Its original owners, San Fernando Valley developers Isaac Lankershim and son-in-law Isaac Van Nuys (whose names, respectively, are lent to a major boulevard in North Hollywood and a town in the northwest Valley), sold much of the cemetery in 1920 to Paramount Pictures, RKO Studios and the Beth Olam Synagogue. As a result, many entertainers (like Cecil B. DeMille, Douglas Fairbanks, and two of the Ramones) and prominent Jews (like gangster/entrepreneur Bugsy Siegel) are buried here.
In 1939, the entire cemetery was bought by morally-challenged ex-con Jules Roth, who proceeded to sell off dozens of acres of the cemetery's land (now used as adjacent strip malls) and embezzle millions from the business, allowing the grounds and graves to fall into complete disrepair for about 60 years. In 1998, the Cassity Brothers, a pair of Missouri funeral home owners, took steep advantage of bankruptcy proceedings and re-named their new bargain purchase the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The Cassity Brothers have since authorized a 2000 documentary on the cemetery called The Young and the Dead, and introduced the Cinespia Series, where, on Saturday nights during the summer, classic films like Sunset Boulevard are screened against a mausoleum for large crowds of gourmet picnickers.
Throughout the year, various musical acts perform at the cemetery's on-site Masonic Lodge, and on Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, guided tours are given by film historian Karie Bible, who also serves as the "Lady in Black," responsible for putting a fresh rose each day on the resident grave of Rudolph Valentino.