Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Temple Tuesday: Grandfather Goes to Disneyland

What Shirley Temple fan doesn’t love the classic 1937 “Heidi”? The relationship between Heidi and The Grandfather is key to the charm of the movie. Actor Jean Hersholt is wonderful as the gruff and bitter hermit who gets thawed out by his charming granddaughter (Shirley) who comes to live with him. With the unkempt white hair and long beard, Hersholt could have had a side gig at Macy’s as Santa Claus.

Born in Copenhagen in 1886, Hersholt was also known as a humanitarian. In 1938, he became president of the Motion Picture Relief Fund, which helped provide medical care for industry employees suffering from hard times. The fund also resulted in the Motion Picture Country House and Hospital. From 1945-1949, Hersholt served as President to the Academy, who honored him shortly after his 1956 death by establishing the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, an honorary Oscar given to an “individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.” Winners have included Danny Kaye, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Harry Belafonte, and Debbie Reynolds.

Looking a little different without the beard, Jean attended the Opening Day festivities at Disneyland on July 17, 1955. He is pictured here at the Main Street Train Station:

In this Nat Dallinger photo, the caption reads:

JEAN HERSHOLT points out thing of interest to his 3-year-old grandson, Greg, at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. Hersholt was one of the many screen personalities attending the preview of America’s newest wonderland.

How do I know the location of the photo? Do you really need to ask? Here’s another shot from my collection taken the same day with Art Linkletter. You can match up the columns, just like I did!

Based on what I found through good old Google, it would appear that Gregg’s father, Greg, became a radio broadcaster in 1973, working at KIRO FM in Seattle from 1984-2010. He was the son of Jean and his wife, Via. Hersholt was also the paternal half-uncle of actor Leslie “Naked Gun” Nielsen. Final image for today shows Jean being escorted out of the Park for unruly behavior:

Just kidding. Of course it’s another still from “Heidi.”

See more Disneyland Opening Day photos at my main website.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Vampira and the Pink Teacup

Recently, I finished a book on Maila Nurmi, best known as Vampira, the ghoulish hostess who introduced less-than-stellar horror movies to late-night TV audiences from 1954-1955 on LA’s KABC-TV. Written by her niece, Sandra Niemi, Glamour Ghoul: The Passions and Pain of the Real Vampira, Maila Nurmi, was an intriguing book that I could not put down. One portion that will resonate with many of my readers was Maila’s attendance at Disneyland on Opening Day, July 17, 1955:

That spring, Disneyland’s ubiquitous grand opening posters had wallpapered all of Southern California, advertising for a July 17th opening. The excitement was electrifying. An invitation-only dedication ceremony was scheduled the day before opening day. Before she was fired
[from her gig as hostess of “The Vampira Show”], Maila was given two tickets to the once-in-a-lifetime celebration, one of which she gave to Jack [Simmons].

Below is a shot of Maila (out of costume) with Simmons standing on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights, outside their favorite coffee shop haunt, Googies:

Jack arrived at Malia’s door for the Disneyland event with a jaw swollen up like a blowfish. He had a toothache. Maila, who’d waited too long to be denied this occasion, insisted she had a surefire fix. She brought out a glass of whiskey and told Jack to take a sip and hold it against the offending tooth, then spit it out. Before leaving for the amusement park, she used an empty perfume bottle as a flask, in case Jack needed more painkillers. The day was a scorcher. Upon arrival at Disneyland, Maila and Jack joined the crowd to wade through the gates. Then they were herded to Main Street for the dedication, to endure a stream of speeches by local dignitaries. The crowd assembled in front of the podium. The heat was inescapable and the men on the dais stripped off their suit jackets before launching into their speeches.


The hot sun began to melt the new asphalt, and Maila’s high heels stuck to the sticky morass. Jack, suffering greatly both from the heat and his toothache, sipped from his homemade flask. Just as the ceremony began, Jack passed out. The crowd parted and two men carried him off on a stretcher. He woke up on a cot in the infirmary with Maila in a chair beside him. Reeking of alcohol, an attendant determined Jack was drunk, and both he and Maila were unceremoniously escorted out of the park.

I find it fascinating to think that somewhere in the crowd below, Maila Nurmi watched the festivities of Opening Day. Somebody, please find me a photo of her! Of course, she was not quite as recognizable outside of her TV show costume.

That’s not the end of the Disneyland story for Maila, though. She returned with actor Lewis Arquette, father to David, Richmond, Alexis, Patricia, and Rosanna Arquette. Apparently Maila was…

hell-bent on riding the teacup ride at Disneyland. And not just any teacup but the pink one, which was featured in all of the ads around town. And so Maila and Michael drove to the new Disneyland park in his convertible. Upon arrival, Maila made a beeline for the teacup ride, only to be met by bitter disappointment. No pink teacups. And so, she declared, to all within earshot, that Disney’s promotional posters were fraudulent. After her loud protestations culminated in the offer of a free ride, Maila accepted a spin in another cup, albeit an inferior white one with only a pink rim.

The December 1955 photo below would seem to back up the story, as it appears that there is a white cup with red designs, but not a pink one.

While the story might make one think that Maila was a pill, the truth of it was that she was a very kind nurturing soul who found herself constantly taken advantage of throughout her life. After getting pawed over and discarded by agents, photographers, and producers when she arrived in Hollywood, it is no wonder that such a sensitive artistic soul would be outraged that Disneyland did not feature what they advertised!

I had the pleasure of meeting her in person twice, during the annual heavenly birthday celebration for James Dean held at artist/sculptor Kenneth Kendall’s Hollywood home. From February 1997:

and again in 2003, seated next to actor Dennis Christopher.

I wish I had known more of her story when I met her, as she was a truly fascinating person that I would love to have talked with more. There will be future posts here about her, as Maila’s life touched upon many topics that I am obsessed with!

