Legendary Hollywood movie director D.W. Griffith was an early pioneer of film in America, known for his silent movies between 1908-1924. Some of our nation’s very first movie stars like Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin starred in Griffith’s films. He is also largely credited for inventing many important features of the craft, including the “close up,” the “fade out” and the moving camera. Griffith was the first to attach a camera to a moving vehicle (and even to a custom-built elevator!) in order to get moving action shots and wide, panoramic views.
However, Griffith’s work was not without controversy, and his famous film “The Birth of a Nation” was criticized as being highly racist. He was also not able to make the jump from silent films into “talkies” in the early 30s – and his films with full sound failed to resonate with audiences and critics. It’s possible that his unfortunate situation may have lent some inspiration to the 1952 musical comedy “Singin’ In the Rain.”
According Richard Schickel’s biography of Griffith, the director visited Mineral Wells “to dry out” during the “last spring of the decade.” The year was 1929, just before the Baker Hotel opened in November. Griffith stayed at the Crazy Water Hotel according to telegraph records, and there’s a great picture of him standing on the roof of the Crazy Water (Photo taken from “Time Was in Mineral Wells” by A.F. Weaver).
Local folklore has it that the “WELCOME” sign on East Mountain inspired the famous “HOLLYWOOD” sign, and that D.W. Griffith has some connection to that. Unfortunately the timeline doesn’t match up, and the legend is likely a false one. However, it is true that the big white Mineral Wells “WELCOME” sign on East Mountain went up in 1922, a year before the famous “HOLLYWOODLAND” sign in 1923. It’s also true that Mineral Wells was a resort mecca for Hollywood types back in the ’20s.
So who knows? Maybe there’s a little Hollywood magic in Mineral Wells.