Tuesday, May 04, 2021

A Visit to Calvary Cemetery

Last weekend we spent a morning visiting Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles.

It's a mid-sized Roman Catholic cemetery, under 140 acres, which was founded in 1896.

We found the mausoleum architecture inspiring and impressive; I liked the way the steep, narrow entrance has the effect of pointing the visitor's eyes up toward the Cross and the heavens above.

The chapel, seen below, was especially lovely, with a European feel. Some well-known figures active in the Los Angeles Roman Catholic community, including the Doheny family and actress Irene Dunne, are interred in corridors just off of the chapel. More on that below.

We began our visit paying our respects to Joseph L. Musso, one of the founders of Musso & Frank Grill. The restaurant was established in 1919 and is still popular today; it has been closed due to Los Angeles County COVID restrictions but will reopen to the public later this week, on May 6th.

I find it rather fascinating how frequently we come across well-known names in Los Angeles cemeteries without setting out to look for them. One of several such names on this visit was director Richard Boleslawski, whose films included THEODORA GOES WILD (1936), starring Irene Dunne. Sadly, he was only 47 when he passed away.

Silent film actress Mabel Normand, who worked with many of the silent film era's greatest comedians, was only 37 when she died.  Other sources indicate her birth date was actually 1892.

There's a bit of a theme here insofar as John Hodiak passed on at the young age of 41. I was surprised to recently realize I've seen a majority of his films, and I hope to fill in the last gaps. I enjoy his work and, based on one of his last films, TRIAL (1955), I believe if he had lived longer he would have evolved into a fine character actor.

The multitalented Irene Dunne has always been a great favorite of mine. She could do it all -- comedy, drama, and singing in musicals. She was nominated for five Oscars, yet somehow never won. Retired from films as of the early '50s, she was also heavily involved in charitable endeavors for much of her life. She's interred alongside her husband.

Louis Cristillo was the birth name of comedian Lou Costello, who passed on at the age of 52. Musician Daniele Alberghetti was the father of singer-actress Anna Maria Alberghetti.

Edward Doheny was an oil tycoon whose life saw much turmoil, including involvement in the Teapot Dome scandal and the 1929 shooting death of his son, Edward Jr. (Ned), at the Greystone Mansion.

Doheny and his second wife, Carrie, were philanthropists who built USC's Doheny Memorial Library in honor of Ned. They also helped fund construction of St. Vincent de Paul Church, and after Edward's passing Carrie established the Doheny Eye Institute. The Dohenys donated the land for Doheny State Beach to the State of California.

The Dohenys are buried just to the right of the mausoleum chapel altar.

Multiple members of the Barrymore family are at Calvary Cemetery. Lionel Barrymore is in the mausoleum, just above an empty chamber which stands as a memorial to his brother John, who is buried in Philadelphia. (I was frankly appalled by how visitors have defaced some of the markers with lipstick...sigh.)

Ethel Barrymore is there as well, and John's third wife, Dolores Costello, is buried outside (scroll down).

Composer Jimmy McHugh wrote standards including "I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby," "On the Sunny Side of the Street," and "I'm in the Mood for Love."

Bryan Foy's career began in childhood, as one of the "Seven Little Foys" in his family's vaudeville act. He later directed shorts and produced memorable films including favorites such as HE WALKED BY NIGHT (1948) and CRIME WAVE (1954). He died in 1977 and is interred in an unmarked spot above his wife, Vivian.  

We also visited the final resting place of cinematographer Sol Polito, long associated with Warner Bros. He was one of the two Technicolor cinematographers who filmed THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938) and worked on a great many other memorable films before his retirement in 1949.

Polish actress Pola Negri was best known for her work in silent films, including Ernst Lubitsch's SUMURUN (1920), but she also worked in sound films, including, notably, Disney's Hayley Mills film THE MOON-SPINNERS (1964).

Moving outside the mausoleum, this is the final resting place of producer-director Hal Roach Jr., who produced the Streamliners films I've been enjoying over the past year. He also directed Victor Mature and Carole Landis in ONE MILLION B.C. (1940).

Producer Hunt Stromberg worked in films for three decades, producing countless MGM classics including THE THIN MAN (1934), PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (1940), Jeanette MacDonald films, and many more. One of his final films before retirement was TOO LATE FOR TEARS (1949) for United Artists.

The great MGM art director Cedric Gibbons worked on numerous Stromberg films, along with many others. There's a marvelous coffee table book on his career, MGM STYLE: CEDRIC GIBBONS AND THE ART OF THE GOLDEN AGE OF HOLLYWOOD by Howard Gutner. I couldn't help but think that for someone who designed such glorious sets, his last resting place was surprisingly plain.

Finally, we come to the Costellos. Dolores Costello Barrymore, married to John Barrymore for nearly seven years, is buried alongside her parents, actors Maurice Costello and Mae Costello.

Dolores, who notably starred in Orson Welles' THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (1942), was the mother of John Drew Barrymore and the grandmother of Drew Barrymore.

As always with these cemetery visits, the day was a chance to reflect on the great enjoyment these people added to our lives through their work.  It's also an opportunity to better understand Los Angeles and its history.

While we were in East Los Angeles we also visited Home of Peace Memorial Park, a Jewish cemetery where several of Hollywood's most famous studio moguls are buried. I'll have photos from that visit here in the near future. (Update: Here is that post.)

Additional photo posts on the final resting places of historic Hollywood figures: A Visit to Forest Lawn Glendale, Part 1, A Visit to Forest Lawn Glendale, Part 2, A Visit to the Forest Lawn Museum, A Visit to Hollywood Forever Cemetery (2014), A Visit to Westwood Village Memorial Park - The Musicians, A Visit to Westwood Village Memorial Park - The Comedians, A Visit to Westwood Village Memorial Park - The Actors, A Visit to Westwood Village Memorial Park - Writers, Directors, and More, A Visit to Holy Cross Cemetery, Part 1, A Visit to Holy Cross Cemetery, Part 2, A Visit to Holy Cross Cemetery, Part 3, A Visit to Desert Memorial Park, Los Angeles National Cemetery, A Visit to Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, Part 1, A Visit to Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, Part 2, A Visit to Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, Part 3, A Visit to Forest Lawn Cathedral City, A Visit to Oakwood Memorial Park, A Visit to Hillside Memorial Park, Part 1, A Visit to Hillside Memorial Park, Part 2, A Visit to Hollywood Forever Cemetery (2019), A Visit to Woodlawn Cemetery, A Visit to Valley Oaks Memorial Park, A Visit to Valhalla Cemetery, A Visit to Pacific View Memorial Park, A Visit to Glen Haven Memorial Park, and A Visit to Forest Lawn Glendale (2020).


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