As you drive north up the San Diego freeway through Culver City, you have undoubtedly noticed the towering, white stone monument on the green hillside east of the 405. Well, that monument is most spectacular tomb of any Hollywood celebrity, and it belongs to none other than Al Jolson ("The Jazz Singer") himself. That green slope is Hillside Memorial Park, a Jewish cemetery which is the final resting place to a host of well-known movie and TV stars.
Located next to the Fox Hills Mall and only a few miles away from M-G-M Studios, Hillside is a beautiful memorial park, with rolling green hills studded with cypress trees and classic white buildings. And it is also the final resting place of, among others: Jack Benny, Eddie Cantor, Leonard Nimoy, David Janssen, Michael Landon, Lorne Greene, Milton Berle, George Jessel, Allan Sherman, Vic Morrow, Jeff Chandler, Moe Howard, Dinah Shore, and Shelley Winters.
The largest of these monuments belongs to superstar Al Jolson, and you'll see it as soon as you pull into the gates of the cemetery. It consists of a towering, white stone canopy held aloft by six white stone columns, with a series of terraced, blue-tiled waterfalls cascading down the hillside. The inner dome of this canopy contains a large mosaic of Moses holding the Ten Commandments. Beneath the canopy is the marble sarcophagus of Jolson. To one side of the tomb is a three-foot bronze statue of Jolson down on one knee, in his famous "Jazz Singer." ("Mammy!") pose. The inscription reads simply: "Al Jolson. 1886-1950.."
Directly behind the Jolson monument is a mammoth, two-story mausoleum, housing thousands of individual and family crypts. It is one of the finest mausoleums you will are likely to discover; there are even couches and lamps located in the hallways to help create a home-like atmosphere. Unique details inside include gold & white overhead lamps shaped like Stars of David, tile floors, marble walls, fountains, glass doors, and sunny patio areas. Almost all of the stars' tombs are located in this main white building.
Walk through the main front doors of the mausoleum, through the circular lobby, and out onto a sunny patio (called the Memorial Court). Here, you will find David Janssen (1931-1980), who starred as Dr. Richard Kimble in the wildly popular TV series "The Fugitive." The final episode of "The Fugitive," broadcast on August 29, 1967, was the highest-rated television show in history. Before "The Fugitive," Janssen had starred as "Richard Diamond, Private Detective" back in the late 1950's, and in the 1970's, he starred in "O'Hara, U.S. Treasury." and "Harry-O."
His crypt is a black marble one, located along the bottom of the left-hand wall. (It is located just to the right of a large, black sarcophagus bearing the name "Waronker.") The inscription reads:
[Click here to see a
map of the mausoleum area.]
Continue walking east across the outdoor patio area, across a pebble path, past a small fountain surrounded by ivy. Then turn right into "The Hall of Graciousness," and you'll quickly encounter the large black-marble sarcophagus of superstar comedian Jack Benny (and his wife, Mary Livingstone).
"The Jack Benny Show" was a major hit on network radio for two decades, starting in 1932, with a supporting cast that included Eddie ( "Rochester ") Anderson, Mel Blanc, and Irish tenor Dennis Day (Dennis Day, incidentally, is buried just a few blocks away at the nearby Holy Cross Cemetery). In 1950, Jack moved his show to television, where it was a Top Ten hit for over 15 more years. He also starred in movies such as 1940's "Buck Benny Rides Again," and (like Jolson), had his footprints immortalized outside of Grauman's Chinese Theatre. His inscription reads:
Alternatively, instead of entering through the main doors (which are sometimes locked) you can instead enter the mausoleum through the glass doors farther to the right (south) of the main entrance; if you do, Jack Benny's tomb will be right in front of you.
Just to the left of Jack's tomb (in a small wall crypt) is a superstar from an earlier era, none other than Eddie Cantor (1892-1964).
The big-eyed comic and singer starred in such musical comedies as "Roman Scandals" (1933), "Whoopee!." (1930), "Thank Your Lucky Stars" (1943), and "If You Knew Susie" (1948), many augmented by elaborate Busby Berkeley production numbers.
[Click here to see a
map of the mausoleum area.]
Eddie Cantor's crypt, you'll notice that there are stairs right behind
you. Go up these stairs, and on the wall you encounter at the top - right
near the top of the stairs, is the crypt of another actor, Jeff Chandler
With rugged features, a deep tan and premature gray hair, Chandler
was nominated for an Oscar for his role as Cochise in 1950's 'Broken Arrow."
(with Jimmy Stewart,) and starred opposite actresses such as Jane Russell,
Joan Crawford, and Maureen O'Hara. Unfortunately, he died of blood poisoning
at 42 after doctors apparently botched an operation on his back. His crypt
is located several rows up on the wall. Note that Jeff is buried under
his original name: Ira Grossel
(although the marker also says "Jeff Chandler)" in smaller letters
beneath his name.
Now we leave the mausoleum and head outdoors.
To find the crypt of Michael Landon (1936-1991), when you're facing Jack Benny's tomb, simply walk left (east) past Eddie Cantor's crypt, and through the door, out onto a small, outdoor walkway lined with glass-enclosed rooms, and featuring a low, round fountain. The glass room in front of you, to the right side, is labeled "Landon." This is where Michael Landon, the star of TV's "Bonanza," "Little House on the Prairie," and "Highway to Heaven." is interred. Although the glass door is locked, his marker (on the east wall) is clearly visible from the walkway. It reads:
Next, we go on discover the graves of Lorne
Greene, Dinah Shore,
here to go to page two, to continue the tour.]
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