Visiting Hollywood Forever Cemetery (Actors Die to Get in Here!)
Hollywood Actors Die to Get in Here
When driving by a cemetery, my father-in-law—who always had a sense of humor—never failed to exclaim, "People are dying to get in there." I remembered his joke when, on a visit to Hollywood a couple of years ago, we drove down Santa Monica Boulevard and turned in to visit the celebrated Hollywood Forever Cemetery1, the final resting place for hundreds of Hollywood actors and celebrities. In my mind's eye, I rewrote my father-in-law's comment as "Hollywood Actors die to get in here."
I was not alone in visiting Hollywood Forever. According to the cemetery's management, it is "one of the world’s most visited landmarks."
Hollywood Hills and Hollywood Forever
Take a walk along the entrance road into the cemetery to a small traffic circle with a sculptural fountain and ironwork arch at its center. Look back toward Santa Monica Boulevard, through the ironwork arch and you will see the famous Hollywood sign on Hollywood Hills in the background. The Hollywood sign, built originally in 1923 has become a landmark and Hollywood icon, known around the world.
In my mind's eye, I see two "Os" in the 45-foot-tall letters of HOLLYWOOD as a pair of eternal "eyes" watching over the cemetery and celebrating the lives of the famous and not-so-famous.
Hundreds of Famous Actors Are Buried Here
Take a walk through the cemetery and you can find monuments to the graves of Douglas Fairbanks, Judy Garland and "Toto," John Huston, Cecil B. DeMille, Rudolph Valentino, Mickey Rooney, Tyrone Power, Jayne Mansfield, Fay Wray (of King Kong fame) Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone, Valerie Harper, Chris Cornell, and unique markers for people all around the world. Scroll down the list of 640 Hollywood Forever Cemetery's "famous" people memorialized with pictures and biographies in Find-a-Grave2 and you'll recognize dozens of actors, directors, musicians, silent screen stars, and other personalities in the world of entertainment.
A Cultural and Historical Center
That's right! I never before thought of a cemetery as a cultural center, but according to its management, Hollywood Forever is "Los Angeles' most dynamic cultural center."
National Register of Historic Places Lists Hollywood Forever
Established in 1899, Hollywood Forever was the first cemetery to be built in Hollywood and is "one of the earliest examples of the lawn-park style cemetery in California." The key historical period ended in 1939 with "the cessation of all major construction and landscaping installations. The Douglas Fairbanks Memorial and associated reflecting pool comprise the final construction projects" in the historical period. Hollywood Forever Cemetery is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.3
As you walk through the cemetery, note the variety of architectural styles in buildings and monuments. View magnificent examples of "Italian Renaissance, Classical Revival, Mission Style, Spanish Baroque, and Egyptian Revival." The cemetery is about 62 acres in size and contains about 80,000+ burials.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery's Logo Is the Symbol for Infinity
The symbol for Infinity, (∞), affectionately called a "lazy 8" but mathematically called the lemniscate, has been adopted as the logo for Hollywood Forever Cemetery. It is shown in the photo at the top of this article. In my mind's eye, it is that to which the Three Musketeers raise their swords in salute. Douglas Fairbanks was the producer, writer, and director of this famous silent film. Fairbanks' historically significant presence in the cemetery is marked by his monuments, pond, and lawn where Cinespia Cinema now screens movies and thousands of film fans gather to enjoy cinematic adventures.
Cinespia: Cinema in a Cemetery
Hollywood Forever is the venue for concerts, celebrations, films, and other events. In a partnership with Cinespia4, since 2003 summer cinema events have been held on Fairbanks Lawn. "Thousands of people gather on the lawn after sunset to watch classic Hollywood movies projected onto the side of a mausoleum. Attendees bring a picnic basket, along with blankets and chairs to enjoy a truly unique evening."
