The Father of Hollywood
This biography of early Hollywood developer H.J. Whitley by his adoring great-granddaughter, Keith, paints a rosy, selective portrait of the man who named the Hollywood Hills. Told primarily through the imagined eyes of Whitley's second wife, Gigi Ross, we follow Whitley from his birth in 1847 Canada, through the death of his six siblings (from cholera) and his parents (a buggy accident), to the United States, where he worked his way west from Chicago to California. Honeymooning in L.A. with Ross—his first wife and infant died in a fire—Whitley resolved to develop the fertile farming area and surrounding Cahuenga and San Fernando valleys. The couple gradually galvanized interest in Hollywood, attracting railroads, street cars, electricity, and an all-important cultural life, epitomized by the first movie studios. As a civil engineer, Whitley created Sunset Boulevard, Ridge Route, the Whitley Heights, and other iconic locales. Keith drops scarcely a critical remark and includes much dialogue; readers may want to consult a history of the era in the interests of objectivity.