What popular 1960s sitcom mentions Nita Naldi, twice, in the same episode? Where Douglas Fairbanks is scolded for pulling pranks, and a prescient plea is made to spare a classic-era movie studio from the wrecking ball? Psychologists say conjuring nostalgia during stressful times, watching old movies and TV shows, is a healthy coping mechanism. So, feeling nostalgic and self-soothing, I recorded a random episode of The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971), just to revisit old times. Selecting Season 3, Episode 4, was a spectacularly lucky choice.
A classic “fish out of water” premise, the popular series revolved around the backwoods Jed Clampett family who strike oil on their Ozark homestead, and now nouveau riche, move to a mansion in Beverly Hills.
Entitled Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood (1964 – available on YouTube https://youtu.be/xaecYlyNm7A, also at dailymotion), the episode begins with a mock newscast, as a helicopter reporter flies around the Clampett estate.
Their “Beverly Hills” home, actually located at 750 Bel Air Road in Bel Air, recently sold for $150M. As reported by Lindsay Blake’s I’m Not a Stalker location website, the home also appeared as a location in Bing Crosby’s High Society (1956), and in Jerry Lewis’s Cinderfella (1960), before gaining immortal fame as the home to Jed and the rest of the Clampett kin.
The episode’s plot, and the helicopter news reporter’s story, concerns plans to bulldoze historic Mammoth Studios to build office towers instead, likely inspired by the recent development of Century City on the former backlot of 20th Century Fox. And who owns the studio? Why none other than Jed himself. Above, the reporter’s view of the at-risk studio, in fact being Warner Bros. in Burbank.
But Hollywood champion Hedda Hopper won’t let this stand. The news helicopter zooms in to her office in the foreground Guaranty Building at Hollywood and Ivar.
Within her office, Hedda delivers an impassioned appeal. “Mammoth Pictures is more than just a valuable piece of real estate. It’s a priceless chapter of Hollywood history, written by stars who the world will never, never forget. … a studio so rich in memories should and must be preserved.” Behind Hedda, left to right top row, are George Arliss, possibly Marie Dressler (thanks Steve Massa – can anyone confirm?), Douglas Fairbanks, John Barrymore, Lillian Gish, and Clara Bow. The bottom row, left to right, are Janet Gaynor, Wm. S. Hart, Mary Pickford, Rudolph Valentino (blocked from view), Hedda Hopper herself, and Mae West, confirmed by reader Patrick Foran. [Note: a reader shared Buster Keaton and Hedda both died the same day, February 1, 1966.]
These loving close-ups of Barrymore and Gish, and of Hart, Pickford, and Valentino, flash onscreen during Hedda’s appeal.
Hedda finagles a meeting with Jed and his nephew Jethro Bodine, instructing them to visit the forecourt at Sid Grauman’s Chinese Theater (now TCL Theaters), to impress on them the weight of Hollywood history.
Once there, Jed and Jethro are shocked to see the forecourt has been vandalized, messing up some poor man’s SEEment (the proper pronunciation and spelling of the word). Bold rascals, they didn’t just leave their footprints, but handprints and names too, just to taunt this poor Sid fellow who must own the place. Diana Wynyard and Judy Garland appear center above, Bob Hope lower right.
Above, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, the premiere inductees. Poor Jed, he understands Doug was a skamp, but can’t believe Mary would stoop so low – “Clara Bow, yeah, she’s a little cut-up, frisky as a kitten, but sweet little Mary” he sighs.
Second only to Douglas Fairbanks, Harold Lloyd was the 5th person to set his handprints at the Chinese Theater forecourt
The thumb and index finger of the right hand do not leave a deep impression
Slight detour – as I report fully HERE, following Doug, Harold Lloyd was the second man, and only the fifth celebrity, to be honored at Grauman’s. Missing much of his right hand, Harold wore his prosthesis for the ceremony.
