From the March 4th 1922 edition of Movie Weekly

Betty Compson

What is Hollywood Really Like?
 An Intimate Closeup of the Picture Colony


Betty Compson says good-bye to her mother before going for a gallop through the California hills.  

Editor's Note: The title of this is article Is a question that seems to be uppermost in the minds of picture fans. It occurred to us that Betty Compson, the author of "MATRIMONY IS A CAREER," which appeared in an earlier issue of "Movie Weekly," was especially suited to answer this national question. And so she writes this answer, exclusively to "Movie Weekly." If our readers wish to ask any questions in turn, we are confident Miss Compton will be happy to answer them.


Betty Compson
Betty snapped at the studio.

I have seen stories about Hollywood in the papers of your town or city; you may be sure that every other city is reading them, too. Many of these stories take an unfriendly tone. Vague references made to "Hollywood parties," allowing the inference to be made that disgusting orgies are a usual thing here; veiled slurs are cast upon the hotels, the studios, the homes of Hollywood. It is time something was done to bring the truth to light, and I am frankly and sincerely eager to do my bit toward that end.

Even for readers who have never been here, I don’t need to write about the physical features of the lovely place–its hills, green or brown in Summer or Winter, its palm-bordered walks and rose-grown gardens, its boulevards and bungalows, the smallest with its roomy ward from busy Hollywood Boulevard to the quiet and peace of the lower hill-tops.At a baseball game, we always stand up for the seventh inning. Well, in this, the seventh year of my life in Hollywood, I am going to stand up– for my hometown, and for my friends who live here!

To begin with, we of the screen are not different from other people. While I was doing "The Miracle Man, mother and I lived in a bungalow on one of those Hollywood hill-tops, from which we had a wonderful view across the valley to the snow-capped San Bernardino Mountains. I was so busy at work every day, and often at night, that none of my neighbors even knew I was in motion pictures until "Bill," my Spitz terrier, got into a fight with another dog down the street one day when mother was downtown. The owner of the other dog insisted upon talking with me immediately, so my maid called me at the studio. Until then, I think, there had been an idea about the neighborhood that I was a trained nurse!

But this story isn’t to be about myself. It is to be about Hollywood and the people you know through the screen, the folks who live here. I want to repeat just a scrap of conversation I heard the other morning. Mary Miles Minter met Constance Binney, in makeup and costume, just inside the studio gate.

Good morning, Constance,’ called Mary. "what are you ‘as’ this morning?"

Wallace Reid
There are those who claim Wallie is about as "wild cat-ey" as they come, but here he is taking orders from his youthful son, Bill.

"Oh," laughed Constance, "you sse me today ‘as' little Edna, just about to elope to New Jersey."What Mary replied–that "she hoped he was nice, to make up for New Jersey"–isn’t the point. The point is that you always, or practically always, see your stars and players "as" in their screen character, while I see them, between scenes and after studio hours, "as is". That is the way I should like to show them to you. And I have no hesitation in saying that nine out of every ten of them would be very glad to have you see them, in their homes and at their recreation, just as their very intimates see and know them. The screen players, with very few exceptions, have nothing to conceal.

Of course, that is at the heart of the whole outcry against Hollywood. Among the people who have achieved prominence via the screen there are –because they are a perfectly representative group of good citizens–a few who lack restraint. who cannot stand prosperity, and fall into excesses. The trouble is that when one of these exceptions gets into trouble, at once he or she is given notoriety exactly proportionate to the friendly publicity which has preceded.

When a popular idol commits a real or alleged offense against good taste, the fall from his high estate always equals and frequently exceeds his former popularity, "The higher they are, the harder they fall," is a simple truth of human nature, and constitutes one of the penalties of screen fame or any other kind. In other words, the public wants its idols to he human, and yet is disappointed in them when it finds out that they are so.

But to get back to the Hollywooders and the Holly–would–be’s and discuss another phase of the matter, addressing myself directly to you, gentle reader, as a representative of our collective "boss," the "interested public." There is on your part a tendency, unfortunate at times, to confuse the player with the part played.

Particularly is this true if a star has played in a series of similar parts. or in a certain type of role in which, perhaps, she first won the public’s heart,

An illustration of this point is my good friend. Bebe Daniels. You have been use to seeing her in tomboy roles–sometimes a bit daring. "The Good Little Bad Girl," they called her. She is familiar to you as the worldly–wise flapper, looking for a new thrill. In a recent picture, she dressed in boy’s clothes and went off at night, with another youngster. to a cock–fight attended chiefly by men of the sort that goes to cock–fights. it is a capital entertainment. as filmed, but however much of a shock it may be to you, I must tell you that it isn’t Bebe Daniels.

Lila Lee
Outside of being rumored engaged several times a week, Lila Lee leads a normal enough life.

To particularize, Bebe lives in a charming home (not in Hollywood. as it happens), with a charming mother and a quaint old grandmother like a picture in a book, and she seems perfectly happy under their care and chaperonage. Of course, she goes out, when she isn’t working, and has her kind of a good time, but there’s no doubt that many a present day "post–deb" would regard the social life led by Bebe Daniels and many other of the younger stars as "slow and stupid!"

