The Little Tramp’s Screen Debut – Charlie Chaplin’s Kid Autos – They Were What ?!?

My latest YouTube video presents Charlie Chaplin’s screen debut of “The Little Tramp,” while explaining what exactly were “kid auto races.” Below, a few scenes from the video, and further below, my original post about the film from 2011.

January 10-11, 1914, Chaplin’s first public appearance dressed as The Little Tramp, in Kid Auto Races at Venice, Cal., at the corner of Main and Westminster in Venice, CA. Color photos Jeff Castel de Oro.

The Junior Vanderbilt Cup Race

Inducted now into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, Kid Auto Races at Venice, Cal. was Charlie Chaplin’s second motion picture release, and the first release to feature his Little Tramp persona.  It was filmed at the Junior Vanderbilt Cup Race held in Venice, California on Saturday, January 10, 1914, and at the children’s pushmobile race held there the following day.  The weekend shoot capped a busy week for Charlie at Mack Sennett’s Keystone Studio following the holidays.  (Note: Brent Walker, author of the definitive Sennett Studio history Mack Sennett’s Fun Factory reports Chaplin commenced shooting Mabel’s Strange Predicament (1914), in which Charlie wears the tramp costume for the first time, prior to the weekend filming of Kid Auto, but Mabel was not finished and released until after Kid Auto was released.  Thus, the Venice race that Saturday was the first time members of the public had ever witnessed Charlie dressed as the Little Tramp.)

In my book Silent Traces I explain how Chaplin filmed most of the scenes from Kid Auto at the corner of Second (now Main Street) and Westminster in Venice, while looking either north, south, or west, and how several background homes and buildings there are still standing.  I have posted a few photos here.

Main and Westminster, looking west towards the ocean, at what was a hillside country club with tennis courts (fences), and what is now the Westminster Dog Park.

Although the film title mentions a “Kid Auto Race,” I was never able to determine what in the world was a Kid Auto Race?  Thankfully, Todd von Hoffmann, associated with www.VeniceHeritageMuseum.org, and co-author of The Von Hoffmann Bros.’ Big Damn Book of Sheer Manliness, contacted me with the solution, as reported in the May, 1914 issue of Technical World Magazine.

From Technical World Magazine, May 1914

The Kid Auto Race at Venice was, in fact, a sanctioned ten-mile race in which fourteen year old boys piloted home-made one or two-cylinder cars, many adapted from motorcycle engines, while vying for a share of $250 in prize money (that’s ~$7,500 today!).  From today’s litigate-first, bubble-wrap your child perspective, it is almost inconceivable that untrained and unlicensed youths, without helmets, safety equipment, or even seat belts, were once actively encouraged to race one another along the streets of Santa Monica and Venice.

Click to enlarge.  A photo of the Kid Auto Race appearing in Technical World Magazine (upper left), a modern view up Main from Westminster (lower right), and two comparable movie frames.

The article also describes the pushmobile race held the following day, where Chaplin was also filmed, as motorless carts raced down a steep ramp.  Three of the houses pictured in the background below are still standing (see Google Street View links in the caption).  In the far background between Charlie 3 and 4 stands the former Race Thru The Clouds twin-track racing roller coaster, once located along the former Venice Lagoon.

Looking south from Main (at the time Second) and Westminster, at the pushmobile ramp.  Three homes in the back, the far left on San Juan, the other two along Horizon Avenue, still remain (Google Street View links).

I have set forth the complete text of the magazine article below.  While the reporter duly transcribed his narrative of the event, he was either oblivious to, or deliberately chose to ignore, the antics portrayed by Chaplin there at the time.

May, 1914 Technical World Magazine, submitted by Todd von Hoffmann,

Forty youngsters dare-deviled around a ten-mile course at Venice, California some little time ago in the Junior Vanderbilt Cup Race. They all had homemade one- or two-cylinder cars and they were all after one of the six silver cups and a share in two hundred and fifty dollars of prize money.

Albert Van Vrankin, Jr. sailed home with first prize in a little over thirty-seven minutes, although in the middle of the race he ran into a ditch, turned turtle, and had to extricate himself and his car.

The starting line for the Kid Auto Race at Venice

Most of the machines were ingenious adaptations of motorcycle engines to four-wheel crafts. Many of these cars, some of which are easily controlled, are capable of amazing speed.

At the race, the ten thousand spectators, including Barney Oldfield, Earl Cooper, and Teddy Tetzlaff, who judged the finish, cheered wildly as the contestants whirled around the track.

Regular road racing rules the contest and the fourteen-year-olds traveled the course with splendid judgment and the daring of older heads.

Besides the Junior Vanderbilt, there were races for pushmobiles, which furnished a great deal of amusement for the crowd. A broad incline was used to give the pushcars a good start and most of the boys had trouble in getting to the bottom right side up.  Some of the spills looked dangerous to the crowd but none of the drivers were injured.

The difficulties of the boys in constructing cars for the Vanderbilt are told only by the perfection of the machines, because the adaptation of a motorcycle engine to an automobile is a very difficult mechanical job. The dozens of cycle car manufacturers that have sprung up within the last few months have given testimony freely that the thing can’t be done. A special motor for the little car of the “common people” has been built by most of the manufacturers, and many different schemes of transmission and differential have been used.

Check out the dozen videos about Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd hosted on my YouTube Channel.

All images from Chaplin films made from 1918 onwards, copyright © Roy Export Company Establishment. CHARLES CHAPLIN, CHAPLIN, and the LITTLE TRAMP, photographs from and the names of Mr. Chaplin’s films are trademarks and/or service marks of Bubbles Incorporated SA and/or Roy Export Company Establishment. Used with permission.

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Silent Star Mabel Normand – the Game Girl’s Trio of Triumphs

As seen in the two previous posts, the Wonderful Wanda Wiley leapt between moving cars on Vine Street, and rollicked at the edge of the Santa Monica Slapstick Comedy Cliffs. But silent star “game girl” Mabel Normand took some good shots too. With dozens of heroic scenes to choose from, here are but three examples of Mabel giving it her all (1912 photo left).

First, Ford Sterling ties Mabel to the railroad tracks during Barney Oldfield’s Race for a Life (1913). This classic scene was staged along the frequently filmed north-south stretch of track that ran along what would later become the east boundary of LAX International Airport.

The distinctive windbreak of trees appearing behind Mabel once stood south of W. Manchester Ave. outside of Inglewood, and are also clearly visible left to right in these scenes from Mary Pickford’s A Beast at Bay (1912), D. W Griffith’s Intolerance (1916), and Buster Keaton’s The Blacksmith (1922). This post about Mary’s film HERE provides many more views of this long-forgotten filming site, and its formidable silent film history.

Mabel clings to the roof of the Castle Towers Apartment in Mickey.

Mabel’s wildly popular 1918 feature Mickey climaxes with a thrilling roof-top rescue staged years before Harold Lloyd stunned audiences with his high-rise climb in Safety Last! (1923).

Looks can be deceiving – a seemingly matching wide and close view of Mabel’s rooftop climb?

Reportedly the highest grossing film of the year, Mickey was the only film produced by Mabel’s independent studio set up for her by Mack Sennett. You can read more about Mabel’s roof-top stunts HERE.

Not a care in the world, Mabel blithely leads Numa for a walk

Last, during The Extra Girl (1922), Mabel plays a small-town girl/wannabe movie actress who lands a job working for a film studio wardrobe department. One of her menial tasks is tending to the studio mascot Teddy the dog, who happens to be made up that day with a lion costume. Instead, Mabel absentmindedly enters the studio’s lion cage (they all had one then, right?), and leads a real live lion for a walk around the studio as comedic mayhem ensues.

It doesn’t minimize Mabel’s heroic courage to explain the lion was Numa, a 550 pound 13 year old specially trained beast managed by Charles Gay at the Gay lion farm in El Monte. In a 1927 Picture Play Magazine profile story “Numa Earns a Fortune,” Charles reports Numa has appeared in over 100 pictures, without ever scratching a screen player. Numa’s sole demand is to be left in solitude for two hours during his daily feeding of 15 pounds of horse flesh. Otherwise Numa works day or night without protest (photo left).

Charles explains “When we were making ‘The Extra Girl,’ Mabel Normand took hold of a short rope and led Numa all round the set. She did not even ask if there was danger. That’s nerve! Mabel is one of the gamest girls in pictures.” [emphasis original]

Below, the full “Numa Earns a Fortune” article, Picture Play Magazine, January 1927, page 55, click to enlarge. As you can see Numa also appeared with Charlie Chaplin in The Circus (1928).

Mabel Normand “is one of the gamest girls in pictures.” Indeed, no truer words were ever spoken.

Check out my videos about Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd hosted on my YouTube Channel.

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Santa Monica’s Slapstick Comedy Cliffs – How Did They Do It?

Although Harold Lloyd was the most accomplished, dozens of others silent comedians also filmed “stunt” comedies climbing up or hanging from tall buildings. As reported many times in this blog, one very common technique was to construct a small building façade overlooking the Hill Street Tunnel (left – click to enlarge). Whenever you see a “HOTEL LA CROSSE” sign in the background you know the stunt scene was filmed above the former tunnel. Comedians also filmed looking south from above the former Broadway Tunnel and looking west from above the Third Street Tunnel – see more HERE.

Harold took this technique to the next level by building elaborate rooftop sets. But constructing sets wasn’t even necessary. Many downtown buildings had one-story penthouses or one-story rooftop maintenance buildings far from the edge of the roof that were safe for comedians to climb. That’s how Roscoe Arbuckle performed his high-rise “stunt” during The Life of the Party (1920) – see more HERE – he’s simply hanging two feet above the stepped-back terraced roof of the Bartlett Building at 215 W. 7th St. As such, nearly all high-rise comedies were safely filmed no more than a few feet above a solid surface.

