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The Culture Broker: Franklin D. Murphy and the Transformation of Los Angeles

Margaret Leslie Davis
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Pages: 495
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  • Book Info
    The Culture Broker
    Book Description:

    Franklin Murphy? It's not a name that is widely known; even during his lifetime the public knew little of him. But for nearly thirty years, Murphy was the dominant figure in the cultural development of Los Angeles. Behind the scenes, Murphy used his role as confidant, family friend, and advisor to the founders and scions of some of America's greatest fortunes-Ahmanson, Rockefeller, Ford, Mellon, and Annenberg-to direct the largesse of the wealthy into cultural institutions of his choosing. In this first full biography of Franklin D. Murphy (1916-994), Margaret Leslie Davis delivers the compelling story of how Murphy, as chancellor of UCLA and later as chief executive of the Times Mirror media empire, was able to influence academia, the media, and cultural foundations to reshape a fundamentally provincial city.The Culture Brokerbrings to light the influence of L.A.'s powerful families and chronicles the mixed motives behind large public endeavors. Channeling more than one billion dollars into the city's arts and educational infrastructure, Franklin Murphy elevated Los Angeles to a vibrant world-class city positioned for its role in the new era of global trade and cross-cultural arts.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92555-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. PREFACE: Art of the Trustee
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. PROLOGUE: Something to Prove
    (pp. 1-18)

    AS A YOUNGSTER IN MISSOURI, full of energy and wanting adventure, Franklin Murphy read his way to exploits with the novels of Sir Walter Scott and the Tom Swift series for boys. He could hardly have imagined that as an adult he would encounter a social and intellectual revolution as great as that facing the knights charging into battle in Scott’s fiction. Nor could he foresee his own role in later years as a protector and a promoter of the valued works of the human spirit. Young Franklin, nurtured by a cultured family, would grow up unencumbered by the strictures...


    • ONE Into the Pastel Empire
      (pp. 21-41)

      THE DECISION WAS MADE: the Murphys would go to Los Angeles. They tried to keep the lid on the news until a proper announcement could be made, but on March 17, 1960, six hundred students, angered by the rumors, gathered on the snow-covered lawn of the chancellor’s residence on Mount Oread, the Murphys’ home for the past nine years. “We want Murphy! We want Murphy!” the students chanted. As they stamped their feet for warmth in the frosty evening air, they waved placards that read, “To Hell with Docking!” and “Stay Here Murphy.” The mob hoisted up a life-size effigy...

    • TWO UCLA in Worldwide Terms
      (pp. 42-74)

      THE MURPHY FAMILY PULLED INTO the driveway of the chancellor’s residence on the UCLA campus after midnight on July 1, 1960, at the end of a long, hot drive from Kansas. The house was dark, and there was no key. Furious, Murphy walked the campus in the moonlight until he found a security guard to unlock the door.

      The red-brick Mediterranean villa was empty except for a piano and several abandoned mattresses. The electricity was working, but there was no hot water: a minor earthquake had knocked out the gas. The exhausted family slept in their traveling clothes and were...

    • THREE Turmoil and Golden Moments
      (pp. 75-101)

      A new era in the cultural life of Los Angeles began on the evening of December 6, 1964, with the gala opening of the Los Angeles Music Center. The city’s elite, in formal attire, strolled across the broad new courtyard to enter the pavilion designed by Welton Beckett, master of the pristine international style. In accordance with the serene orderliness of modernism, the five-level structure was sheathed in granite and glass and surrounded by a portico of slender white fluted columns.

      The guests entered the grand hall for their first glimpse of the amberhued onyx walls and massive crystal chandeliers...

      (pp. None)
    • FOUR 1968–Year of Crisis
      (pp. 102-116)

      THERE WAS LITTLE ANY ADMINISTRATOR could do to stop the wave of student dissent as the nation became mired in the Vietnam War. Soon after the academic year 1968 began UCLA students staged a massive sit-in at the Administration Building, protesting campus recruitment by Dow Chemical Company, manufacturer of napalm.¹ Murphy was absent from campus as the incident erupted, and Chuck Young frantically telephoned him for instructions on how to proceed. The LAPD arrived but were sent away when Young persuaded the demonstrators to disband, promising to arrange a meeting with the chancellor.²

      The protests, however, continued. Students for a...


    • FIVE The Chancellor Becomes CEO
      (pp. 119-137)

      FRANKLIN MURPHY ARRIVED IN SEPTEMBER 1968 to take up his duties in the historic Times Mirror building at First and Spring Streets. The imposing streamline modern structure designed by Gordon B. Kaufman in 1934 was described by one executive as “prison modern.” The focal point of the lobby, a revolving globe measuring five and a half feet in diameter, signified the worldwide coverage of theTimes.The bronze eagle perched on a pedestal in the elevator lobby was the same ominous raptor that had “stood guard atop three successive Times buildings from 1881 to 1935.”¹ Murphy rode the nickel-plated elevator...

    • SIX The Chandler Empire in the Watergate Years
      (pp. 138-171)

      U.S. BUSINESS WOULD INCREASINGLY SUFFER over the next decade, but 1971 was still bright as Murphy opened the Times Mirror Company annual report and studied his photograph and his commentary as chairman. The company’s year-end record affirmed that he had performed well; three years into his new role, he was wearing it like a suit of clothes, tailor-made. The sleek report announced earnings for the year of $34.9 million, equal to $2.08 per share. At the start of the 1960s the company achieved a benchmark goal of $200 million in revenues for the first time; it finished 1971 with revenues...

