By: Max Tarlton
Throughout my time in Los Angeles thus far, the most fascinating thing to me, believe it or not, was a barn. Coming from Nebraska, trust me, I have seen plenty of barns. But, this was a bit different – this barn has become an iconic place in the history of Hollywood, California. It’s The Lasky-Demille barn, and has become arguably one of the coolest barns I had ever been to. Besides the original “Ben Hur” gladiator boots on display, the miscellaneous historic film making memorabilia, and a personal interaction with the paranormal, there were some parts of the barn that really hit close to home.
The Lasky-Demille barn was built in about 1895 in Hollywood, California. Located on the southeast corner of Selma and Vine Streets, it was originally used to house horses, store feed, and other farming supplies until it was sold in 1904. About 10 years after it was sold, the barn became the Burns and Revier Studio and Laboratory in March of 1913. In December of the same year, Cecil B. DeMille and Jesse Lasky began leasing the studio for $250 a month. They established the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company, and in 1914, produced the first feature film to be produced in the Hollywood area, entitled The Squaw Man.
After being moved around the area numerous times, the barn has found its current home at 2100 North Highland Avenue, in Hollywood. The restored barn features photos from historic Hollywood, original Hollywood films being streamed, photos of actors and actresses, and archived memorabilia from the early days of Hollywood. It was very interesting to step into the lives of the actors and filmmakers during the birth of Hollywood. Not only was this interesting because of the technology that was used about 100 years ago, but because of how massive the entertainment industry has grown over the last century.
In the center of the ancient barn, maybe a bit off to the left, was a double-sided 4-foot wall-like structure with pictures of actors and actresses who came to California at the turn on the 20th century. Most of whom went on to become successful actors in the early years of Hollywood. It featured actors who fled to Hollywood from all over the world. China, Russia, Japan, New York, Chicago, and there was even an actor, Harold Lloyd, who came from Nebraska. Growing up in Nebraska, I immediately looked to see what city it was – but, I had absolutely never heard of the place in my entire life. I thought
“Wait. What? Burchard, Nebraska? I’ve… never even heard of that place. I don’t even know where it is? I’ll ask Sammy since she’s from Nebraska too.”
After I asked, she had no idea about the place either. So, I looked it up. Apparently, Burchard, Nebraska is made up of less than 8,000 square feet of about 10 intersecting streets with a train station at the southern-most point. About 25 miles southeast of Beatrice, Nebraska and about 10 miles north of the Kansas border, it was bizarre to know I had been that close to the birthplace of an original Hollywood actor. It boggled my mind, nearly 100 years ago, a person from a small town in the middle of Nebraska could pack up and head west to Hollywood and make it in the entertainment industry.
I looked at the Harold Lloyd and read the things he had done in his career. Ranking along side Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton in popularity as one of the most influential comedians of the silent film era. With over 200 comedy films made, many of them featured thrill sequences and extended chase scenes which he became known for. He was best known for his “Glass” character who was very success-driven and in tune with the modernism of the 1920’s, and of course, being an actor at the Lasky-Demille barn.
The old, historic barn really put things into perspective for me. Growing up in Nebraska diving into entertainment industry in L.A, it’s easy to think you’re a little fish from a pond trying to swim with all the big fish in the ocean. Hollywood still today is a place that people see as a place where they can fulfill their dreams, where they can create a new beginning and a better future for themselves, like Lloyd and I. I also just found it fascinating that someone from the first motion picture filmed in Hollywood happened to come from a small town in Nebraska. It puts a whole new meaning to the term “small world.” I can relate to Lloyd’s desire to want to leave the plateau life of Nebraska and pursue his dream and it motivates me to create a Hollywood success story of my own.