Ann Dvorak’s Los Angeles Pt 2 – Philharmonic Auditorium, 427 W. 5th Street
Year of Ann Dvorak: Day 237
Today’s stop on the Ann Dvorak tour of Los Angeles still finds us Downtown, about a block and a half east of yesterday’s Orpheum Theater. Once upon a time, you could stand at the northeast corner of 5th and Olive and feast your eyes on the stunning Philharmonic Auditorium which stood for almost 70 years (a full history of the building can be found over at Big Orange Landmarks).
From 1915-1920, the Auditorium was leased by producer William H. Clune who operated the space in party as a movie theater which was called both Clune’s Auditorium and Clune’s Theater Beautiful. In 1915, Clune ponied up the cash for Donald Crisp to film an epic version of Ramona, based on a popular work of fiction by Helen Hunt Jackson.
The prologue of the film featured the title character as a tot, and a four-year-old billed as “Baby Anna Lehr” was hired for the job. Of course this youngster grew up to be our divine Ann Dvorak, but Ramona is technically her film debut. The film had its world premiere at the Philharmonic Auditorium on February 7, 1916, meaning this was the first theater to ever screen an Ann Dvorak film.
The local papers were mightily impressed with Baby Anna Lehr. The Los Angeles Express ran the above headline (please note that in 1916 it was ok to use swastikas as a decorative border) and the Evening Herald noted, “Of all the Ramonas, the most charming and heart luring is the child of four, played with rare childish artistry by little Miss Anna Lehr. Probably the most disappointing feature of the entire production is the fact that this sweet youth remains on the canvas only a few brief moments.”
Sadly, there are no complete copies of Ramona known to exist. And while the Library of Congress does have one reel, it’s not the one with Ann. And as for the Philharmonic Auditorium?
You guessed it – a parking lot since 1985.