This is my father on the back of a friend’s motorcycle circa 1928.
Hollywood: A Link to History
There are endless books about the immigrants who founded Hollywood. And while most of the movie studio moguls did indeed come from East Europe, that story has been allowed to overshadow the bigger story — that the American movie industry was as vital an outgrowth of the American character as jazz.
The first dedicated film studios were in New Jersey and New York. Those that survived were forged in free market rivalries, steeled by the violence of the U.S. patent wars. The earliest movie actors were drawn from the American stage, and the first cameramen and film directors and writers were committed to making their way in the New World and to finding fresh stories to tell.
These early movie pioneers dreamed of futures not pre-determined by class rank, and of careers not based on who one’s parents were. They were the people who would shape and build the Hollywood “dream factory.” Some might have been new arrivals, and others perhaps were first-generation born, but they were all 100 percent American because they dared to look forward and not back.
I believe it wasn’t immigrants who imparted their values and ethos on the American movie-goer. It was the collective dream of what America represented that remade immigrants in a new image.
In my series of novels, I hope to return Hollywood to its historically American roots. I think that that story has a good deal more to tell us about who we are as a people.