Forest Lawn Glendale

Forest Lawn Glendale is gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous! I have heard this before, of course, but this is one of those times where words don’t do it justice. Founded in 1906, the memorial park is famous for its vast collection of sculpture and art, as well as for being one of the first cemeteries to not allow upright headstones, giving the park a smoother look and appeal.

Forest Lawn Glendale

There truly is no other cemetery like it, not that I have ever seen in my life. Of the five we visited, this was the first one (for obvious reasons) and we said later on that we shouldn’t have visited it first since it made all the other cemeteries pale in comparison!

Forest Lawn Glendale

The history here is just incredible. The people who are buried here, were married here, had their funerals here, visited here…

The front gate of Forest Lawn Glendale

The front gates on the day of Jean Harlow's funeral in 1937

It could not have been a more picturesque day when we visited. It was the kind of weather you associate with southern California–72 degrees, sunny, blue skies with few clouds. The only sounds we heard while we walked around the lawn were birds chirping. Separated into sections with names like Vesperland, Graceland (and, the saddest of all, a heart-shaped section called Babyland that was all infant graves), the grounds are pristine and well groomed.

Forest Lawn Glendale

This place is gigantic; over 300 acres and an estimated quarter of a million people are buried on the property. If you ever find yourself here, make sure you know who you are looking for and where; Forest Lawn is not a cemetery where you can just wander around and find celebrities. From the top of the hill by the Great Mausoleum it looked like the rows and rows of graves went on forever.  

Forest Lawn Glendale

Despite signs, we got lost trying to find our way out when we went to leave–it is just that massive. There are more celebrities buried here than in any one place in the world, or so I am told. So please do forgive me if I didn’t visit one of your favorite people that is buried here, as it is we spent nearly four hours roaming around!

We had to give up on finding Carole Lombard’s brother Stuart Peters. The only instruction we had was that he was on Sunrise Slope outside the Great Mausoleum and his plot number. Well, the plots aren’t numbered on the ground at all and after a very long time strolling and reading every tombstone one by one, we had to move on. But Stuart is here….somewhere.

Forest Lawn Glendale

 The one grave that stands out on Sunrise Slope is that of comedian Joe E. Brown.

Joe E Brown

Joe E Brown

Forest Lawn Glendale Joe E. Brown

Jimmy Stewart has a great view on the top of a hill, next to his beloved wife, Gloria (sunflower courtesy of yours truly). I thought her epitaph was really touching. Especially since Jimmy never got over her death and his last words were “I’m going to see Gloria now.”

Jimmy & Gloria Stewart

Jimmy & Gloria Stewart

Forest Lawn Glendale Jimmy Stewart

Forest Lawn Glendale Gloria Stewart

Actress Merle Oberon, who briefly dated Clark right before he started dating Carole, is buried here, tucked away in a quaint little section called the Garden of Rememberance.

Clark Gable & Merle Oberon

Clark Gable and Merle Oberon

Forest Lawn Glendale Garden of Rememberance

Forest Lawn Glendale Merle Oberon

 Not too far from here is the Wee Kirk o’ Heather chapel. Many people have been married here, including Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman. Notably in Clark Gable history, Jean Harlow’s funeral was held here on June 9, 1937.  Clark and Carole attended, as well as many Hollywood luminaries. Clark served as one of the pallbearers.

Clark Gable Carole Lombard

Clark and Carole at Jean's funeral

The chapel on the day of Jean Harlow's funeral

Forest Lawn Glendale Wee Kirk o Heather Chapel

Forest Lawn Glendale Wee Kirk o Heather Chapel

Forest Lawn Glendale Wee Kirk o Heather

Forest Lawn Glendale Wee Kirk o Heather Chapel

Wee Kirk o the Heather

 A short drive to another part of the park…

Clark’s longtime friend Robert Taylor’s cremated remains are here in the Garden of Honor, very inconspicuous in the wall in a section called Columbarium of the Evening Star.

Forest Lawn Glendale Garden of Honor

Forest Lawn Glendale Columbarium of the Evening Star

Taylor was a pallbearer at Clark’s funeral. Taylor’s widow, Ursula Theiss, died last year and is reportedly in there with him, but is currently unmarked.

