The Postwar Years

The History of the Sign: The Post-war Years

The film industry’s high profile made it vulnerable in the postwar climate of anti-liberal hysteria. By the early 50′s, 400 actors, writers, directors and producers were blacklisted, and paranoia prevailed. By 1948, box office receipts plummeted 45% from wartime highs. The culprit: Television. From ’41 to ’51 the number of TV sets in American homes skyrocketed from 10,000 to more than 12 million. Studios slashed payrolls, back lots sprouted weeds, and sound stages went dark. Filmmakers and distributors responded with a series of gimmicks: wider screens, 3-D, Technicolor, stereo sound, even free dishes.

With characteristic resilience, Hollywood soon managed a successful transition to the small screen. TV companies flocked westward and snatched up old studios and lots, and by 1950 more sound stages were producing television than movies.

Around this same time, the Hollywood Sign was undergoing a major transition of its own.

In 1949, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce finally came to the rescue of the ailing Sign, removing the letters that spelled “LAND” and repairing the rest, including the recently toppled “H.”

As the century hit the halfway mark, a leaner, cleaner Sign was reintroduced in its now-iconic form.

 

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