The nearly last – Safety Last – joke

Three different Safety Last! rooftops for the closing scene, 548 S. Spring Street, 3rd and Spring, and 908 S. Broadway.

Surviving his heroic climb up a skyscraper during Safety Last!, Harold Lloyd falls into the arms of his loving fiancé Mildred Davis, waiting for him on the rooftop. As reported in another post, this satisfying conclusion was actually filmed from atop three different buildings all still standing in downtown, 548 S. Spring Street, the Washington Building at 3rd and Spring, and 908 S. Broadway. But as shown here, a fourth building was briefly involved in the final scene.

Harold’s roommate was supposed to make the climb (portrayed by real-life stunt climber Bill Strother), but Harold starts in his place when vengeful cop Noah Young chases Bill inside the building. At each floor of Harold’s climb Bill promises to switch places as soon as he can ditch the cop, a running gag.

The 908 S. Broadway building owners recreate the closing scene – Harold losing his shoes and socks.

Once safe at last on the roof, the movie closes with Harold losing his shoes and socks to a sticky puddle of tar (at left), the final joke of the movie, preceded by “drunken” character actor Earl Mohan helplessly entangled in a volleyball net (below). But the joke preceding Earl, the second to last joke of the entire film, tops off the running gag by showing Noah still chasing after Bill on a faraway roof down below, with Bill still pleading to Harold in tiny intertitle print “I’ll be right back – Soon as I ditch the cop.”

Noah Young chases Bill Strother along the roof of the former Mott Building.

This nearly last Safety Last joke was filmed looking down from the ten story Higgins Building, still standing at 2nd and Main, as Bill and Noah scramble north across rooftops from 141 S. Main to the Mott Building at 135 S. Main. Having studied the other Safety Last downtown locations, I knew this closing gag with Noah and Bill was not filmed near these other spots, and seemingly unsolvable, gave it no further thought.

Revisiting the scene years later, I realized from the light and angles that it was likely filmed looking north from the top of a fairly tall building. I also noticed trolley tracks in the street, and that one building had a finial (F) and a central, triangular parapet (P), while its neighbor had projecting twin bay windows, each sheltered by a curved roof (B) (see above). So I scrutinized vintage aerial photos for tall buildings south of two story parapets and bay windows, and before long found the corner of 2nd and Main. Once identified, numerous ground level photos and vintage maps confirmed the location. This street level view above looks north up Main from 2nd towards City Hall. USC Digital Library.

Above (click to enlarge), this 1927 view is one of several vintage aerial views that helped to identify this closing scene. The arrow marks the camera’s point of view.

Click to enlarge – another view from the Higgins Building looking down on where Noah chased Bill, with City Hall at back. Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives.

Above, the full view in the movie, filmed in 1922, with a matching aerial closeup from 1928.

Above, matching views up Main from Second, with City Hall at back. USC Digital Library and Palmer Conner collection Huntington Digital Library.

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.

Below, a matching modern view north up Main Street from the Higgins Building on the left corner.

 

 

Posted in Harold Lloyd, Los Angeles Historic Core, Safety Last! | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Office – Film Noir – and Harold Lloyd

Click to enlarge.  Harold Lloyd’s Speedy (1928) looking south down Witmer towards the Mayfair Hotel.  Dwight, Erin, and Holly from The Office, shown below, stood by the stop sign on the right.  (C) 2011 Google Inc.

What do the television show The Office, the 1950 film noir drama Edge of Doom, and Harold Lloyd’s final silent comedy Speedy (1928) have in common?  They all filmed scenes looking southwest down Witmer Street towards the front of the Mayfair Hotel, at 1256 W. 7th Street, just west of downtown Los Angeles.

The Office (2011) – Erin, Holly, and Dwight on Witmer Street beside the Prince Rupert Apartments. (C) 2011 Google Inc.

In a prior post I write all about the pivotal 2011 episode from The Office where characters Michael Scott and Holly Flax meet on the roof of the Mayfair Hotel, and declare their love for each other.   Prior to that scene, Holly meets with characters Dwight Schrute and Erin Kemper on the street to devise a plan for locating Michael, who had wandered off dazed without his cell phone.  The scene, shown above, was filmed at the NW corner of Witmer and Ingraham, beside what was once called the Prince Rupert Apartments.  Notice the steep slope of the street.

