Four Ladies of Hollywood

The Four ladies of Hollywood: Gateway to Hollywood Boulevard. Los Angeles Explorers Guild

Four Ladies of Hollywood

Four famous ladies of Hollywood history beckon you to walk Hollywood Boulevard and take in the stars along the Walk of Fame.

The Four Ladies of Hollywood is a 30-foot-tall sculpture that stands on a traffic island at the juncture of Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea Avenue. It’s comprised of an Art Deco-styled gazebo held aloft atop the heads of four iconic Hollywood women and topped with a tall spire. It’s officially officially known as the Hollywood and La Brea Gateway, but no one really calls it that.

The sculpture was commissioned by the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency Art Program in 1993 as part of an attempt to dress up an otherwise drab stretch of Los Angeles road. The project was awarded to director/production designer Catherine Hardwicke, and her design is intended to be a tribute to four trailblazing women of color who broke boundaries during the Golden Age of Hollywood: Mae West, Dorothy Dandridge, Anna Mae Wong, and Dolores Del Rio.


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The sculpture was commissioned by the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency Art Program in 1993 as part of an attempt to dress up an otherwise drab stretch of Los Angeles road. The project was awarded to director/production designer Catherine Hardwicke, and her design is intended to be a tribute to four trailblazing women of color who broke boundaries during the Golden Age of Hollywood: Mae West, Dorothy Dandridge, Anna Mae Wong, and Dolores Del Rio.

The Four Ladies of the Hollywood and La Brea Gateway. Notice Marilyn Monroe at the spire. Photo from the author’s collection.

The Four Ladies

Mae West is famous for her role in My Little Chickadee and more famous for her double-entendre one-liners such as “When I’m good, I’m very good. When I’m bad, I’m better,” and “When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I’ve never tried before.” But she was also known as a talented writer — she wrote nine of the 13 films she starred in. Her star on the Walk of Fame can be found at 1560 Vine Street.

Dorothy Dandridge was the first black woman honored with an Academy Award nomination for her performance in Carmen Jones (1954). She was also nominated for BAFTA for this film and a Golden Globe award for her role in Porgy and Bess. She was also a popular singer and performed regularly at the Apollo Theater and Cotton Club in New York City. Her star is at 6719 Hollywood Boulevard.

Anna May Wong worked in both silent films, starring in The Thief of Baghdad (1924), and in talking films with a notable role in Shanghai Express (1932). She was well-known for her fashion sense and was instrumental in the popularity of the flapper look. She was the first Asian-American to become an international star. Visit her Walk of Fame star at 1700 Vine Street.

Dolores Del Rio starred in Hollywood films for more than 50 years, including the highly censored Madame du Barry (1934) and John Ford’s The Fugitive (1947). She was also successful in Mexican cinema with more than 30 movies to her credit. She was the first Latin American star to reach international fame. She also served as the inspiration for Texie Garcia, one of cartoon strip detective Dick Tracy’s recurring villains. Her star is at 1630 Vine Street.

The Sculpture

The ladies, sculpted in shiny stainless steel by Karl West and Jack Brogan, are depicted in long, flowing gowns. Together the statues are reminiscent of iconic Greek caryatids, and their sleek profiles bear more than a little resemblance to the classic Oscar figurine given out each year at the Academy Awards.

Despite the nickname Four Ladies of Hollywood, there are actually five women in the sculpture. At least there used to be. For 25 years a small, bronze-colored figure of Marilyn Monroe stood vigil atop the gazebo’s spire, cast in her famous “billowing dress” pose from The Seven Year Itch.

But on June 16, 2019, a man climbed up the gazebo, sawed poor Marilyn off at the ankles, and absconded with the diminutive Norma Jean. The perpetrator (the same man who was on probation for taking a pick axe to Donald Trump’s star on the Walk of Fame) was arrested five days later and sentenced to a year in prison.

Mae West in a caryatid-like pose at the Hollywood and La Brea Gateway. Photo from the author’s collection.

The Controversy

Since its dedication on February 1, 1994, the sculpture has been the target of ire and controversy. It all started when L.A. Times art critic Christopher Knight called it the “the most depressingly awful work of public art in recent memory …” and critics over the years have just piled on.

Designer Hardwicke countered by accusing Knight of not having a sense of humor, being of narrow perception, and not at all understanding the byzantine approval process that one must go through anytime the City of Los Angeles gets involved in a public art project. She also hit back at his criticism of the four women chosen, accusing him of disregarding the lasting contribution each made to Hollywood.

Considering the backgrounds of these four ladies and what they had to fight for (each ran up against censorship or the notorious segregation clauses of the Hays Code on a number of occasions), their inclusion in this artwork feels very appropriate.

All that said, the sculpture is definitely audacious. The whole thing is made up of glass, neon, and gilded metal. The word Hollywood can be found on it no fewer than eight times (one on each side of the spire and one on each side of the gazebo), reminding everyone they’re invited to enter the hallowed ground where movie stars roam.

So yes, the Four Ladies of Hollywood is over the top. But I suspect that was Hardwicke’s intent — subtly mocking the self-aggrandizing glitz and glamor of a place called Tinseltown. What better way to welcome visitors to Hollywood than that?

For more details about the Hollywood and La Brea Gateway, visit its entry at the Smithsonian Inventory of American Sculpture.


The Four Ladies of Hollywood


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Tom Fassbender is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. When not exploring Los Angeles, he’s been known to enjoy a cup of coffee or two. You can find him at Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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