    • SEVEN Power and Philanthropy
      (pp. 172-206)

      UNLIKE THE EAST COAST WHERE power typically devolved from one generation to the next through private fortunes, power in the West rested with the owners and managers of the region’s most powerful and successful corporations. As early as 1963 theNew York Timesdetected a shift in the Pastel Empire: new names and new money were competing with old families for prominence. Active newcomers growing affluent in the retail business, industry, and finance were described as embarrassed by the city’s cultural deficiencies and eager to do something about it. The old guard either retreated to suburban bastions or faded “into...


    • EIGHT The Los Angeles County Museum of Art
      (pp. 209-238)

      THE COUNTY MUSEUM IN HANCOCK PARK shares a site with the Rancho La Brea Tar Pits, the world-famous repository of Ice Age fossils in the heart of the city’s Miracle Mile commercial district. The tar pits formed when crude oil seeped to the surface, leaving pools of sticky asphalt, which was used for waterproofing for thousands of years by Native Americans. The heavy, viscous asphalt had trapped unwary animals through the ages, creating a treasure trove of ancient animal remains. In contrast to the bubbling black pools and the odorous pits, the museum was designed as a group of pristine...

      (pp. None)
    • NINE The National Gallery of Art
      (pp. 239-260)

      BY 1985 FRANKLIN MURPHY HAD SERVED for twenty-one years as a trustee of the National Gallery, the renowned institution founded by the financier Andrew Mellon. He had worked closely with Paul Mellon, who was determined to bring to fruition his father’s dream: a national gallery that would be enthusiastically patronized and claimed by Americans as their own sanctuary for great works of art.¹ Murphy not only understood Andrew Mellon’s concept for the Gallery, but he perceived the psychological underpinning that drew Paul to devote himself to his father’s plan. “This Gallery is a reflection of the love of one man...

    • TEN The Samuel H. Kress Foundation
      (pp. 261-272)

      IT WAS FRANKLIN MURPHY’S ROLE as a trustee for the Kress Foundation that had brought him to the attention of Paul Mellon and resulted in the invitation to join the National Gallery’s board. Through his association with both institutions Murphy became a “living link” between the legacy of Samuel Kress, the Kress Foundation, and the National Gallery.

      Indeed, Murphy’s long career as a trustee for the arts had begun when, as chancellor of the University of Kansas, he forged relationships with two wealthy families, the Hall family of Kansas City and the Kress brothers of New York. His close ties...

    • ELEVEN The J. Paul Getty Trust
      (pp. 273-318)

      OF THE MANY TALENTED EXECUTIVES he came to know, Franklin Murphy had particular admiration—and affection—for George F. Getty II, executive vice president of the Getty Oil Company and eldest son of the oil tycoon J. Paul Getty. Both Murphy and George Getty joined the board of directors of the Bank of America in 1968 and frequently traveled together to San Francisco for board meetings. Nineteen sixty-eight was also the yearFortunemagazine put J. Paul Getty at the top of their list of America’s richest men, estimating his assets at $2 billion.¹

      On one of their trips to...

    • TWELVE Three That Got Away
      (pp. 319-344)

      BY THE AGE OF SEVENTY Franklin Murphy had reached icon status among the culture shapers of Southern California through his powerful overlapping roles as trustee for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Ahmanson Foundation, and the J. Paul Getty Trust. While other men his age were withdrawing from the scene, Murphy continued his frenetic pace. The flow of phone calls, invitations, and urgent appeals never slowed. He neglected his health and counted on his Irish yeoman genes to see him through. He was troubled with gout and hypertension, neither condition helped by the rich fare served in the...


    • THIRTEEN Changing of the Guard
      (pp. 347-372)

      THE VENERABLETIMESEAGLE HAD SERVED since the founding as the familiar icon of the Times Mirror Company. In 1981 the company celebrated one hundred years as a Los Angeles institution and flaunted—deservedly—its success. In keeping with the fast-moving era, the intrepid raptor was given a new streamlined, semiabstract incarnation. Murphy retired from his position as chairman of the board at his sixty-fifth birthday and became chairman of the board’s executive committee, where he functioned as an elder statesman, involved enough to take pride in the company and participate in the revelries of the centennial party.

      In 1984...

    • FOURTEEN The Doge of Los Angeles
      (pp. 373-388)

      FRANKLIN MURPHY REACHED THE MANDATORY retirement age of seventy-five in 1991 and gave up his seat on the corporate boards of Times Mirror, Bank of America, Hallmark, and Ford Motor Company, but he continued as a forceful trustee of the foundations and museums he served. He had mastered the art of trusteeship during an exceptional period in Los Angeles—a window of a few decades—when enthusiasm for cultural development made it possible for him to apply his talents to good effect. As newly built office towers attracted business in a surge to the West Coast, he was able to...

  9. AFTERWORD: The Mosaic City
    (pp. 389-392)

    WHAT STANDS OUT AS THE MOST important aspect of Franklin Murphy’s legacy is the trajectory he created for the institutions he fostered. His desire to see cultural centers as a home for the humanities merged with his belief that building steadily on cultural awareness was part of the path to civic harmony. “The humanities, in my view, are for the long haul of civilization,” he told the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. “They are not designed to solve the immediate problems of this society. The humanities maintain our memory as a civilization.”¹ Murphy’s preoccupation with the humanities and...

    (pp. 393-394)
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 395-450)
    (pp. 451-454)
    (pp. 455-466)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 467-490)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 491-491)