Photo of Gaelyn's book provided by Gaelyn Whitley Keith
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Gaelyn Whitley Keith continued her interview.
She described HJ Whitley’s life, “Tragedy plagued HJ’s early life. As a small child over half of his siblings died from a Cholera outbreak. Just a few months prior to his 18th birthday both his parents died in a tragic accident. HJ felt that was more tragedy than most men could bear yet how was he to know that a few years later his wife and baby daughter would be killed in a horrendous house fire. Fortunately from the recesses of his mind HJ’s was able to draw on the encouraging words his had bestowed to him. His Father told him the world was his for the making. HJ was a progressive man, one of the first to accept new ideas. Even at a young age he had been a leader in search of additional fortune, opportunity and a new life, HJ set out to make his mark on this country. Courage and inventiveness became his trademarks.”
Gaelyn continued, “HJ Whitley purchased 500 acres of lemon groves in the heart of Hollywood. Wanting to leave his own personal mark on the town he was about to develop he knew he would need to find some type of industry to help it grow. In October of 1911, HJ Whitley was fortunate to meet the Horsley brothers walking down Hollywood Blvd. He offered them the use of his estate on the corner of Hollywood Blvd and Whitley Avenue to complete a film test. On October 26, 1911 the first Hollywood studio completed a film. The filming was a great success and convinced the Horsleys that the area offered the perfect setting for a studio: to the north there were mountains for cowboy movies, to the west the Pacific Ocean for pirates, and in town there were banks for robberies. Nestor studios opened the next day on Gower and Sunset. Eventually this small studio would become Universal Studios. It is hard to believe the movie industry is just a little over 100 years old. HJ Whitley’s friends began to tell him and others that if life offered HJ a bag of lemons he would just turn it into lemonade.
He accomplished so many things in a variety of industries. For example: While sailing down the Nile in Egypt he notices cotton fields blowing in the breeze. Disembarking the boat he traveled to find the owner of the estate. He then purchased enough cottonseed to bring Egyptian cotton to California. Everyone he told this idea to said he had gone plumb crazy. Cotton would never grow well in California. He just held his tongue until the fields were white as snow and ready to harvest. Today it is one of the largest cotton industries in the world. However his greatest influences are seen in Hollywood. While on their honeymoon in 1886 the Whitleys rode out to the foothills of what would one day become Hollywood. HJ was scouting out the landscape to determine where he would begin development on a new town. A Chinese man driving a wagon pulled alongside of them. Getting out of the wagon the Chinese man bowed and in a thick accent said, ‘Up early, work hard, Haully wood.’ Immediately HJ declared, ‘That’s it. I’ll name this new town Hollywood – Holly will represent my British ancestry and wood my Scottish.’ Additionally he came up with the idea for the Hollywood sign, the stars that are now on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and perhaps the greatest was getting the movie industry – the directors, the producers and stars to settle in his town Hollywood.”
Her current endeavors, “I am working with a Hollywood scriptwriter on two movie scripts. The first is a short animated film for children and will be used to introduce the world to the Whitleys. The second will be an amazing saga similar to Gone with the Wind. If it is well received there is a potential for two additional movies.”
She talked about her book, “It took me over 10 years to complete my first book, The Father of Hollywood. I have shared my stories over the radio, on television, and of course my favorite way is with book clubs around the world. I always enjoy talking to my readers and answering their questions. With the world become more accessible I can even talk to readers on conference calls or face-time.”
Visit Gaelyn’s website, www.TheFatherofHollywood.com.
Take a look at this video, http://youtu.be/BLdDLeFbVow.