Iconic ‘Hollywood’ sign turns 100 | Inquirer Entertainment

Iconic ‘Hollywood’ sign turns 100

/ 05:00 AM December 11, 2023

Hollywood sign

BLOCKBUSTER TRADEMARK The sign was originally intended as a billboard promoting real estate. (Agence France-Presse)

HOLLYWOOD — The landmark word has loomed over Tinseltown since before movies started talking, becoming a symbol of the entire film industry.

For the first time in decades, the Hollywood sign—at least a little bit of it—was illuminated on Friday to celebrate its 100th birthday.


The nine-letter sign is officially a centenarian but, as with many an aging grande dame in Hollywood, looks as fresh as ever.


Like the actors and actresses it looks down on, the sign has been in its fair share of films.

Directors who want to let their audience know a movie is set in Los Angeles have an easy establishing shot, while a filmmaker who wants to signify the destruction of America can set their special effects team loose on the sign.

It has also seen real life tragedy: British-born actress Peg Entwistle took her own life by plunging from the top of the letter H in 1932.


The sign initially read “HOLLYWOODLAND,” having been constructed in 1923 as an advertisement for an upscale real estate development.

During its first decade, it was routinely lit by thousands of bulbs, with “HOLLY,” “WOOD” and “LAND” illuminated in turn as a beacon of the desirable homes on offer below.

But by the 1940s, the letters were looking a little ragged. The Los Angeles Times reported vandals or windstorms had damaged the H, before locals decided they had had enough and asked the city to tear it down.


The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, recognizing that they had a blockbuster trademark on their hands, stepped in and offered to fix it up.

But the last four letters had to go. By 1949, the newly restored sign simply read “HOLLYWOOD.”

Restoration campaign

Three decades of baking sun and occasional storms took their toll on the 50-foot (15-meter)-high wooden letters.

Enter one shock rocker Alice Cooper—who led a campaign to restore the sign to its former glory, donating $28,000.

Eight others, including actor Gene Autry, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and singer Andy Williams, kicked in the same, each sponsoring a letter—Cooper got the first O, Autry had the second L, Hefner got the Y and Williams snagged the W.

The replacement letters are a tad more compact, just 44 feet high.

Unlike most global landmarks, the Hollywood sign is not usually lit up at night, partially because of objections from people who live nearby.

But Hollywood Sign Trust chair Jeff Zarrinnam said on Friday it might start shining again.

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“What we are working on is a plan to hopefully light the sign on very special occasions,” he said.

TAGS: Hollywood sign, US entertainment industry

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