A focused overview of the people and events that shaped Beverly Hills.
Against a backdrop of the Roaring ’20s and the Prohibition Era, a scarcely addressed territorial skirmish simmered over the land now known as Beverly Hills. Journalist and media editor Clare writes passionately and knowledgeably about how a consortium of film celebrities known as the “Beverly Hills Eight”—spearheaded by silent film stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks and including Will Rogers, Rudolph Valentino, and Tom Mix, among others—staked their careers on keeping the territory independent from annexation. In her enlightening, tight history lesson, the author retraces the area’s expansive legacy to its early roots as a lima bean plantation in the late 19th century, when two converging underground streams made the area farm-friendly, and then as an unproductive oil field at the beginning of the 1900s. Clare takes obvious pride in her research, particularly with the minute details of the region’s legacy. She casually dispels rumors about the real reasons the early motion picture industry migrated westward and the true origin of the Beverly Hills name (she offers no answer; it remains a mystery). Once Margaret Anderson constructed her iconic Beverly Hills Hotel and the young city began to face its challenges (water, the encroaching “decency brigade,” etc.), Pickford and Fairbanks established residency there, and the population boom began, which also made it ripe for hungry realtors eager to develop the land. Clare chronicles the diligent political spadework by Pickford, Fairbanks, and their group of eight, who all used their celebrity influence to advocate for the individuality of Beverly Hills and to “keep their Elysium intact and separate.” Thanks to the author’s solid research and intricate detail, this dedicated band of anti-annexationists receive a fitting commemoration.
A fascinating, little-known history on the evolution of an iconic city whose destiny was forever altered by a group of concerned celebrities.