At Broadway and 3rd Street in downtown Los Angeles, a five-story mural fills an entire side of the Victor Clothing Company building. It portrays a man in mid-dance with his arms spanning the building’s width — seemingly embracing the city. He looks too in-the-moment to pay attention to us pedestrians.
The subject of the mural? The late actor Anthony Quinn. The Victor Clothing Company commissioned muralist Eloy Torrez to paint the “Pope of Broadway” back in 1985 as an homage to its Latino clientele.
Nearly 30 years later, Torrez will be scaling those walls once again. Last October, the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles and City Councilman Jose Huizar announced the restoration of the mural, which will begin this month. It’s part of the Bringing Back Broadway Initiative, which aims to revive downtown Los Angeles.
L.A. City Councilman José Huizar, whose district includes downtown, says the goal is to make the area pedestrian-friendly, hip and attractive to all types of people. It will draw fans of Anthony Quinn to the neighborhood such as Conservancy executive director Isabel Rojas Williams, who describes him as “one of the most glittering actors in Hollywood and the world.”
Quinn was an iconic Latino actor. He was born in Chihuahua, Mexico in 1915 and soon after emigrated to the U.S. He grew up in L.A.’s historic Latino neighborhoods, Echo Park and Boyle Heights. Quinn was famous for inhabiting characters from all kinds of backgrounds: Mexicans ("Viva Zapata"), Italians ("La Strada"), Middle-Easterners ("Lawrence of Arabia"), and — perhaps most famously — the title character in "Zorba the Greek." He won two Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor, becoming the first Mexican-American to do so, and starred opposite greats such as Marlon Brando and Peter O’Toole.
Quinn died in 2001, but we still have his films, and Angelenos have their mural. Eloy Torres says the mural has taken on a life of its own to represent the Latino populatio0n of Los Angeles.
Which brings up an interesting question. Who's the icon, the man or the mural? When does a piece of art take a life of its own to become its own entity, separate from the original icon?