The Hollywood Museum

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When visiting Hollywood for the first time, I would strongly encourage a trip to the Hollywood Museum. Situated just off of Hollywood Boulevard inside of the historic Max Factor Building, visitors will find a wide array of collections, including costumes, memorabilia, and more, relating to the history of American motion pictures and television. The building was designed by architect S. Charles Lee, with the building proudly boasting the Hollywood Regency Art Deco style.

The museum itself features a rotating collection of over 11,000 items, including props, stop motion figures, photographs, scripts, etc., and also features special exhibitions. Of course, Polish-born Factor’s own legacy is celebrated here, as the original four makeup rooms used by Factor and his celebrity clients are key features of the museum. Here, visitors can explore the room for redheads, blondes, brownettes, and brunettes. The makeup rooms are all located on the ground floor.

Blondes:

Redheads:

Brunettes:

Brownettes:

One of the artifacts that intrigues me the most is the Max Factor Beauty Calibration Machine. The Hollywood Museum owns the only one in existence, making the artifact truly one-of-a-kind at this point. The device would be worn over the head of a model and would help gauge symmetry and inform how makeup would be applied in order to capture the ideal style of the day.

Overall, the Hollywood Museum offers four floors of exhibits. In addition to the makeup rooms, the historic lobby holds its own set of exhibits, in addition to a photo gallery, and tribute to Judy Garland and the ruby slippers.

While these aspects of the collection are no doubt impressive, my main reason for visiting the museum was to see the famous “Farewell to Earth” painting of Jean Harlow. The painting had been presumed missing for decades until it resurfaced one day and was purchased by a buyer who allowed for it to be on display at the museum. At the Hollywood Museum, the painting was on display along with a major collection of Harlow-related items, including an outfit and a mural that was displayed in her home.

Another fun item of interest is actor Roddy McDowall’s powder room. During his lifetime, McDowall hosted many parties attended by other celebrities. The powder room comes from his home.

The last collection I will point out is the costume collection on display, in addition to occasional props and movie posters. The costumes come from many different times in Hollywood–past and present. My favorite pieces include costumes worn by Clara Bow, Rudolph Valentino, and the wedding dress worn by Elizabeth Taylor in Father of the Bride (1950).

Overall, the Hollywood Museum has a fine collection and is a delight for fans of classic Hollywood to visit. I would encourage visitors to consult their website in order to learn more about hours, ticket rates, and featured exhibits.

About Annette Bochenek

Dr. Annette Bochenek of Chicago, Illinois, is an avid scholar of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She manages the Hometowns to Hollywood blog, in which she writes about her trips exploring the legacies and hometowns of Golden Age stars. Annette also hosts the “Hometowns to Hollywood” film series throughout the Chicago area. She has been featured on Turner Classic Movies and is the president of TCM Backlot’s Chicago chapter. In addition to writing for TCM Backlot, she also writes for Classic Movie Hub, Silent Film Quarterly, Nostalgia Digest, and Chicago Art Deco Society Magazine.
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