See more Disneyland Mad Tea Party photos at my main website.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Temple Tuesday: Shirley Does The Minuet

The 1937 Shirley Temple film “Heidi” has a dream sequence where Shirley performs a Minuet with her peers, decked out in an elegant 17th century costume by Gwen Wakeling.

With a powdered wig, this ensemble was apparently deemed worthy of a photo shoot with the master  himself, George Hurrell:

I’m not a huge fan of colorization, but decided to take a stab at it with this publicity shot:

How did I know what colors to select? By using Shirley’s original costume as reference, which I photographed at the Santa Monica History Museum back in 2015:

Want to see the shoes she wore? Of course you do!

This ensemble sold for $11,000 at the 2015 Theriault’s Love, Shirley Temple auction. From the catalog description: 

Styled in the late 17th century manner of the French court, the ball gown has a skirt of four tiers of fine Alencon lace with appliqued paillettes, centered by green silk panniers supported by hidden hoops, and with a matching low-necked bodice having lace center panel. The gown is decorated with garlands of pink silk rose buds, delicate blue flowers and lace edging, and accessorized by a pair of green silk and kidskin dancing slippers. For this scene in the 1937 film "Heidi" a unique coiffure in the powdered upswept fashion of Marie Antoinette was also designed for Shirley. The listed costume designer for this film was Gwen Wakeling.

The way the description is written casts a little doubt as to whether Wakeling herself designed this ensemble. It was definitely not the normal Shirley Temple outfit, however, Wakeling was more than capable to create something this ornate. With credits as diverse as “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Samson and Delilah,” and “I Dream of Jeannie,” this talented woman could do it all!

See more Shirley Temple photos at my main website.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Hoover Dam, January 1959

While I find the Hoover Dam extremely cool, it has never been on my bucket list of “must sees,” although I suppose if I ever find myself in Vegas again, I would probably attempt to detour over to view it. Still, I have a fairly decent collection of vintage images of this historic landmark that was named after President Herbert Hoover. It seems that many who traveled to Disneyland back in the day also stopped by the Dam. These January 1959 images are shown in sequential order. Duh. As if I could present them in any other way.

I would be curious to hear from readers if this area today still looks about the same.

I wonder if the structure itself is still sound or how much repair work has had to be done over the years?

Looking at these makes me feel a little stupid for never having gone here, as its 1930s art deco stylings are right up my alley.

See more vintage Hoover Dam photos at my main website.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

When Tomorrowland Had A Tomorrow

Remember when Disneyland’s Tomorrowland actually was about “tomorrow”? I know, it’s been a long time. These images from August 1970 are a reminder to those futuristic times. The PeopleMover was Walt’s idea of how to solve the congestion/transportation problems that existed in cities.

All of these images were shot from the Skyway and give a great overview of Tomorrowland. This was also the time period that the Astro Jets/Astro Orbiter sat high above the PeopleMover station and gave an even more thrilling spin to guests.

Nothing says “tomorrow” like the Rolly Crump designed stage below:

This one from February 1971 shows Lou Styles playing in Tomorrowland on the Rolly Crump designed stage:

Back to 1970…look at the little boy craning his head out of the Monorail. Yes…once it was possible to be excited about the future. Rocket to the Moon…PeopleMover…Carousel of Progress…wow!!

I’m sure it boils down to profits and money, but I still can’t understand why a corporation as large and as influential as Disney can’t partner with NASA or other innovative organizations to drum some life into Tomorrowland show that innovation (not Innovention!) is still alive and well.

See more Disneyland Tomorrowland photos at my main website.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Temple Tuesday: Back to Dayton!

About three years ago, I posted a 1944 shot of Shirley outside a movie theatre in Dayton, Ohio. Recently, I acquired a companion photo taken the same evening. Zooming in, I was able to read a portion of what I assume to be Shirley’s script for the evening as she addressed her fans:

you have a habit of…, they just remain there and it gives you that lump feeling right here, in your throat…You’ve all been so wonderful, thank you again everybody…better say good night before all that lovely sentiment turns to …

On the right side of the photo is another piece of paper; I am assuming it to be the script for the evening’s MC. I tried...but just can’t make out more than a few words. Anybody out there up for the task?

Here is the previously posted shot of Shirley waving to her fans:

…and the gown she was wearing underneath the fur coat, which Shirley wore in “I’ll Be Seeing You” (with Spring Byington):

See more Shirley Temple photos at my main website.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Return to Capistrano, January 1959

How about a visit back to the Mission at San Juan Capistrano, circa January 1959? Actually, these are most likely from December 1958 as one of the slides in the batch shows Christmas decor. In case you weren’t sure where these were taken, this little boy is helpfully pointing out the obvious.

Any vintage auto fans out there less lazy than me and able to identify the vehicle in the parking lot?

Once inside, this little boy quickly makes a new friend. Obviously, “The Birds” has not been released yet.

For all you signage geeks:

A few more shots of the interior grounds of the Mission:

This kid could have been a bird wrangler for Hitchcock:

You can apparently feed the pigeons…as long as you buy the food on premises!

And now for a few other “mystery” slides that were in the same batch. This Main Street, U.S.A. was not too difficult to figure out.

Zooming in, I can see Highway 101 with markers for L.A. and San Francisco, as well as a marking on the curb for E. Montecito Street. Yes, this is downtown Montecito, circa 1959.

I see Pep Boys and some Hotel blah blah blah....wonder if it’s still there?

Not sure about this one; most likely somewhere along the same journey.

You can see a Standard Gas Station on the right in this dirty detail view:

…and another road shot:

Downtown L.A.?

This last one was date stamped July 1959. No idea on this one.

See more Mission San Juan Capistrano photos at my main website.