The willingness of the layman to identify the actress with the part she plays is interesting. ‘Fess up, now; wouldn’t the reigning "vamp" in the days when we had vamps have lost out by letting you know that instead of inhabiting an apartment in which, through drifting clouds of incense, one occasionally caught glimpses of velour hangings. satin-draped couches and tiger-skin rugs, she really lived in a tiny green–and-white bungalow with a devoted husband and the two loveliest children in the world?

Conversely, does not the prize ingenue. the impersonator of sweet and sometimes sugary heroines, take a fall in your esteem when she gets into the divorce courts? Mind, I’m not saying that you should think less of her, but we both know that you do!

Now, make your own application of my argument to Hollywood, where most of the screen players live. Consider, for instance, Wanda Hawley, who thinks so much of the town that she recently built a beautiful home on one of its heights, usere she lives with her husband. Parenthetically, to read some of the articles written about the place, one might suppose that there wasn’t a husband in all Hollywood.

During the recent depression, the city of Los Angeles. which includes Hollywood, has been widely advertised as the one white spot" on the business map of the country. But, over against this, sensation seekers and busybodies have been whispering into receptive ears that Hollywood appears of the moral map as the ‘blight spot." Unfortunately, because it reacts against them, too, residents of otber sections of Los Angeles have been pleased to jape at Hollywood, meaning only to have their little jokes, but this alleged "humor" has been misinterpreted by serious-minded journalists and tail-faced reformers, who have made it the basis of untrue but injurious statements. However promulgated, and by whom, the popular fable about Hollywood is a base falsehood.

Mary Miles Minter
Mary Miles Minter isn't a law-breaker in this case. She's sittin' on her own sign that protects the property she has just purchased to build a bungalow upon.

Look at Mary Miles Minter–you won’t find it hard on the eyes. Mary is a very brainy and discerning girl, as evidence of which appears the fact that she has invested heavily Hollywood real estate. I know that she would not have taken this step, nor should her well-informed family have concurred is it and in the erection here of their beautiful, permanent home, if they regarded Hollywood as anything less than one hundred per cent, moral, socially and economically.

Let me point out to you another picture: Lois Wilson and Conrad Nagel standing by the big bulletin board at the Lasky studio in close and earnest conversation. Gather round, muckrakers ! Mr. Nagel is married but it’s perfectly evident to the muckraker mind that he is "dating" Miss Wilson for some evening and so on. She takes out her notebook and writes a line, undoubtedly the telephone number of Mr. Nagel’s favorite boot-legger ! Oh, that such things should be– and Miss Wilson looks like such a nice girl ! Something ought to be done about it!

Conrad Nagel
Conrad Nagel, church man and leading man.

Now draw close enough to join in the talk. Is there quick lifting of heads, guilty looks and sudden change of the subject? There is not, for Miss Wilson and Mr. Nagel, who play together in many Paramount pictures, are discussing similar phases of their respective church work. Miss Wilson teaches a Sunday School class in a Hollywood church, every week, and Mr. Nagel is an usher in the beautiful Christian Science Church of Hollywood.

May McAvoy
May McAvoy, who believes in everyone having his!

Do you know who lives in Hollywood? May McAvoy! May, who started out to be a school teacher, and who is still a little like one. May McAvoy, with her big appealing eyes, through which one can look right into her soul.She lives in Hollywood, and if it is true that a little shall leaven the whole lump, then the sweetness and lovableness of her little person alone would he enough, in time, to turn Hollywood to the right–if it needed turning.

Priscilla Dean, pretty and pepful, with never a breath of criticism to dim the shining shield of her domesticity with Hubby Wheeler Oakman. (And so I could go on and on, and soon infringe upon the scope of the Hollywood directory.)

Perhaps you would like to know about the girl who has not yet won success, who receives a modest salary, and might be subject to temptation. For her there is the Studio Club, under the auspices of the Y. W. C.A., of which you have read; advisory committees of the women’s clubs, and various cooperative enterprises.

For the ill-advised or headstrong girl who starts for Hollywood with only enough money to buy her ticket,. without any particular talent or training, or any assurance of finding work, the best possible thing is being done by the community and the stuidios. Propaganda is constantly being published warning girls not to embark upon such a foolhardy errand. Only those who will not see can escape this warning, which I have read in many places and forms, and to which I heartily subscribe.

Yes, we have hotels in Hollywood. They are just like the hotels in Florida or any other Southern resort: palms out in the yard, and palms in the lobby. The guest list of several of the Hollywood hotels contain more great names, in literature, drama and the plastic arts, than they would bear if Hollywood did not happen to be the moving picture capital, but they contain no more food for scandal. Not so much. Because most of the people who live there are very busy indeed. They are learning about pictures during working hours, and the rest of the time they are hunting houses.

Shall I tell you about sIte splendid schools and churches, the Woman’s Club and other clubs of Hollywood, and their social and artistic activities in their handsome buildings ? Shall I repeat what I have been told by the satisfied and loyal Hollywood tradespeople of their dealings with customers who are "in the pictures?" No, there is neither space nor necesssty.

I leave it in your hands and hearts, what we have passed through has been a peculiar, long-distance manifestation of the mob spirit, with Hollywood and its people as the victims–but this will pass, and common sense will prevail. - Betty Compson


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