AS A LIFELONG film buff and a brand-new Coloradoan, I was delighted to discover in 2007 that I lived less than 30 minutes away from a wellspring of movie talent — Denver East High School. Opened in 1875, this school has housed a glut of powerhouse performers, including
Douglas Fairbanks Sr., swashbuckling star of the silent screen.
Harold Lloyd, early comic actor, director, and producer.
Hattie McDaniel, first black winner of an acting Oscar.
Ward Bond, prolific character actor and star of TV’s “Wagon Train.”
Pam Grier, black action-film legend.
Don Cheadle, versatile Oscar-nominated actor.
The first three either dropped out or transferred, but so what? They didn’t need no stinkin’ diplomas! They had talent! And drive! A quality that came in handy seeing as they had to drive or fly or hitchhike more than 1,200 miles west to get to Hollywood (and more than 1,600 miles east to get to Broadway).
By contrast, Hollywood High students could —and can —walk to the major studios. Although a ride in a Mercedes is the preferred mode of transportation. Not that all Hollywood kids are rich and spoiled. Some just happen to go to school in the perfect place for aspiring film stars. In movies and in real estate, location is everything.
Of course, Hollywood High isn’t California’s only movie star high school. There’s also …
University High (Los Angeles): Alumni include Judy Garland, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Sandra Dee, and Jeff Bridges.
Harvard-Westlake (Los Angeles): Myrna Loy, Shirley Temple, Elizabeth Montgomery, Candice Bergen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Beverly Hills High: Jackie Cooper, Betty White, Richard Dreyfuss, Carrie Fisher, Nicolas Cage, David Schwimmer, and Angelina Jolie.
Van Nuys (Los Angeles): Natalie Wood, Jane Russell, Robert Redford, Stacy Keach, and Ed Begley Jr.
Santa Monica High: Glen Ford, Sean Penn, Rob Lowe, Robert Downey Jr., and Charlie Sheen.
While that’s a load of acting talent, Hollywood High has them beat. Here are eight exceptional film and TV stars who attended that school …
John Huston (class of 1923) accrued 15 Academy Award nominations from 1941 to 1986. He won for directing and writing the screenplay for Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948).
Alan Ladd (class of 1934) made his name starring in hard-boiled detective films like This Gun For Hire (1942) but is best known as the gunslinger in Shane (1953).
Lana Turner (class of 1936) starred as the femme fatale in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) and illuminated such big-screen soap operas as Peyton Place (1957) and Imitation of Life (1959).
Mickey Rooney (class of 1938) starred in a number of Andy Hardy films in the late 1930s and was Hollywood’s number one box-office attraction, according to the Quigley poll, from 1939 to 1941.
Jason Robards (class of 1940) starred on stage and screen in Long Day’s Journey into Night (film 1962) and won back-to-back supporting actor Oscars for All the President’s Men (1976) and Julia (1977).
Gloria Grahame (class 1942) won the best supporting actress Oscar for The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) but was more memorable for her roles in In a Lonely Place (1950) and The Big Heat (1953).
James Garner (dropped out 1944) appeared in scores of films but is best remembered as Bret Maverick in “Maverick” (1957-62) and James Rockford in “The Rockford Files” (1974-80).
Carol Burnett (class of 1951) became a comedy legend during her long run with “The Carol Burnett Show” (1967-78).
Here are few more stars from Hollywood High school…
Joel McCrae (class of 1924), known for Sullivan’s Travels (1941) and 1950s Westerns.
Linda Evans (class of 1960), “The Big Valley” (1965-69), “Dynasty” (1981-89).
Stefanie Powers (class of 1960), “Heart to Heart” (1979-84).
Barbara Hershey (class of 1965), Hannah and her Sisters (1986).
Meredith Baxter (class of 1965), “Family Ties” (1982-89).
John Ritter (class of 1966), “Three’s Company” (1976-84).
Valerie Bertinelli (class of 1978), “One Day at a Time” (1975-84).
Laurence Fishburne (class of 1980), The Matrix (1999).
Leighton Meester (class of 2001), “Gossip Girl” (2007-12).
That is one impressive alumni list.