The Hollywood Museum has the largest collection of Hollywood memorabilia in the world. Its four floors showcase thousands of pieces of Hollywood history. Visitors can step into the building’s past life as the workplace of Max Factor, walk through the “Dungeon of Doom,” or learn about the past and present of movies. Some of the museum’s items include Elvis Presley’s bathrobe, costumes from I Love Lucy, and Cary Grant’s car.
The Hollywood Museum building was originally owned by make-up artist Max Factor. Factor was born in Poland and worked as a beautician for the family of Czar Nicholas II in Russia. Factor and his family immigrated to the United States in 1908, and through hard work and clever marketing, he would become a titan in the makeup industry. He worked as a makeup artist for movie stars and created solutions to some of the problems he came across. He came up with a longer-lasting foundation that could stand up to studio lighting, and he invented lip gloss to make actresses’ lips pop more onscreen. He bought the building, designed by S. Charles Lee, in 1928. There, Marilyn Monroe would become a blonde and Lucille Ball a redhead. After his death, the Max Factor Cosmetics Company passed through the hands of Revlon, Playtex, and Proctor & Gamble, among others.
In 1994, Proctor & Gamble sold the Max Factor building to the Hollywood Museum. The museum would not finish with renovations and open until 2003. The first floor of the building offers a glimpse into its past with carefully recreated “makeup rooms.” Each room includes photos of actresses Factor worked with as well as some vintage beauty tools. The upper levels of the museum contain props, costumes, posters, antique film equipment, and other pieces of Hollywood history. The basement, which temporarily had been home to a bowling alley and then a speakeasy, is now the “Dungeon of Doom.” Visitors can see the jail cell from Silence of the Lambs and nods to Vampira, Frankenstein, and others.
One of the Hollywood Museum’s claims to fame is its exhibit on Marilyn Monroe. Memorabilia includes items from her wardrobe, pieces of her jewelry, and her 1961 Fleetwood Cadillac. The museum works with historians and other experts to investigate the validity of each of its artifacts. Currently, the museum has exhibits on the Batman television series and on the screen’s first blonde bombshell Jean Harlow. The Hollywood Museum does what so few others attempt: it displays the history of Hollywood from its early days to today, from movies to television, and from the well-known to the obscure. The Hollywood Museum works to collect items that tell the complete story of Hollywood.