But how then do you explain the other mecca for silent comedy stunts, the seaside cliffs overlooking Santa Monica Canyon and what is now the Pacific Coast Highway? Its unique geographic features, and the prominent Bundy Bath House pictured here in the background with Al St. John, and at the top of this post, easily confirm this frequently used location, looking south from the corner of the palisades just north of W. Channel Road. Santa Monica Public Library.

View east of the filming cliff (marked) left of W Channel Road heading inland

But while the high-rise camera tricks and safety precautions make perfect sense, I remain completely baffled about the literal cliff-hanging comedies filmed here.

To begin, imagine if, and I repeat if, the cliffside was defined by a series of stepped plateaus rather than a continuous straight drop. If so, perhaps the drop from the top edge of the cliff to the first plateau below might be only a few feet. That way comics could safely tumble about near the edge, drive speeding cars toward the edge, and yet still be protected from a full fall by the lower-level plateau below immediately out of camera view. (Above A Thrilling Romance, Special Delivery, and Wall Street Blues.)

View north toward the Bundy Bath House (center) and cliff location – Huntington Digital Library

There are two huge problems with this theory. First, none of the vintage cliffside photos I’ve studied suggest naturally occurring staggered plateaus were ever present.

The bigger problem, these cliffside comedies often depict comics and cars being dragged up and down the face of the cliff itself. Unlike the safely filmed high-rise comedies, these scenes aren’t faked, the comics are truly in mid-air. (Above 10 Minute Egg, Al St. John in Special Delivery and/or Aero-Nut, and Wall Street Blues.)

Does anyone know how these Santa Monica scenes were accomplished? Perhaps filmmakers built safety platforms below the visible cliff edge. For comparison, page 86 of “Fort Lee – Birthplace of the Motion Picture Industry” by the Fort Lee Film Commission, depicts a safety platform built on the Fort Lee Palisades. But could such a platform in Santa Monica protect racing automobiles from teetering over the edge?

The Santa Monica cliffsides appear in so many slapstick comedies. Even our heroine, the Wonderful Wanda Wiley above, took her spills at the cliff edge during A Thrilling Romance (1927), covered in the prior post.

1931 view east – W Channel Road at far right. Santa Monica Public Library

So what do you think? The geographic location is the easy answer. But how did they safely film here, over and over again? Were there natural little plateaus out of view below protecting the actors? Did they build huge safety platforms high up against the side of the cliff? That seems quite challenging and expensive. Or were the comedians simply crazy? This remains a top unsolved mystery.

Check out my videos about Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd hosted on my YouTube Channel.

Below, looking up at the cliffside north of W Channel Road today:

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Wonderful Wanda Wiley … Who?

Wonderful Wanda Wiley was a spirited, athletic silent film comedienne, whose charm and girl-next-door appeal made her the female equivalent of Harold Lloyd’s “All-American Boy” (sometimes she even wore glasses). Ever ready, she bravely rolled down stairways, dived on cement sidewalks, and jumped between moving automobiles (see further below), anything for a laugh, matching her male colleagues blow by blow. Despite her slapstick antics, Wanda also posed for glamor publicity stills, above – read more on Lantern Media.

Wanda made a series of wonderful silent short comedies for Century Studios at Universal between 1924-1927. While most of her films are sadly lost, thanks to silent film superheroes Ben Model, Steve Massa, and Joseph Blough, you can enjoy some of her work on YouTube. This post highlights Wanda’s captivating comedy A Thrilling Romance (1927), where she plays a struggling author. On their Silent Comedy Watch Party YouTube link HERE, you can enjoy Ben’s musical accompaniment for the film along with Steve’s discussion of Wanda’s career. Joseph’s YouTube link HERE presents a silent but more visually clear copy of the film.

A Thrilling Romance is great fun, and it was exciting to discover Wanda’s on-screen charms, a talented star I’d never heard of before (ad above). I highly encourage you to enjoy her film. But the movie is also a remarkable time-travel machine, offering so many views of early Hollywood that this first post will cover only rare, perhaps unique views along Vine Street, including the long lost Famous Players – Lasky Studio.

Hollywood fans may know the small barn where Cecil B. De Mille filmed The Squaw Man in 1914, and later relocated to serve as the Hollywood Heritage Museum, originally stood at the SE corner of Selma and Vine as part of the Famous Players – Lasky Studio. Click to enlarge – this 1921 aerial view above looks north – the Selma and Vine Lasky barn highlighted. But pay attention to the lower left corner of Sunset and Vine. Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives.

When Wanda, pictured here in 1927 paired with the 1921 aerial view, chases after a bag of stolen money, she runs down Vine with the rarely photographed SUNSET corner of the Famous Players studio behind her. (To be clear, Wanda was not working at this studio when filming beside it).

Click to enlarge – this 1924 aerial view at left is color-coded to Wanda’s 1927 view. At back in pink stands the Taft Building at Hollywood and Vine, built in 1923, the yellow spot marks the Sunset corner of Famous Players, and the star marks Wanda among the homes near 1415 Vine Street. HollywoodPhotographs.com.

Click to enlarge – a reverse view, circa 1918, of the Sunset and Vine corner of Famous Players, Wanda standing among the now lost early residences. USC Digital Library.

Click to enlarge, this time a 1919 aerial view of Famous Players, looking south down Vine, again matched with Wanda looking north. Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives.

Above, a better view north of the Taft Building. USC Digital Library.

Above, these scenes filmed looking north reveal the staggered walls that once lined the west side of Vine between De Longpre and Leland Way. I am unable to locate any photos of these long lost homes.

Click to enlarge – a much closer view of the 1924 aerial photo looking north. Wanda and her hero taxi driver Earl McCarthy stand on the west side of Vine (star), with the white porch arches of 1415 Vine Street behind them.

As mentioned, despite her glamor and charm, Wanda was also a slapstick heroine. That’s her leaping between moving automobiles, heading south down Vine St.

View south towards the Colehurst Apartments, 1106 N. Vine, left at back.

The St. George Court Apartments at 1245 Vine

Click to enlarge – vintage views of the Colehurst Apartments (left) and the St. George Court Apartments (above) appearing with Wanda. The Colehurst stands on the NE corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and Vine, a short block from the former Buster Keaton Studios. Buster filmed at this Santa Monica and Vine intersection several times, but only before the Colehurst was built in 1924. LAPLUSC Digital Library.

Above, Wanda spills down the cement stairway of her apartment at 327 Beaudry Ave., dives on the sidewalk among many scenes filmed on Cahuenga, near Selma, the favorite Hollywood filming block for Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd, and even visits the frequently filmed cliffs overlooking Santa Monica Canyon. Details to follow in a later Wanda Wiley post – stay tuned.

Click to enlarge – Universal Weekly September 17, 1924 Vol. 20 No. 7 – Lantern Media

Wanda Wiley becomes now the fourth fantastic silent film comedian brought to my attention for the first time by Ben Model. Aside from Wanda, I only became aware of the delightful Alice Howell comedies (Alice Howell Collection), the Doug MacLean light comedies (The Douglas MacLean Collection), and the pre-talkie films of Edward Everett Horton (Edward Everett Horton: 8 Silent Comedies), because Ben had first tirelessly assembled, restored, scored, and released these essential early films to home video. I’ve posted stories about these releases from Ben elsewhere on my blog.

It’s tragic Wanda has been almost completely forgotten, and that nearly all of her films are lost. But you can enjoy several of her films on Joseph Blough’s YouTube Channel, including Queen of Aces (1925) HERE, Won By Law (1925) HERE, and Jane’s Trouble (1926) HERE, as well as A Thrilling Romance posted below. I hope you’ll check my YouTube Channel as well.

Below, looking north up Vine toward Leland Way, close to where Wanda stands on Vine near the top of this post.

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Hiding in plain sight – more cinematic magic from Buster Keaton’s Go West

Known only as “Friendless,” Buster finds himself working on an Arizona cattle ranch during Go West. There he meets Brown Eyes the cow when he kindly removes a painful rock stuck in her hoof. Soon after she returns the favor by interceding when a bull comes charging at Buster. Friendless no more, Buster and Brown Eyes are inseparable for the rest of the film.

Above, the touching scene when Buster first realizes another living being, Brown Eyes, actually likes him, has always struck me as perhaps the most sincerely emotional scene portrayed in Keaton’s work. But as we’ll see a bit later below, the scene also contains some cinematic magic, hiding in plain sight.

Now fast friends, Buster later protects Brown Eyes from being seared by a red-hot cattle brand by painlessly shaving a brand mark on her instead. Above, Buster shows his tonsorial handiwork to the rancher.

Next, in a scene that echoes Buster dislodging the rock from Brown Eye’s hoof, the rancher’s daughter, played by Kathleen Myers, beckons Buster to join her beside a well to help remove a splinter from her hand.

Looking closely (click to enlarge), both scenes were filmed in front of a painted backdrop. A prop well was added for Kathleen’s scene, but matching painted details appear in both shots. Very clever Buster!

As first documented in my book Silent Echoes, and in this recent post updated with wonderful color photos taken by dedicated EPA attorney and devoted Keaton fan Marie Muller, Keaton filmed the ranch scenes at Tap Duncan’s Valley Ranch more than 50 miles north of Kingman, Arizona, and the cattle loading scenes in Hackberry, located along historic Route 66 about 20 miles NE from Kingman, and 30 miles south of the ranch. Above, matching views at Hackberry as they prepare the cattle to board the train – photo Marie Muller.

Above, knowing she will be transported by train to the slaughter house, Buster pleads to spare Brown Eye’s life, presented as if filmed at the Hackberry loading dock. Having visited Hackberry in person, and relishing the high definition details visible in the film’s Blu-ray release, I studied the above scene closely, hopeful some ridge lines in the background might match up.

That’s when I realized Buster had staged these two emotional scenes, first meeting Brown Eyes, and later pleading for her life, in front of the same painted backdrop. Another bit of cinematic magic, hiding in plain sight. Very clever indeed.

