Left: rendering of the Garden of Allah Hotel tower by architects Gilbert-Stanley Underwood & Co. Inc. proposed in 1930; right: proposed mixed-use building for the same property today; (A) Intersection of Crescent Heights Blvd. and Sunset Blvd. looking southwest
Plans were unveiled this week for redeveloping the former Garden of Allah Hotel property on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. The plans show a couple of high-rise buildings, including a 16 story tower. Here’s the project description from the developer’s website:
It gave one a sense of security to know that you could wake up at the Garden about 10 a.m., phone Schwab’s and be certain that a bottle of Jack Daniels would arrive at your villa by the time you hung up.
– A former Garden of Allah resident recalling the convenience of getting deliveries from Schwab’s Drug Store, which was stood across Crescent Heights Blvd. from the hotel.
Sweater girl: Lana Turner
In its five decades at the epicenter of the movie industry’s comings and goings on the Sunset Strip, Schwab’s Drug Store was a lot of things — a movie industry meeting place, restaurant, soda fountain, liquor store, tourist attraction and, oh yeah, a pharmacy.
But there was one thing Schwab’s was not. Despite the persistent myth otherwise, it was not where Lana Turner was discovered.
Here’s the myth: In January 1937, 16-year-old Judy Turner ditched high school to grab a Coke at Schwab’s. Mervyn Le Roy, the famous movie director, happened to be seated at the counter that day. He couldn’t help noticing the attractive young lady. Sure, she was wearing a tight sweater but what really got the director’s attention was Judy’s wholesome beauty. The director introduced himself and offered her a screen test. The test was boffo, and the studio offered her a contract on the spot. Judy changed her name to Lana and, after making a movie or two, she was Lana Turner, one of the biggest stars in Hollywood.
In Woody Allen’s 1985 film, “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” one of the characters in the film within the film — a black-and-white drawing-room comedy-romance from Hollywood’s golden age — breaks through the fourth wall and emerges from the screen so he can experience the real world.
A new, ongoing series of novels written by Martin Turnbull and set at the Garden of Allah Hotel in Hollywood do just the opposite. They transport readers through the literary fourth wall back in time so they can experience life as it may have been in Hollywood’s golden era.
Relying on rigorous period research and a powerful imagination, Turnbull has created a fully realized, unromanticized vision of this bygone world. In The Garden on Sunset, the first in the series, we get the glitz and glamour inside the Movie Colony as well as the grit and grime of the grim world outside the Colony’s imaginary gates.