Movies | August 1, 2021 3:23 pm

Architectural Tribute to D.W. Griffith Film Removed at Hollywood & Highland

Elephants out, Art Deco homage in

Hollywood & Highland
An elephant statue and an arch with Babylonian images are seen at the entrance of the Hollywood & Highland shopping center on August 7 2020, in Hollywood, California.
VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images

Even if you’ve never visited Hollywood yourself, you’re probably familiar with Hollywood & Highland. It’s a destination that includes plenty of retail and a host of iconic theaters, including the Dolby Theatre, home to the Academy Awards each year. The complex has a long history, along with a design that hearkens back to the bygone days of the film industry. Change is coming to Hollywood & Highland, however, including a new name — Ovation — and a rethought design.

As Roger Vincent reports at the Los Angeles Times, one part of that updated design will involve the removal of a pair of fiberglass elephants. Vincent’s article suggests that this ultimately is part of the modernization process, but it’s also a way for the complex to rid itself of an allusion to the work of one of the country’s most controversial and polarizing filmmakers, D.W. Griffith.

The elephants were originally intended as a tribute to the design of Griffith’s 1916 film Intolerance. Griffith is perhaps best known nowadays for the film he made a year earlier, The Birth of a Nation. That film sparked protests upon its release — which ultimately led to the formation of the N.A.A.C.P. — and, more recently, has been cited as one of the reasons why Woodrow Wilson’s legacy is increasingly troubling.

While Intolerance definitely has its champions — and has the benefit of being a D.W. Griffith film that didn’t lead to the revival of a hate group, unlike The Birth of a Nation — it’s far from a ubiquitous work, even among cinephiles. That the developers of the site would seek an updated design — what Vincent calls “a modern take on Art Deco style with murals of people performing before lights and cameras on one side and a crowd applauding on the other.” Only time will tell how long this one endures.