For some Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood is nothing more then a tourist attraction. For me, however, it is a sacred and holy temple. If Hollywood is the Bethlehem of pop culture, then Grauman’s Chinese Theater is the manger the entertainment industry was born in. The most famous movie theater in the world, Grauman’s Chinese Theater has been the home to Hollywood’s famous courtyard in which history’s most iconic celebrities have immortalized their hand prints and footsteps in cement ever since an April afternoon when Hollywood’s first super couple, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, put their feet down at the invitation of Sid Grauman while the theater was still being built. When the theater opened May 18th, 1927 actress Norma Talmadge added her footprints and signature, and by the end of Grauman’s first year in business silent film icons such as Norma Shearer, Harold Lloyd, Tom Mix, Charlie Chaplin, Gloria Swanson and William S. Hart were all added to the courtyard. For decades film fans have flocked to Grauman’s Chinese to walk in the sacred ground that their film icons have walked. Like fossils in the cement, proving that long gone Hollywood legends were once there, it is a powerful experience to trace Humphrey Bogart’s signature with your finger, put your hands into Marilyn Monroe’s or step into Jimmy Stewart’s very big shoes. For anyone who loves movies, someone near and dear to every film fan’s heart is amongst the two hundred celebrities that have been honored at Grauman’s. The invitation to be added to the Grauman’s Chinese Theater courtyard is one of the most esteemed honors given to only the most elite members of the Hollywood community.
However, just how esteemed is the Grauman’s invitation becoming? Has Grauman’s sense of tradition been compromised? In months a number of questionable additions have been made to the courtyard. This was possibly no truer this week when the stars of the Twilight films, Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner, added their hand and footprints to the fabled courtyard earlier this week. Now this is not another anti-Twilight rant. Despite my own criticism for the vampire franchise, even I can’t deny its impact on pop culture, and I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that I have gone to all the films, and will also be at Breaking Dawn Part 1 when it is released later this month. At the very least you could call me a closet fan (sshhhhh….don’t tell anybody). In fact, I have no qualms with the actors themselves. I feel that all three are talented, good lookin, charismatic and have the potential to become Hollywood icons (well…except for Kristin Stewart anyways. She bugs me). But what I do think is that despite their current popularity, it was premature to add the trio to the Grauman’s courtyard. What all three lack is the type of legacy which I feel is required to be enshrined amongst Hollywood’s fabled icons.
There is this very funny joke from The Simpsons that might illustrate the point I’m trying to make. In the episode when Lisa’s beloved musician Bleeding Gums Murphy dies, Homer says to her “Why don’t you get a tattoo? It’s a great way to honor your dead friend” only to roll up his sleeve revealing a Starland Vocal Band tattoo. Looking in horror at his own tattoo he exclaims “Starland Vocal Band? They suck!” In the 1970’s Starland Vocal Band had a massive hit with their one hit wonder Afternoon Delight, earning them two Grammy Awards, including the Grammy for Best New Artists, as well as hosted their own television variety show. However, the popular vocal group weren’t able to maintain their success and, by the end of the decade, where little more then a memory. To tattoo Starland Vocal Band on yourself during the height of their popularity would have been a very regrettable tattoo indeed. Now imagine what would have happened if Starland Vocal Band had been inducted into the rock n’ roll hall of fame at the height of their success? Would it have been earned? With one song to their credit, it would not have. For many, fame is fleeting and only the few are have the lasting power to become legends.
But the way that bands and athletes are inducted into sports and music hall of fames is a little different. A period of time must pass so that the individuals inducted into the hall of fame can prove and maintain their legacy. At Grauman’s time is sometimes of the essence. While athletes and musical acts can be inducted into hall of fames posthumously, Grauman’s actually needs their inductees alive so that they can imprint their hands and feet in the cement. For instance, under the banner “Giant” on the courtyard, Elisabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson were both honored, but their co-star, James Dean, perished in a deadly car crash only months before the film’s premier and Grauman’s ceremony, preventing his induction onto the famous courtyard. While a Hollywood legend today, James Dean was gone before he could be honored.
