist all made a rush for the door. The door was jammed and had to be taken off its hinges before they could get out, with the buidling rocking like a ship in a wild sea.
Clark Gable was in the publicity office. When the lights went out Clark made for the door. His foot went into a wastebasket and he went flying into the street, wastebasket and all.
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