President Ronald Reagan's
father, John Edward 'Jack' Reagan, died in 1941, his funeral was held
at St. Victor's, then a small wooden church atop a hill west of Hollywood.
Founded in 1906, to serve isolated rail and oil workers who couldn't walk to the more distant Blessed Sacrament church in Hollywood, St. Victor's is located just off the busy Sunset Strip. The church predates the city of West Hollywood which now surrounds it (although the original wooden structure was replaced in 1960 with the present, larger church.)
And as you might expect it has seen more than its fair share of Hollywood celebrities.
Vincent Price was a long-time member, and his wife Coral Browne was buried from St. Victor's with a Mozart Requiem Mass with full orchestra. Ricardo Montalban was a long-time parishioner as well, as was Loretta Young and Cesar Romero.
In front of the church is a statue of Mary which is marked as a gift from Danny Thomas and his wife, Rose Marie.
The dedication booklet of the new church (1960) contained congratulatory messages from the families of Jimmy Durante, Bing Crosby, Jane Wyatt, Loretta Young. Nat King Cole's son Kelly converted to Catholicism here, was a parishioner and was buried from this church in 1995.
The late Christopher Hewitt (who played "Mr. Belvedere" on TV) was a lector at the church, and for many years used to read passages from scripture to those attending Sunday Mass.
Other celebrities seen at St. Victor's include actress Jane Wyatt (the mother of the Anderson clan on "Father Knows Best") and actor James Woods ("Contact," "Against All Odds"). Christine Baranski ("Cybill," "Happy Family") is a regular.
The parish closed its school some years ago, but still own the school building and former convent and lease them to a private prep school, which gained notoriety in the Clinton era as Monica Lewinsky's alma mater.
And from an historical viewpoint, it can be argued that St. Victor's may be the most important parish in the history of the motion picture industry in the United States.
Why? Because Msgr. John J. Devlin, the pastor of St. Victor's from 1929-1976, served as the head of the Legion of Decency, the organization that the was the precursor to the modern rating system. When public outcry over increasing sex and violence in the movies threatened to bring government censorship down on their heads, the motion picture industry turned to the Legion of Decency for an early, voluntary ratings system. And as a result, the Legion had clout in Hollywood. St. Victor's rectory was the scene of many insider negotiations about concerning what could and could not get by the Legion and the Hayes Commission, and the results of those discussions had national ramifications for the marketing of films.
While today the idea of the Legion of Decency may seem austere or prudish today, at the time it actually helped the film industry avoid the more stringent legislative controls called for in some quarters, and led to the modern-day system of voluntary movie ratings.
The original church was a gift of Victor Ponet, whose family today (the Montgomery Family) contributed much toward the current church, and are the owners of the Sunset Plaza shopping district.
Situated in West Hollywood, a city with a large gay population, St. Victor's was also the first Catholic church in Southern California to offer regular AIDS Masses and is the only church in the Archdiocese with an AIDS Memorial Chapel.
The church's namesake, Saint Victor I, was the first African pope, and was responsible for all Christians celebrating Easter on a Sunday.
Getting there: St. Victor's is located just south of the Sunset Strip (not far from Spago and Tower Records) and north of Santa Monica Blvd. If you are heading east on Sunset, bear right (east) at the fork in the road where Sunset and Holloway meet (at Horn Avenue).
more information, you can access the church's official website at: http://www.saintvictor.org.]
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