Ortwein Sign is not the only centenarian this year! In fact, we share a birthyear with perhaps the most iconic sign of all – the Hollywood Sign! As such we thought we would take a moment to share some of the history behind this incredible sign and the many stories it’s been a part of and helped tell.
America’s Most Iconic Sign
Whether you’ve been to Los Angeles, California or not, it’s almost impossible to not have seen the most iconic sign in America. That sign of course being the Hollywood Sign.
Part of the reason the Hollywood Sign lives large in our imagination is due to its literal hugeness! Coming in at 45ft tall and 350ft long it’s one of the largest signs in the United States if not the largest.
Hollywood Sign in Films
Of course its use in films is a major contributor to its omniscience in our cultural imagination, which is only fitting since the sign shares its name with the iconic home of the film industry. In films, the Hollywood sign has been destroyed, including Independence Day, Sharknado, and Despicable 3 to name just a few. It’s also been used as a backdrop for happier moments of joy and love. Again it feels everywhere in the films!
What’s perhaps lesser known is the real-life story of the Hollywood sign, which includes real-life destruction and repairs as well, along with love, and tragedy.
The original sign spelled Hollywoodland and was made to promote real estate development. Initially the sign was only to be a temporary monument, taken down after it fulfilled its purpose; however, the sign outlasted the development company itself.
Tragedy in Hollywood
Tragically the Hollywood Sign was also the site of an infamous suicide by aspiring actress Peggy Entwistle in 1932. Her death coincided with the beginning of the Great Depression, when the Hollywood sign would go from an advertising beacon to a more dilapidated nod to Hollywood in an era of bleak uncertainty.
Hollywood Sign’s Destruction and Repairs
It was at this time, according to History.com, during the depression that it became too costly to repair the sign the ‘H’ fell over for a time, leaving simply ‘ollywoodland’. By 1949 though the sign was fixed with the last 4 letters, ‘land’ removed entirely.
Additionally in the 1970s according to the same article the entire sign was replaced with a new one. With fundraising from a variety of Hollywood celebrities, they were able to improve the structural nature of the sign as well when it was replaced, by adding essential steel footings to replace the previous telephone poles that had held up the sign years prior.
Love and Hollywood
Hollywood’s also used the Hollywood sign as a backdrop and setting for many of its more romantic scenes. Most recently according to Vanity Fair, “Friends with Benefits” and “The Kissing Booth”. IMDB shows the Hollywood Sign has been used in at least 62 films, and undoubtedly many more as well that have yet to be included.
100 Years Later
Incredibly the Hollywood Sign has weathered time, the elements, and many Hollywood monsters, to celebrate its centenary anniversary this year. One could never have imagined a sign that began as part of an advertising company for a real estate developer would become iconic beyond that developer’s dreams. Yet we still talk about it today, marvel at its size, recognize its iconic nature in films and well beyond! Perhaps in another 100 years its mystique and importance in Hollywood will only grow.
(Photo Credit: Thomas Wolf, www.foto-tw.de, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)