The Father of Hollywood:
The True Story
by Gaelyn Whitley Keith
A very unique book. I have never given a lot of thought to how Hollywood got its name or how it began. I assumed,
like everyone else, it all started with movie moguls, big lots, and glamorous movie stars; but it really began
long before that. HJ Whitley, about whom the book is written, was a workaholic who had one thing on his mind:
to create something from nothing. And that he did, from the east coast to the west. Whitley Heights, as it was
known then, is the Hollywood Hills of today.
HJ Whitely was one of those entrepreneur spirited men with a Midas touch. Even before Hollywood, his track
record began in places like Oklahoma. Over the years, HJ suffered from bouts of exhaustion but that never
stopped him from making his dreams into realties. And, at his side, was his faithful and devoted wife, Gigi. She
and HJ met on a train during one of his many cross-country business trips and it was love at first sight. Because
of past losses it took him several years to admit his fondness for her and finally ask her to be his wife. As
soon as they were married, he took her on a honeymoon, by streetcar, to a business meeting. Thus began the history
of a driven and complicated relationship.
During the Victorian period in which they lived, it was important that a wife be a dependent servant to her
husband. Gigi had a mind of her own, with dreams and aspirations to go along with it. She struggled throughout
their marriage with trying to be the devoted wife and also follow her own spirit. At first, she was distraught
over her husband’s inattentiveness, but over the years, Gigi learned a way to accomplish her silent desires and
become a successful social self-starter on her own. Between the two of them, they created, from Hollywood to Van
Nuys, a vast empire that became the most sought after place to live in the United States. Whitley’s skills at
"putting together the deal" attracted the rich and famous and made Hollywood the notable area in the world that
it is today. In his career he put over 141 towns on the map.
This is a most interesting story, which delves into the mind of a master developer at work. As I read the
story, I was swept up in the pleasure of the Victorian period in which HJ And Gigi lived. Although their great
granddaughter wrote the book, HJ’s wife, Gigi, tells the story in first person. Keith has remarkably put
together her great grandmother's own writings to formulate the entire story. This gives the reader the illusion
of listening as Gigi weaves the story of their illustrious life together while sitting in her parlor over tea.
I would not be surprised to see this in theatres in the near future. It is quite a story.
November 6, 2006|
Non-fiction / Biography / History|
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