The Saga of 7000 Santa Monica Blvd.

For years, this site has featured a couple of photographs of the Charles Mintz Studio staff which apparently date from 1930 or 1931 and were provided to us by Dick Huemer’s son, Dr. Richard Huemer. They were taken when the studio was located at 1154 N. Western Ave. in Los Angeles.

A bit later, the company moved a couple of miles away to larger quarters at 7000 Santa Monica Blvd. Here, courtesy of Tim Cohea, is a staff photo taken outside its new home (click on it for a larger version).

Mintz Staff 1932

As you can see, someone scrawled “1932” on the bottom left-hand corner of the photo at some point. In 2009, Mike Barrier published a snapshot taken outside the studio and figured–based on Film Daily Yearbook entries–that Mintz moved into this facility in 1933. Let’s just say that this photo was taken circa 1932-1933.

In 2006, Mark Mayerson published some nifty photographs of Irv Spector and friends hanging around outside 7000 Santa Monica Blvd. Mark’s post also included a copy of the above photo (provided by Jerry Beck) with identifications by Mintz staffers Ed Friedman and Ben Shenkman. Here they are:

  • Back row: unknown, Herb Rothwell, I. Ellis, Frank Fisher, unknown, unknown, I. Klein, unknown, Manny Gould, fourteen unknown women (presumably of the ink and paint department), Clark Watson, unknown, unknown, Don Patterson, Sid Glenar, Rudy Zamora, Jules Engel, unknown, Phil Davis, Ray Patterson, Joe Vough
  • Middle row: four unknown women, Bud Crabb, unknown, unknown, Al Rose, Al Gould, unknown, Ed Solomon, unknown, Felix Alegre, unknown, unknown, Preston Blair
  • Front row: Ben Shenkman, unknown, Sid Davis, Ed Moore, John Roth, Emery Hawkins, Lou Lilly, Bill Higgens, Charles Mintz himself, unknown, unknown, Ed Rehberg, Irv Spector, Judge Whitaker

It’s tough to line up every identification with the correct person in the photo, but the names are a good reminder that a bunch of people who were prominent in the animation industry for decades to come worked at Mintz. The photo also includes nearly three times as many people as the more populous of the two earlier group shots, suggesting that the studio had done a lot of growing.

Here’s a 1936 photo of the studio’s exterior that Jud Hurd–best known as the editor of Cartoonist Profiles, but also, briefly, a Mintz employee–published in his book Cartoon Success Secrets.

Jud Hurd

7000 Santa Monica Blvd. wasn’t built for the Mintz operation, but it was a rather new building when the company moved in. An article by James V. Roy at ScottyMoore.net, the official site of Elvis Presley’s guitarist, says that it was erected by the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1929. That was also the year that Victor was acquired by RCA.

In November 1930, The Film Daily Reported that RCA Photophone, the RCA division involved in synchronized movie sound, was headquartered at 7000 Santa Monica.

RCA Photophone

By February 1932, according to The Film Daily–and for reasons unknown to me–RCA had left the building. Something called Wafilms, headed by Walter Futter, moved in.

Wafilms

As of November 1932, Sol Lesser, who would shortly acquire the movie rights to Tarzan, was running his Principal Pictures studio out of the facility. Here’s a Film Daily ad.

Principal Pictures

Whether Mintz occupied the building at the same time as Wafilms and/or Principal, I don’t know. But the “The Charles Mintz Studio” emblazoned over the entrance suggests it became the primary tenant. According to Mike Barrier’s post, it would remain at 7000 Santa Monica until 1940, when Columbia moved the operation–then known as Screen Gems–to a building less than a mile away at 861 Seward Street.

In October 1941, Broadcasting reported that something called Miller Radiofilm was moving into Mintz’s old quarters.

Miller Radio

What happened to the property after that? I provided a clue six paragraphs ago when I referenced the official Scotty Moore site. What’s it doing discussing the history of 7000 Santa Monica Blvd?

That’s simple. The building became the headquarters of Radio Recorders, a company which became legendary as the finest recording facility in Los Angeles.

Elvis and Dudley Brooks in the studio at Radio Recorders, 1957. From Elvis-ForEveryone.com

Elvis and Dudley Brooks in studio at Radio Recorders, 1957. From Elvis For Everyone

I’m not positive when Radio Recorders moved into the building, but it wasn’t all that long after Mintz/Screen Gems left it. The 1944 Billboard Music Year Book lists the company and gives that address.

