News Column

The Pageant's Brushes With Hollywood

August 2, 2013


LAGUNA BEACH, CA -- (Marketwired) -- 08/02/13 -- The 2013 Pageant of the Masters, a celebration of art in tableaux vivants -- is honoring eighty years of "living pictures" at the Festival of Arts, with "The Big Picture." It's a theme with a dual purpose: 1) contemplating the relationships between masterpieces of art and the movies they've inspired, and 2) taking a light-hearted look at the Pageant's own history. According to Pageant director Diane Challis Davy, while the resulting production will have an abundance of classical artworks, it will also feature opportunities for theatrical fun and special effects.

While researching "The Big Picture," longtime Pageant scriptwriter Dan Duling also uncovered some great stories about the Pageant's Hollywood connections during its first eight decades. Here's a sampling:

By the 1920s, silent film stars like Rudolf Valentino were spiriting away to their Laguna Beach homes away from Hollywood. And in 1926, when Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., cut the ribbon creating access to Laguna Beach via the Pacific Coast Highway, the number of studio stars making their way south increased dramatically. Silent clown superstars Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd (both featured in "The Big Picture") picked up Laguna addresses. Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney and even Rock Hudson spent time there.

BETTE DAVIS, VOLUNTEER AND ALMOST CAST MEMBER In 1957, Pageant director Howard "Hap" Graham decided to inject a little extra excitement by inviting his friend and neighbor, film star Bette Davis, to appear in an opening night tableau of Sir Joshua Reynolds' "The Tragic Muse" (featured again in this summer's Pageant). Director Graham decided to test Ms. Davis' spirit of volunteerism one afternoon by handing her a cup of white paint and a brush to repaint the numbers on the Irvine Bowl seats. Like the trouper that she was, Ms. Davis set to work. And with word getting out that she was to appear in the Pageant on opening night that summer, the press had a field day. Unfortunately, a last-minute injury forced Bette to cancel her appearance.

A TERRIFYING VISIT TO A WAX MUSEUM During the off-season prior to the 1973 Festival, Hollywood came calling, seeking the services of the Pageant's tableaux experts. This time, the desired effect was... terror! As reported in the Laguna Beach News-Post, twelve Pageant performers were cast in the Bing Crosby Productions feature starring Elsa Lanchester, Ray Milland and John Carradine, "Terror in the Wax Museum," which opened in Los Angeles on May 16. "Producer Andrew J. Fenady hired the still-life players because he required performers who could portray mannequins in the wax museum of such historical murderers as Jack the Ripper and Lizzie Borden." Among the performers was future Pageant director Don Williamson.

VINCENT PRICE HAS A SECRET Also in 1973, one of Hollywood's masters of the macabre, Vincent Price, found his own way to express his enthusiasm for the Pageant. What is perhaps less well known about Vincent Price is that he was both an avid art collector and outspoken advocate for the arts. As reported in the Costa Mesa Daily Pilot in January 1973, "Actor Vincent Price has a secret. Price will reveal it before a national television audience in early March when a taping of the popular production 'I've Got a Secret' is aired. The secret is that Price recently was cast in the Laguna Beach Pageant of the Masters living reproduction of 'The Cardinal's Portrait' by Toby Rosenthal." ("The Cardinal's Portrait" is also reprised in "The Big Picture.")

VIGGO AND THE DEVIL In 1989, Eytchison and key members of his staff were enlisted to help create the "living portrait" of the malevolent Viggo the Carpathian in Ivan Reitman's comic sequel, "Ghostbusters II." This project eventually led to additional Hollywood opportunities including creating a "living sculpture" for Taylor Hackford's 1997 supernatural thriller, "Devil's Advocate."

THE PAGEANT AS SEEN THROUGH TV'S CROOKED MIRROR In keeping with the Pageant's premise that parody is also a form of flattery, two very popular television shows decided to tip their hat to its "living pictures." On November 4, 2003, in an episode of "The Gilmore Girls" on The WB entitled "The Festival of Living Art," Rory and Lorelai Gilmore took part in a pageant inspired by Laguna's own. Then, on December 14, the cult Fox sitcom "Arrested Development" aired an episode entitled "In God We Trust," which also featured a Pageant parody, the "Living Classics" pageant. One can only wonder what people outside of Southern California made of these elaborate -- and in the case of "The Gilmore Girls," Emmy-winning -- spoofs.

The Pageant of the Masters will be performed nightly from Sunday, July 7 - Saturday, August 31, 2013. Tickets for "The Big Picture" can be purchased by calling 1-800-487-3378, or online at Tickets start at $15. An Acura/KOST Celebrity Benefit Concert and Pageant is scheduled for August 24, tickets start at $40. A Pageant ticket entitles you to free unlimited admission to the Festival of Arts grounds where you can enjoy original artwork by 140 of Southern Orange County's finest artists, art classes, musical entertainment, special art events, dining at Gina's Alfresco and so much more.

The Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters are sponsored in part by Acura, Fidelity Investments, KOST Radio 103.5, the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, and The Orange County Register. The Festival of Arts is a non-profit organization that produces The Festival of Arts -- California's Premier Fine Art Show and the Pageant of the Masters. For general information, call (949) 494-1145 or visit the website at The event is located at 650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, California. Proceeds support the arts and art education in and around Laguna Beach.

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Contact: Sharbie Higuchi Director of Marketing and Public Relations (949) 464-4282

Source: Festival of Arts

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