Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery

My Hattie McDaniel post motivated me to visit Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery on a recent Los Angeles trip. There were a number of other notable “residents” that I wanted to check out, too. Armed with my list and camera, I drove to the historic West Adams District just southwest of Downtown L.A. Originally named Rosedale Cemetery, it opened in 1884 and was the first L.A. cemetery open to all races and creeds. Rosedale was also the first to use the concept of lawn cemeteries, which meant the grave marker did not extend above the natural ground level. In 1993, Rosedale was bought by the Angelus Funeral Home and renamed Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery. Hattie’s marker reflects the lawn cemetery concept. Very simple and tasteful, only the years are given; no dates.

A shot of Hattie receiving the Best Supporting Actress Oscar with presenter Fay Bainter at the Ambassador Hotel’s Cocoanut Grove nightclub, February 29, 1940: 

Back to Angelus…I could have spent quite a bit of time here, recording the historic markers and statues. For me, a visit through an old cemetery is like walking through history.

The next one on my list was Dooley Wilson, best known for playing Sam in “Casablanca.” No dates for Dooley and his wife, either; just the birth and death years.

An autographed publicity photo of Dooley for “Casablanca”:

…and one with Humphrey Bogart:

Sam didn’t want to play “As Time Goes By” because he knew his boss, played by Bogie, would not approve.

But how can you say “no” to Ingrid Bergman?!?

Ever wonder what happened to the piano that Sam “played” (Dooley actually faked it; he couldn’t play the piano)?

In November 2014, it sold for $3,413,000 at an auction by Bonhams. From the listing:

A "studio" 58-key piano on wheels, with wood and plasticine keys, likely manufactured by Kohler & Campbell, 1927, serial # 252636, with label of Richardson's of Los Angeles to interior case, and with "FNP" (for First National Pictures, which merged with Warner Bros. in 1927) marking to rear of piano. With original stool. Lid of piano hinged at center as is usual with uprights, but also entirely detached from upper case and instead secured with hook and eye (altered for the production of Casablanca so that Rick can open the piano lid from the rear and hide the transit papers). One-inch notch to center left piano leg (visible onscreen) and three small holes to piano lid (also visible onscreen). Petrified chewing gum wad stuck to underside of keyboard with faint impression of a fingerprint visible under magnification. Moroccan paint restoration executed in the early 1980s under the direction of Warner Bros. studio. Together with a signed photograph of Dooley Wilson as Sam at the piano and a copy of the film. 39" x 41" x 22"

This piano and another were pulled from the Warner Bros. prop room for the film (our piano still has the "FNP" marking on the verso). George James Hopkins, the set decorator on this and many other Warner Bros. films, checked out a book from the Warner Bros. reference library, La decoration Marocaine (Paris: 1925) by Joseph de La Nézière to help him design the look of the film. Inspired by the patterns and colors illustrated in this book, Hopkins created the elaborate Moroccan designs that grace the piano. (The owner confirmed this information via a personal interview with Hopkins in the early 1980s.)

What sets this piano apart from the other is that the lid has been altered to accommodate a pivotal plot point. Even in the stage version, Everybody Comes to Rick's, the piano was always the hiding point for Ugarte's transit papers. In the film, however, the writers come up with the clever "misdirect" of having Rick hide them in plain sight of the entire room by depositing the papers quickly under the lid of the upright as Sam plays. The only way this works, however, is if the lid opens from the rear: otherwise Rick would have to reach over Sam's shoulder to hide the papers, a hardly subtle move. The solution to this staging problem was to have the prop department completely remove the top of the piano, leaving the piece secured by a hook and eye only.

The other piano from “Casablanca,” which appears onscreen in the Parisian flashback sequence, sold in 2012 for $602,500.

From NBC News:

A piano used in the classic film "Casablanca" sold for just over $600,000 on Friday, falling far short of predictions that it could fetch $1 million or more. The 58-key upright piano on which actor and singer Dooley Wilson performed "As Time Goes By," the signature song of the 1942 film's star-crossed lovers played by Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, sold at Sotheby's for $602,500 including commission. The auction house had assigned the iconic prop a pre-sale estimate of $800,000 to $1.2 million, given some astonishing prices attained by movie memorabilia in recent years.

Back to Rosedale (me and those durn digressions)…the next one on my list was Maria Rasputin, the daughter of Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin, aka “The Mad Monk.” Yes, my interests are all over the board.

As is typical with me, I took my time finding my attention being diverted by the other interesting markers, sculptures, and crypts.

A cool pyramid! The inhabitant is Walter Shotto, who was originally buried in Michigan where he died in 1881 at the tender age of seven months. His grave was shifted to Rosedale where his parents were buried and interred in the family mausoleum.

This one went along with what happened next; I was busted by a security guard who told me photos were not allowed. Ok…I’ll play nice. However, he went on at length about Netflix wanting to shoot there, and then about females shooting naked butts in the cemetery, and how he knew it was porn, and even though the girls were pretty…

Good Lord, just get me out of here already.

But yes, I will be back! See more Cemetery photos at my main website.


Fifthrider said...

Another classic case of somebody ruining it for everyone else. Great pictures though, I'm glad you were able to get them when you could. I would have never thought the daughter of Rasputin would have ranked with Dooley Wilson.

Stefano said...

Dave, I'm sorry your visit ended on a bummer. I've had 6 or 7 terrific tours when the cemetery has hosted one unique piece of theatre: a guided amble through the grounds with stops at graves of notables who are represented by actors. The appropriately dressed and coifed performers will give some of the history of the deceased, plenty of juicy anecdotes and even a song or dance.

This tour has been going on for two decades or more, usually in September, but has been canceled the last two seasons because of Covid. The tour starts in the chapel with an introductory speech by that edition's designated celebrity; some years back this was "Hattie McDaniel" herself. Others planted at Rosedale are the macabre film director Tod Browning (seasonally apt), jazz singer Ivy Anderson and actress Anna May Wong, who will have a retrospective at the new Academy Museum in November.

I believe Rosedale is the cemetery seen at the opening of "Robin and the Seven Hoods", if you'd like to watch the Rat Pack having some Haunted Mansion-style fun.

Daveland said...

Stefano - I'll be back, and the very people you mentioned were on my list to see!

Irene said...

Speaking of cemeteries and actors portraying the dead people buried there,
every year (except last year of course) the Historical Society of Long Beach puts on their Historical Cemetery Tour. Each year it is always the Saturday before Halloween so that means this year it is October 30th. It starts at 9 AM and goes to 3 PM. Pre-purchased tickets are $25 (from their web site) or purchase at the cemetery on the day of for $30. Located in Long Beach at the two cemeteries that are adjoined, Sunnyside & Municipal 1095 & 1141 E. Willow St. Parking can be a bit of a challenge. I have been several times and hope to go this year, weather and health permitting. One can paste this address in their browser and go to their web site for all the details.

Daveland said...

Irene - Not sure I'll make it for 10/30, but good to know there are some historic cemeteries around here that I still need to check out! Thanks!

Irene said...

Your welcome. By the way, the Sunnyside part has gone through a period of bad times (it was privately owned and someone took off with the the upkeep money! - the place went to ruin). The city voted to take over and the place is making a comeback and from what I understand is looking good once more. The other cemetery has always been well kept. Lots of interesting stories and mysteries there such as "where did the monument (which was a rather large building) go?" Also an angel monument was photographed by Ansel Adams back in 1939 which made it famous. You can read about it here