Radio Recorders stayed there for years, expanded into an annex around the corner, and played host to recording sessions by Presley as well as Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, The Beach Boys, Pat Boone, The Carpenters, Rosemary Clooney, Ornette Coleman, Nat King Cole, Sam Cooke, Bing Crosby, Bobby Darin, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, Peggy Lee, Johnny Mercer, Charlie Parker, Buddy Rich, Igor Stravinsky, Stevie Wonder, Frank Zappa, and…well, you get the idea. Everything from “Jailhouse Rock” to “Purple People Eater” to Mel Blanc’s Capitol Records Bugs Bunny and the Tortoise album was created there.

Basically, we’ve all spent our lives listening to music recorded at the former Charles Mintz Studio. We just didn’t know it–or at least I didn’t.

When Record Recorders closed at the end of 1977, Billboard called it the end of an era. In recent decades, several different companies operated production facilities at its former studios, including one which reverted to the original name. But when I pulled up the address in Google Maps Street View, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wasn’t even positive the original building was still standing.

Turned out that it was there, but apparently unoccupied. Note the “Available” sign.

7000 Santa Monica Blvd. August 2014

There’s a sign commemorating Record Recorders outside the building, above a “No Trucks” symbol. Here’s a closer look, borrowed from Discover Los Angeles.

Radio Recorders sign

It says that the building dates to 1928, disagreeing slightly with the Scotty Moore site. But I don’t see any evidence that anyone remembers that the Mintz Studio was once on the premises. If nobody remembers your cartoons, you don’t get a plaque.

Still, the building, though now obscured by gates and a humongous tree, is readily recognizable from that 1932-ish staff photo.

7000 Santa Monica Blvd.

Incidentally, Street View also reveals that the lot across the street at 7001 Santa Monica, where a lumber materials store stood in the 1930s, as indicated in the photos Mark Mayerson posted, is now a Shakey’s.

And that’s the story of 7000 Santa Monica Blvd. Except for one thing.

After Google Street View captured that image with the for-rent sign, the building got rented. As of last month, it’s the home of LAXART, which describes itself as “an independent contemporary art space supporting artistic and curatorial freedom.” That doesn’t sound like it has much in common with Charles Mintz’s goals when he was producing Scrappy and Krazy Kat cartoons there. But it feels good to know that the building is still standing, still occupied, and still a place where creativity happens. And hey, it’s open to the public–so the next time I’m in L.A., I plan to drop in.

Postscript: No piece about the present status of former Mintz Studio buildings is complete without a nod to Joe Campana’s marvelous “Ghosts of the Charles Mintz Studio,” a 2007 visit to Mintz’s earlier Western Ave. neighborhood.

8 comments to The Saga of 7000 Santa Monica Blvd.

  • A Variety trade ad of Oct. 1, 1930 (pg. 35) gives the address as a branch office of RCA Photophone, so the company had to be there before November. Not surprising considering the RCA/Victor connection.

    Unless there was a house facing the Orange Ave. side, the L.A. City Directory for 1929 has nothing at that address. City records should be able to say when it was built.

    I guess you’ve seen the picture of Justin Hurd standing in front of the building in 1936.

  • Harry McCracken

    Thanks, Don. I saw that Variety ad–and was in the process of adding the Jud Hurd photo when you commented!

  • Ken Duncan

    Darn, it would have been fun to open another animation studio in there…

  • Richard Huemer

    Charles Mintz seems to be showing physical affection toward the man just to his right. To me, the man looks plausibly like a young George Winkler, Mintz’s brother-in-law. George would later run the Mintz studio after Charles passed.

  • Harry McCracken

    According to the IDs I borrowed, the man next to Mintz seems to be Bill Higgens. I don’t know what his role was at the studio. I find it kind of touching that Mintz has his arm around him.

  • Great piece…I got to Radio Recorders in 1973…it’s where I met Paul Frees in person, when he was recording a Jolly Green Giant TV spot.

  • Deke Dickerson

    Another interesting fact, which I’m not sure is connected or totally random, is that RCA-Victor used the building at 7000 Santa Monica Blvd as their recording studios from 1928-1930, then several years later when it became Radio Recorders, RCA again used the studio as their Los Angeles home base for recording, at least until 1963, when the massive new RCA-Victor building and recording studio was built at 6363 Sunset Blvd. Did RCA-Victor own the building the whole time, and leased it to the Mintz Studio, Wafilms, Sol Lesser, Miller Radiofilm, etc during the interim, 1930-1944? A question perhaps lost to time.

  • Harry

    Fascinating! Thanks, Deke.

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