The same painted backdrop also appears in this publicity still above (click to enlarge), one of a series of stills of Buster posing with regional freight cars staged with appropriate painted backdrops such as northern snow, southern cotton fields, and eastern rolling hills. While I have no access to contemporary records confirming this, logic dictates these painted backdrop scenes were filmed in Hollywood at Buster’s studio, under his complete control, and not at some remote, dusty ranch.

I discovered these painted backdrops preparing my Go West visual essay for the 2021 Eureka Entertainment Masters of Cinema release of Go West, along with Keaton’s Our Hospitality and College. With thanks to Kino-Lorber, the visual essay I prepared for KL about College is also included in the new Eureka release.

Another special effect – the upper floors are painted on glass

Though considered a lesser Keaton film, Go West remains a staggering accomplishment. Think of the logistics. Buster filmed for weeks in the Arizona desert, hundreds of miles from home, while enduring the summer heat. Buster worked with several farm animals, training them to perform on command, and wrangled a herd of at least 100 live cattle on real downtown streets, at 4th and Merrick near the former LA Santa Fe freight yard (above). Buster staged many sequences atop moving trains, presaging the even more elaborate scenes that would appear later in The General. And last, Buster employed many special visual effects so convincingly, including the painted backdrops revealed here, we don’t even notice. It all appears effortless on the screen thanks to Buster Keaton’s incredible talent as a comedian and filmmaker.

Check out the videos (11 now) about Buster, Charlie Chaplin, and Harold Lloyd hosted on my YouTube Channel.

Below, along Route 66, the Hackberry ridgeline appearing above – zoom in for a closer look.

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Buster Keaton’s “Electric House” Home

Buster filmed the graduation scenes from The Electric House (1922) at a commercial site still standing, just blocks away from his once magnificent real-life home (above) appearing later in the film.

The film opens with graduating botanist Buster mistakenly receiving the electrical engineering degree intended for broken-nosed character actor Steve Murphy above, who also cons Buster in Cops (1922 – 2nd from right), and holds him hostage in Sherlock Jr. (1924 – far right).

Mistaken to be an electrical engineer, Buster is immediately hired to upgrade Big Joe Robert’s mansion. Above, Buster enters Joe’s limousine. The graduation ceremony was filmed inside an interior decorator shop at 2121 W Pico. The storefront still exists today. Above, the initial clue was the 2120 address of a car painting garage across the street (you can read “PAINTING DEPARTMENT” (expanded) on the interior back wall).

Next, you can read “..IOR DECORATORS” painted (reversed) on the store window, and “..IRE THEA..” (reversed) reflected in the garage window. Assuming “THEA” referred to a theater, I checked odd-numbered theater addresses proximate to “2120,” and the EMPIRE THEATER at 2129 W Pico quickly confirmed the location. While the garage building is gone, Buster’s graduation site and the theater building remain standing.

The stately mansion appearing in the film, 59 Westmoreland Place, was Buster’s real life home at the time. It stood just a few blocks west from the graduation film site. Above, Buster exits a limo in front of his own home.

The estate appearing in the film near Hoover and Pico, 59 Westmoreland Place, was in fact Buster and Natalie’s home during the time of filming. Considering Buster was still making short films, barely two years into his independent filmmaker career, his (Natalie’s?) choice of residence at the time seems quite impressive. You can read the “59” address behind Buster, the “9” obscured a bit by the vine.

Buster and the Talmadges beside the front porch. He seems outnumbered

What images of the home don’t convey is that the mansion was part of an ill-fated development. Restricted so that only palatial homes could be built on its flat, expansive lots, Westmoreland Place failed to catch on, and as the elite increasingly chose to live further west, in more secluded and hilly neighborhoods, most of the giant lots sat empty. Built in 1909, Buster’s home stood two empty parcels north of, and in full view of, the busy Pico trolley line, and was just steps from the low-rent commercial center where Buster received his diploma earlier in the film.

This 1920 map shows Buster’s 59 home (box), one of the few homes in the purple shaded Westmoreland development, also two empty lots east (right) of the busy Vermont Ave trolley line. Although the house was very impressive, especially for a man as young as Buster, it was not the best locale. Adjacent to ordinary commercial streets and trolleys, the neighborhood lacked the prestige and seclusion befitting a rising star, prompting the Keatons’ next move further west to upscale Ardmore Avenue. I now better understand why Natalie wanted to move.

A matching vintage aerial view, Buster’s home (left box), clearly visible from the Pico and Vermont trolleys, was just blocks from the graduation location (right box). So few homes were built at Westmoreland that by 1923 civic leaders considered condemning the development site as a desperately-needed urban park. Eventually the covenants were overturned, and apartment blocks began to fill the empty lots. Buster’s home was demolished in 1979. Residential historian Duncan McGinnis provides a full history of 59 Westmoreland Place – read more HERE.

Buster’s graduation site – 2121 W Pico

Check out the videos (11 now) about Buster, Charlie Chaplin, and Harold Lloyd hosted on my YouTube Channel.

Below, the approximate location, now renumbered, of Buster’s once grand home at 59 Westmoreland Place.

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New revelations about Safety Last! and The Kid

Two recent YouTube videos revealing new details from Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last!, and Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid, are now uploaded to my YouTube Channel. The channel includes a playlist of other video presentations hosted by museums and other groups.

Hang on – how Harold Lloyd made Safety Last!

A few sample slides below, see how Harold filmed atop increasingly taller buildings, five in all, how a single scene was filmed atop three different buildings, also scenes near USC, MacArthur Park, and at the Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd Alley in Hollywood. 

The background music is a piano rag I wrote 47 years ago (!), and transcribed as a Musescore file. Here’s a YouTube video showing a computer (not me) playing the piano rag.

How Edna lost and Charlie found the baby who became The Kid

Chaplin’s beautiful scores for The Kid accompany this detailed study of the movie’s opening scenes, showing step by step views of early Hollywood, and the Plaza/Chinatown neighborhoods downtown, to reveal where Edna Purviance lost and Charlie found the baby who became “The Kid.”

Posting these videos has been a lot of fun. Rather than explain, it’s far more satisfying to show these details, so viewers can see for themselves. My blog has numerous other posts about Safety Last! and The Kid, see below.

https://silentlocations.com/category/safety-last/

https://silentlocations.com/category/the-kid/

Thank you so much – this is now video number 11, and I hope to continue uploading new videos every month or so to my YouTube Channel.

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The Kid, Cops, Intolerance revealed in a 125 year old photo

When the great silent comedians filmed the streets of LA one hundred or more years ago, many of those settings were already decades old. Focusing on a single vintage photo, let’s explore one of the most fascinating film locations in all of cinematic history.

Click to enlarge – this amazing 1897 photo looks east from the tower of the former Los Angeles County Court House once standing at Temple and Broadway in downtown. The prominent corner building facing us just right of center, with the pointed cap tower, is the former Amestoy Building at Main and Market. The left-right street in the foreground is Main Street, with Spring Street along the bottom merging into it. Looming on the horizon at right stands the “cozy” former Los Angeles Orphanage at 917 South Boyle Avenue, built in 1890. California State Library.

Click to enlarge – a closer view, way at back. The center of the image reveals the narrow intersection of Ducommun Street and Labory Lane, marked by a very narrow two-story triangle building at 412 Ducommun. Do you see it?

If I could time travel to silent movie locations, after first visiting Court Hill (read more HERE), this would be stop number two, the narrow corner of Ducommun and Labory, just east of Alameda street, a few blocks from the Plaza de Los Angeles. To begin, this corner was Buster Keaton’s favorite place to film, he staged a dozen scenes here for The Goat and Cops, far more so than anywhere else in town. Above, Buster practices signalling a left-hand turn during Cops. That’s the Hotel Strasbourg to the left in all three images across from the triangle building, more later.

Next, Charlie Chaplin filmed the rooftop chase from The Kid atop these homes on Ducommun, and fought with the orphanage official in the truck driving down Labory Lane to the right. Looking close, the yellow line marks the foreground chimney in each image, the red arrow marks Charlie’s spot on the roof. The prominent 3-story Amelia Street Public School appears at back to the right in each image, its roof lowered half a floor. The Ducommon natural gas holding tank behind Charlie wasn’t yet built in 1897.

Click to enlarge – a quartet of images looking east at the triangle building, with Ducommun to the left, Labory Lane to the right. Upper left is Derby Days, upper right is an unidentified scene from Episode Two of the Brownlow-Gill Hollywood series, lower left is the Sennett comedy Call A Cop, and lower right is the Gaylord Lloyd comedy (Harold’s brother) Dodge Your Debts. The narrow building allowed filmmakers to show audiences both sides of a chase. A similar crazy filming corner stood nearby (read more HERE).

I’ve only just started, and could write ten more pages about Ducommun at Alameda, especially focusing on all the Keaton scenes. But in closing, this remarkable triangle building also appears during the “modern” sequence from D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance, when Robert Harron desperately seeks to rescue Mae Marsh from the Strasbourg Hotel. The same Strasbourg front door side panel – click to enlarge – appears at the far left of each frame; from The Goat at left, from Intolerance at center, and from Cops at right.

The 412 Ducommun triangle building likely appeared in dozens more films, and if it hadn’t been demolished in 1923, would likely have had more starring roles. In closing, above here’s a montage of some of the other Keaton scenes filmed at Alameda and Ducommun.

Click to enlarge – a 1906 Sanborn map, Vol 3 Page 279. LOC. Buster filmed many scenes from The Goat and Cops beside, and at the corner of, the Strasbourg Hotel. 415 Ducommun, the red brick building, is the home where the family loads their furniture onto Buster’s wagon. The “F.B.” marked on it stands for “Female Boarding,” a Sanborn euphemism for bordello.

An early crude attempt at a 3D model. Imagine a fully realized virtual model where Buster made The Goat and Cops, Larry Semon filmed Frauds and Frenzies, and Charlie made The Kid. Any takers?

