The Hollywood Forever Memorial Park certainly lives up to its name.
Looking north through its front gates, you can see the Hollywood Sign up atop the Hollywood Hills. Looking south, you can see the historic back lot of the famous Paramount Studios. And interred throughout the cemetery grounds are some of the most famous stars in the history of Old Hollywood, including Rudoph Valentino, Mickey Rooney, Douglas Fairbanks, Nelson Eddy, Peter Lorre, Janet Gaynor, Tyrone Power and Clifton Webb.
This is a large cemetery, with two huge indoor mausoleums and countless outdoor graves. You will need a map if you are going to locate any of the stars' burial sites. Fortunately, the administration here is cooperative, and you can pick up a map of the grounds as you enter the park, from the flower shop at the main gate, which highlights the locations of many of the stars buried here.
This is also an old cemetery - established in 1899, and filled with tall, old-fashioned headstones and towering monuments, including a few unusual ones shaped like obelisks and a rocket ship. The cemetery is so picturesque, in fact, that it has been used as a background location for many Hollywood movies (such as 1991's "Hot Shots" with Charlie Sheen and that same year's "L.A. Story." with Steve Martin - as well as TV shows such as "Dexter".)
Some sections of the cemetery grounds are a little unkempt (more than a handful of tombstones are broken or tilted by overgrown tree roots), but the tranquil area by the lake is beautiful.
There are two major mausoleums, both filled with Hollywood movie stars. And despite their age, both buildings are white and sunny (illuminated by stained-glass skylights), not at all the sort of dark & spooky environs your imagination might conjure up when you think of an old mausoleum.
We will first visit the mausoleum on the far west side of the park, which is named the "Abbey of the Psalms." Here, you will find the crypts of actress Norma Talmadge (and her sisters Constance & Natalie); famed director Victor Fleming, actress Joan Hackett, movie mogul Jesse Lasky, actress Darla Hood, and Charlie Chaplin Jr.
(Most of the crypts here aren't numbered, but as
you enter each section, note that the names of the various hallways and
corridors are conveniently written on the tile floor.)
The Talmadge sisters are the easiest stars to find inside the Abbey of the Psalms. Standing in front of the mausoleum, just walk into the first hallway on your left (south), the Sanctuary of Peace, then quickly turn left again (east) at the first side corridor (the Shrine of Eternal Love). On the right (south) side of this small side passage is an even smaller room, that of the Talmadge family.
Norma Talmadge (1893-1957), all but forgotten by today's movie-goers, was a superstar in her day. In fact, history has it that she was the very first star to have her footprints placed in the wet cement outside of Grauman's Chinese Theatre - her prints there occupy the central square, right in front of the theatre doors, framed by those of Pickford and Fairbanks.
Her sister, Constance Talmadge
also buried here, starred in D.W. Griffith's 1916 silent epic, "Intolerance,"
while Natalie Talmadge (1895-1969)
was married to Buster Keaton
and co-starred with him in many of his silent comedies.
Actor Clifton Webb (1889-1966) is interred nearby. Best known as the original Mr. Belvedere in 1948's "Sitting Pretty" (and its sequels), Webb also starred as the killer in the classic thriller "Laura," and he had his footprints immortalized at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. His ghost is said to haunt this mausoleum, as well as his former home in Beverly Hills.
To find his crypt, go back out into the "Sanctuary of Peace." hallway, and walk farther south, past another side corridor (Eternal Life). On the left (east) wall of the Sanctuary of Peace is Mr. Webb's crypt, two rows up from the bottom, and five spaces south of that Eternal Life side-corridor.
on the small markers to see larger versions.]
Next, walk back north to that Eternal Life side corridor, but turn left (west) instead, into a passage which leads into the next hallway, the Sanctuary of Light. As soon as you come out of the passage, turn right (north), and there on the right (east) wall is the crypt of movie pioneer Jesse Lasky (1880-1958).
