THIS IS THE BIRTHPLACE
MOTION PICTURE COMEDY
HERE THE GENIUS OF MACK SENNETT
TOOK ROOT AND GREW TO LAUGHTER
HEARD AROUND THE WORLD. HERE
MOVIE HISTORY WAS MADE – HERE
STARS WERE BORN – HERE
REIGNED AND STILL REIGNS
“THE KING OF COMEDY”
R. L. McKEE, PRES.
NATIONAL VAN LINES, INC.
“THIS IS YOUR LIFE”
MARCH 10, 1954
So, reads the copy on the misplaced plaque. In 1954 National Van Lines erected the Mack Sennett Studio plaque on an imposing obelisk at 1845 Glendale Boulevard–which was indeed originally a studio location–but NOT the location of the Mack Sennett Studio. 1845 was the site of the Selig Polyscope studio, the first permanent studio established in Los Angeles in 1909. Mack Sennett Keystone Film Company studio had actually been located a block away and across the street at 1712 Glendale Boulevard! (Ralph Edwards and “This Is Your Life” made quite a habit of misplacing their tribute markers. Three years later they promised to mark the site of the former Buster Keaton Studio–but they also placed that one on the wrong street corner!) Old timers like Coy Watson, who had worked at Sennett’s as a boy, were appropriately outraged and even wrote letters to the editors of various newspapers, but the parade had gone by, and the plaque remained at 1845 Glendale Boulevard for 53 years until a developer acquired the property in 2007, with the intention of putting up condos on the grounds where Francis Boggs, Hobart Bosworth, Tom Santschi, Bessie Eyton and Kathlyn Williams once made movies for Selig.
The Plaque and Obelisk had been safely behind a chain link fence on the grounds of Bert-Co Graphics (the immediate past tenants), but when the wrecking crew moved in to demolish the buildings, the fence came down, and they monument became subject to vandalism. I contacted the new owner of the property, and arranged to save it, with the intention of placing it where it should always have been–at 1712 Glendale boulevard, where the last surviving building of the Sennett Studio–a circa 1913 concrete dark stage–that is now part of a Public Storage facility. But how to move what appeared to be a solid concrete seven-foot-tall obelisk that had to weigh at least 600 pounds without causing damage? It turned out, however, that not only was the obelisk in the wrong spot, but it was also a clever piece of Hollywood set craft–made not of concrete, but constructed from 2 x 2s, chicken wire, and a brown coat of plaster! In fact the plaques, which hat mounting bolts on the back, had never even been secured to the obelisk–it was simply shoved into the wet plaster, and over the years anyone might have popped it off with a screwdriver! So, I took possession of the plaque on behalf of Hollywood Heritage, Inc. and now, in 2014, the centennial of Charlie Chaplin’s first work on the lot for Mack Sennett, a campaign is underway to rededicate the plaque where it always belonged–the site of the Mack Sennett Studio. For those who’d like to contribute to making this rededication possible, Hollywood Heritage has initiated an Indiegogo campaign to raise the $3,500.00 needed to complete the task. Here is a link https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/mack-sennett-studio-historical-marker
Here is the Sennett lot and dark stage as it looked in 1915:
And here is what it looks like today:
7 thoughts on “The Case Of The Misplaced Plaque”
Thank you, thank you, you dear sweet man for saving the plaque, and all the wonderful work you do to save our history.
As Charlie Chaplin would say, “Modesty forbids.” But many thanks, Marilyn.
I am delighted by the obelisk being fake concrete. It feels somehow aesthetically perfect that it should have been.
I agree. A true Hollywood story ending. It doesn’t matter what it IS, only what it LOOKS LIKE ;-}
In Hollywood it doesn’t matter what it is, only what it looks like.
Reblogged this on Joseph Nebus's Sense Of Humor and commented:
I’ve been meaning to bring this to people’s attention but keep finding other things taking up my time instead. Robert S Birchard of the “Comedy Fast and Furious” blog found an obelisk erected by Ralph Edwards’s You Bet Your Life to commemorate the Mack Sennett Keystone Studios. The plaque commemorates the “birthplace of motion picture comedy”, which may be a touch overstating things but is still fair enough since if you think of a silent (American, at least) comedy film you’re probably thinking of something touched by Sennett. But the obelisk and the plaque were endangered, and, there’s more to the story, and I think you’ll enjoy learning it.
Thanks for the re-posting, Joseph.