Click to enlarge. The prominent entrance to the Kensington Apartments, 668 Witmer Street, now lost, appears in Edge of Doom – left, and in Speedy – right. The Mayfair Hotel stands at the end in both shots. The Burton Arms Apartments, with the vertical white corner detail, still stands at 680 Witmer.

Harold Lloyd used the slope of Witmer Street to good advantage during an early scene in Speedy, where Harold recovers his idle taxi cab that had accidentally been towed away by a moving van.  As Harold speaks with the truck driver, the taxi breaks loose and rolls down hill running over a traffic cop.

The unusual setting intrigued me, as it featured a downhill slope pointing towards a “T” intersection, capped by an uncommonly tall building, on which a trolley ran along the cross street.   Although Speedy was filmed primarily on location in Manhattan, I also knew many taxi sequences were filmed on Flower Street in downtown Los Angeles.  So I first checked the few trolley-line “T” intersections to be found along Bunker Hill, and in the downtown LA Historic Core, but nothing matched up.  Since other scenes from this sequence were filmed in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I checked nearby locales there as well to see if I could find this setting in New York, but it was another dead end.

From Speedy – a cop about to be flattened by Harold’s taxi, and perhaps the only extant photo record showing the front of the lost Kensington Apartments.

My first break came when I noticed the Mayfair Hotel appeared at back during a scene in Edge of Doom (see above, left), as a troubled youth played by Farely Granger steps into the Kensington Apartments once located at 668 Witmer.  With the Mayfair as a reference point, I now knew what the Kensington looked like, as it appeared on film, even though it is no longer standing.  My second break was my realization (as discussed in my prior post about The Office) that in the 1920s there were tall buildings, such as the Mayfair, located just west of downtown Los Angeles, beyond the Historic Core.  Then, while searching for a file, I somehow come upon the two above images from Edge of Doom and Speedy, and got a hunch to compare them side by side, making the match.

The Burton Arms Apartments, 680 Witmer, as it appears in Speedy, 1928, and today. (C) 2011 Google Inc.

I find it fascinating how this one setting reappears over the decades.  My sense is that “T” intersections are popular when filming for a number of reasons.  First, it cuts down on traffic disruption, as through traffic can be more easily diverted.  Next, it seems to be less visually distracting.  Instead of the lines of the street stretching far off into the distance, drawing the viewer’s eye towards the vanishing point on the horizon, the cross street cuts across the view, creating a backdrop that contains the viewer’s eye.

California Historical Society, Title Insurance and Trust Photo Collection, Department of Special Collections, University of Southern California.  (c) 2012 Microsoft Corporation, Pictometry Bird’s Eye (c) 2010 Pictometry International Corp.

The aerial views above look to the north.  The yellow arrow points SW down Witmer towards the Mayfair Hotel on 7th Street (yellow boxes), and the red ovals mark the corner stop sign where Dwight, Erin, and Holly stood (far above).  The pin to the upper right shows the site of the lost Kensington Apartments, now a parking lot.

You can read about how Lloyd filmed Speedy all over Manhattan and Brooklyn, at Coney Island, and in Los Angeles, in my Harold Lloyd location book Silent Visions.

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 Office copyright (c) 2011 NBCUniversal Media, LLC.  Edge of Doom Copyright 1950 The Samuel Goldwyn Company.

Posted in Film Noir, Harold Lloyd, Speedy, The Office, TV Shows | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Chaplin, Keaton, and Lois Weber’s “Suspense” in Beverly Hills

The beautiful new Kino Lorber Blu-ray release Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers features dozens of early films created by women, many unseen for decades. One highlight is Lois Weber’s home invasion thriller Suspense (1913). As shown in a prior post, the film provides remarkable views of early Hollywood at the dawn of the movie industry, including below the Lasky-DeMille barn reflected in a side view mirror during the husband’s race home to rescue his threatened family. The “Barn” is now home to the Hollywood Heritage Museum, located on Highland Ave. across from the Hollywood Bowl. Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives.

The Lasky-DeMille barn at the corner of Selma and Vine – movie frame reversed for comparison

Leaving early Hollywood behind, the climax of the 1913 film takes place in Beverly Hills, at landmark locations that are today completely unrecognizable.

During his frantic race home, the husband hits a tramp pausing in the middle of an isolated dirt road to light a cigarette. Remarkably, this rural view looks west along Sunset Blvd. in eastern Beverly Hills, where Sunset bends left, south at Doheny Road. The matching tree, and bend in the road, appear in this vintage aerial view. LAPL.

Looking west, moments before the tramp is knocked over by the car. The box marks the same orderly rows of trees in both images, perhaps this was part of the Beverly Hills Nursery, see more below.

A 1922 view north, showing Sunset bending left, south at the “Y” intersection with Doheny Road. The perpendicular road to the right is Doheny Drive. The circle and box mark the same tree, and rows of trees, in the two frames above. LAPL.

Then and now, matching views where Sunset bends left, south, at Doheny Road.

Later during the race home the husband passes a billboard (above) that seems to say “Beverly Hills Nursery,” which once operated along Sunset Blvd.

This scene looking west, as the husband races along Sunset further east of Doheny Drive, appears to show in the distance the trio of domes (see below) spanning the entrance to the recently opened, and then completely isolated, Beverly Hills Hotel.

Above, the once remote Beverly Hills Hotel – USC Digital Library. The hotel appears prominently during Lois Weber’s Lost By A Hair (1914, see below), also part of the Pioneers Blu-ray set. As explained in my book Silent Traces, Charlie Chaplin would later film scenes from The Idle Class (1921, right) at the hotel, including this view of the hotel from what is now Will Rogers Memorial Park across the street.

Above, several 1914 scenes at the Beverly Hills Hotel from Lois Weber’s Lost By A Hair.

Looking north at Sunset Blvd. running from the Beverly Hills Hotel (left oval) to the Doheny Road corner (right oval), with the Beverly Hills Nursery possibly appearing mid-way in between. Santa Monica Blvd. runs diagonally from the lower left to upper right, while the former Beverly Hills Speedway race track stands in the foreground, sheltered from Wilshire Blvd. (running left-right above) by a row of trees. LAPL.

Above left, looking east down Doheny Road, towards where Sunset Blvd. bends to the right (south), as the police race towards the husband’s car (star). The view to the right looks west along Doheny, the star suggests where the husband’s car was parked.

We now throw a little Buster into the mix. This newly discovered footage from Keaton’s The Blacksmith (1922) was filmed nine years later, with a matching view east down Doheny Road (now paved) towards the Sunset Blvd. bend. The blue oval marks both sides of the entrance gate leading to “La Collina,” the Benjamin Meyers estate. You can read a detailed account of the estate HERE.

Contrast enhanced, the view from Suspense of the police racing north from Doheny Road towards the family home (left), and a matching view south from Chaplin’s Shoulder Arms (1918), both show tree-lined Doheny Drive leading at an angle south towards the left-right dark windbreak of trees along Wilshire Blvd. Doheny’s receding angle in each shot tells us Shoulder Arms was filmed further east, closer to Doheny Drive, than Suspense.

Looking north in 1922 reveals the gate to La Collina (blue), the likely site of the family home in Suspense (yellow), and the site where Charlie fooled the German soldiers disguised as a tree in Shoulder Arms (red), relative to perpendicular Doheny Drive to the right. You can read more about Chaplin filming here in my book Silent Traces.

Assuming this scene of the husband running towards the home was filmed where the other scenes were filmed on Doheny Road, then the house (yellow oval) appearing at back is likely the house (yellow oval) in the aerial view below.

Above – click to enlarge – this wider view looking north reveals the gate to La Collina (blue), the likely family home in Suspense (yellow), and the site where Charlie fooled the German soldiers disguised as a tree in Shoulder Arms (red). Nearby, the corner of Cynthia Street and Hammond Street (orange) marks the likely spot of another new scene from Keaton’s The Blacksmith, when Big Joe Roberts chases Buster past a street sign that seems to say “HAMMOND.” The view seems to be looking west down Cynthia from Hammond towards Doheny Drive, and is close to Buster’s scene beside La Collina (blue), below. I have several prior posts about the “new” scenes from The Blacksmith, read more HERE.

The gate to La Collina, looking east with Buster, and looking north in this 1922 view.