If you have read the page on this website about the Hollywood
Studio Museum, you know that Jesse Lasky and Cecil B. DeMille
shot the first full-length movie ever made in Hollywood, "The Squaw Man,"
back in 1913. Lasky's Famous Players company
went on to become the huge Paramount Studios,
located right next door to this cemetery. Lasky's crypt is two spaces up
from the bottom, with a larger-than-normal plaque. (As luck would have
it, Cecil B. DeMille is buried here
as well, over by the lake.)
In the next corridor to the west, the Sanctuary of Light, is Darla Hood (1931-1979), the child actress who starred in the original "Little Rascals." and "Our Gang" comedies, along with "Spanky," "Alfalfa," and "Buckwheat." Unlike most stars, Darla's crypt is located way up on the very top row.
find it, from Jesse Lasky's crypt, just turn around and go a little to
the south. Her crypt is on the west wall, before you reach the next corridor
to the south. But her top marker is somewhat hard to read, up there on
the seventh row. (Ironically, her co-star, Carl "Alfalfa."
Switzer, is also buried at this cemetery).
Next is Victor Fleming (1883-1949). Perhaps no other director on earth accomplished what Fleming did in 1939, when he directed two of the most beloved movies in the history of Hollywood in the very same year: "The Wizard of Oz" and "Gone With the Wind."
Go back outdoors to the front of the mausoleum. Now, turn right, into the second corridor on your right (the Sanctuary of Trust). Walk north, past one side corridor (on your right), and a second side-corridor (on your left), then stop and face the left (west) wall. Here, on the bottom row, you'll find the crypt of Charlie Chaplin's son, Charlie Chaplin Jr. (1925-1968)
Charles Chaplin Jr. was an actor in his own right, appearing in a number of minor youth films during the 1950's (such as "High School Confidential." and "Girl's Town"), before passing away at age 42 of a blood clot. His famous father outlived him by almost ten years.
The next star in this mausoleum is Joan Hackett (1934-1983). If you saw the hilarious comedy "Support Your Local Sheriff." with James Garner, you will remember Ms. Hackett in the female lead, as the young woman Garner first meets when she's stuck up a tree in her underwear. Or perhaps you'll remember Joan Hackett from her starring role in "Will Penny," opposite Charlton Heston. She was nominated for an Oscar for her supporting role in Neil Simon's 1981 movie "Only When I Laugh." She was married to comic actor Richard Mulligan ("Soap") for seven years.
To find her crypt from outside the main entrance, turn right (north) into the first hallway (the Sanctuary of Faith), and walk all the way to the end of the long corridor (past three side hallways). Just before you reach the door at the other end (which leads outside), you'll find her crypt on the right (east) wall, two up from the bottom, 11 markers in from the door. She died young - at just 49, of cancer. She loved to get her beauty sleep, so her unusual marker reads:
"Go Away - I'm Asleep.."
To find the final star in this mausoleum, go back into the main (east-west) hallway, and walk west to the rear of the building and the last corridor. Turn to the right (north), into the Sanctuary of Memories [see a map] and walk about 26 spaces down the corridor, and look at the wall of crypts on your left (west) side, three spaces up from the bottom.
Here, you'll find the crypt one of the of more recent celebrities to be buried at Hollywood Forever, actor Iron Eyes Cody (1904-1999). When he died in 1999, the obituaries referred to him as "the Crying Indian." And perhaps most people do remember him most from that 1971 series of "Keep America Beautiful" anti-littering TV commercials, where he played the Indian chief shedding a tear over a polluted American landscape.
But Iron Eyes Cody (born Espera DiCorti) had
a long history as an actor playing Native American roles in Hollywood.
appeared in almost a hundred motion pictures, starting back in the silent
days of 1919 and lasting through 1990.
It's time to leave this mausoleum and cross to the southeast section of the park, to discover superstars such as Valentino and Douglas Fairbanks...
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