Have you ever wondered what it was like during the Golden Age of Hollywood? The studio system reigned supreme; movie stars of the day enjoyed the height of their popularity and frequented establishments that catered to the rich and famous; many films considered classics were released during this time; and much of the technology established during this era of filmmaking was built upon to create and produce the films we enjoy today.
This “Golden Age” started during the Great Depression when Americans turned to movies for escapism. Several factors brought it to fruition: Anti-trust actions brought against the studios ended the contract system that stars had worked under since the early days of movie making; the rise of costs involved with producing and filming movies; and the steady rise in the popularity of television. But for a time, Hollywood was the central hub of the filmmaking industry and its stars were the unrivaled celebrities of the day. Here are just a few of the old, local hot spots they frequented to “see and be seen!”
Photo courtesy of YouTube, The Original Brown Derby: Hollywood’s Restaurant in a Hat
Perhaps the most well-known of the Old Hollywood hangouts was the Brown Derby restaurant chain. The first location at 3427 Wilshire Blvd. was built in the shape of a Derby hat. Whimsical architecture was in style at the time, and the hat-shaped building was designed to catch the eye of passing motorists. Another Brown Derby location at 1628 North Vine St. played the bigger part in Hollywood history, despite its less distinctive Spanish Mission-style façade. Due to its proximity to the movie studios, it was a meeting place for wheeling and dealing among Hollywood executives, and a place where stars could meet friends and be seen by the paparazzi. It was famous for its caricatures of the Hollywood elite on its walls and was also featured in a very funny episode of “I Love Lucy” among other TV shows and films.
Mocambo Nightclub – Golden Age of Hollywood
Photo courtesy of YouTube, Marilyn Monroe – Ella Fitzgerald And Mocambo Club
The Mocambo Nightclub at 8588 Sunset Blvd opened on January 3, 1941 and became an immediate success. It had a Latin American-themed décor and there were glass cages along the walls holding live parrots, macaws, cockatoos, and other exotic birds. Originally hosting big band music, the club was one of the most popular dance-til-dawn spots for Hollywood’s elite. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were frequent guests and good friends of the owner, so when “I Love Lucy” began filming for television in the 1950s, they replicated the Mocambo’s main stage as the “Tropicana” Club in their series.
Photos courtesy of YouTube, The Cocoanut Grove | Things That Aren’t Here Anymore
The Cocoanut Grove was a popular nightclub inside the Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Blvd. It opened in 1921 and seated 1000 in tiered seating and had boxes that could be reserved on an annual basis. The club’s lavish, exotic décor featured Moorish arches, a tropical mural, and Chinese lanterns strung between paper mache palm trees salvaged from the set of the Rudolph Valentino film “The Sheik.” Mechanical monkeys with glowing amber eyes were placed in the trees, which led to a monkey in a top hat becoming the club’s logo.
The Academy Awards were held at the nightclub five times in the 1930s and 1940s, and famous bandleaders were heard on coast to coast radio broadcasts originating from the club in the evenings. The Ambassador Hotel closed in 1989, but the Cocoanut Grove remained a popular filming location until the hotel was finally demolished in 2006.
Ciro’s – Golden Age of Hollywood
Photos courtesy of YouTube, Club Ciros The Best Nightclub In The History Of Hollywood
Ciros’s was a famous nightclub on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, and a favorite hangout for movie stars and studio executives of the 1940s and 1950s. It opened in January, 1940 and was known for its luxe baroque interior featuring a red ceiling and red silk sofas. Ciro’s closed in 1960, but the building remained and was reopened as a rock club in 1965; then in 1972 the location was rebranded as The Comedy Store which remains to this day as a popular venue for comedians on the rise.
Photo courtesy of YouTube, 1930s Hollywood at Night with The Trocadero Cafe, and View Down from Hollywood Hills
Café Trocadero opened on the Sunset Strip in 1934 and became popular with Hollywood stars immediately. It was an upscale, black tie, French-inspired supper club, and during its time was one of the most famous nightclubs in the world. Due to disputes regarding the lease, the nightclub abruptly closed in October 1939, but briefly reopened later that year as The Trocadero. The reopening happened in time to host the Hollywood premiere party for “Gone With The Wind” in December 1939. The nightclub operated under a series of managers and owners over the years, but the location finally closed for good in 1947. Today, a strip mall stands in its place.