Clark Gable and Robert Taylor

Clark Gable and Robert Taylor

Forest Lawn Glendale Robert Taylor

 Forest Lawn Glendale Robert Taylor

Forest Lawn Glendale Robert Taylor

Clark’s sassy blonde co-star in Adventure, Joan Blondell, is here as well, with a marker so small you have to really be looking for it.

Clark Gable and Joan Blondell

Clark Gable and Joan Blondell

Forest Lawn Glendale Joan Blondell

Forest Lawn Glendale Joan Blondell

Legendary Spencer Tracy, a friend who co-starred with Clark in Test Pilot and San Francisco, is buried here in his own private garden with a marker that simply says “Tracy.” He was also a pallbearer at Clark’s funeral.

Clark Gable Spencer Tracy

Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy

Forest Lawn Glendale Spencer Tracy

Forest Lawn Glendale Spencer Tracy

Nearby is also the private garden of Walt Disney.

Walt Disney

Walt Disney

Forest Lawn Glendale Walt Disney

Forest Lawn Glendale Walt Disney

Looming just beyond these gardens is the Freedom Mausoleum– the newer, lesser-known, but still beautiful mausoleum.

Forest Lawn Glendale Freedom Mausoleum

Forest Lawn Glendale Freedom Mausoleum

Interred here is Clark’s co-star in San Francisco and a singing legend, Jeanette MacDonald, who shares her spot with her actor husband, Gene Raymond. Gene co-starred with Carole Lombard in Brief Moment and  Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

Gene Raymond Jeanette MacDonald

Gene Raymond and Jeanette MacDonald

Forest Lawn Glendale Freedom Mausoleum

Forest Lawn Glendale Nat King Cole Gene Raymond Jeanette MacDonald

Speaking of singing legends, you can see above them is the final resting place of Nat King Cole.

Nearby is the plot for George Burns and Gracie Allen, sweetly marked “Together Again.”

Clark Gable, Gracie Allen and George Burns

Clark Gable, Gracie Allen and George Burns

Forest Lawn Glendale Gracie Allen and George Burns

We struck out on the lawn with Carole’s brother Stuart, but had better luck in the mausoleum finding Carole’s other brother, Frederic:

Carole Lombard and brother Fred Peters

Forest Lawn Glendale Stuart Peters

Coming tomorrow:  The conclusion of my Hollywood blog posts brings the Great Mausoleum–final resting place of Clark and Carole, and also the Church of the Recessional, where both of their funerals were held.

Forest Lawn Glendale

The Great Mausoleum

 Roosevelt Hotel

Opened in 1927 and situated diagonally from Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, the Roosevelt Hotel is a well-known Hollywood landmark. It was named for Theodore Roosevelt and was financed by Louis B. Mayer, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. Marilyn Monroe lived here for two years and did her first photo shoot in the hotel’s pool area. Other notable residents include Clara Bow, Al Jolson, Frank Sinatra, Errol Flynn, Cary Grant, Harold Lloyd…you name them, they probably stayed at, or least partied at, the Roosevelt. Of course, this includes Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, who frequently rented out the penthouse before they were married.

1949, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel

The Roosevelt Hotel in 1949

The room rates actually aren’t too expensive, usually ranging from $200-$300 a night for a normal room. (Trust me, in Hollywood, that’s not bad.) That Gable and Lombard suite, however, will knock you back $3,500 a night. Clark paid $5 a night back in the 1930’s (and probably complained about that high price!)

From the hotel’s website:

 The Gable Lombard Penthouse, located on the top floor of the hotel is where the infamous affair between Clark Gable and Carole Lombard began. This 3,000 square foot duplex has three spacious bedrooms and bathrooms, a living area, dining area, and full service kitchen. The 1,000 square foot rooftop deck is situated under the iconic Hollywood Roosevelt Sign—offering sweeping views of Los Angeles. The Penthouse can accommodate up to 200 people, and is the perfect setting for intimate gatherings and special events.

Snazzy. I did inquire about seeing the penthouse at the front desk, but they said that it was booked for a wedding. Bummer for me.