A special appeal – if I had the skill and resources to create a virtual 3D model of any historic LA film site, it would be of this long lost corner of Ducommun, Labory, and Alameda. It appears in many films, from many angles, and several vintage maps confirm the exact position of each building. If you know any 3D modeling expert who’d like a fun project, let me know, and I can supply all the files and images.

I now have TEN videos on my YouTube Channel. Check out To The Church – How Buster Keaton Made Seven Chances.

 

Below – Ducommun at Alameda today, completely rebuilt – spin around for a full view.

Posted in Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Los Angeles Historic Core | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Harold Lloyd’s “Hot Water” Sherlock turkey troubles

Wrangling a live turkey on a trolley, forced to walk it home, overlapping Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr., even more visual history is now revealed from Harold Lloyd’s Hot Water (1924).

Newlywed Harold’s day is shattered when his better half calls to ask “hubby dear” to pick up a “few things for dinner” on the way home. Already overwhelmed with packages, lucky Harold wins the store raffle, a free live turkey we’ll call Tom. Harold and Tom somehow board a crowded trolley.

The trolley was a studio prop towed north past 162 S Lucerne Blvd, also seen here during Sherlock Jr. (1924). The evil henchman appearing to spy on Buster up the street, character actor Steve “Broken Nose” Murphy, is actually looking the wrong way.

Sherlock’s assistant Gillette (played by Ford West) pulls Buster over at 220 S Lucerne, a block to the south, behind from where Murphy is supposedly spying on them. More incongruous, the shot including all three actors (left), as Buster leaps onto the bike and they ride off, was filmed several blocks away, north of Beverly looking south down Larchmont.

Buster and Gillette take off north along the same route as the Hot Water turkey trolley, passing the same 162 S Lucerne home appearing with Harold. In all a dozen homes along S Lucerne appear with Buster and Gillette (numbers 158 to 256, although sometimes edited out of sequence) during their Lucerne ride. Of course, no sooner do they begin then Gillette immediately falls off of the bike (as reported HERE), leaving Buster unaware no one is driving. The scene was shot looking east along Eleanor from the corner of the Keaton Studio at Lillian Way (right), with Buster performing the fall for Ford West as his stunt double.

As with many homes on N Beachwood appearing in Hot Water (see prior post) 162 S Lucerne has been remodeled, its three-arch open porch now enclosed for more floor space. The home stands on the NE corner of W 2d, just west of Larchmont, close to where Harold filmed other Hot Water scenes. The corner home appears in other silent comedies, at left in the Charles King 1926 comedy Please Excuse Me. Harold’s trolley passes by many other Larchmont-area homes during the lengthy scene, which remain to be documented. As expected, fussy Tom wrecks havoc, upsetting all the passengers.

Fed up, the conductors toss Harold and Tom off the trolley, filmed looking west on Sunset Blvd approximately near Ogden Dr. As solved by historian and frequent contributor Paul Ayers, this single track Pacific Electric line ran on Sunset between Gardner Jct. and Laurel Canyon Blvd. from 1911 to 1924. Perhaps the line had already closed when Harold filmed here. Also looking west, the frame at right from the 1919 Lyons & Moran comedy Waiting at the Church (also HERE) shows matching tree and ridge lines, and even the same house with a white chimney to the right. Working with the Library of Congress Michael Aus has made these entertaining, little-known Lyons & Moran films available to eager fans. Visit his eBay listing, and his full eBay store of silent films, where the sale proceeds benefit the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum.

Thrown from the trolley, as Harold leads Tom home, a distinctive broad building appears behind them. The curved details at the left reminded me of another scene from Sherlock Jr., where driverless Buster blissfully races west down Beverly from Larchmont toward the Wilshire Country Club. Buster’s scene is noteworthy, not only for his stuntwork, but for the rare photo depiction of the front of the club.


Buster cycles west along Beverly past Larchmont towards the prominent, rarely photographed front of the Wilshire Country Club at back.

Click to enlarge – matching details, the curve of the road, and more details below confirm the Wilshire Country Club appears behind Harold. As reported in The Larchmont Chronicle celebrating the club’s 2019 centennial, the original club house was demolished in 1971, its replacement demolished in 2001, and the resulting third clubhouse was further remodeled in 2008.

Caption from the Wilshire Country Club’s history page “The original Clubhouse completed in 1922 on the corner of Rossmore Ave. and Temple Street, which became Beverly Blvd. upon its construction through the golf course in 1924.” Given the dense foliage, this photo was taken well after Buster and Harold filmed here in 1924.

Matching views looking west of Harold and Tom walking along Beverly Dr from the near corner of S Arden Blvd, and the Rossmore corner of the Wilshire County Club one block further back.

Once the Wilshire Country Club crossed my radar, it suddenly became clear this odd street pattern to the left during Harold’s family car excursion shows the corner of the club, north up Rossmore from Beverly, with the club’s driveway traffic islands behind Harold, and the club parking lot to the right across the street. Narrow white posts outline the club parking lot in both images. See aerial view below.

For context, this aerial view looking SE shows Harold’s two scenes along Beverly. The narrow white posts in both movie frames outline the Wilshire Country Club parking lot across the street. LAPL.

Buster filmed Sherlock Jr. all around this neighborhood too. Here are just two of his many scenes matched to the same photo.

I again want to thank Zebra 3, a self-described film location hobbyist reporting on IMDb, for sharing all the locations he discovered as reported in this prior Harold’s Hot Water, Happy Days post. His insights prompted me to revisit Hot Water, resulting in this Part 2 post.

I now have TEN videos on my YouTube Channel. To learn more about Sherlock, check out Case Closed – How Buster Keaton Made Sherlock Jr.

Below, where Harold and Buster filmed at 162 S Lucerne

Posted in Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Hot Water, Lyons and Moran, Sherlock Jr. | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Flying “Lizzies of the Field” – Part 2

One of silent comedies’ craziest scenes, race cars zooming down a ramp, flying through the air, landing in a pile atop each other, marks the exciting climax to Lizzies of the Field (1924), the Mack Sennett Comedies Studio production recently restored and released by Dave Glass and Dave Wyatt as part of their striking two-disc Blu-ray release of nearly 20 comedies starring Billy Bevan. The two reel film, discovered in the Eye Filmmuseum archive, scanned by Lobster Films, and restored by Lobster and Dave Glass, is presented complete and in stunning detail for the first time. This prior post, Part One, shows where they filmed Lizzies along roads near the yet-to-be-built Griffith Park Observatory.

Brent Walker, author of Mack Sennett’s Fun Factory, reports the flying car stunt was a major event. Sennett sent not only all of his own studio cameramen, but also Alvin Knechtel of Pathe News, to document the crash. As Brent reports, the stunning scene had long been familiar, having been featured in compilation films including Robert Youngson’s 30 Years of Fun (1963), and in Paul Killiam’s The Fun Factory (1960), and The Great Chase (1962).

Brent writes at page 386 of his book the hill was located near Rowena St. and Armstrong St. near Silver Lake. When I contacted Brent, he recalled a script or other papers in the AMPAS Sennett Collection files had mentioned the jump being staged near this locale, while few other Sennett locations were ever referenced.

Click to enlarge – intrigued by the Blu-ray clarity of the film, I focused on the imposing hilltop building overlooking the jump site. After searching vintage photos on Calisphere, I quickly found it – the former Monte Sano Foundation at 2834 Glendale Blvd. USC Digital Library. Read more about Monte Sano HERE.

Click to enlarge – with this background reference point fixed, it became easy to orient the stunt filming site geographically. The Monte Sano building (red box) has given way to condominiums on re-named Waverly Drive, and Armstrong St. has since been re-named W Silver Lake Drive, but as Brent correctly reports, the crash stunt was staged along hills and fields SW from the corner of Rowena and Armstrong.

Knowing the locale, it’s clear to see this view looking to the NW shows Griffith Park, and the distinctive Beacon Hill in the background. Paul Ayers.

This current Google Maps view shows the path of the cars down the ramp, arrow, and the former site (red box) of the Monte Sano building.

Above, covered in this Part One post, matching views of the auto race appearing earlier in Lizzies along 2763 Glendower Ave.

Thanks again to Dave Glass and Dave Wyatt for their heroic work. Here’s the link to the Dave Glass YouTube channel, loaded with dozens of rare silent comedies.

I now have TEN videos on my YouTube Channel. If you like detective stories, check out Case Closed – How Buster Keaton Made Sherlock Jr.

Below, Shadowlawn Ave follows the slope of the auto jump ramp within the SW corner of Rowena and W Silver Lake Dr (formerly Armstrong).

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Jackie Coogan’s Charlie Chaplin’s Lost LA Alley – The Rag Man

Jackie Coogan returned twice more to an LA alley where he made The Kid with Charlie Chaplin. Early LA streets, now lost, appear in Jackie’s The Rag Man (1925).

Jackie plays an orphan who becomes a successful junk dealer working with character actor Max Davidson as his guardian and business partner. As shown further below, Jackie (and Charlie) cross paths with Buster Keaton and Harry Langdon in downtown LA.

I was stunned to learn most of The Rag Man was filmed on location in New York, and as reported in Mark Phillips’ phenomenal NYC IN FILM blog, many of these vintage locales remain recognizable today – read all about The Rag Man at https://nycinfilm.com/2017/12/24/rag-man-1925/. Above, looking north at Sutton Place from E 57th. Mark’s work documenting New York based movies is extraordinary, impeccably photographed and researched. I strongly encourage you to check Mark’s blog for your favorite NYC movies.

Back in LA, compare Jackie’s frame with a matching frame from The Kid. Both show the same “ARCADIA” street sign on the wall across the way (you can actually read it if you enlarge Charlie’s frame). To the right in both frames is Sanchez Alley, running north from Arcadia towards the Plaza de Los Angeles. The north end of Sanchez remains today, but the southern end of Sanchez, perpendicular to Arcadia, which ran north-south from Main St to Los Angeles St, were all demolished for a freeway. Mark’s blog has some great aerial views of this spot.

