Searching for the Lost City in Guadalupe

March 22, 2010

For nearly 30 years, Peter Brosnan has been trying to uncover and preserve the famous “Lost City” buried underneath the drifting sand of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes. [Los Angeles Times]

The city itself existed only briefly back in 1923, when legendary Hollywood director Cecil B. DeMille came to the Central Coast to built a gigantic set for his silent picture classic “The Ten Commandments.”

Construction of an Egyptian temple 800 feet wide and 120 feet tall involed 1600 craftsmen. Twenty-one giant plaster sphinxes lined the path to the temple’s gates. More than 2,500 actors and 3,000 animals were used during the filming.

And when they were done–rather than drag the expensive set back to Hollywood, DeMille had everything bulldozed into a 300-foot trench and covered with sand.

Brosnan, a former screenwriter turned child welfare worker, has been searching for DeMille’s Lost City since 1982. He was never quite able to raise the almost $200,000 required for a full-blown excavation, so his focus has turned to documenting as many stories as he can about filmmaking in Guadalupe during its Hollywood heyday of the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s when stars from Cary Grant to Gary Cooper roamed the beach.

There have been artifacts recovered from the original movie set and many of them are kept on public display at the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center.

Brosnan continues working on his documentary about DeMille and the Lost City buried in the dunes, still hoping to someday, somehow, raise the money for a formal excavation.