Beverly Hills Hotel – Golden Age of Hollywood
Photos courtesy of YouTube, The History of The Beverly Hills Hotel
The Beverly Hills Hotel located on Sunset Buoulevard in Beverly Hills was established in 1912, before the city itself was incorporated. It is one of the world’s best-known hotels due to its close association with Hollywood film stars, rock stars, and celebrities. It has long been a hideaway for Hollywood’s elite – Howard Hughes owned several of the bungalows on the property and lived there on several occasions throughout the decades; Fred Astaire enjoyed reading his newspapers by the pool; Joan Crawford regularly pulled up for lunch in a chauffeured Rolls-Royce; the Beatles slipped in through back doors for after-hours dips in the pool; and Elizabeth Taylor honeymooned there six times out of her eight marriages! The Sand and Pool Club opened at the hotel in 1938 and became extremely popular with its white sand imported from Arizona, which made the pool area look like a beach. The hotel was painted its famous pink color to match that period’s “country club” style during a 1948 renovation. To this day the hotel is known as the “Pink Palace.”
Photos courtesy of YouTube, Beverly Hills Hotel. Exterior, Polo Lounge And Lobby
The Polo Lounge inside The Beverly Hills Hotel opened in the early 1940s, and is still considered to be one of the premier dining spots in Los Angeles. The lounge got its name from a championship polo team of the day who displayed its trophy – a silver bowl – in the hotel’s bar. Over the years the lounge has hosted celebrities such as Marlene Dietrich (who was instrumental in bringing about a change in Polo Lounge policy when she refused to wear a skirt which had been compulsory for women), WC Fields, Katharine Hepburn, and Humphrey Bogart and his “Rat Pack” among many others.
Musso & Frank – Golden Age of Hollywood
Photos courtesy of YouTube, Exclusive! A Tour of The Musso and Frank Grill, Oldest Restaurant in Hollywood
Musso & Frank Grill opened in 1919 and is located on Hollywood Blvd. It is considered a classic “New York-style” steakhouse and bar, and was named after original owners Joseph Musso and Frank Toulet. It is the oldest restaurant in Hollywood. To this day, the Grill has kept its original character which includes high ceilings, dark wood paneling, and red booths. The waiters and bartenders still dress in the same red coats they have worn for decades. Back in the day it was a favorite of Orson Welles, Humphrey Bogart, and Charlie Chaplin, and it is still popular today with stars like George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Harrison Ford. The restaurant celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2019 and expanded its seating capacity in 2021.
Photos courtesy of YouTube, What’s Left of CHASEN’S Restaurant in Beverly Hills?
Chasen’s was a famous restaurant on Beverly Blvd., located on the border of Beverly Hills. It was frequented by film and music stars, entertainers, politicians and other dignitaries as soon as it opened in 1936. It was the site of the Academy Awards party for many years, and was also famous for its chili! Elizabeth Taylor actually had Chasen’s chili flown to the set of “Cleopatra” while filming in Rome. Some of the restaurant’s frequent customers had booths named in their honor. The Ronald Reagan booth (where he proposed to his actress wife, Nancy Davis) is now on display at his Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA. Other celebrities with their own booths included Frank Sinatra, Alfred Hitchcock, James Stewart, and Groucho Marx. Over the years the restaurant suffered a slow decline in business and finally closed permanently in 1995.
Tom Bergin’s Tavern – Golden Age of Hollywood
Photo courtesy of YouTube, Tom Bergin’s Irish Tavern – Restaurant Nocturne
Tom Bergin’s Tavern is one of the oldest bars/restaurants in continuous operation in Los Angeles. It opened originally as The Old Horseshoe Tavern in 1936 on Wilshire Blvd., but moved to its current location on Fairfax Ave. in 1949. Cardboard shamrocks on the walls and ceilings memorialize the bar’s favored customers, including those of Bing Crosby, Cary Grant, and Ronald Reagan. The tavern is known to this day for its annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration, and is also famous for its Irish coffee drink.