Charlie filmed his scene from The Kid as if the orphanage truck was speeding around a street corner. The truck, out of necessity, was quite narrow. Jackie’s broader view shows the corner was in fact a narrow passageway between buildings leading to a rear loading dock, depicted below in another of Jackie’s films, My Boy (1921).

Jackie’s My Boy frame at the right (hosted on YouTube) shows the entrance was enclosed by a vertically raised and lowered gate. Eye Filmmuseum.

Jackie loads new merchandise onto his junk cart in front of the open gated entrance. His frame forms a virtual panoramic view of the Baker Building, as Buster flees the police running south down Arcadia from Main St towards Los Angeles St during Cops (1922). Mark astutely reports that Eddie Cline, Buster’s co-director for many of his early shorts, also directed The Rag Man. So Eddie must have felt quite at home here, after already directing Buster’s chase scene at the same spot.

Above, facing the Arcadia entrance way, in a view looking SE, a friendly preacher checks on Jackie. The NW corner of the Hotel de Paris building appears behind him – note the matching twin-curves within single curve arch details in both images. The full photo looks north up Arcadia from Los Angeles St towards Main St, passing midway the south end of Sanchez Alley.

Matching views north looking up Arcadia towards Main St, the Baker Building to the left. This was all lost to a modern freeway.

Above, closer views of the detailed columns outlining the Baker Building perimeter. Once the most glamorous building in town, it fell on hard times, later serving as headquarters for Good Will Industries, before being demolished for a freeway. LAPL

Click to enlarge – a panoramic view of the west side of Arcadia, with Harry Langdon in Feet of Mud (1924), the Plaza Jewelry Co. at 114 Arcadia, Jackie (center) and Buster at right.

Looking north from Arcadia Street and Sanchez Alley towards the Plaza de Los Angeles. The inset photo is the Baker Building facing Main. These early streets appear in dozens of films, including Chaplin’s Police (1916), and Keaton’s Neighbors (1920), covered in great detail in my Chaplin book Silent Traces at pages 107-112. To whet your appetite here below are pages 211 and 212 discussing Arcadia and the Baker Building.

SilentTraces page 211

SilentTraces page 212

In closing, do yourself a favor and check out Mark Phillips’ phenomenal NYC IN FILM blog, covering classic NYC films from all decades, and especially his in-depth coverage of  The Rag Man at https://nycinfilm.com/2017/12/24/rag-man-1925/.

Another bonus, my latest YouTube video shows how Edna Purviance lost, and Charlie Chaplin found, the baby who would become The Kid. Jackie portrays The Kid, but he doesn’t appear, as this only covers the baby being found.

So much of early LA has been lost, but intriguing glimpses remain hidden in the background of silent film. Below, “Arcadia” is now an access road parallel to the freeway, viewed here looking at the north end of Sanchez. Rotate the image to see the freeway behind.

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Harold Lloyd’s “Hot Water” “Happy Days” Home

Harold’s home stands on two different blocks and TV’s Happy Days Cunningham home appears nearby. So many new locales from Hot Water (1924) were found and shared by eagle-eyed reader Zebra 3, a self-described film location hobbyist, who shares what he finds on IMDb.

Hot Water, a parody of domestic bliss, is best known for its famous set pieces, including Harold’s attempt to ride a crowded streetcar while carrying armloads of groceries and a live turkey, and his disastrous inaugural outing in his new car, with his pesky in-laws in tow. Above Harold and live turkey arrive at 4056 W 7th Street, note the doorway address.

Above, a full view of the family home. Remarkably, all other Hot Water scenes presented as taking place in front of their home were filmed two miles away on N Beachwood Dr.

Above, Harold eagerly accepts delivery of the new family auto, with 575 N Beachwood at back. The distinctive porch has now been remodeled. The scene is presented as if in front of Harold’s 4056 home on W 7th, which is actually two miles away.

Above, Harold proudly presents the new family car to his wife portrayed by Jobyna Ralston, with 565 N Beachwood in the background. The distinctive trio of window arches were later removed. The audience was not expected to notice the discrepancy between the 4-digit address of the family home (4056), and the many 3-digit addresses appearing during the Beachwood scenes.

The family poses for a photo portrait before leaving on their inaugural auto tour, with 570 N Beachwood at back (see address behind Jobyna). The trio of stylish arched windows (box) peeks over the hedge.

A closer view of 570 N Beachwood as Jobyna delights at seeing Harold’s new family car.

Views south down Beachwood as Harold’s in-laws pile into the car. 565 Beachwood (box) originally had an arched entrance, but the homes down the street appear unchanged.

A far (left) and closer (middle) view of 565 N Beachwood, home to Harold’s friendly neighbor, who takes a photo portrait of the family in their new car. The Sanborn maps show the 565 home was originally “L” shaped, with only a front room to the right of the arched entrance. Now expanded, the remodeled home has front rooms on both sides of the front door.

The friendly neighbor prepares to take the Lloyd family portrait, with the porch entrance to 591 N Beachwood behind him. Visible further north, the duplex still standing at the NW corner of Clinton St.

A bad omen, no sooner does the Lloyd family embark on their maiden auto safari, they nearly collide with a milk cart. Notice the N 581 Beachwood home to the left originally did not have a stairway leading from the front door down the lawn to the sidewalk.

This studio interior scene shows Harold unloading his groceries inside the front door. The photo backdrop appears to be 522 N Beachwood, which also did not originally have a stairway leading from the front door down the lawn to the sidewalk.

As I report at page 161 of my Harold Lloyd book Silent Visions, Harold immediately gets in trouble by turning left around the wrong side of a traffic button, here the NE corner of W 1st and S Larchmont.

Also from my book, the cop lets Harold off with a harsh scolding. Always, ALWAYS, pass to the right side of a traffic button. 108 S Larchmont appears at back.

Back to new discoveries. Unbeknownst to Harold, a jubilant WWI veteran has accidentally lost his helmet in the street, seen here looking at the Los Angeles Tennis Club at the NW corner of N Cahuenga and Clinton.

Harold mistakes the helmet for a traffic button, and ever the good citizen, reverses course to drive properly around the right side. The corner home of 591 N. Cahuenga appears at back.

The big reveal, when the soldier stops to retrieve his helmet, this view looking south shows two-story 565 N Cahuenga at back. Decades later, the house portrayed the Cunningham family home during the hit 1970-80s sitcom Happy Days. But Harold filmed here first. Read all about the Happy Days home at Lindsay Blake’s I’m Not A Stalker filming locations website.

Above, the homeowner at 590 N Cahuenga screams “get off my lawn!” as Harold and family make a hasty retreat.

For context, this vintage photo shows the Los Angeles Tennis Club on the NW corner of N Cahuenga and Clinton, along with three views of Harold’s car. LAPL.

Avoiding the traffic buttons, the family speeds westerly along W 2nd past the corner of S Plymouth at right, near W 1st and Larchmont, another discovery made after my book was published.

From here on all hell breaks loose, taking the family across S Lafayette Park Place, Santa Monica, and past the former Hollywood fire station, all as reported in my book. Another discovery, reported on my blog soon after my book came out, the car careens out of control down Olive St downtown, the Bunker Hill film noir locale appearing in the The Turning Point (1952) above right.

I’ll save this for another post, but before Harold buys the car I’ve also found where Harold is ejected from the trolley on Sunset Blvd, approximately near Ogden Drive, and his route walking the turkey home along Beverly Drive past Arden Drive. Stay tuned for Part Two.

661 Shatto Place – Punky Brewster

For even more Harold Lloyd – mid 1980s sitcom connections, check out where Harold filmed For Heaven’ Sake (1926) at 661 Shatto Place, appearing in the opening credits for Punky Brewster.

Again, let’s all give Zebra 3 a great big shout out for these incredible discoveries, and for sharing them with us, and on IMDb.

You can watch Hot Water streaming on YouTube at the Harold Lloyd channel.

Below, an April 2011 view of 575 N Beachwood, before the remodel, seemingly across the street from Harold’s family home at 4056 W 7th. You can explore up and down the street on your own.

Posted in Harold Lloyd, Hot Water | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times” Sanitarium Solved

Charlie Chaplin used the former Occidental College Hall of Letters (still standing) to portray the charity hospital where Edna Purviance delivers her baby in The Kid (1921). But “cured of a nervous breakdown but without a job” during Modern Times (1936), Charlie used the Mary Norton Clapp Library at the new Occidental College campus in Eagle Rock to portray the hospital where he leaves to start his life anew.

The library opened in 1923 with two entrances, the east entrance flanked by a pair of columns, and the more modest north entrance used by Chaplin. The south side has no entrance, and vintage photos confirm the west side of the library, now covered by a 1971 expansion of the building, also had no entrance. I had long been intrigued by this simple scene, which in fact, was the final unsolved exterior from the entire movie.

Click to enlarge – north end of Mary Norton Clapp Library – Occidental College

I want to thank reader Mark Smith who reached out with an intriguing inquiry that directly prompted this post. During his audio commentary to the Criterion Collection Blu-ray release of Modern Times, Chaplin biographer David Robinson explains “The building used for the exterior is Occidental College.”

Mark wondered if this would have been the old Highland Park Occidental campus where Charlie filmed The Kid (above left). But the stairway seemed more contemporary. The Highland Park campus was built in 1897, while the Eagle Rock campus began construction in 1912.

Click to enlarge – built in 1924, east entrance with columns left, Charlie’s north entrance right Occidental College

I logged onto Calisphere, the search platform that includes nearly every online California photo archive, to study the “new” Occidental campus, and soon zeroed in on the library as the likely candidate. Notice above the original rectangular dimensions, the east side twice as long as the north.

Preparing this post reminded me Charlie had filmed an alternate ending to Modern Times, where the Gamine, the Little Tramp’s companion portrayed by Paulette Goddard, becomes a nun, and Charlie heads out once more all alone on the open road. Their discarded farewell scene was also staged beside the Clapp Library stairs. See all 13 Chaplin Archive photos of the discarded farewell scene.

