Great technological advancements coupled with good economic times made 1927 a boom year for the opening of luxury hotels in America. There was the Ritz-Carlton in Boston, the Benjamin in New York, the Knickerbocker in Chicago, the Biltmore in Phoenix, the Biltmore in Santa Barbara and, of course, our own Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite. Each of these properties has built its own rich history and each is still in operation today. But, in terms of glitz, glamour, glitter and fanfare, one 1927 California hotel would seem to stand above the rest. For it was the roaring 1920s and Hollywood was very busy setting the pace.
The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel was named after our exuberant 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt. Located right across the street from Sid Grauman's Chinese Theatre, this 12-story, 300 room hotel was built in the flavor of Spanish architecture. At a cost of nearly $3 million, (close to $40 million in today's money), this building was state of the art in 1927. It was conceived of and financed by a group of real Hollywood heavy hitters. The group was headed by United Artists founders Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford who joined forces with Louis Mayer from MGM. Their plan would lend credibility to the then faltering movie industry. It was a brilliant plan that also included the founding of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Academy Awards. The first Academy Awards ceremony, which was held at the Roosevelt in May 1929, honored films from 1927 and 1928. Less than 300 people were in attendance and the event lasted about 15 minutes.
The hotel became a revolving door through which anyone who was anyone in Hollywood has passed through. It was a playground for the stars. Norma Jeane Mortenson was a resident there for more than two years while she was waiting to be discovered. She lived in a bungalow in the back of the hotel near where the pool is now located. Once she was discovered her life became a whirlwind, but she always liked to stay at the Roosevelt even after she owned her own home. Towards the end of her life she claimed that her happiest times had been at that Roosevelt hotel. Good times; such as having two of her three weddings there, signing the contract that made her famous there, and acting in many movie scenes in and around the property.
There have been many people who claimed to have see this movie star whose stage name was Marilyn Monroe. Even though she passed away tragically on Aug. 6, 1962, to this day she has been seen in the full-length mirror that used to be in her room, in the hotel lobby and near the pool in the area she used to live. There have been eerie photographs that look like smoke in the shape of a woman, visible orbs of light, and cold spots where she was reported to be standing. The hotel staff actually has a lot of fun with this haunting. There are little touches; such as, putting what looks like a prescription bottle, which is really full of candy, on the night stand. They have also placed the possessed full-length mirror in the lobby for all to see. Those little touches seem to work because many people, including myself, have made a special point of staying at the Roosevelt in hopes of catching a glimpse of the famous Norma Jeane.
Some other notable guests of past and present include: Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Shirley Temple, Elizabeth Taylor, Charlie Chaplin, Judy Garland, Errol Flynn, Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, all three of the Stooges, Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Paris Hilton (even though she has her own hotels), Bruce Willis, Will Rogers, Will Smith, Will Ferrell, Elvis Presley and Mick Jagger to name a few.