There are more major Hollywood stars buried
at Forest Lawn Memorial Park
It's a place that must be seen to be believed.
The park's sheer size is overwhelming, a seemingly endless vista of rolling green hills; over 300 acres dotted with white sculptures and quaint English chapels.
And it is unique.
Unlike any other cemetery, Forest Lawn attracts over a million visitors per year. Over 60,000 people have actually been married there (including Ronald Reagan, who tied the knot with Jane Wyman at the "Wee Kirk 'o the Heather" chapel back in 1940). Regis Philbin was also married at Forest Lawn.
Why? Well, Forest Lawn isn't your ordinary, run-of-the-mill cemetery. Far more than just a memorial park, it's also a museum, an art gallery, an architectural showcase, a Hollywood tourist trap, and a religious retreat. Even Pope John Paul II stopped here, during his visit to Los Angeles.
Where else can you see the final resting places of multiple movie stars, visit a replica of Rudyard Kipling's church, watch white swans glide across a lake, see a mosaic of "The Signing of the Declaration of Independence," view the world's largest religious painting in a state-of-the-art theater, and discover replicas of all of Michelangelo's major works in one place?
Forest Lawn, as we know it, was born in 1917, when Dr. Hubert Eaton,
a firm believer in a joyous life after death, took over management. He had become convinced that most
current cemeteries were "unsightly, depressing stoneyards," and
pledged to create one that would reflect his optimistic beliefs, a cemetery
that would be as unlike other cemeteries "as sunlight is unlike darkness,
as eternal life is unlike death."
Forest Lawn was designed to captivate visitors, and it does so quite well.
The "Golden Age" Hollywood stars buried here include some of the biggest names in the history of Hollywood: Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Jimmy Stewart, Jean Harlow, Humphrey Bogart, Mary Pickford, Errol Flynn, Spencer Tracy...
No other cemetery can match the sheer number of superstars that you'll find buried here at Forest Lawn Glendale.
That includes George Burns
& Gracie Allen, W.C.
Fields, Tom Mix, Sammy Davis
But there's a catch. (Isn't there always?)
Because of the sheer size of the park, sightseeing here for the casual visitor interested in visiting their favorite star's grave can be an exercise in frustration.
The grounds are so enormous that finding any particular grave without a map is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack . To get an idea of just how large this Glendale park is, consider that over a quarter of a million people have been buried here. Even with a map, trying to locate a star's grave here can be difficult.
And to make matters worse, for some reason the cemetery refuses to give out any advice or directions when it comes to locating celebrities.
Forest Lawn certainly does not encourage sightseeing by movie fans. In fact, they can be downright hostile at times. I actually saw a female employee at the entrance to the Great Mausoleum confiscate a visitor's copy of a reference book about stars' graves.
Worse, many of the stars' tombs here at Forest Lawn Glendale are private or semi-private. Some, such as Bogart's and Pickford's, are hidden away in private gardens, behind locked walls, with no entry for the public.
Others, such as Gable & Lombard's crypts, are supposed to be off-limits to the public, but are located in hallways which can be easily reached by anyone willing to simply bypass a chain rope. (Let me make it clear that I don't recommend this tactic, though; it could be considered trespassing by some overzealous employee and might get you arrested.)
The park's aversion to loyal fans who wish to visit the final resting place of their favorite star is particularly surprising coming from a cemetery that is often the butt of jokes for its own flamboyant style. And while their intentions may be noble, in my opinion, Forest Lawn's "no-tell" policy is a true disservice to the memory of the celebrities buried here. Most of these actors toiled all of their lives to be famous, to become something special, to earn the love and admiration of the public. Yet Forest Lawn's restrictive policy means that in death, these immortal stars simply disappear into a vast, anonymous sea of gravestones...
As such, if you are interested in visiting the graves of movie stars, you would be better off going to Pierce Brothers Westwood, Hollywood Forever , Holy Cross Cemetery, or Hillside Memorial Park, where the grounds are smaller, the stars' graves are easier to find, and the management is more reasonable when it comes to giving out information.
But if you still want to go sightseeing at Forest Lawn, here are a few pointers:
Be sure to pick up a map of the grounds at the information kiosk when you first drive through the main gates. Their map doesn't pinpoint stars' graves, but you'll need it just to find your way around the sprawling park and its maze of roads. (You can see an online map by clicking here.)
Then, from the cemetery's
main entrance, use the map to drive to the northeast corner of the park,
where you'll find the Court of Freedom, with its large mosaic, and
a 13-foot high statue of George Washington...
It's now time to begin
our virtual tour of Forest Lawn Glendale
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