It’s fascinating to realize Charlie filmed this brief, mundane scene, requiring a simple “institutional” doorway entrance, all the way out in Eagle Rock, about 14 miles from his studio located at 1416 N. La Brea. He couldn’t find a closer set of stairs? Filming the extended alternate ending may have been a factor when choosing the site, but it still seems like a long way to go.

Numerous articles on this blog cover Charlie and Mary Pickford filming at the old Hall of Letters building at the former Highland Park campus, and the downtown factory exteriors where Charlie goes berserk in Modern Times. To learn more, please search this site, and also check out my Chaplin book Silent Traces, and the wonderful Criterion Collection Blu-ray of Modern Times, which includes my visual essay.

This link archives historic photos of the Mary Norton Clapp Library, including this view above of the north side. Charlie’s north doorway was originally flanked by twin pairs of windows. The library was expanded in 1955, making the library dimensions now more “square” than rectangular. Chaplin’s doorway may have been moved or rebuilt. The large the modern extension to the right was built in 1971.

Matching views south – Charlie’s doorway marked at left in 1938, 1955 expansion middle, 1971 expansion right. Is it still the same doorway Charlie used? UCSB FrameFinder

For more visual detective work, check out “Case Closed – How Buster Keaton made Sherlock Jr.” accompanied by renowned pianist and composer Michael D. Mortilla.

Check out the library on Google Maps below

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Billy Bevan’s “Lizzies of the Field” before Griffith Observatory

This post is dedicated with heartfelt appreciation to Dave Glass and Dave Wyatt, who join the growing ranks of silent film superheroes preserving and restoring classic films, and making them available on home video to grateful fans. Having released compilations of Lloyd Hamilton shorts in 2017, and Lupino Lane comedies on Kickstarter in 2020, their latest 2022 Kickstarter release is a striking two-disc Blu-ray release of nearly 20 comedies starring Billy Bevan, well over 5 hours of fun. One film that immediately caught my attention is the 1924 Keystone release Lizzies of the Field, featuring a spectacular auto race from which brief clips have appeared in vintage compilations previously hosted by Robert Youngson and Paul Killiam. The two reel film, discovered in the Eye Filmmuseum archive, scanned by Lobster Films, and restored by Lobster and Dave Glass, is presented here complete in stunning detail for the first time.

I’ve always been fascinated by Lizzies as it contains a rare traveling shot heading toward the north portal of the Hill Street Tunnel running beneath Court Hill. The first bore to the right was built in 1908 for the trolleys from Hollywood, before anyone owned cars. The wide bore to the left, for two-way auto traffic, was built in 1913. The landmark tunnel and the hill were obliterated decades ago – read more HERE. Photo LAPL.

Lizzies is especially remembered for its wild auto race snaking along the twisted roads carved into the once barren hills looking down on Hollywood. A century later, with massive development and home landscaping blocking the views, would any clues be discernible? Above, click to enlarge – looking south from the stairway beside 2763 Glendower Ave.

Click to enlarge. The open expanse below – looking south from the stairway, reveals a massive home still standing at 4848 Los Feliz Ave.

Above, zooming past 2814 Glendower Ave. followed by mild bends in the road and then a sharp hairpin turn.

Click to enlarge – view SE at 2814 Glendower Ave (movie frame left). California State Library.

Above, a vintage aerial view of Glendower Ave – with matching modern insets confirming the site. The movie frame at left is looking to the NW while the main photo looks SE.

Click to enlarge – view south from Glendower stairway to 4848 Los Feliz – the Griffith Observatory lower left.

Both views above look south. Marked in red, Glendower makes a sharp right turn west, then another sharp right turn north, followed by a mild bend beside 2814 Glendower, leading to a hairpin turn prominent in the film. When making that second right turn today, the Griffith Observatory, completed in 1935, now looms overhead in the background (left). FrameFinder c-113_228.

Click to enlarge – matching SE views before and after the Griffith Observatory was built. The boxes mark the same homes, the arrows mark the second right hand turn north on Glendower. The first right hand turn beside the top of the stairs is blocked from view. California State Library.

Above, two more views of the spectacular race along Glendower.

For more vintage hilltop views of early Hollywood, above, check out The Roaring Road (1926).

Thanks again to Dave Glass and Dave Wyatt for their heroic work. Here’s the link to the Dave Glass YouTube channel, loaded with dozens of rare silent comedies.

Speaking of YouTube, check out “Case Closed – How Buster Keaton made Sherlock Jr.” accompanied by renowned pianist and composer Michael D. Mortilla.

Below, looking south at the top of the Glendower Stairs. To follow Billy’s path, make the right turn, continue to the next corner, turn right again, and on to where 2814 Glendower still stands tall, then past the bend, continuing to the sharp hairpin turn.

 

Posted in Billy Bevan, Hollywood Tour, Keystone Studio | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

What? Buster Keaton’s Studio Appears in Seven Chances!

Buster Keaton filmed dozens of scenes beside or adjacent to his small studio at Lillian Way and Eleanor. In a surprising new discovery, the corner of his studio actually appears during a scene from Seven Chances (1925) as Buster jogs up Vine Street, and stumbles upon the mob of angry jilted brides who were chasing him. Other buildings in the scene remain standing today.

Click to enlarge – view north up Vine. Buster runs from Station No. 6, the left corner building, past the CALIFORNIA LAUNDRY, towards the HOTEL Eleanor at back. University of Southern California Libraries and California Historical Society, digitally reproduced by the USC Digital Library.

The sequence begins with Buster, having distanced himself from the main phalanx of the mob, jogging north past the DWP Distribution Station No. 6 at 1007 Vine, the white, left corner building in the main photo above, and in the Water and Power Associates photo pictured below.

A modern view – Buster’s head aligns with the narrow palm tree.

The north corner of Station No. 6 and matching driveways appear above.

Buster continues north up Vine beside the California Laundry (now a parking lot) to the SW corner of Eleanor. The women are also running north up Vine along the front of the laundry.

Click to enlarge – at left appears the great Seven Chances reveal. Looking west from Vine down Eleanor, Buster and some of the women spot each other. The green lawn and yellow fence match the corner of Buster’s studio at right, seen looking south down Lillian Way across Eleanor.

At left this scene from The Blacksmith (1922) looking west down Eleanor shows the back corner of the Keaton Studio barn, along with the bungalow, barber shop, and “Coffee Cup Cafe” across the street along Cahuenga that were later replaced by the Technicolor Building in 1930. They appear aligned directly above their positions in this matching scene from Seven Chances.

Another match, the fence behind Buster’s head is where he staged a scene fleeing from Steve Murphy in Sherlock Jr. (1924), both look west down Eleanor toward Lillian Way.

At left, looking east from the studio down Eleanor towards Vine as Buster stunt doubles for another actor by falling off a motorcycle in Sherlock Jr. The fence to the left and the sidewalk to the right are the same sidewalk and fence appearing in Seven Chances, upper right, looking west down the same block. The right side of the Sherlock frame also shows the north side of the California Laundry – the Vine St. side of the laundry appears to the lower right.

Last, Buster dashes further north past the NW corner of Eleanor and Vine, at the time the Hotel Eleanor – 1057 Vine. Still standing, the hotel building has been “improved” beyond recognition.

My new Seven Chances YouTube video shows all the details starting at 9:49. I prepared the video to introduce the film at a recent screening hosted by the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, with the wonderful musician, scientist, and film archivist/historian Jon Mirsalis providing live musical accompaniment. Jon accompanies the video too. I discovered the Keaton Studio cameo when preparing the video.

A dozen posts across this blog reveal other new discoveries from Seven Chances, including Buster’s girlfriend’s house above, and scenes where Buster filmed adjacent to his studio. Look for them all HERE and HERE.

Checkout the many video tours on my YouTube Channel, including this tour which shows the Keaton Studio and its environs.

To download a fully annotated PDF walking tour of the Keaton Studio (not yet updated with these Vine St. locales) click HERE.

Looking west down Eleanor from Vine, where the Buster noticed the mob and dashed to the right. Pan to the left to see the Distribution Station No. 6 down the street.

Posted in Keaton Studio, Seven Chances | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Case Closed! How Buster Keaton filmed Sherlock Jr.

Hosted by the Catalina Museum for Art and History, earlier this year I had the thrill and honor to introduce their screening of Buster Keaton’s brilliant comedy Sherlock Jr. (1924), accompanied by renowned pianist and composer Michael D. Mortilla. With Michael’s invaluable assistance we have transposed this presentation into a beautifully accompanied, narration-free video.

As shown, Buster not only filmed Sherlock Jr. conveniently beside his small studio, but also all across Southern California, from Chatsworth to Placentia and Newport Beach.

Above, Buster seeks to escape the villains disguised as a beggar-woman, directly across the street from his studio barn, appearing in The Blacksmith (1922). At back in both scenes appears the Coffee Cup Cafe, home of Klean Kwik Kooking, serving STEAKS CHOPS and OYSTERS. Read more HERE.

Now filming in Hollywood, Buster opens his bank vault front door and steps onto Hollywood Blvd. at La Brea. He built his small set on a triangular traffic island that is now called the Hollywood Gateway. Read more HERE.

While I cover Sherlock Jr. extensively in my book Silent Echoes, and report many newer discoveries elsewhere across this blog (click HERE), the video contains even more new discoveries. For example, during Buster’s interplay with his motorcycle-riding assistant Gillette, the sequence cuts back and forth between shots filmed on Larchmont Ave., north of Beverly Drive, and on Lucerne Ave., south of Beverly, several blocks away.

The video even shows how Buster filmed a mundane scene near the Arden Grocery once standing at Motor Avenue and National Ave. in Palms, where he and Roscoe Arbuckle made The Hayseed (1919) years earlier, and where Stan Laurel filmed Kill or Cure (1923).

Be sure to check out my YouTube channel. I now have eight (!) videos posted, and hope to continue posting new videos every month or so.

