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carole lombard 02

Hollywood's neglected towering beauty

Posted by vp19 on 2014.07.29 at 12:08
Current mood: depresseddepressed


Hollywood -- both in the literal and figurative sense -- was in Carole Lombard's soul. Most of her films were made at studios which then called Hollywood home (Paramount, Columbia and RKO), she was one of the few stars who actually lived on Hollywood Boulevard (the above photo was taken in that house), and she spent plenty of time at hotspots such as the Hollywood Roosevelt's Cinegrill, the Vine Street Brown Derby or the short-lived West Coast version of Sardi's.

So chances are that Carole saw this building countless times while traveling through Hollywood; heck, she may have set foot in it a time or two:



It's the First National Bank building at the northeast corner of Hollywood and Highland, taken in 1928, about the time of its opening. In Lombard's day, it would have been impossible to miss, standing 190 feet from the ground floor to the tip of its tower. Only City Hall, built several miles away in downtown the previous year, was taller.

The First National tower was equally impressive at night:



It dominated the Hollywood skyline:



In her excellent blog "The Daily Mirror," Mary Mallory notes the building was designed as a reflection of Hollywood's booming economic self-confidence in the late 1920s (http://ladailymirror.com/2014/07/28/mary-mallory-hollywood-heights-first-national-building-banks-on-hollywoods-future/). Financial, medical and entertainment offices filled it to 80 percent capacity by mid-1929...but then the bottom fell out. First National became prey to a series of takeovers, most recently by Bank of America.

As for the building? As newer office space popped up around Hollywood, the old tower lost favor. For the past few years, Mallory wrote, it's stood "empty and forlorn at Hollywood and Highland, left unkempt and dirty..." All the action is on the other side of Highland, namely the new, glitzy retail of the Hollywood & Highland complex -- similar to classic Hollywood being cast aside in favor of blockbusters with colossal opening-weekend box office hauls:



Even a nearby Metrorail station apparently can't come to the aid of this stately dowager.



As Mallory so eloquently concluded, "May someone recognize the jewel of this building and restore and reopen it to its previous splendor, celebrating another revival of business Hollywood." Let's keep our fingers crossed that's just what happens.

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