Ojai’s Hidden Hollywood Treasures Are Hot Ticket
All this town had to do when it wanted an exhibit on Hollywood was to clean out its closets.
June Allyson, star of girl-next-door movie classics from the 1940s, dragged out old movie posters, dance outfits and even her wedding china. Actor Larry Hagman brought his Stetson from his days playing J.R. Ewing on “Dallas,” and the genie bottle from “I Dream of Jeannie.”
Scores of other Hollywood folks, perhaps lesser-known in Tinseltown but well-known at the O-Hi Frostie, brought old movie stills, props, costumes, Golden Globe awards and movie-making equipment.
It’s all on display through Jan. 28 at Ojai Valley Museum, along with items loaned by Ojai residents who collect Hollywood memorabilia.
In a city known as much for celebrity residents as its reverence for trees, the items give the effect of a garage sale put on by Norma Desmond, the fading movie queen portrayed in “Sunset Boulevard.”
It has been the museum’s most popular exhibit ever, said Robin Sim, museum director.
David Mason, a lifelong Ojai resident and ardent movie fan, donated items from his extensive collection of memorabilia. Mason brought in box after box, Sim said, and while looking over the displays decided there were not enough items on Allyson, a longtime Ojai resident.
Mason, a friend of the 83-year-old star, went to Allyson’s house to collect what he could. When no one answered the door, Mason went in and shouted, “Hello!”
Allyson called down from upstairs that she wasn’t feeling well and told Mason to help himself. He did--generously--gathering movie posters, awards and a red-sequined dress from Allyson’s closet. All are on view in an alcove dedicated to the screen actress.
Mason also loaned an accordion once owned by Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin never lived in Ojai, but Mason thought people might like to see the instrument. There is a foam rubber clock from the 2000 movie “The Perfect Storm,” which Mason bought from the movie’s special effects supplier.
Mason even took the late cinematographer Floyd Crosby’s Golden Globe award for his work on the 1952 classic western “High Noon” to a trophy shop to repair the globe that had snapped off its base. The award is on loan from Crosby’s widow, Betty, and now sits in a case devoted to Crosby’s work, along with a movie still of Crosby lunching next to Grace Kelly.
As word spread about the exhibit, more items were brought in, Sim said. Ojai resident Denny Miller, a UCLA basketball star-turned-actor who played Tarzan for MGM in the late 1950s, loaned his ape man loin cloth. He also contributed a jacket and bejeweled belt he wore in “The Party,” a 1968 movie that starred Peter Sellers.
Ojai’s natural beauty has attracted Hollywood for decades. Actors Norma Shearer, Claudette Colbert and Robert Young used to fly into Henderson Field, a one-time airstrip in the Mira Monte area of the Ojai Valley.
The late Michael Wilson, who wrote “The Bridge Over the River Kwai” and “Lawrence of Arabia,” lived in Ojai. Fred MacMurray, the father in the 1960-72 television series “My Three Sons,” and actress June Haver eloped at the Ojai Valley Inn.
The focal point of the exhibit is a mock set from Frank Capra’s 1937 movie “Lost Horizon.” That film is forever connected to Ojai because of a brief panorama shot of the movie’s fictional Shangri-La filmed overlooking Ojai’s lush east end.
A mannequin dressed as Ronald Coleman, the movie’s star, stands in artificial snow, looking over the wreckage of his airplane. If visitors tire of the display cases, they can sit and watch a video of “Lost Horizon,” playing continuously each day the museum is open.
“Onscreen: Films and Filmmakers of the Ojai Valley” is at the Ojai Valley Museum, 130 Ojai Ave. Hours are 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Suggested donation is $2.