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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

HOT SPOTS in CA: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

For those movie buffs living within the Los Angeles area, there is one place you must go ASAP! It turns out that the 4th floor of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences houses a rotating display featuring a different subject every few months. Currently, they have dedicated their attention to Irving Thalberg, MGM's boy wonder (above). 

I randomly stumbled upon this fact when trying to track down the location of Lon Chaney's makeup case. As his #1 fan, I learned that upon his death his wife, Hazel, donated it to the Los Angeles Natural History Museum, which displays it in its California History section in the basement from time to time. Further correspondence with the museum informed me that there are in fact 2 makeup bags: a smaller one, which will be on display at the museum for one day only- Sunday the 25th of October- to members only, and the larger more famous one (above), currently on loan to the Academy for the Thalberg display. The small case was basically Chaney's start-up kit at Universal, whereas the larger bag was used when he was at MGM and, by then, considered a makeup pro. Because the Thalberg display is !!FREE!! I opted to go there, and I was not disappointed. Chaney was the first star of the first film Thalberg made at MGM, He Who Gets Slapped.

In addition to displaying Chaney's famous bag, which still contains spirit gum, false hair, etc, the Thalberg showcase also has the wig Chaney wore as the old woman in both the silent and sound version of The Unholy Three and the glass cover he wore on his eye in The Road to Mandalay. But Chaney isn't the only actor from MGM's lot featured here! In addition, there are several film clips playing from MGM's top films of the Thalberg era, and photographs and film stills of Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, John Barrymore, Jean Harlow, etc. Norma Shearer, Thalberg's wife, is also heavily featured, and the hat with the mechanized bird (right) that she wore in Marie Antoinette is there to admire.

There are many other costumes and set pieces to see, including the leather get-up Ramon Novarro wore in Ben-Hur (left) and one of the black suits Leslie Howard wore in Romeo and Juliet. (Howard, by the way, was a very tiny man)! Different letters of correspondence between Thalberg and other MGM big-wigs, an invitation to his funeral, and other documents are posted within glass cases for visitors to read as well. It is truly an amazing collection, and I was surprised at all of the Hollywood artifacts present in one small space. I found myself getting quite emotional looking at all of the intricate pieces that helped create Hollywood history. And again, it is totally free, so if you haven't gone I suggest you do. It is a great way to spend an afternoon. 

The Thalberg display will be there only a little over a month longer, ending on December 17th. When you enter the building, go to the desk and you will be given a pass. Take the elevator up to the 4th floor, and voila! After you're done, you can stop in the main lobby and check out their collection of movie posters. As always, happy hunting!!!

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
8949 Wilshire Blvd, 4th Floor
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Hours: M-F 10-5, Sat. and Sun 12-6


  1. I will definitely check this out! I am always looking for places to visit in Hollywood that remind me of the lost time of glamour. Blog looks great! Take care, Kori xoxo

  2. Please do! You'll love it! And thanks :)

  3. Oh my! I need to go there sometime, when I am in the area. Thank you so much for the information!

  4. Your welcome, Tom! Yes, definitely check it out. One great thing about living here is being able to utilize all the great historical attractions. I'm always on the lookout for more :)!

  5. Just wanted to let you know I added you to my blog roll! Kori xoxo

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