Memo to Hollywood: Guard Your Traditions

Posted on December 29, 2011
Filed Under Culture, Films, Greed, People | Leave a Comment

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OK, we know that the business of moviemaking has always skewed more to the business side than to the movie side when big money is involved — the history of cinema has always revolved around a balancing act between art and commerce — but the folks over at The Grauman Chinese Theatre in Hollywood seem to have tipped the scales way over to the dark side of bookkeeping.

To wit, this headline in the Dec. 29, 2011 Los Angeles Times: “Grauman’s Chinese: Movie star prints’ futures not set in cement.” Seems that the new owners of the venerable Hollywood showcase (built in 1927) — movie producer Donald Kushner and entrepreneur Elie Samaha — have been allowing just about anyone to add their hand and footprints into the hallowed theatre forecourt — as long as they pay the price ($25,000 for “cement and labor,” plus around $20,000 to cover costs of the ceremony). Recent additions: The Chipmunks, the young cast of the “Twilight” movies (Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart), Kobe Bryant, French DJ David Guetta and the Smurfs — big stars all to stand side by side with Marilyn Monroe, Cark Gable, the Barrymores, Gregory Peck, Gene Kelly, Natalie Wood, Mickey Rooney, Tyrone Power, Julie Andrews, Kirk Douglas, Danny Kaye, Doris Day, Eddie Cantor, Henry Fonda, Alan Ladd, Sophia Loren, Edward G. Robinson, Joan Crawford, the Marx Brothers, Lana Turner, Gloria Swanson, George Burns, Debby Reynolds, Myrna Loy, Abbott & Costello, Jack Benny, Gary Cooper, Sidney Poitier, Jack Lemmon, Nelson Eddy, William Powell, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers among them.

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The Times quoted Kushner as saying, “They’re not going in the forecourt. They weren’t real ceremonies — they were mock ceremonies. The kids’ stuff would be displayed at the Chinese 6 theaters, located in the adjacent Hollywood & Highland mall complex and operated by Kushner and Samaha. But what about the non-kids stuff? Will those be added to the forecourt?

Tinseltown seems to be losing its consciousness of its history, blotting it out at every economic step: whether it be a new mixed use high-rise development on Vine Street that threatens to block views of the Capitol Records Building and even the Hollywood Sign (from some angles) — or last August’s announcement by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that Oprah Winfrey would receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award given “to an individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry”; Winfrey, of course, has spent virtually all of her career in television (granted she’s a humanitarian and philanthropist, but not in the movies). Oh well, at least she’ll draw some TV ratings for the televised awards how when she makes a brief appearance.

I suppose it’s all for the tourists, who don’t know the difference between Kobe Bryant and Jimmy Stewart, or the kids, who see everything on digital screens these days and think the Kardashians are a bigger deal than Kurosawa. It’s all celebrtiy, after all.

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