Grauman’s Chinese Theater, arguably the most famous movie theater in the world, opened on May 18, 1927. It resides at 6925 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, and one of the most famous things about it is the forecourt, where handprints, footprints, and signatures of Hollywood stars appear in the cement blocks.
Here is a vintage advertisement for Grauman’s Chinese Theater, which appeared in the 1928 edition of The Film Daily Yearbook, published less than one year after the theater opened.
Pictured is Sid Grauman, the founder of the theater. Grauman lived the California Dream. He was born in Indianapolis and headed off to California during the Klondike Gold Rush, hoping to strike it rich. When the gold didn’t pan out for him (heh heh), he plunged into the movie business, first building the historic Million Dollar Theater in 1918, then Grauman’s Egyptian Theater in 1922, and finally Grauman’s Chinese Theater in 1928. He was one of the original 36 founders of AMPAS, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, best known for hosting the Academy Awards. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The theater is still used as a first-run exhibition movie house, although now it also doubles as a historic and cultural landmark. It housed the Academy Awards three times in the 1940s, and the Academy Awards’ current home, the Kodak Theater, is next door.
From 1973 to 2001, the theater was owned by Ted Mann, who renamed it Mann’s Chinese Theater, but in 2000 it was jointly acquired by Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures, who had the name restored to Grauman’s in 2002.
The cement markings in the forecourt are arguably more famous than the movie theater itself. They began when the chief foreman in charge of constructing the forecourt, a guy named Jean W. Klossner, put his handprints and initials in a block in the corner, to sign his work.
This quickly evolved into a popular tradition of the stars making their marks in the cement. The first two were Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, who were co-owners of the theater along with Grauman and Howard Schenck.Pictured here is a personal note to Sid Grauman from Myrna Loy, a wonderful actress best known today, perhaps, for playing Nora Charles, half of the husband-and-wife detective team in the six popular and respected Thin Man films (1934-1947). Handprints, footprints, and an autograph are typical, but sometimes the markings suit the star more personally. Also imprinted in the forecourt, for example, are Al Jolson’s knees, Betty Grable’s legs, Jimmy Durante’s nose, Sonja Henie’s ice skates, John Wayne’s fist, Groucho Marx’s cigar, Harold Lloyd’s glasses, and Daniel Radcliffe’s wand.
Non-human movie stars have been preserved there as well. The hoofprints of Trigger, Champion, and Tony (the horses of Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and Tom Mix, respectively) are all preserved there, as are the footprints of C3PO and R2D2.
But in 1928, all that legacy was still to come. I imagine that the editors of The Film Daily received this ad and had no idea what was brewing.