 We walked around for a while and went inside the upper level of the Blossom Ballroom. The very first Academy Awards ceremony was held in this room in 1929. It wasn’t until I returned from my trip that I read that the Blossom is supposedly haunted. People hear the piano being played when nobody is in there and there are reports of the lights moving and figures in tuxedos appearing and disappearing. Not knowing this information beforehand and standing in this room, my friend and I both immediately felt that the air became chillier when we entered and we both got goose bumps. There was something unsettling about being in the room. I’m not sure who said it first, but one of us said, “Don’t you feel like someone is watching you in here?’ I don’t know where I stand on the idea of ghosts, but I tell you, if anyplace is haunted, this room IS.

Blossom Ballroom Roosevelt Hotel

Blossom Ballroom

Roosevelt Hotel Blossom Ballroom

Blossom Ballroom

The First Academy Awards in the Blossom Ballroom in 1929

The First Academy Awards in the Blossom Ballroom in 1929

Allegedly, Montgomery Clift and Marilyn Monroe haunt different areas of the hotel as well.

 We didn’t see any famous ghosts, but we wandered the halls.

Let’s follow Clark around Los Angeles…

Culver Studios. Formerly Selznick International Studios, this is where Gone with the Wind was filmed. The white house and manicured gardens are well-remembered as the opening shot of GWTW, then with a white sign in front that said, “A Selznick International Picture.”

Selznick International

The scene where Mammy, Prissy and Pork stand in front of Scarlett and Rhett’s enormous Atlanta mansion and exclaim over its size (“Lordy, she sure is rich now!”) was filmed right here, in front of this building, with a matte painting standing in for Scarlett and Rhett’s mansion.

Culver Studios

Culver Studios

Culver Studios

Culver Studios

Culver Studios

Carole Lombard made Nothing Sacred and Made for Each Other here. It was later home to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s production company, Desilu.

The Millennium Biltmore Hotel, which was the site of the Academy Awards for a few years in the 1930’s. Clark accepted his one and only Oscar here on the stage of the ballroom called The Biltmore Bowl on February 27, 1935.

Biltmore Hotel

Biltmore Hotel

Biltmore Hotel

Biltmore Hotel

Clark attended the Oscars again the following year with Merle Oberon as his date, when he was nominated for Mutiny on the Bounty. Clark and Carole attended the awards here in 1937 when Carole was nominated for My Man Godfrey.

Biltmore Hotel

Unfortunately, when we were visiting, there was a conference being held in that room and despite our best efforts, we couldn’t go inside. Some very nice employees saw our disappointment at not getting into The Biltmore Bowl so they let us in the Crystal Ballroom to take some pictures. Not a bad consolation prize…

Biltmore Hotel Crystal Ballroom

Biltmore Hotel Crystal Ballroom

The Beverly Hills Hotel. This place is ripe with Hollywood history. Both Irene Dunne and Loretta Young had ownership interest in it at one time. Elizabeth Taylor honeymooned here. Marilyn Monroe lived here. So did Norma Shearer. Katharine Hepburn liked to play tennis here and after one particularly sweaty game, she jumped in the pool fully clothed. Jean Harlow liked to swim here. As did Joan Crawford. Spencer Tracy and Douglas Fairbanks used to have drinks after their polo matches at the Polo Lounge in the lobby. Oh, and a little couple named Clark Gable and Carole Lombard used to meet up in Bungalow #4 for some alone time during their dating days.

Beverly Hills Hotel

Beverly Hills Hotel

Beverly Hills Hotel

Beverly Hills Hotel

We had lunch in the quaint little Fountain Coffee Shop on the bottom level. The food was delicious!

The Chateau Marmont, a gorgeous, castle-like hotel sitting on a hill overlooking Sunset Boulevard. Built in 1927, its history is also rich with celebrity. Montgomery Clift recovered from his car accident here. Judy Garland sang in the lobby here. Greta Garbo lived here. Jean Harlow and Harold Rosson honeymooned here. John Belushi died here. Clark stayed here in a few times in the 1930’s, probably with a lady guest, when he didn’t want to go home to second wife Ria. It remains a Hollywood hotspot to this day.  

