Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Movieland Wax Museum Tour

The Hollywood Home Tour bus driver, Al, asked us if we could find a copy of a Los Angeles map for him to follow. It looks like he lost his original map and some of those Beverly Hills streets can be confusing to navigate. We opened up the trunk last week - the "trunk" is my oh-so-wonderful treasure hoard of vintage knick-knacks and memorabilia - to look for one. I knew we had an old LA map stashed somewhere among there. 

I searched under the pile of Screen Time and Radio/TV Mirror magazines, under the Avengers, The Munsters, and countless other TV trading cards, next to the prize glossy movie photo collection, behind the Porky Pig comic books, and even under my pet rubber alligator ( he eats the strangest things sometimes )...but no Hollywood map was to be found. Doesn't that bug you where you know you have something and just can't find it? 

Well, to cut a long story short - it was found a few days later hiding in plain sight right under my nose. That's not the point of this post though ( that would be a pretty pathetic topic to write about ). The point is...I found our old bag of Los Angeles tourist souvenir stuff while I was searching and among them was a brochure from the Movieland wax museum. Wowee kazam!

Didi and I purchased this grab bag way back one beautiful summer Saturday morning at a street sale in Unionville, Ohio. A lady was selling a large lots of postcards/brochures/guidebooks of Los Angeles for 50 cents, so we bought the lot. See, who said we weren't big spenders? 

The brochure hailed that the "biggest gathering of stars in the world" were brought under one roof for the public to gaze at. The Movieland Wax Museum was once the largest wax museum in America, with over 300 Hollywood figures. We got so excited about this that we thought we'd uncover a little of its history and go on a gawking tour of the famous and not-so-famous stars of the past, as they were immortalized in wax. Not all 300 of course, but enough. Sorry Al....looks like we got a little sidetracked. 

So without more ado, let's take a cue from Maria and start at the very beginning ( a very good place to start ). Park your car, grab a ticket - they're FREE, pop on your audio headset and let's begin!


This is the fabulous entry way to the wax museum. Up front, beyond the concrete sidewalk, was a pond where swans swam. Sometimes they swimmed there too. 

                                           The Movieland Wax Museum main entrance. 

Also up front was a 18 foot high, 10 ton replica statue of Michelangelo's David. No, it wasn't made of wax. It was actually a marble replica. When Movieland closed its doors in 2005, several of their most famous wax figures were auctioned off and it was David who received the highest bids. He sold for a grand total of $120,000. Baring all sometimes does pay off. 


Since we never went to Movieland while it was in business we aren't sure what wax figure you saw first when coming in ( aside from the ticket collector ) so we'll just meander around all over the place. That's what we usually do anyway. You can take a break midway through and we'll tell you a little more about the museum then...in case your fingers get tired of walking. 

D.W Griffith shouting to Laurel and Hardy ( Laurel and Hardy? ) from his director's chair. I don't know who the man next to him is suppose to be. The words below the Bijou remind me of a movie sign from an old Porky Pig cartoon : Now Playing  "The Broken Leg". Surrounded by a large cast.  

It's Papa Ben Cartwright and his boys Hoss and Little Joe. Dan Blocker is done really well!  

Yul Brynner is kind of hunky here but Deborah Kerr doesn't seem to notice..she's pissed about something. I think the artist was concentrating on her shoulders more than her facial expression. Let's look at a close-up...

Yes, definitely pissed.

Wallace Beery and Marie Dressler as "Min and Bill". Dressler looks a little more like Kathleen Freeman as the old broad from the Naked Gun series here. 

The artists did a better job on Harry Carey in "Trader Horn". Cantiflas, the Mexican star of "Around the World in 80 Days" and "Pepe" is excellent. They even got his wiry frame down pat. 

The clapboard caption reads Lady of the Tropics featuring Robert Taylor and Hedy Lamarr but Taylor and Lamarr aren't anywhere to be found. All I see is a mod tiger blanket and two mannequins with receding hairlines....oh wait, you don't suppose they meant THEM??

Will Rogers seated on an old covered wagon, complete with rope in hand and his hat tilted on his head.

Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara. She looks the original 1950s Barbie doll with black hair. Oh well...you can't blame them, they tried their best.

Abbott and Costello still doing their Who's on First? routine. Some vaudeville acts never get old.

The Latin Lover is seen in one of his most famous silent films "Son of the Sheik". And here's a bewitching couple - it's Charlie McCarthy and Elizabeth Montgomery! That's funny...the sign says Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. They must of labeled it wrong. 

Jean Harlow in a slinky nightgown lounging on her chaise. It looks like they overdid it a bit on the bleach job..I knew she had platinum blonde hair but everything was turned white in this room.

Harold Lloyd is pretty good...even the mountain lion is done really well ( or is that a stuffed job? ). Roy Rogers could pack on a few pounds and Trigger looks like a plastic toy horse but then horses always are difficult to model. 

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. As if you didn't know.

Two western film legends. Shane and the Duke. Alright, pardner...move 'em on out. The modeler must of seen how Trigger turned out in the Roy Rogers set so he decided to opt out on a horse for the Duke and made a dog instead. Sure, that's logical. Every cowboy has a dog. 

Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn in The African Queen. As Hepburn would put it "that is a truly atrocious characterization". We quite agree Ms. Hepburn, they didn't do you justice in the least.  Bogie is rather good though. 

The museum received alot of complaints that the Lady of the Tropics display needed some updating, so a decade or so later ( it takes awhile to make wax figures ) they had them redone. Taylor is looking pretty good now but now they made Hedy.... look like Omarosa?? I'll have to send them a copy of Lady in the Tropics.

A staple of the Movieland Museum was a beautiful golden Rolls Royce parked outside of the entrance since Movieland opening in 1962. In the mid-1960s, with the popularity of monster films and TV shows like The Munsters and The Addams Family, they added a Frankenstein wax figure in the passenger seat. I wonder how he coped during a hot California summer....

The museum also offered Family Fun parties. Adults had to pay double the admission price as the children because they could read signs better. I can just imagine a little boy's conversation at school to the popular kid in class "I don't have to go to your dumb-old birthday party. I'm going with my family to a party at Buena Park...and Mr. T and Spock and Elizabeth Taylor..and Raquel Welch..and that guy who sings about the yellow ribbon and...and..a whole bunch of other pretty people are going to be there! So there." That must of floored him. 

Who can resist the opportunity of being photographed in the Space Ship Gallery..and with Spock! Alright, alright, so he doesn't move. You can't have everything. 

If your parents couldn't spring the $1.65 for your entrance fee they probably would of bought you the complete Viewmaster set of the Movieland Wax Museum. It was the next best thing ( I guess ), to being there. With every click of the viewer you caught a tiny glimpse of all the wonderful inanimate freeze-framed treasures the "Palace of Living Art" had on display. Treasures you will one day see in person for yourself, you hope.  Like Suzie Wong being pulled in a rickshaw....

This is supposed to be Nancy Kwan. Yeah, right. I think she's the same Omarosa model and they just made her hair recede a tad bit more. 

Slim and Zasu, looking very slim and Zasu-ish. Roger Moore is terrible! The small white sign reads "Roger Moore personally dedicated this set on April 13, 1988 ". Poor guy, I wonder what he must of thought when he saw Movieland's idea of what he looks like. 

Now these two characters are really good. Crazy Guggenheim couldn't be better and Walter Brennan is excellent too. Love the detailing on the set. I wonder if all the scenery came with the winning bid of a wax figure during the auction. Or did you even get their bodies for that matter?

I thought the man standing beside Frankenstein was modeled exceptionally well, but upon closer look I think he's a REAL man. Hmm...that's a tough call. Charleton Heston is about to whack the ten commandments down upon the rock in anger over his people's sinful folly.

Here we see William S. Hart, Tom Mix and Ken Maynard in a nice little Western scenario. Quite frankly, I wouldn't of recognized any of them if their clapboards weren't in front of them. They all look like Abercrombie and Fitch dummies to me. 

The cop and the criminal. This is Martin Landau disguised as Anthony Perkins in Psycho. He must be on a secret IMF mission, and this other portly fellow is a Keystone Kop. I'm not very familiar with the KK squad so I'm not sure which actor he is representing.

