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STUDIO CITY HISTORY (or, Who is Mikall Sinnott?)

Had it been there when the Spaniards returned to San Diego from Monterey in 1769, I am sure Gaspar de Portolá would have stopped in at Arts Deli in Studio City for a corned beef sandwich and diet Pepsi. (No deli on early Valley maps.) Neither were there moving pictures when Los Angeles citizens fought Governor General Manuel Victoria for purchase of San Fernando Mission lands in 1831 – or they might have been honored on today´s Studio City “Walk of Fame.” At this “Battle of Cahuenga,” rebel-leader José Maria Avila (brother to Don Francisco, of Avila adobe fame in downtown LA) was killed as was Captain Romualdo Pacheco of the Governor´s army. General Victoria was wounded and, although victorious, abandoned the Governorship.

Much more recently, D.J. Maxwell, an Iowa cattle breeder, had a huge lettuce ranch around Ventura Highway and Prospect Street (today´s Laurel Canyon Boulevard, once named Pacoima Avenue named after the Valley city where the street began in 1887). Maxwell subdivided 300 acres calling it Maxwell Laurel Terrace.

The 500 acres called Studio City earned its name when, in 1928, Mack Sennett (né Mikall Sinnott from Quebec, Canada) moved his famed Keystone Studios here (with the “Kops”) from the Glendale and Silverlake areas. Ventura Boulevard now hosted his car-chasing, pie-throwing, two-reelers. The 38-acre studio also became home to “the King of Comedy´s” Keystone “Oh-You-Kid Bathing Beauties,” greatly increasing theatre attendance as letters of protest arrived against the exploitation of these sexily-clad women.

The Studio consisted of a two-story office building (tall, by Valley standards at that time), a one-story projection room/film editing building, a one-story film library, two-story dressing rooms adjoining one large sound stage, one-story wardrobe building, garage building, and a stage building with a swimming pool beneath the floor. Only a couple of these original buildings remain.

The prolific Sennett promoted the likes of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, W.C. Fields, Gloria Swanson, Broadway star Marie Dressler, Stan Laurel, Harold Lloyd, Mabel Normand, Charlie Chaplin (plucked from his native England vaudeville stage by Mack), Carole Lombard and Bing Crosby.

The stock market crashed and Mack Sennett had to sell – first to Mascot (serials, where the heroine was always left tied to the railroad tracks as a train came hurtling toward her… then STOP! “continued next week”) and then to Monogram Studios. They later combined to become Republic Pictures (1935-1959).

Republic head, Herbert J. Yates (“king of serials and westerns”), added romance and song to films increasing adult attendance to listen to Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. He introduced choreographed fight scenes, and excelled in the special effects of model work, explosions, and flying superheroes. By 1937, Republic had six sound stages. With 50 films in1950 (up from 10), productions were filmed in twenty-three sound stages and permanent exterior streets. The largest scoring studio in the world enhanced the performances of John Wayne, Barbara Stanwyck, Ronald Regan, Joan Crawford, and Yates´ wife, ice skating star, Vera Hruba Ralston.

In 1963, the CBS Television Network became Republic Studio´s major lessee, renaming it CBS Studio Center and creating the TV shows, “Rawhide” and “Gunsmoke”. CBS finally purchased the studio in 1967, constructing four new sound stages and a new main entrance. Independent producers, MTM Enterprises, came in with “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”, later producing “The Bob Newhart Show”, “Rhoda”, “Phyllis”, “Tony Randall”, “The Betty White Show”, “Lou Grant” and “WKRP In Cincinnati”. Also, Cinema Center Films produced the films, “April Fools”, “A Man Called Horse”, “Le Mans” and “Little Big Man” here. In 1982, CBS merged with 20th Century Fox Film Corp. to own and operate Studio Center under the name CBS/Fox Studios.

MTM continued producing (“Hill Street Blues”/”St. Elsewhere”), when in 1984, Fox sold its share to the company and the main gate again boasted a new name, CBS/MTM Studios, changing to CBS Studio Center in 1992, when CBS acquired MTM’s interest.

These studios have contributed greatly to the growth of the Studio City area, as everyone from technicians, executives and actors to allied industries and businesses all wanted to be close to their jobs. Although busy, Studio City maintains a pleasant mix of commerce and culture and remains a good place to live. (NOT paid for by the Studio City Chamber of Commerce – they don´t even know about this.)


 

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