6/6/16

THE CENTURY CITY STORY: A KTLA JOINT


Today's little LA history video is a 1965 KTLA (Channel Five on the period local LA TV dial) documentary on the building of the then still-in-progress Century City. The 'development' (as its referred to in the doc) was built on the site of what had been the Fox Ranch--all studios kept a large amount of acreage somewhere to be used for outdoor work and Fox had two-hundred plus very valuable acres of prime Beverly Hills land attached to their studio. (This was unusual as usually the ranch land was located somewhere in the Valley--Columbia's ranch was in the then rural North Hollywood and the Paramount ranch was out in Calabases). Fox was forced to dispose of the land when 'Cleopatra'--the wildly over-budget Taylor/Burton 1963 debacle--threatened to bankrupt the studio. The developers who purchased the land, the Aluminum Company of America, paid a mere forty-three million bucks and before anyone knew it the magic world of false front buildings, fake lakes, mining towns, western vistas etc. was gone, to be replaced by the mid-century glory of Avenue of the Stars, Century Park East etc.

I suggest skipping the first six minutes as its mostly talking heads being interviewed at the opening of the JW Robinson department store which appears to have been the excuse for the TV special to begin with. Once this is over there are great overhead views of the ranch and lots of nice shots of bulldozers knocking down the fake western streets. I happen to live adjacent to Century City and occasionally walk around the pedestrian-free streets, channeling the ghosts of John Ford, William Wellman, Joe Mankiewicz, Otto Preminger and the many less well-known Fox contract directors who toiled away on the land just behind Beverly Hills High School, on which--as visible through my office window--now looms the Century Towers, LA's version of the World Trade Center.

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