The world of film is synonymous with the city of Los Angeles, and the narrative the industry creates informs the reputation of the city itself. In a new book, USC professor Alison Trope hopes to shed light on the enduring efforts to memorialize and canonize the history and meaning of Hollywood and American film culture.
She explores the tensions between art and commerce as nonprofits and for-profits, amateurs and professionals, fans and consumers all struggle to define Hollywood’s meaning and narrate its story. She delves into the reasons why there’s no definitive film museum here in Los Angeles and explains the myriad behind the scenes machinations that have stymied efforts dating back to the 1930’s.
Trope also looks at how websites like Deadline Hollywood and TMZ change the narrative in Hollywood and expand the reach of the industry well beyond L.A’s borders.
Trope described Hollywood as a "state of mind." "There's a way in which Hollywood is about feelings that we have. It's about the stars, the glamour, it's about the celebrity. It's hard to 'concretize' in many ways," she explained.
Hollywood has been "concretized" in several ways, by material artifacts like the Hollywood sign and the stars lining the outside of Grauman's Chinese Theater. But how can these symbols be used to craft a narrative in a museum? According to Trope, that's not the only obstacle. Location and money to back the project remain open-ended.
"Mary Pickford famously was a supporter of all these museum attempts. Even when the Museum of Modern Art wanted to build a film library, she had a party at Pickfair, but footed the museum with the bill, including the bill for the firewood," Trope added.
The Academy once again has plans to construct a Hollywood museum at the May Company building on Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue after decades of prospects that have not come to fruition.
So why don’t we have a film museum here in Los Angeles? How important is it that the city that owns the entertainment industry also owns the narrative surrounding filmmaking? And, if we build it…where does it go? Museum Row? Downtown? What’s your vote?
Alison Trope, Author of “Stardust Monuments: The Saving and Selling of Hollywood;” Associate Professor, USC’s Annenberg School of Communication