Saturday, July 09, 2011

Catherine Mulholland RIP

Catherine Mullholland passed away this week. Her grandfather, William Mulholland, built the Los Angeles Aqueduct and was the subject of her 2000 biography, published by UC Press. She was 88.

Carey McWilliams figures in her obituary, which requires a quick clarification. McWilliams doesn't say or suggest that William Mulholland was in cahoots with the business syndicate behind the Owens Valley water caper. McWilliams does, however, call Mulholland "the engineer responsible for the Owens Valley fiasco" (Southern California, p. 191).

I can see why Catherine Mulholland was "sobered and perplexed" by McWilliams's account, which one of her teachers recommended to her. And though I can also see why she objected to Chinatown, which was based on McWilliams's work, the obituary is slightly misleading on this point as well. In the film, the character of Hollis Mulwray essentially plays her grandfather. But Mulwray is by no means a villain or unsympathetic character. To the contrary, he's one of the chief victims of his father-in-law's ruthlessness.

Catherine Mulholland spent most of her final years discussing her grandfather's work and legacy. I'm certainly not the only person who welcomed the publication of William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles. It received favorable notices in both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, which also named it the best nonfiction book of the year.



At 1:03 PM , Blogger Mon-sewer Paul Regret said...

This is a totally obscure side note, but those of us who were film majors at DVC will note, as the obituary reminds us, that for many years she was married to Gerard Hurley, who ran the film program there.


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