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It is an image that is already part of our life. We have seen a multitude of films and series. We have also been able to find it in commercials and even in video games. But the story of this famous white sign on a hill is entirely unknown to most.

First Years

To talk about the birth of Hollywood, whose literal meaning is “Holly Forest,” we have to go back to 1880 when the wife of a real estate developer named her ranch located in the area. In 1903 Hollywood officially became an independent municipality, and seven years later, it would become part of Los Angeles.

Hollywood Lettering

Hollywood Poster, April 2010
In 1911 the first film studio was founded, and another fifteen other studios were soon established in the area. The main cause was the weather and the number of hours of sunshine they had since at that time, although they already had electric lighting, they depended on natural light to be able to shoot. Another reason was to get away from New York and New Jersey, where they had to pay the abusive Edison fee, which had the patent as the inventor of the cinema.

Birth and Deterioration of the Cartel

But to see the famous poster on the hill, we will have to move forward until 1923, the year in which the real estate developer HJ Whitley decided to place a huge advertising poster of the new urbanization that was projected in the area. The name of the project and, therefore, also of the poster was “HOLLYWOODLAND”.

The poster was initially placed with about 4,000 light bulbs surrounding the letters and a large focus, something quite new for the time. The idea was that it was only a year and a half, but the development of the film industry in Los Angeles during that period made it become an internationally recognized symbol, so it remained there.

Since then, it suffered deterioration and wear and tear as a result of the passage of time and certain acts of vandalism. He even lost the letter H when the watchman, drunk, crashed with his car against it in the early 40s.

Hollywood poster during the 70s

In 1949 the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce signed a contract for the restoration of the cartel, stipulating that the suffix “LAND” be removed so that the cartel did not refer only to urbanization, but to the entire district. In this new repair, new bulbs were dispensed with, and the fragile structure that was installed of wood and metal continued to deteriorate. So much so that the cartel lost one of the final O’s. Also, the first O suffered significant damage, starting in half giving the appearance of a lowercase U, so that on the poster, for some years, it seemed to put “Hollywood “.

Letters With a Proper Name

It would not be until 1978 when the installation of the poster that we all know today would arrive. The action was due in large part to singer Alice Cooper, who initiated a campaign to restore the sign. Thanks to this action, the Chamber of Commerce decided to replace the cartel with another one made of steel, guaranteeing its long duration. Each letter had a cost of $ 27,777, given by private donors. In total, they added $ 250,000.

Hollywood Hills, with a famous poster in the background

The letter H was donated by the editor of the Hollywood Independent Newspaper, while the first O was donated by the Italian film producer Giovanni Mazza.

The first L was donated by former American football player Les Kelley, while the second was by country actor and singer Gene Autry, the only one to have five stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The Y was donated by the well-known founder of the Playboy empire, Hugh Hefner.

Andy Williams, a singer, known in part for the song “Moon River,” was the one who donated the letter W.

The following O was donated by the record company Warner Bros. Records, while the last O, as we have said, was donated by the well-known hard rock and heavy metal singer Alice Cooper, in memory of Groucho Marx.

Finally, the final letter D was donated by businessman Dennis Like.

Black History

Like any place full of glamor that boasts, the famous “HOLLYWOOD” poster also has its black history. In 1932, Broadway actress Peg Entwistle committed suicide by jumping off the letter H poster. The actress had been trying her luck in Hollywood for several months and had only achieved a small role in the movie “Thirteen Women,” which had rather poor reviews.

Peg Entwistle
Peg Entwistle
Curiously, a few days after his death, a letter arrived at his father’s house, offering him a leading role in a film in which the protagonist ends up committing suicide.

If you liked this article, you might want to know more about young Hollywood actors who died too soon.