During WWII, Hollywood entombs a studio mogul while burying a greater tragedy. 3,191 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.
The line of limousines, all with their lights on, stretched out forever. Here and there I could make out a sedan, a convertible, a coupe — even a bright yellow taxi or two. We turned right on Van Ness Avenue and continued south across Sunset, then Fernwood, then Fountain. One car ahead, just behind the gleaming new 1941 Packard hearse that carried studio owner Victor Granite’s remains, his widow Giselle rode in the Cadillac De Ville. His brother Manfred followed in a rented Lincoln. I, Peter Lorre, was in that vehicle, too: Moto in the motorcade but thankfully without anyone to buck my teeth and slick my hair and stain my skin the color of weakly brewed tea. I sat low in the seat, so as to avoid the gaze of the mounted policemen, who, as we rolled slowly by, touched their white gloves to their caps. Still, I couldn’t help seeing the crowds that lined the sidewalks. Anyone would have thought a Harlow had died, or a star like Valentino. But Victor?
He’d been responsible for a million feet of film; it had spun from his brain like thread from a spider. Yet that sad, sallow face had never appeared on so much as a single frame. Was that the reason he never took off that horrible hat? So as not to appear in even a still photograph? He used that broad brim the way a gangster, confronted by the press, used his overcoat or his hands.
The press had been waiting, just minutes before, when our cortege, then on Hollywood Boulevard, stopped in front of Grauman’s Chinese. Sid Grauman himself had opened the door of the De Ville. We stepped out, all in black. Off went the flashlamps, like milk splashed from a bucket. Newsreel cameramen shot their film. The crowd surged forward, against the line of police. One car back, I watched as the studio publicist Les Kahn came up to the widow. He held a cushion from the Granite prop department, plump and red, with yellow braid.
"I’ll be right back," Manfred told us, before he climbed out of our Lincoln. He hurried over to where Kahn was standing. "What the hell is going on?" Manfred yelled at the publicist.