100 Years Ago in Hollywood


Nestor Studios in Hollywood.

In retrospect the year 1912 was a momentous one in Hollywood, although the district, before it was annexed by Los Angeles, had banned movie theaters.

Carl Laemmle founded Universal Studios after he was inspired by the popularity of nickelodeons, so-called for charging a nickel to view moving pictures.  He soon merged his company with Nestor Studios, which was making one-reelers in a vacant lot behind an unused tavern at Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street.

Distancing himself, geographically and philosophically, from Thomas Edison, whose company had patents on the equipment used to make movies, Laemmle began promoting his leading actress, Florence Lawrence, by name, establishing the star system.

Less than a month later Adolph Zukor laid the foundation for Paramount Pictures by creating his Famous Players Film Company and subsequently joining up with Jesse L. Lasky and Samuel Goldwyn and their distributor, Paramount Corporation. He, too, believed in his actors, signing Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Gloria Swanson, and Rudolph Valentino to his roster.

Zukor also recognized that the American public was ready for full-length feature films, contrary to conventional wisdom that the audience could not and would not sit still that long.  He released the four-reel French flic Queen Elizabeth with Sarah Bernhardt in the title role.

Not only are Universal and Paramount still in business, making bigger, if not better, movies year after year, so, too, is Western Costume, also celebrating its 100th anniversary.  It’s hard to imagine the movies without elaborate props, meticulous sets, and appropriate clothing, not to mention special effects.

Prior to L.L. Burn, an Indian trader, and his partner, Harry Revier, setting up shop, everything on camera was handled ad hoc.  The twosome initially worked out of a space so small it was nicknamed “The Hole in the Wall,” but business quickly expanded because of their attention to detail and emphasis on accuracy.

Today the Western Costume warehouse offers “eight miles of beautifully maintained clothing from every era,” and you don’t have to be a professional designer to take advantage of their selection.  They rent thousands of costumes from major motion pictures for Halloween and presumably private affairs, as well.

The choices can be overwhelming. Do you want to be traditional? Dress as a witch or a wench.  Looking for something with style?  Wear a zoot suit or strap on a six-shooter.  Let loose your inner self as Madonna or Maid Marion. Go historical as Anne Boleyn or hysterical as The Joker.  Or simply embody Hollywood history as one of Mack Sennett’s Keystone Kops who first made an appearance in…  1912.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved


100 Years Ago in Pop Culture: Twist, Lick, Dunk

This past March Nabisco’s Oreo cookie celebrated its 100th birthday.  It was first produced in its New York City factory at Ninth Avenue between 15th and 16th Streets, known today as “Oreo Way.”  How’s that for a compliment?

Layers and layers of love. Photo from:

But here’s a little known fact.  Sunshine Biscuits beat Nabisco to the market with Hydrox, also a creme-filled chocolate sandwich cookie, by four years.  It still has its fans who preferred the crisper cookie because it “stood up to the milk” when dunked, but it’s no longer on the market.

That leaves Oreos as king of the hill and the best-selling cookie of the 20th century and, probably, beyond.  The snack company keeps turning out new and different choices to keep it interesting.

Do you love the filling, but it disappears too quickly when you lick it?  Try Double Stuf, it has twice as much, well, stuff.

Is the white creme filling too ordinary for your taste?  Try cool mint, peanut butter, or berry burst.

Do you love chocolate?  Go for a chocolate Oreo or a fudge-covered Oreo.  Is your treat still not sweet enough for you?  Bake them inside a chocolate chip cookie or smash them up and have an Oreo milkshake.  An Oreo truffle is made with crushed Oreos and cream cheese and covered with melted dark chocolate.  Yes, you can do this at home.

And now Halloween is upon us.  In the past, Oreos offered a yellow and orange candy corn creme.  I couldn’t find it in the grocery store this past week, but hopefully candy cane Oreos will be on the shelves at Christmas.

All year long Nabisco has been celebrating by commemorating other events.  In honor of Shark Week, it made an Oreo with a bite taken out of it (or it looked that way).  For Gay Pride, it promoted Oreos on Facebook showing layers of filling for each color in the rainbow sandwiched between the requisite chocolate wafers with the caption, “Proudly support love!”

Oreo devotees were distressed when they realized Nabisco wasn’t actually producing this cookie; the picture was for promotional purposes only.  On the other hand, conservative groups called for a boycott because of the promotion.  In response the company pushed back.  We have “a proud history of celebrating diversity and inclusiveness,” it stated.  “We feel the Oreo ad is a fun reflection of values.”

And that’s the way it should be.  Keep twisting, licking, and dunking.  But be warned:  Not all flavors are available all the time.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved