Grauman’s Chinese Theater, 6925 Hollywood Blvd, opened in 1927 and is now the TCL Chinese Theater. Twenty years after the premiere of his first film, The Big Trail, at this movie house, John Wayne joined the ranks of immortal movie legends. He was the 125th star to be immortalized outside the theater.
On January 25, 1950, he put his cowboy boots in the wet cement and etched his name next to it. With the sentiment, „To Sid – there are not enough words“, Wayne paid his respects to the man who had created this Hollywood landmark, Sid Grauman (right). Atypically, this honoree star did not push his hands but his right fist into the cement.
His star on the Walk of Fame is on 1541 Vine Street. Not too far from what is now the Ricardo Montalban Theatre on 1615 Vine Street. However, until 1955 this was the CBS Playhouse Theater where Wayne performed several times in the radio adaptions of his films. Lux presents Hollywood was a popular anthology show, performed in front of a live audience.
The Hollywood Pantages Theatre, the palatial Art Deco Theater at 6233 Hollywood Blvd, was known as RKO Pantages theatre in the Golden Days of Hollywood when this was the place of the Academy Awards ceremony - and the original name stuck. The first time John Wayne was up for the Academy Award was on March 23, 1950, for Sands of Iwo Jima. He picked up two Oscars on March 19, 1953, at the Pantages – one for Ford’s direction of The Quiet Man and „one for our beloved Gary Cooper“.
Originally built in 1924 as a health club, the Hollywood Athletic Club was more like a hideout of male stars during the 20s through the 50s. The restored structure of one of Tinseltown‘s most historical buildings still contains the Olympic sized pool. John Ford often spent his afternoons naked in the steam room.
Pictured here is the original logo of the Hollywood Athletic Club, the famous landmark on 6525 Sunset Boulevard. John Ford's drinking buddies, young Wayne and Ward Bond among them, formed an inner social club, the „Young Men’s Purity, Total Abstinence, and Snooker Pool Association“, renamed in 1938 as „The Emerald Bay Yacht Club“. They even held their meetings in the steam room.
John Wayne was a regular at the Tam O'Shanter Inn even before he was John Wayne. When he was in his sophomore year of Glendale High, he used to bring his first steady girlfriend, Polly Richmond, to the Tam O’Shanter. In later years, his table was always #15. The restaurant at 2980 Los Felix Blvd was favored by nearby Disney Studio employees as Walt's first studio was just across the street.
Wayne often worked at the Samuel Goldwyn Studios, located at 1041 N Formosa Ave (for the first time when he did the process shots inside a mock-up of the Stagecoach, using rear projection; he also used the facilities to do the postproduction of The Alamo). The studio lot on the corner of Formosa and Santa Monica Blvd had changed hands several times and was leased by different independent producers. Warner Brothers sold it again in 1999 when the name was officially changed to its longtime unofficial nickname, The Lot. However, unchangable is the legendary Hollywood hangout across the street...
...the Formosa Cafe at 7156 Santa Monica Blvd: According to a Formosa legend (printed on the menu card), Wayne passed out in his booth after a night of imbiding at the Café. The staff was not able to wake him up and simply locked up. In the morning, they caught him in the kitchen making scrambled eggs. The story inspired the Duke’s All Nighter cocktail.
The studios used Bronson Canyon - actually man-made tunnels - countless times. It has the look of a remote setting but it is easily accessible as a section of Griffith Park. So, August 12, 1955, Ethan Edwards took Debbie in his arms at the cave entrance. However, The Searchers was not Wayne's first trip up there. He had beenfilming in Bronson Canyon 20 years before...
...when he first defended these stark rock faces in the Mascot serial The Hurricane Express. He rode back into that horseshoe-shaped canyon for Sagebrush Trail in 1933 (pictured here) for an action-packed shootout – he actually drives a stagecoach from one end of the tunnel to the other.
For a long time, John Wayne was one of the owners of the Culver City Hotel at 9400 Culver Blvd, then a few blocks from MGM studios. The “flatiron” changed hands ever since it opened in 1924. It was used as a movie location as early as in the Laurel & Hardy pictures. The six-story Renaissance Revival building is now a national landmark.
When the State of Californa and the County of L.A. purchased 111 acres of what is known today as the L.A. Arboretum, movie-making history could be made. Because of the large lagoon and the lush foliage surrounding it, this location was often used for jungle type pictures. Between July and August, 1948, this was the home of the evil owner of the Batjak Shipping Company in Wake of the Red Witch.
As shown in this German movie programm, the Batjak owner supposedly lived in the 1880s Queen Anne Cottage, located in the middle of the parc at Baldwin Lake.
This had not been the first time Wayne filmed at the L.A. Arboretum. His guerilla fighters from Back to Bataan also fought on the Baldwin estate in Arcadia. And some pick-ups for Tycoon were also shot on the premises. The entrance is directly across from the Santa Anita Race Track, at 301 N Baldwin Ave.
In late 1949, Wayne accepted the role of Rodeo Grand Marshal at the 5th Annual Sheriff’s Rodeo at the L.A. Coliseum, 3911 Figueroa Street.
One filming site many location hunters get wrong is the place that Tom Doniphon called his own spread as The Man who Shot Liberty Valance. Even though it was a Paramount film, it was not filmed on the Paramount Ranch in Agoura. As a matter of fact, the only outdoor sequences (like the one seen here with James Stewart) were shot on the Janss Conejo Ranch. Filmmakers wouldn't even have to cross the cityborders of L.A. That's why TV shows like Bonanza (a Paramount production) used the same wide spread (originally 10,000 acres) regularly.
However, in 1969, the Hawaiian Land Corporation acquired the Janss Conejo ranch land and developed it into the vast city of Thousand Oaks. 1,765 acres were spared, which is now Wildwood Park at 928 W Avenida De Los Arboles, sometimes still used for location shooting.
A few years after his passing, Great Western Bank decided to honor its advertising spokesperson. Artist Harry Jackson was commissioned with creating the massive 21-foot high bronze “The Horseman”. James Stewart unveiled the 5.4-ton sculpture on July 22, 1984, at Wilshire and La Cienega Boulevards, then called Great Western Savings Plaza. “The Horseman” is facing 8484 Wilshire Bldv. By coincidence, Wilshire was the last address of John Wayne's Batjac office (9570 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 400).
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All pictures posted on this website are from the collection of the author, unless otherwise noted