In closing, I again want to express my sincere gratitude and thanks to the Catalina Museum for Art and History for inviting me to speak, and to Michael D. Mortilla for his brilliant music and friendship. I encourage you to support them both. I also encourage you to visit Catalina Island, a magical place that once played host to all the great silent film stars. Above, my first visit in 30 years, a lovely lonely view on Pebbly Beach Road looking north to the Avalon Catalina Casino at left. This was taken later in the evening after the Museum, Michael and others musicians, including Jay Mason, presented Rudolph Valentino’s Blood and Sand (1922) at the Avalon Casino Theatre, as part of the Avalon Silent Film Showcase, one of the world’s longest running annual celebrations of Silent Film.

Posted in Buster Keaton, Sherlock Jr. | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Soft Shoes – Crossing Paths with Chaplin, Laurel, and Lloyd

Now streaming on the San Francisco Silent Film Festival’s website, Harry Carey’s 1925 action/drama Soft Shoes, in which Carey (right) seeks to rescue a young woman from a life of crime, was purportedly set in San Francisco. Yet the film’s many captivating exteriors, including the rarely seen streets of Ocean Park, were all filmed, unsurprisingly, in Los Angeles instead. But as shown below, the movie intersects remarkably with classic films made by Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and Stan Laurel, while documenting historic LA settings, including its long lost Chinatown. This brief shot at left, looking west towards the Ferry Building, is the lone scene filmed in San Francisco. This movie was so much fun to watch (and investigate), and now everyone can watch it streaming HERE.

As reported in a prior post, the Festival’s world premiere screening of its Soft Shoes restoration was presented at the Castro Theatre on May 31, 2018, along with the 1924 Stan Laurel short comedy Detained, recently restored by Lobster Films in collaboration with the Fries Film Archief (Holland), below, where Stan’s prison release matches where Charlie Chaplin was released from prison in Police (1915), both beside the former north gate to the Los Angeles County Hospital – LAPL. Read more about them filming at the north hospital gate, and about Laurel & Hardy filming The Second Hundred Years (1927) and The Hoose-Gow (1929) at the west hospital gate HERE.

To begin, Soft Shoes depicts Harry Carey sneaking in and out of apartment buildings – the first to appear is the Bryson (lower left), still standing at 2701 Wilshire Boulevard near Lafayette Park.

The Bryson portrayed the front of the Mack Sennett Keystone Studios, upper left above, during one of Charlie Chaplin’s earliest movies, A Film Johnnie (completed February 11, 1914, barely his second month on the job). In that film Charlie’s “Little Tramp” pesters Keystone actors as they enter and depart the “studio.” While the true Keystone studio façade actually appears in dozens of other Sennett productions, for some reason the far more impressive Bryson was employed in the Chaplin film. (Upper right –LAPL). The Bryson’s prominent front fire escape appears several times during Soft Shoes, lower left above, along with the distinctive stone lions that still guard the apartment entranceway.

Built in 1913, the Bryson also appears prominently above Chaplin’s head during a scene from his Mutual comedy The Rink (1916), where Charlie meets Edna Purviance on the street at the SE corner of Wilshire Place and Ingraham (now Sunset Place). The Bryson may be best known as a setting described in Raymond Chandler’s 1943 Philip Marlowe detective classic The Lady in the Lake. Color photo Jeffrey Castel De Oro.

Soft Shoes also features the police chasing Harry around another high rise, including the roof, filmed at the Franconia Apartments still standing at 6th and Coronado north of MacArthur Park, pictured above facing 6th Street. The Asbury Apartments mentioned below appears to the far right. USC Digital Library.

This scene of a cop racing towards what turned out to be the Franconia contains two vital clues. At the time J. W. Calder had two corner drug stores, but only his store at 2549 W 6th Street aligned with a tall building at back. As such, this shot above reveals the Asbury Apartments undergoing construction, which opened later in 1925, still standing at 2505 W. 6th Street. (Asbury left – USC Digital Library). By correctly assuming the rooftop scenes (click to enlarge – inset right) also depict the same Asbury Apartments under construction, triangulating back from the Asbury identified the Franconia as the primary shooting site.

The Franconia has a recessed fire escape shaft on each wing facing Coronado Street, put to good use as the cops follow Harry to the roof during Soft Shoes. The color image is the north wing shaft, the movie frame could depict either wing. Vintage photo Don Lynch.

Here Carey peeks north up Coronado, with buildings at back still standing. The Franconia’s decorative rooftop ledges were removed for earthquake safety reasons. Carey crouches on the south ledge of the north wing, while the camera peers across towards him from the south wing.

The view above looking NW from the Franconia roof (left) reveals a stretch of Rampart Boulevard, beginning with the Villa d’Este Apartments at 401 Rampart (A), to the corner of Rampart and W. 3rd Street (D), all appearing in Harold Lloyd’s For Heaven’s Sake (1926) (right, Harold with straw hat). As I explain in my Lloyd book Silent Visions, Harold filmed the drunken groomsmen bus scene, shown here, extensively on Rampart between 6th and 3rd, where nearly every building on the street appears onscreen and remains standing today. The Rampart corner (D) also appears in Lloyd’s Girl Shy (1924).

Below, further action takes place in Ocean Park, the small beach community south of Santa Monica.

Above left, a 1924 view east of Ocean Park, showing Ocean Front, Pier Avenue, and Marine Avenue (Huntington Digital Library). The photo documents the aftermath of the January 6, 1924 fire that destroyed the Pickering and Lick Piers. To the right, a circa 1915 view east down Pier Avenue and Marine Avenue (Huntington Digital Library). Note the church on Marine at back. The front vacant lot is where a billiard parlor (below) would be built.

Click to enlarge. The “Billiards” building far right in the movie frame is newer, built after the photo was taken. The far right photo building says “BRADLEY” at the roof ledge, matching the Hotel Bradley in the movie frame. The J.N. Mooser Dry Goods building appears as Ocean Park Dry Goods in the movie frame. Note the matching sidewalk clock in both images.

This scene above (cropped) of Carey fleeing by automobile was filmed looking east on Pier Avenue towards Main from what was once called Ocean Front (now Neilson Way), the grand promenade that originally fronted the beach. The “FARROW’S RESTAURANT” appearing at back once stood at 130 Pier Avenue, on the ground floor of the Hotel Bradley at 130 1/2 Pier Avenue. Further back stands the Olga Hotel at 142 1/2 Pier Avenue. None of the buildings captured in this scene remain in the modern view (left).

While none of the Pier Avenue commercial buildings appearing in the movie remain today, the rear of the uphill homes still standing at 3014 and 3018 3rd Street remain visible in the far background – compare above the movie, historic photo, and modern views. (Color image (C) 2018 Microsoft Corporation).

This view looks east down Marine Street, parallel to and a block south from Pier Avenue, towards the former St. Clement’s Church that once stood on the SE corner of Washington Boulevard (now 2nd Street) and Marine. The large building at the center of the movie frame is the side of the former Masonic Temple at 162 Marine.

A closer view of the west side of the former Masonic Temple (center), and at back, the former St. Clement’s Church (LAPL), both long demolished.

Moments later, Carey switches between cars as they pass on a steep hill, filmed just a block further east along Marine between 3rd and 4th. The retaining walls on the south side of Marine appearing in the film remain in place today. This aerial view clearly shows the Masonic Temple (box), the church (oval), and the hilly street with the retaining walls to the right (line) depicted in the film.

Late in the film, Carey and others run along dingy Chinatown alleys and street corners. Built in the 1880s, the original Chinatown grew east of the Plaza de Los Angeles on former grazing land owned by Mexican land baron Juan Apablasa and his son Cayetano. Denied property ownership, and restricted from living elsewhere, the Chinese suffered the neglect of their landlords, who left the privately owned streets of Chinatown unpaved. Crammed among noisy railroad tracks, towering gaswork plants, and the frequently overflowing Los Angeles River, Chinatown was the city’s least desirable address.

(Above, Huntington Digital Library, left, Soft Shoes upper right, Chaplin’s The Kid, lower right). Once the original leases expired, most of Chinatown was sold in 1914 to make way for the future Union Train Station. After years of litigation, the Chinese were evicted in 1934 for construction of the new terminal that opened to great acclaim in 1937. That same year community leaders formulated a master plan to develop a new Chinatown between Hill and Broadway, a mile northwest from its former site, where it remains today. Three identifiable scenes from Soft Shoes were filmed at the same spot, the corner of a narrow alley running from Marchesault Street to Apablasa Street, across from the corner of Cayetano Alley. Remarkably, one shot matches exactly where Charlie Chaplin filmed a critical scene from The Kid (1921). Here above (upper right Soft Shoes, lower right The Kid) are identical views looking south from Cayetano, across Apablasa, towards the narrow alley corner.

Above, Soft Shoes left, looking SW, a composite image from Chaplin’s The Kid, right, looking south. Both views show the same drainspout and corner alley bulletin board.

Upper left (yellow), Harry Carey runs south from Apablasa Street towards Marchesault Street, down a narrow connecting alley – this may be the only surviving image taken within this alley. Lower left (red), Chaplin at the corner of Cayetano and Apablasa. The purple arrow points west down Apablasa, matching Stan Laurel’s view, below. UC Santa Barbara c-2744_3.

A wide view looking west down Apablasa, with The Kid/Soft Shoes alley corner at the left. Stan Laurel appears at right in Mandarin Mixup (1924). Chaplin filmed Caught In A Cabaret (1914) beside the central building at back. You can read more about Chaplin and Laurel filming in Chinatown on Apablasa (below) in this post HERE.

At left, is this a happy ending for Harry Carey? Watch the movie streaming HERE and find out. The 2018 Soft Shoes restoration was completed by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival in partnership with the Czech Republic’s Národní filmový archiv, under the supervision of SFSFF President Rob Byrne, with SFSFF recreating English titles from the original surviving Czech print. Funding for the restoration was generously provided by the National Film Preservation Foundation with additional funding from the San Francisco Silent Film Festival Film Preservation Fund.