Chateau Marmont

Chateau Marmont

Clark and Carole’s favorite restaurant, The Brown Derby, was located here on Vine Street just past Hollywood Boulevard. Not only the Gables’ favorite, it was the place to go to see stars in Hollywood.  Clark proposed to Carole here and the Derby catered their second anniversary party.  The building was largely destroyed by a fire in 1987 and  is now, sadly, a W Hotel.

Brown Derby

Then

Former site of the Brown Derby

Now

Another restaurant, this one is still standing. Musso and Frank’s, which has been a Hollywood Boulevard standard since 1919. Clark and Ria used to eat here often in the early 1930’s  and in the 1950’s Clark was a frequent guest, sharing cigars with friends. He was apparently quite fond of their gravy. We ate lunch here and yup, they have good gravy.

Musso and Frank

Musso and Frank

Paramount Studios. Clark made No Man of Her Own (with Carole Lombard) behind these famous gates, and, many years later, Teacher’s Pet and But Not For Me. Carole made many films here, including The Princess Comes AcrossBolero, True Confession and Hands Across the Table.

Paramount Studios

Paramount Studios

The last place Clark ever went, alive–Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital. He was taken here on November 6, 1960 and died here ten days later. His son was born here the following March.  I must say, it is quite a distance from the Encino ranch home, especially in those days before the main interstate.

Hollywood Presbyterian HospitalHollywood Presbyterian HospitalHollywood Presbyterian Hospital

People sure did look at me funny when I said that one of the things I was most looking forward to on my Los Angeles trip was a visit to the library. Sounds strange, but this is not just any library, it’s the Margaret Herrick Library, the library for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the Oscars). If you’ve read a bio on a classic star (a reputable one, anyway) bet your bottom dollar they did their research here. They house thousands of original scripts, screenplays, correspondence, you name it. Many, many people have left their personal papers to the library, including Katharine Hepburn, Steve McQueen, Billy Wilder, Esther Williams,  Edith Head, John Huston, George Arliss, Marjorie Main, Joseph Mankiewicz and many more. The amount of information here is endless. I could go here every day for a year and not go through everything I would want to!

My itinerary being jam packed as it was, I didn’t have the time to go through everything I wanted to, but I set three goals for myself to achieve in the afternoon I spent there.

  1. Go through Clark’s core bio file and see what I could find.
  2. Find a picture of Clark and Carole with William Powell and Jean Harlow at the Academy Awards in 1937. It has been written time and time again that they attended together (Carole and Bill were both nominated for My Man Godfrey) and sat at the same table, but the only pictures I have ever seen are of Bill & Jean, none of the foursome and none of Clark & Carole.
  3. Find some sort of evidence that Clark and Carole attended the 1940 awards—when Clark was nominated for Gone with the Wind. Again, no pictures have ever surfaced of them there, but every book you read describes them as being there.

#1 was easy enough. Most of his file was on microfilm and I found several things I had never seen before that I was able to print and take home with me. So look for those updates in the forthcoming months.

#2 was a flop. I found no pictures at all of the foursome or of Clark and Carole. But I did find that in the trade papers the next day there were quotes from Carole about the awards and accounts of the four of them. So they did attend together but for some reason there are no pictures. That boggles my mind but it appears to be true. Maybe one day some random candid will appear.

#3. This one has bothered me for many years. Gone with the Wind was the biggest film of that year, nearly swept the awards, and Clark was the male star of the picture. Him and Carole were the top celebrity couple at that time, the #1 attraction, the fan favorite. It has been reported in biographies that Clark and Carole attended and that when they left, Clark was very disappointed about losing. On the way home, Carole tried to cheer him up and said, “Don’t worry, Pappy, we’ll get one next year.” He glumly replied, “No, I won’t. That was my last shot.” To which Carole replied, “No not you, you selfish bastard, I meant me!” This story has been repeated over and over. Yet, they supposedly attended these awards and there are no pictures—not a single one? And no description of Carole’s gown or details of who they sat with?   I have scored over countless photos of that event. They were certainly not seated at the table with Vivien Leigh and David Selznick and the other Wind stars; there are numerous photos of that table and they are nowhere to be seen. There is newsreel footage of star arrivals at the Awards. I have freeze-framed it and scoured the room. Nope, no Clark and no Carole.