Now I’m not saying the same fate as Starland Vocal Band or James Dean would be the case for the Twilight kids, but barely in their twenties (Lautner is only nineteen), Pattinson, Stewart and Lautner are just at the beginning of their careers. They haven’t been in the public eye long enough to have secured their legacy outside of the Twilight franchise. Pattinson and Stewart have made a few other films with limited success, and Lautner, despite displaying the chops to become a successful leading man, has yet to share in that success. Their only claim to fame is the Twilight films, and although it is popular today, it could become a passing fad by tomorrow.
But these are not the only questionable additions to the Grauman’s courtyard in recent years. A similar ceremony was held in 2007 when Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, the stars of the Harry Potter films, were enshrined at Grauman’s. Once again, despite the fact that I consider them to all have the potential for future stardom, they still have yet to prove themselves in the film industry beyond the Harry Potter franchise. But even more questionable was two days before the Twilight ceremony when Alvin and the Chipmunks were added to Grauman’s courtyard. Obviously entertainment icons, the Chipmunks have been a staple of the recording industry and television animation for decades, but have only been featured in one full length animated cartoon in the 1980’s and two CGI’d films in the current decade. Grauman’s Chinese has always been reserved for film icons and not music icons, which is why Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Sammy Davis Jr, despite making films, were never included in the courtyard (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Cher, on the other hand, have all been included due to their respected film performances beyond their music career). But possibly the most bizarre induction this year was when basketball star Kobe Bryant was added in February. For the record, Bryant has made a total of zero films in his career. There are sports hall of fames for people like Kobe Bryant. To honor him at Grauman’s Chinese Theater is a true decimation of the courtyard, an goes against the sacred time honored tradition of honoring Hollywood’s film elite.
So if I disapprove of the Twilight cast being added to the courtyard, who do I think should have been added instead? Well, the following is a list of Hollywood professionals that have yet to be added to the courtyard. Some of the names on this list will astound you: Julia Roberts, Jeff Bridges, Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Natalie Portman, Sandra Bullock, Barbara Streisand, Kate Winslet, Reese Witherspoon, Hilary Swank, Charlene Theron, Nicole Kidman, Halle Berry, Ben Affleck, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ray Harryhausen, Emma Thomson, Kathy Bates, Sally Field, Quinton Tarantino, Peter Jackson, Roger Corman and Lauren Bacall. Do you know what these individuals have that Pattinson, Stewart and Lautner don’t have? They all have Academy Awards. Other film icons that have not won Academy Awards but have solid legacies in Hollywood but have yet to make Grauman’s courtyard include Leonardo Di Caprio, Christopher Lee, Tim Burton, Steve Buscemi, Spike Lee, Harvey Keitel, Alan Rickman, Charlie Sheen and Jackie Chan. Some of their talents may be questionable, but their legacy should be enshrined in Hollywood history forever.
And let’s also take a look at Hollywood icons that were never honored at Grauman’s. How about Audrey Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, Roddy McDowell, Lee Marvin, Lon Chaney, Janet Leigh, Lillian Gish, Tony Curtis, Boris Karloff, Walt Disney, Sal Mineo, The Three Stooges, John Ford, Bruce Lee and Frank Capra. Time passed these celebrities by before they had a chance to be enshrined at Grauman’s, and for the most part there was lots of time to have their legacy sealed in cement. WTF Grauman’s?
The courtyard at Grauman’s isn’t as big as you might think, and each year it becomes smaller as more and more celebrities are honored. Spaces are becoming rare, and to remove or replace any of the tiles to make room for new ones would be a decimation to holy pop culture ground. While I understand the popularity of the Twilight kids today, I honestly think that the committee that selects who is inducted into the courtyard could have picked far more important or relevant individuals to honor. Time still hasn’t proven if Pattinson, Stewart and Lautner, as well as the Twilight franchise, has the lasting power. Time will only tell if they belong on that courtyard or not. All I am saying is that the Grauman’s Chinese Theater legacy for greatness is sacred. Instead of selling out, perhaps the powers that be should be making better choices.