You can read Hugh Munro Neely’s program essay about Soft Shoes HERE.

You can view my own online presentation for the Festival here – it covers the hidden interplay between silent movies filmed in Hollywood and in San Francisco, along with new discoveries from D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance (1916).

All images from Chaplin films made from 1918 onwards, copyright © Roy Export Company Establishment. CHARLES CHAPLIN, CHAPLIN, and the LITTLE TRAMP, photographs from and the names of Mr. Chaplin’s films are trademarks and/or service marks of Bubbles Incorporated SA and/or Roy Export Company Establishment. Used with permission. HAROLD LLOYD images and the names of Mr. Lloyd’s films are all trademarks and/or service marks of Harold Lloyd Entertainment Inc. Images and movie frame images reproduced courtesy of The Harold Lloyd Trust and Harold Lloyd Entertainment Inc. The Kid – Criterion Collection; Chaplin’s Mutual Comedies; The Stan Laurel Slapstick Symposium Collection Volume 2, Eric Lange and Serge Bromberg, Lobster Films; Chaplin at Keystone Collection, Lobster Films for the Chaplin Keystone Project. Except where noted color images (C) 2018 Google.

Below, the Franconia Apartments.

Posted in Charlie Chaplin, Chinatown, Harold Lloyd, Stan Laurel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Charlie Chaplin’s One A.M. Mystery

Charlie Chaplin’s 1916 Mutual comedy short One A.M. was unique in many ways. Charlie plays a drunken bon-vivant, returning home after a night on the town. Except for a brief exterior scene with his taxi driver Albert Austin, Charlie plays the entire movie solo inside his home, with no plot beyond his inept attempts to put himself to bed.

Chaplin made the film at his small Lone Star Studio at Lillian Way and Eleanor, that would become Buster Keaton’s home studio four years later. The studio stood a short block south of the Santa Monica Blvd. trolley line. Because a trolley passes Charlie as he struggles exiting the taxi, I had long wondered if Charlie conveniently filmed the scene near his studio.

Click to enlarge – One A.M at left, note trolley tracks, matching homes from Waiting at the Church at right. Look closely, a vacant lot faces the trolley line in the near background. The small structures are garages facing an alley, and the homes further back face an adjacent street, not the trolley line street.

Silent movies not only document the times in which they were made, they also provide clues for solving location mysteries from other films. Enter the comedy duo Lyons and Moran. (At left, the rear of a distinctive matching home from One A.M. and their Waiting at the Church.)

Working with the Library of Congress, silent film hero Michael Aus has made several early Lyons-Moran comedies (his eBay link) available to the public (sale proceeds benefit the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum). In particular, his release Waiting at the Church (1919) (see post HERE) is one of the most visually consequential silent films I’ve ever seen, with scenes filmed all around early La Brea, Highland, and nascent Hollywood Boulevard. Comparing frames above, Waiting at the Church (bottom frame) clearly provides a broader view of Charlie’s taxi scene from One A.M. (top frame). Look at the matching details; the vacant lot, chimneys, small garages facing an alley, and distinctive roof lines.

But wider views from Waiting at the Church, presumably looking east, show a curved irrigation ditch running below the street with the trolley line, guarded by a metal safety railing (above) to protect people from falling into the ditch. Charlie must have exited his taxi near this railing.

Another matchup – One A.M. at top, Lyons and Moran at bottom, with vacant lots on both sides facing the trolley line.

I’ve studied the 1919 Sanborn fire insurance maps, the 1920 Baist Atlas, and numerous vintage aerial photos. The section of Santa Monica Blvd. near Chaplin’s Mutual Studio lacks a vacant lot with a setback alley and further offset homes. Likewise, tracking north-south along the Western Ave. trolley line doesn’t seem to match the details. My best guess is that Charlie and Lyons-Moran filmed along the north-south Highland Ave. trolley line, looking east, towards the vacant NE corner of Fountain and Highland (homes were never built on this corner, today the site of a strip mall), with an alley separating Highland from the adjacent block McCadden Place. As further “proof,” Lyons and Moran filmed other scenes from Waiting at the Church on this adjacent block of McCadden Place, just steps from the candidate corner.

Public Appeal – while the available clues seem consistent, there’s no definitive proof. The essential puzzle piece, the curved ditch (presumably running parallel along Fountain, then curving north, then east below Highland and the trolley line, then continuing eastward underground) remains elusive. Does anyone know or recognize this early Hollywood clue? Can someone please solve the Chaplin One A.M. mystery?

Click to enlarge – Waiting at the Church. At left, La Brea at Hollywood Blvd., with the Bernheimer Estate up the hill. At right, La Brea looking north towards Santa Monica Blvd., the Bernheimer Estate again at back. The Pickford-Fairbanks Studio on Santa Monica Blvd. stands off camera to the left in the right frame.

During Waiting at the Church Lyons and Moran run up and down La Brea Avenue, a few blocks north or south of Chaplin’s independent studio opened in 1918 at 1416 N. La Brea Ave., providing tantalizing glimpses of Charlie’s neighborhood.

Click to enlarge – Waiting at the Church, looking north up La Brea. The hilltop Bernheimer Estate at center stands directly above a side view of the large, white closed Chaplin Studio shooting stage (see below). Charlie’s corner office entrance stands directly behind the right motorcycle cop.

Side view of Chaplin Studio matching above movie frame from Waiting at the Church.

A final view from Waiting at the Church, looking north from the La Brea – Sunset Blvd. corner of the Chaplin Studio. The mansion on the studio grounds where Charlie’s half-brother Syd once lived stood on the SE corner of this intersection.

Please check my prior post about Waiting at the Church HERE. Above, Lyons and Moran flee the former First Methodist Episcopal Church on the corner of Hollywood and Ivar.

Another Lyons and Moran link with Charlie, they filmed What a Clue Will Do (1917) at 645 New High Street years before Charlie filmed The Kid (1921) at the same spot. Read more HERE.

Charlie’s studio on La Brea was once a lemon orchard. This YouTube video shows more of Charlie’s studio neighborhood.

Posted in Chaplin Studio, Charlie Chaplin, Hollywood History, Lyons and Moran | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

Keaton Sherlock Jr. – Valentino Blood and Sand – at Avalon Silent Film Showcase

Buster Keaton’s brilliant comedy Sherlock Jr., and Rudolph Valentino’s smoldering performance as a conflicted bullfighter in Blood and Sand, highlight this year’s Avalon Silent Film Showcase, hosted on Catalina Island at the beautiful Avalon Casino Theatre, on May 13 – 14. Avalon Sherlock link. Avalon Blood and Sand link. Both screenings will be accompanied with live musical performances by renowned pianist and composer Michael Mortilla.

I will be introducing both films, sharing their visual history. Below, a few snippets from my illustrated talks.

Above, an early scene from Sherlock was filmed beside Buster’s studio corner.

This famous publicity still was taken beside the corner of Keaton’s studio barn.

Rudy spelled his name differently over the years, and was promoted as RODOLPH rather than Rudolph for Blood and Sand.

You can see the bullfighting ring set built for Blood and Sand at the former Lasky Ranch in Burbank, now part of the Forest Lawn Cemetery. (Photo – Valentino author Donna Hill.)

Last, check out my latest video for Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill, Jr.

Recognized as one of the world’s longest running annual celebrations of Silent Film, the main event of Avalon’s 35th annual showcase is held in the historic Avalon Casino Theatre, William Wrigley Jr.’s 1929 Art Deco Movie Palace. If you live in the Los Angeles area, I hope you’ll consider supporting the Avalon Silent Film Showcase by attending.

Avalon Sherlock May 13 link.     Avalon Blood and Sand May 14 link.

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The San Francisco Silent Film Festival returns to live cinema – Steamboat Bill, Jr. – Penrod and Sam

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival triumphantly celebrates the return of live cinema hosting its 25th anniversary festival at the Castro Theater May 5-11, 2022. Here is the schedule, which runs a full week –  https://silentfilm.org/2022-festival-schedule/

One highlight is the Saturday May 7 screening of Buster Keaton’s remarkably entertaining Steamboat Bill, Jr., accompanied by the wonderful Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. With the aid of vintage aerial photographs, and a score by Mont Alto, I’ve put together this YouTube video showing exactly where Buster left his footsteps along the Sacramento River.

This link takes you to the fantastic National Archives aerial photo featured in the video thumbnail above – https://catalog.archives.gov/id/23935015

The next day, Sunday May 8, the Festival hosts the nostalgic childhood comedy-drama Penrod and Sam. Based on the Booth Tarkington novel, this popular movie was directed by William Beaudine early in his career. Following a gang of young boys, the movie takes place on an idyllic all-American street, lined with beautiful homes and large yards. But where was it filmed?

Above, this unique 1923 photo (click to enlarge), looking east at the then-small USC campus in the foreground, provides the answer. A popular film location site, especially with Buster Keaton (more below) I’ve studied dozens of aerial photos of the campus, which nearly always look north. National Archives – photo mislabeled as Pasadena – https://catalog.archives.gov/id/23935371

Two blocks east from USC, Penrod and Sam was filmed nearly entirely on the 3400 block of S. Flower between W. Jefferson Blvd. and 34th Street. The child Penrod lived at 3421 S. Flower next door to a genuine vacant lot (a critical part of the story). The once beautiful street was later devoured by the Harbor Freeway and the USC Galen Center.

This final image above shows the Penrod street and some of the USC locations where Buster Keaton filmed. This YouTube video below shows even more USC details where Buster filmed, along with scenes with Harold Lloyd and Laurel & Hardy.

This link downloads a PDF file with even more Penrod details. For video tours of Charlie Chaplin’s studio, Buster’s studio, and the Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd Alley, visit my YouTube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/c/SilentLocationsbyJohnBengtson/featured

Visit https://silentfilm.org/ for all the San Francisco Silent Film Festival details.

Below, the once wistfully beautiful site of Penrod’s home.

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