Ayn Rand in Hollywood, Star Wars, and Other Highlights from SoCal Archives

What could Jedi knight Luke Skywalker, novelist Ayn Rand, and Malibu rancher May Rindge possibly have in common? The answer: their stories are all documented in Southern California's archives, which preserve the region's diverse and sometimes surprising history.

Later this month, more than 80 of the region's libraries, museums, cultural institutions, private collectors, and official archives will open up their collections at the 7th-annual Los Angeles Archives Bazaar. This week, we asked exhibitors to share one item that visitors can find at the bazaar, which USC's Doheny Memorial Library hosts on Saturday, October 27.

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Ayn Rand Archives

Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged" are known around the world, but decades before writing these classics, Rand came to Los Angeles to work in the film industry, explains archivist Jenniffer Woodson of the Irvine-based Ayn Rand Archives:

Ayn Rand came to California in 1926, and held various positions in the movie industry. She worked as an extra and a junior screenwriter for DeMille Pictures, and then as a clerk in the wardrobe dept. of RKO. In 1932 she sold an original screenplay, "Red Pawn," to Universal Pictures. Her first professional fiction sale allowed her to quit her RKO job and work full-time on her first novel, "We the Living." In 1934, Ayn Rand moved to New York City, but she would return to California nine years later, having sold the "The Fountainhead" screen rights to Warner Bros. Studios. In addition to writing the screenplay for "The Fountainhead," Ayn Rand also worked under Hal Wallis as a screenwriter for Paramount. Two of her more well-known screen adaptions were "Love Letters" and "You Came Along," both released in 1945.

Woodson submitted this 1931 photo of Rand, taken by her husband Frank O'Connor atop her Gower Street apartment building. The water towers for RKO Radio Pictures and Paramount Pictures are both visible in the background.

Courtesy of the Ayn Rand Archives.

Writers Guild Foundation Archive

After "Star Wars" enchanted audiences and broke box office records in 1977, George Lucas enlisted screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan to help him tell the rest of the story of Luke Skywalker and his struggle against the evil Darth Vader in the 1980 sequel, "The Empire Strikes Back."

Opening scroll of Kasdan's handwritten draft of 'The Empire Strikes Back.' Courtesy of the Writers Guild Foundation Archive.

Much of the Writers Guild Foundation Archive's collections documents the history of film industry through the historical materials of the Writers Guild of America. But items like Kasdan's handwritten draft of "The Empire Strikes Back" constitute another important part of the foundation's archive, as archivist Joanne Lammers explains:

This sample from the Writers Guild Foundation Archive represents the other side of the collections: writers' papers and the art, craft and history of writing. Although the writers' stories often take place in other worlds, many were written in Los Angeles and represent a rich part of Los Angeles culture as part of the history of the film industry.

Pepperdine University Libraries

Malibu's 21 miles of coastline are treasured by surfers and guarded jealously by beachfront property owners. Though the public's right to access the shore is enshrined in state law, attempts to guarantee that access have sometimes resulted in bitter legal disputes. As the 1920 newspaper advertisement below demonstrates, Malibu has long been a battleground for conflicts over exclusivity, private property, and public access.

Archivist Katie Richardson of the Pepperdine University Libraries provides some background on the ad and the libraries' collections:

The Malibu Historical Collection at Pepperdine University comprises a wide variety of materials that document the history of the region. At the heart of the collection, are the Rindge and Adamson family papers. The family's history in Malibu dates back to 1892 when the family purchased the 13,300-acre Spanish land grant, also known as Malibu Ranch. Malibu Ranch was privately owned and operated for nearly forty years before the family fell on tough times and was forced to lease out portions of the land. However, in those early years, the decisions the family made regarding the land had a significant impact on transportation, water and irrigation issues, and livestock production in California. In 1907, the family began a lengthy battle with the state and county to keep a highway from being built through their property. The family eventually lost the battle after the Supreme Court sided with the state of California, and the Roosevelt Highway (now the Pacific Coast Highway) opened in June, 1929.
Newspaper advertisement placed by the Rindge family on April 4, 1920. Part of the Rindge and Adamson Family Papers. Courtesy of the Pepperdine University Libraries.

LACMA Balch Art Research Library

There's more to LACMA than just the art work hanging on walls -- or levitating over curious onlookers. The collections of the museum's Balch Art Research Library are an indispensable resource for understanding artists, their life histories, and the movements in which they worked.