Largest Day of the Dead Celebration Outside Mexico
The cemetery’s celebration for Dia de Los Muertos -- the Day of the Dead -- is the largest outside of Mexico. It is a holiday that remembers the lives of the deceased with food, drink, and celebration.5
Somewhere over the rainbow,
Skies are blue . . . "
-- sung by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz
It seems fitting that famous film star Judy Garland would be in Hollywood Forever cemetery. Who can forget Judy in the 1939 classic film, The Wizard of Oz, singing would become her signature song, "Somewhere Over The Rainbow Skies Are Blue." We are reminded that there is hope, and a promise of a better future. Many meanings come into our own mind as we spend time in Hollywood Forever thinking about Judy and her song. Written especially for the film by Harold Arlen and Yip Arburg it won an Academy Award for the best original song.
Judy Garland's rests in the Judy Garland Pavilion6 within the Abbey of Psalms Mausoleum in Hollywood Forever. Her remains were moved there in 20177 and her family held a private memorial service here on what would have been her 95th birthday. Other family members expect to be interred with her in the Judy Garland Pavilion.
Another famous character in The Wizard of Oz, Judy's faithful little dog "Toto," is also memorialized in Hollywood Forever.
Holocaust victim Anne Franks was a 15-year-old girl made famous by her surviving diary written in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam while in hiding from the Gestapo. She wrote daily what was in her mind from June 1942 until August 1944 when her family was betrayed and sent to a concentration camp where she died.
According to a biography by William Bjornstad, Anne "loved American movies and dreamed of becoming a movie star." A bronze memorial (known as a cenotaph) can be found in a portion of Hollywood Forever that is California's Beth Olam Cemetery.
Her photo and a quote from her diary are inscribed on the memorial: "This is a photo as I wish I still was. If so, I would still have a chance to come to Hollywood." Her cenotaph memorial was dedicated in time for what would have been her 71st birthday in 2000.8
The Fairbanks Lawn and Fairbanks Crypt
As you walk along on your tour of the cemetery you pass numerous beautiful monuments, mausolea, headstones, and scenic garden-stye landscaping. One particularly impressive setting is the Fairbanks Lawn, where Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. and his son Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. are both interred in their crypt at the end of a long attractive reflecting pool where sometimes white swans are seen serenely swimming through the placid water.
The Three Muskateers: The Famous Silent Film
Now we return to where we started -- The Muskateers raising their swords in salute (in my mind's eye) to "Infinity" -- the Hollywood Forever Logo. This famous 1921 silent film9 was produced by Douglas Fairbanks, directed by Frank Diblo, adapted by Douglas Fairbanks from the Alexandre Dumas 1844 novel, and starred Douglas Fairbanks as d'Artagnan. The swashbuckling adventure film is filled with stunts, sword fights, period history, costumes, and Quixote-like "fight for right" values. Fairbanks wore his famous d'Artagnan mustache for the rest of his life.
So I raise my figurative "sword" to all those men and women who enriched our lives through entertainment and music, and who found their rest in Hollywood Forever.
Interactive Cemetery Maps
Interactive Map: Hollywood Forever Cemetery
- Go to this Interactive Map on the Hollywood Forever Cemetery website and look up the name of a deceased person. Results include info on the person, location of interment, detailed map of the cemetery and all association mausolea.
Interactive Map and Street View: Google Earth Pro
- Download Google Earth Pro. Search for Hollywood Forever Cemetery and view a detailed, interactive satellite map view of the cemetery. Zoom in on gravesites to see details. Google Earth includes detailed street views along road and walking paths inside the cemetery. Click on the street view icon and move it to the spot on the ground where you want to begin your virtual walk,
References and Credits
1Hollywood Forever Cemetery -- Many thanks to Beth for introducing me to this fascinating place.
2Find-a-Grave List of Famous People in Hollywood Forever Cemetery
3National Register of Historic Places Listing Record for Hollywood Forever Cemetery
5Wikipedia: Day of the Dead
6Judy Garland Pavilion
7VOANEWS, June 11, 2017: Judy Garland Returns to Hollywood, Laid to Rest in Mausoleum
8Anne Frank Find-a-Grave Cenotaph Memorial, Photos, and Biography by William Bjornstad
9Wikipedia: The Three Musketeers (1921 film)
© 2020 John Dove