“The cemetery is an open space among the ruins, covered in winter with violets and daisies. It might make one in love with death, to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place.”
― Percy Bysshe Shelley, Adonais
One of the oldest cemeteries in Los Angeles, Hollywood Forever Cemetery harkens to the old tradition of resting places for the dead. Unlike the sterile field of flat headstones easily mown over at some cemeteries, Hollywood Forever is filled with standing headstones, temples and monuments as unique as those whom they commemorate. Once a favored cemetery for the elite of Hollywood royalty, it fell in to disrepair. Now it is making a comeback. On the National Register of Historic Places, you can find cemetery movie screenings, Day of the Dead commemorations, concerts, and tours, which is what brought me to the cemetery. The Art Deco Society of Los Angeles was doing their annual tour, in its 30th year. I had wanted to attend for awhile, but calendars had never worked out. This time I jumped on the opportunity to hear the dirt, as they say, on some of the icons of the history of Hollywood.
While hearing the stories was interesting, what was most interesting were the monuments themselves – remarkable in their diversity and, in some cases, grandeur.
I just liked this epitaph.
The monument for Cecil B. DeMille, overlooking Paramount Studios.
The great comedic actress, and love of William Randolph Hearst, Marion Davies.
While you may not know him, as someone who donated an outstanding library to UCLA, I am very familiar with the owner of the grandest temple on the grounds, William A. Clark, Jr.
The temple and pond for Douglas Fairbanks and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
But what was also interesting were how humble and simple the resting places of some of the most famous people in Hollywood were.
Alfalfa, from Our Gang. His dad and a picture of his, uh, interesting invention is next to him.
If you didn’t know Fay Wray, the love of King Kong, was under this little willow tree, you wouldn’t find her.
Charlie Chaplin’s mother. His son is in a mausoleum on the grounds, as well.
While many are outside under the blue California skies, many of Hollywood’s mighty are locked away in mausoleum interments.
The simple resting place of Rudolph Valentino
Miss Barbara La Marr
My favorite dancer, Eleanor Powell. No one taps better.
“Bad guy” Peter Lorre
Within the masoleums is exquisite artwork.
Now, I could regale you with tales of all of these noted individuals, but then you might not take the tour next year when it is offered. A few of the graves above I ferreted out on my own and are not part of the tour, but there are cemetery guides online that can show you the locations of these, and other celebrities. I didn’t go see the Talmadges or Bugsy Siegel, to name a few. So next time you are in the neighborhood, pay a visit to Hollywood Forever. The luminaries there were in the spotlight in life and should not be forgotten in death.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery
6000 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, California