Oscar Night 1940: Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Vivien Leigh, Olivia de Havilland...no Clark, no Carole

Well I have found out why.

They didn’t attend.

I had long suspected this but it has now been confirmed. (Here and now I want to give a shout out to my buddy Kurt whom I chatted with this about months ago–Kurt, you were right!) The library had no pictures of them there, no quotes from them, no eyewitness accounts of them and they are not listed on the seating chart. The newspapers the next day helped clear up the mystery.

The Associated Press article, which was circulated to numerous news outlets throughout the country:

Clark Gable, wherever he may  be, is Hollywood’s “forgotten man” of the moment.

But for Mr. Gable, who sets feminine hearts fluttering whenever his handsome face and fine physique appear on a theater screen, “Gone with the Wind” would have swept the field last night in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ eleventh annual selection of premier film accomplishments.

“GWTW” did all right, anyway. To the surprise of no one, it walked off with eight of 16 possible awards, including those for best production, best actress, best supporting actress and best director. Not since “It Happened One Night” grabbed all the top honors in 1934 has a picture done as well.

But “Gone with the Wind” were the hopes of many another producer, actress, director and photographer for fleeting fame and the cheers of an ermined, evening-coated audience of filmdom’s famous, which crowded the banquet room of the Ambassador Hotel for the season’s swankiest affair.

Only Robert Donat, among the principal contestants, survived the big gale. It was he who edged out Gable as the outstanding actor. The industry—from mighty producer to obscure electrician—named him for his masterful portrayal of 50 years in an English schoolteacher’s life in “Goodbye, Mr. Chips.”

Neither Donat nor Gable were among those present. Donat is in England and Gable left Hollywood yesterday for a short vacation.

 The Los Angeles Times, despite agreeing with the Academy not to release the names of the winners until after the ceremony had ended, printed them in their evening edition. So perhaps Mr. and Mrs. Gable were going to go to the awards and, upon finding out that Clark lost, opted out. That sounds just like Clark, who wouldn’t want to get all dressed up and go out on the town just to lose out. I can’t say I blame him as the majority of the newspaper headlines from the next day pointed out his loss: “Gable is Hollywood’s Forgotten Man,”  “Only Clark Gable Keeps Wind From Making Clean Sweep of Awards,” “Wind Sweeps Except for Gable’s Failure to Take Top Prize.” Geez, that’s enough to hurt anyone’s self esteem.

It’s also possible that Clark and Carole decided to take off for the mountains before that too, as newspapers from the days leading up to the awards predict Gone with the Wind’s domination but say that Clark’s winning for Rhett Butler would be an upset. They rightfully predict Robert Donat but also say that James Stewart could take the Oscar home for Mr. Smith Went to Washington. So, again, Clark wouldn’t want to attend if he thought there was no chance of him winning.

Well, there you have it. As far as the 1940 Academy Awards are concerned, Mr. and Mrs. Gable were a no-show. I’m closing the book on this mystery!

Well I am back from La-La Land and I saw so much I hardly know where to begin. Unlike many people, whom we saw crowded on tour buses snapping photos of Ashton Kutcher’s house, we were looking for history. In our rented Kia, with Garmin as our usually-cooperative guide, we drove all over Los Angeles, to Brentwood, to Bel Air, to Beverly Hills, to Culver City, to Studio City, to Encino, to Glendale, to Santa Monica, to Hollywood. We drove up long, twisted, tiny roads just to peer over the fence of houses previously owned by Clark, Carole, Jean Harlow, Lana Turner and many more. We snuck around legendary hotels, snapping photos left and right. We visited five cemeteries, strolling the grounds in hunt of certain gravestones, wandering the hallways of seemingly endless mausoleums. In the end, we had a great time and came home with over 500 photos.

I’ll be posting blog posts about our experiences for the next few weeks so stay tuned…