Archivist Jessica Gambling submitted this publicity shot of rocker Mick Jagger, altered by collage artist John Evans with his signature "e" and "More Ursuline Ducks" stamps:

These rubber stamps served to identify works that had originated with or been handled by Evans as they travelled through the mail art network. This piece was kept by Eleanor Antin in an album where she collected feedback about her work 100 Boots (1971-1973) for which she photographed 50 pairs of rubber boots in various situations around Southern California and then in New York City where they were on display at the Museum of Modern Art in May 1973. The photographs (51 in all) were made into post cards and then mailed to hundreds of individuals and institutions. Evans probably made and sent this piece to Antin around 1971 in part because of the pair of black rubber boots that appear with Jagger in the photograph. Many artist's and friends sent Antin images of boots or shoes, or images that depicted the repetition of like objects that also appears in her 100 Boots photographs. The feedback albums were donated to LACMA by the artist on the occasion of the museum's 1999 retrospective of her work.

Courtesy of the LACMA Balch Art Research Library.

Classic American Photos Archive

For decades, the yellow cars of the Los Angeles Railway provided local service around central Los Angeles, complementing the interurban transit service provided by the better-known red cars of the Pacific Electric Railway. As both companies' financial positions gradually weakened until their ultimate demise in the 1960s, they would often replace retired streetcar lines with motorcoach service. Artist Melvin Hale of the Classic American Photos Archive created this digital painting, derived from a postcard that captures one moment in light rail's long decline in Los Angeles. The postcard, Hale writes, "reflects the political and economic impact of the decision to remove light rail which affected our Los Angeles communities."

Courtesy of Melvin Hale of the Classic American Photos Archive.

David Boulé Collection

These orange-themed curios are an annual fixture at private collector David Boulé's exhibition booth at the Archives Bazaar. Boulé has collected thousands of artifacts related to Southern California's citrus industry and its influence on the region's mythology. He explains:

The myth of California and the romance of the orange have influenced each other for hundreds of years. The image of California as paradise and the orange as unique among all fruit endures because, partially, these things are true. Recognized by chroniclers, journalists, scientists, growers and other objective observers, these traits have then been magnified by poets and boosters, artists and hucksters, songwriters and bureaucrats -- with both artistic and commercial motivation -- to appeal to people's continuing desire to believe that such exceptional perfection can really exist. This group of California orange souvenirs from the 1930s and '40s -- banks, perfume containers, salt and pepper shakers, a honey jar -- was a way to share California's golden abundance with those who couldn't visit.

Courtesy of the David Boule Collection.

Santa Monica Public Library

Founded in 1892 by Abbot Kinney -- the creator of Venice of America and an evangelist for eucalypts -- Santa Monica's Ocean Park neighborhood was a bustling seaside resort when photographer M. Reeder captured this scene on Pier Avenue in 1905.

Preserving photos like this fulfills one of the main goals of the Santa Monica Public Library's image archives. "The library," image archives librarian Kathy Lo writes, "endeavors to collect images which give us a sense of the scenery and what life was like when the City of Santa Monica was nascent."

Courtesy of the Santa Monica Public Library Image Archives.

Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum

Built in 1826 on Rancho San Pedro as a home for Manuel Dominguez, the Dominguez Rancho Adobe survives today as a museum dedicated to telling the history of Southern California's rancho era. This 2nd edition of the Commentarium Literale in Omnes -- a commentary on the Christian Bible's Old and New Testaments first published in 1734 in Augsburg, Germany -- is part of the museum's collections and will be on display at the Archives Bazaar.

Courtesy of the Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum.

Beverly Hills Public Library

Before urban development filled the Los Angeles Basin and the adjacent inland valleys, Southern California was once a much wilder place. Archivist Gail Stein of the Beverly Hills Public Library submitted this ca. 1890s photo. In it, Edson A. Benedict clutches a rifle. Behind him is the landscape of a Coldwater Cañon that looks much different from the exclusive residential community of today.

"Benedict was one of the first settlers in the future city of Beverly Hills. Benedict Cañon is named after him." Stein explains. "This image provides a view of the terrain after the Ranchero era and before the beginning of the development of the city."

Courtesy of the Beverly Hills Public Library.

Many of the archives who contributed the above images are members of L.A. as Subject, an association of more than 230 libraries, museums, official archives, cultural institutions, and private collectors. Hosted by the USC Libraries, L.A. as Subject is dedicated to preserving and telling the sometimes-hidden stories and histories of the Los Angeles region. Our posts here provide a view into the archives of individuals and institutions whose collections inform the great narrative—in all its complex facets—of Southern California.

Read more L.A. as Subject posts here at KCET.org, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About the Author

A writer specializing in Los Angeles history, Nathan Masters serves as manager of academic events and programming communications for the USC Libraries, the host institution for L.A. as Subject.
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This retrospective was very interesting to me. Thanks!