Al Jolson statue.

Al Jolson's Flashy Tomb

Field review by the editors.

Culver City, California

The biggest thing to ever happen to Hillside Memorial Park was when Al Jolson (1886-1950) died and his widow decided to bury him there. Jolson -- famous for his performance in the first talking motion picture, The Jazz Singer -- dropped dead playing cards. His young wife (his fourth) decided that her late husband deserved an impossible-to-miss tomb worthy of Hollywood royalty. She chose a spot right inside the cemetery entrance, where it could easily be seen by passing traffic. Paul R. Williams, "architect to the stars," designed it. The dedication in 1951, 11 months after Jolson's death, was like a movie premiere; thousands attended. Jack Benny delivered the eulogy, and when he later died, he was entombed in the public mausoleum that's a part of Jolson's grave.

Waterfall and grave temple.

Jolson himself lies in a sarcophagus at the top of a hill, beneath a 75-foot-high open-air canopy made of 16 different types of imported marble. On the underside of the canopy is a mosaic of hand-set tiles depicting Moses holding the Ten Commandments, encircled with the inscription, "The sweet singer of Israel, The Man Raised Up High," from the Old Testament. Leading from the sarcophagus down to the parking area -- Jolson's grave has its own parking area -- is a 120-foot-long, five-tier water cascade.

Also part of the grave is a bronze statue by sculptor Carl Romanella. It depicts Jolson on one knee, arms outstretched, delivering his signature song, "Mammy," which he often performed in blackface. If that offended Williams the architect, who was African-American, he didn't say.

Al Jolson's Flashy Tomb

Hillside Memorial Park

Address:
6001 W. Centinela Ave., Culver City, CA
Directions:
Enter the cemetery. It's on the right -- you can't miss it -- atop the hill with the cascading waterfall.
Hours:
Su-F 8-5, closed Sa (Virus outbreak may affect access to attraction. Call to verify.)
Phone:
310-641-0707
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Holy Cross Cemetery - Graves of the StarsHoly Cross Cemetery - Graves of the Stars, Culver City, CA - < 1 mi.
Green HorseGreen Horse, Inglewood, CA - 1 mi.
Academy Award Time CapsulesAcademy Award Time Capsules, Westchester, CA - 2 mi.
In the region:
Mosaic Tile House, Santa Monica, CA - 7 mi.

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