The Hollywood Walk of Fame

It all started as a publicity stunt.

By the 1950s, Hollywood was losing audiences to that young upstart, television. It needed something to bolster its ego, something that would recall the excitement, glory, and glamour of its past, when motion pictures were in their heydey.

Businessman Harry Sugarman proposed the idea of a Walk of Fame. Himself from a family of cinema exhibitors -- the Sugarmans owned the oldest theatre in California -- and in no small part inspired by the handprints embedded in the front of Sid Grauman's theatre, the Chamber of Commerce adopted his idea and in 1955 created a three-fold plan to accomplish their goals. One, the Boulevard itself would be brightened with new, powerful streetlights; two, large ficus trees would be planted to enhance a visitor's stroll; and three, stars commemorating those who put Hollywood on the map. The original cost for the project was budgeted at $1.25 million, to be paid by assessments to adjacent property owners, and in 1956 the project was approved by City Council.

While originally intended to honor achievements in motion pictures, inclusion in the Walk of Fame was expanded to honor those in television, recording, and radio, as well. In 1984 a new category, Live Theatre, was added to salute stage, concert, rodeo, and other arenas of live performances.

At the outset 2,518 stars of coral terrazzo marble with brass were inlaid into three-foot square black terrazo blocks, and in 1958 eight of them were dedicated to the achievements and talents of Joanne Woodward, Burt Lancaster, Ronald Coleman, Olive Borden, Edward Sedgwick, Ernst Torrence, Preston Foster, and Louise Fazenda. Within 16 months 1,539 had been installed.

In order to receive a star on the Walk of Fame, a celebrity cannot nominate himself. Applications for "induction" can, however, come from family, friends, studios, managers, and agents. The standards for which an entertainer can be considered include box office or vocal appeal/attraction, artistic skills, award achievements, versatility, range and endurance, and humanitarian efforts. Once a submitted nominee has been approved, then the sponsor of the application arranges for payment of the blank star to be removed and a new one with the star's name and category put in its place. Each year, of the many nominees submitted, only 12 to 25 are chosen to be so honored.

Naturally, many of the stars on the Walk honor the pioneers and biggest directors, comedians, and stars of the silent era. So put on your walking shoes and take a "silents only" tour of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Start Walking...

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