INTRODUCTION
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Sid Grauman’s Chinese Theater opened on May 18, 1927, two years
after the actress Anna May Wong drove its inaugural rivet at the begin-
ning of construction.∞ Designed by the architect Raymond Kennedy
for the firm of Meyer and Holler, the colossal theater boasted seating
for over twenty-four hundred. The forecourt, destined to become a
pantheon of Hollywood celebrity, featured a jungle of tropical trees
shading its temple of concrete hand and foot prints. The center lobby
was adorned with Chinese draperies, and red lacquer pillars stood in
its four corners. A mural by Keye Luke featured regal Chinese figures
posed amid an intricate network of bridges, pagodas, and foliage.≤ The
interior of the theater, which was always delicately perfumed, was
yet more opulent. Guests stepped onto a plush jade-green carpet and
sat in red leatherette chairs decorated with black scrolls. There were
pagoda-shaped balconies with imperial yellow tile roofs, and from the
ceiling hung a chandelier lined in silk and encircled with crystal pen-
dants, which were illuminated with multicolored lights. The fire cur-
tain was a bright peacock blue, decorated with sumptuous gold and
silver designs of birds and trees. The usherettes were costumed in
copies of Chinese theatrical gowns, embroidered in gold and covered
with dozens of miniature mirrors. The lobby of Grauman’s theater
contained several automata—wax mannequins of Chinese people that
moved mechanically to give the appearance of smoking opium or
fanning. A souvenir pamphlet describing the theater states that ‘‘these
were indeed so realistic that people tried to talk to them.’’≥
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