I take it this is suppose to be Ernest Borgnine and Stella Stevens ( or Carol Lynley?? ) from Poseidon Adventure. I think if I was the night watchman at the museum it would be this figure of Borgnine that I'd keep my eye on the most. One move and..getta oughtta there faaast!

Baa-baa Streisand. 

This deserves a close-up. You'll find yourself saying literally "Hello Dolly". ( Ouch )

The Little Tramp in a very trampy little setting. 

The newlyweds...Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood from West Side Story. Bob Hope is pointing, "Watch out Bing, don't go losing your head on me". 

Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon in Wuthering Heights. Really? Methinks this is another sculptor who never saw a photo of Merle Oberon. 

The Little Rascals in a most frightening scenario...the dentist office!! 

When Movieland opened in 1962 a Liberace figure seated at his piano was apart of the original tour. However, after a few years it was moved to the basement in hiding and so a postcard of it was not to be found anywhere. Here is a photo of Liberace instead. They look the same.

William Powell and Myrna Loy in a Thin Man scene. Or so it says. I don't understand why the dead man has his feet pointing up and his hand pointing down. The shock of seeing that old lady in the painting must of stunned him something awful. Asta looks like a puppet. Not that I've ever seen a wire-hair terrier puppet before, but that's what one would look like if there was one. 

"Beeee my loooovve..." That's Mario Lanza in one of his operetta scenes. Gar-y Coo-per has his fist clenched in anticipation of the big showdown at high noon. The museum must of thought that this scene wasn't complete so later they added Grace Kelly sitting in the chair on the left. A wax figure of her that is. 

Sherlock Holmes? "Elementary my dear Watson".

Fantastic! You can just see Jonathan Winters exerting all his strength trying to bust free from that duck-tape. Good luck with that. "Irwin, watch out! He's gonna bust!"

Perry Mason standing beside his old pal, the witness box. He looks like Robert T. Ironside here, but he's standing..so this must be a scene from the new Perry Mason TV movies. 

I don't know what Jim Carrey is suppose to be doing but it's kind of awkwardly funny and creepy at the same time.

Laurel and Hardy trying to get away without paying for tickets. And here's another unknown character - Lon Chaney? 

Oh no! Now we're seeing the close-up. "It" looks even worse when approached. Fred Astaire is as white as a sheet.Why, they seem positively DEAD.

Wow. I know what the sculptor was concentrating on when he thought of Elizabeth Taylor. The boobs that launched a thousand ships. Oops, that was Helen of Troy.

Another couple of stiffs. Redd Foxx is fabulous, and Esther is going a great "Stinky" impersonation. Does anyone remember Stinky from The Abbott and Costello Show? 

I love the Lucy figure. You'd think with all the money she made from the I Love Lucy reruns that she could afford a better shawl though. 

And, of course, any wax museum wouldn't be complete without a figure of Vincent Price, the mad artist himself from "House of Wax". If you ever wanted to know what a wax figure of a wax figure looks like, here it is.

Now for the grand finale...the Top Three Best wax figures! 

                                                    THE WINNING WAX


This is fabulous. Ray Milland has that drunken dazed look about him, his suit is a bit crinkled, cigarette butts are scattered over the ground and even his shoe looks like it's about to fall off. ( Why do drunks always lose their shoes? ) 

Better not ask him. He's in no condition to give a straight answer. 


Sophia Loren in a dramatic scene from "Two Women" aka La Ciociara. Bellissima! Magnifico!

                                                                           1st PLACE

Fantastic!! Can you look any more real Mr. Sammy Davis? "No, I can't!". The sculptor even got his glass eye looking slightly in the other direction. Not that any of his eyes are "real". At least, I hope not. 


This concludes your tour of the Movieland Wax Museum. Please dispose of any plastic cups, 3D glasses, leftover chicken nuggets and dirty diapers on your way out. 

If you have any comments to make, quibbles to quibble over about our choice of winning waxes, or memories to share from your trip(s) to Movieland please leave them in the comment box below.  We'd love to hear stories of your tales from the palace of wax! 

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