The 28-Year Mistake : A Star Is Reborn and This Time They Spell It Right

Times Staff Writer

Face lifts are common in filmland, but Thursday a pioneer director received what may have been the first star lift.

Maurice Diller became Mauritz Stiller on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, correcting a 28-year-old error.

In 1960, when the first 1,550 bronze plaques were implanted, the square for Stiller (1883-1928), the Swedish director who brought Greta Garbo to America, accidentally was labeled Diller.


“I guess someone in the office took his name over the phone back then and Mauritz Stiller sounded like Maurice Diller,” explained Bill Welsh, president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

The fact that no Maurice Diller is listed in any film encyclopedias gave rise over the years to semi-serious speculation that the star had been intended for another Hollywood type, perhaps Phyllis Diller or Barry Diller or Jerry Stiller.

The star lift was the biggest pavement correction in Hollywood since 1983, when actor Sylvester Stallone forgot to cross the “t” in his last name in front of Mann’s Chinese Theater. (Workers later completed his signature for him.)

The Diller matter had been called to the chamber’s attention several years ago by film buffs and newspaper columnists.

“I just hope our Swedish friends will forgive us for taking so long to correct the error,” Welsh said.

In fact, the local Swedish Consulate had asked Hollywood to correct its spelling because that country’s royal family will be visiting Southern California soon, a spokesman said prior to the plaque-transplant operation.

“We thought it would be a nice way to kick off New Sweden ‘88,” spokesman Claes Jernaeus, said diplomatically.

New Sweden ‘88, commemorating the 350th anniversary of the arrival of the first Swedes in North America, features a nationwide tour by King Carl XVI Gustav and Queen Silvia, as well as various film retrospectives of notable Swedish directors, including Stiller.

Several Swedish film figures attended Thursday’s ceremony in weather as somber as the mood of an Ingmar Bergman movie.

“I suggested we let the king and queen lift the cover off the new star,” Welsh said, laughing, “but they (Swedish officials)were pretty shocked. I guess kings and queens don’t do stuff like that.”

Stiller was a Helsinki-born, Polish-Russian-Swedish director who was lured to United States in 1925 by MGM’s Louis B. Mayer. Along the way, he changed his first name from Moshe to Mauritz (not Maurice).

Stiller accepted on the condition that he be allowed to bring his protege, Greta Garbo. Mayer thought she was too heavy but agreed. Garbo, of course, became a star, but Stiller fought with Mayer. He returned to Sweden and died soon after, at the age of 45, a broken man.