Note: the Me-TV and YouTube episodes are significantly different, with different dialog and scenes. Granny mentions Nita Naldi twice on Me-TV, around 18:26 and 24:08, but only once at 16:09 on YouTube. The forecourt scenes and dialog differ too. On Me-TV, Jed and Jethro speculate someone must have dared Doug (never one to refuse) to mess up Sid’s fresh SEEment during a premiere, leading Doug to dare Tom Mix, and so on, until all the stars, including poor Mary, overwhelmed by peer pressure, had vandalized the forecourt. Above, Mickey Rooney at center, with a guide to his neighboring signatures.
The YouTube version doesn’t blame Doug, but visits more handprints, where Jethro and Jed discuss Tom Mix and his horse Tony, Norma Talmadge, Gloria Swanson, Bill Hart, and some woman by the name of Betty Grable, exclaims Jethro, who stuck her whole leg in!
Returning to Hedda, she explains to Jed that as owner of the studio, many of those signatures were made by his stars. Does he want them to be remembered only by their footprints in that cement? Feeling personally responsible for “his” stars, and not wanting Mary and the others to be remembered in shame only for their vandalism, upstanding Jed decides to do the right thing and repair the forecourt.
Defending Mary’s honor, Jed nobly begins his repair work. When interrupted by a cop, Jed pleads for him to go easy on her. “You give me an hour and there won’t be a footprint in the whole place, and that’s a promise.” Above, a full guide to the forecourt footprints.
The episode also features views of a modest western movie backlot, which the Clampett’s naively assume is Clampett City, the town their banker Milton Drysdale promised to build once the studio is demolished.
The backlot portraying Clampett City is reported to be the former Jack Ingram Ranch at 22255 Mulholland Drive in Woodland Hills. The sole image I’ve found reported to be filmed there, above left, generally matches the Clampett City frame at right.
The Mammoth Studio entrance was conveniently portrayed by the Filmways Studio where the show was filmed, now the Sunset Las Palmas Studios at 1040 N. Las Palmas Ave. (Note: this was originally the Hollywood Metropolitan Studios, where Harold Lloyd produced his feature films, beginning with Girl Shy (1924), after leaving Hal Roach.) Jed learns he acquired the studio during the Season 3 premiere episode, filmed extensively on the lot (YouTube – https://youtu.be/qRBwAY5tWgM).
For a closing bit of fun, with the studio saved, Jed decides the best way forward is to film a movie himself, a silent melodrama Little Orphan Elly. Above, for the movie Mr. Drysdale portrays an evil banker who will forgive the mortgage if Elly’s character marries him. Granny had imagined Lillian Gish and John Barrymore in these roles.
Arriving in the nick of time, Honest Jed offers to pay off the mortgage, but the banker hires a seductress (portrayed in the film by Mr. Drysdale’s prim secretary Miss Jane Hathaway), the vamp with eyes no man can resist, to lure away the money. Granny had imagined Bill Hart and Nita Naldi in these roles.
But all ends well when a very Valentino-esque Jethro, with eyes no woman can resist, melts Jane in his arms with a seductive tango. Granny had envisioned Rudy himself for this role. Given Miss Hathaway’s unrequited crush on Jethro, she must have enjoyed dancing with him.
Not something you see everyday – Jed and Hedda, Doug and Mary!
No doubt inspired by the Fox demolition creating Century City, the episode was also sadly prophetic, as the M-G-M and RKO-40 Acres backlots would fall to the wrecking ball in the decades after the show aired. But Hedda’s plea made over 50 years ago remains as true as ever – Hollywood history, so rich in memories, should and must be preserved!
Charlie, Buster, and Harold each filmed a masterpiece at an alley you can still visit today. Please help support naming the alley by posting a review on Google Maps. Prototype alley sign design by noted Dutch graphic artist – Piet Schreuders. Download a 4-page brochure about the alley HERE. This video further explains the alley – if you can, please leave a thumbs up and share it with others.