Another wide 1922 view showing the La Collina gate (blue), the likely site of the Suspense house – now removed (yellow), and the field where Chaplin disguised himself as a tree in Shoulder Arms (red). HollywoodPhotographs.com.

A final view – Buster, Lois Weber, and Chaplin all filmed near Doheny Road in east Beverly Hills, while it was undeveloped.

Matching views of the La Collina estate gate today.

Kino Lorber Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers. Check out Mary Mallory’s recent post about Lois Weber HERE.

Looking west at Sunset and Doheny Road.

Posted in Beverly Hills, Lois Weber, The Blacksmith | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Alice Howell Early Hollywood Views

We all owe Ben Model a huge debt of gratitude for releasing his fantastic new Alice Howell Collection DVD, featuring 12 shorts starring the delightful (and mostly forgotten) comedienne, sourced from archival materials from the Library of Congress, BFI, DFI, EYE Filmmuseum and Lobster/Blackhawk, each accompanied by Ben’s new piano and theatre organ scores. There are so many early Hollywood connections in these films I could write a series of posts, but here’s a taste to get started.

To begin, not only does Distilled Love (filmed 1918 – released 1920) offer up great views of Oliver Hardy and future Keaton leading lady Sybil Seely (above), but as confirmed by exterior filming locations expert Mike Malone, the bathing beauties diving scene below was staged at the rock pool at Malibu State Park, then known as Crags Country Club. A retired national park ranger, who leads fascinating tours and lectures about Hollywood filming in the Santa Monica Mountains, the Paramount Ranch, and elsewhere, Malone confirmed the diving pool, and that it appeared decades later for scenes from The Planet of the Apes (1968). Color photo Mike Malone.

Next, the prison scenes (below) from A Convict’s Happy Bride (1920), where the inmates are released each day to eat lunch at home, were staged at the former Los Angeles East Side Division (Lincoln Heights) city jail, at 419 N. Avenue 19.

Take A Chance and The Hoose Gow

The jail was a very popular filming location, also appearing in Harold Lloyd’s 1918 short comedy Take A Chance, and during the opening of Laurel & Hardy’s The Hoose-Gow (1929).

The jail also appears, clockwise, in Harold Lloyd’s Bashful (1917) upper left above, Billy Bevan’s Be Reasonable (1921), Lige Conley and Jimmie Adams in A Fresh Start (1920), Billy West’s Rolling Stone (1919), and Snub Pollard’s Nip and Tuck (1923). The jail was originally built in 1909, and expanded in 1913. The jail was re-built again in 1931 to the five-story structure still standing there today (inset right), and later closed in 1965. Known as the Lincoln Heights Jail, the facility became infamous for Bloody Christmas, the vicious beating of Latino prisoners at the hands of the police, that took place on December 25, 1951, and portrayed in the James Ellroy novel and 1997 movie L.A. Confidential.

Last, the 1915 short Father Was A Loafer offers many great views filmed at Castle San Souci, where Charlie Chaplin, Mabel Normand, and Marie Dressler filmed Tilllie’s Punctured  Romance (1914), as well as scenes filmed in Hollywood on Cahuenga, but those must wait for another post. But as shown above, Alice’s co-star Billie Ritchie lived at 6089 Selma Avenue, still standing over 100 years later.

Alice Howell Collection DVD

The Father Was A Loafer home still standing at 6089 Selma Avenue in Hollywood.

 

 

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The Hollywood Heritage in Lois Weber’s Suspense

The beautiful new Kino Lorber Blu-ray release Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers is a revelation, a six-disc set featuring dozens of early films created by women, many unseen for decades. One highlight is Lois Weber‘s innovative and aptly titled home invasion thriller Suspense (1913). As shown here, Suspense provides some remarkable views of early Hollywood at the dawn of the movie industry.

A young mother, home alone (also portrayed by Ms. Weber) telephones her husband working late that a tramp is breaking into their home. When the tramp cuts the phone line, the frantic husband steals a car, pursued by the police, who all race furiously to reach the home in time.

Above, the chase kicks into gear as the husband and then the police turn right (south) from Sunset onto Gower, with the Nestor Film Company studios in the background. The view looks north up Gower towards Sunset. Nestor is credited as Hollywood’s first permanent movie studio. Nestor above, LAPL, the same corner turn right from Sunset onto Gower, at left, taken in 1922 HollywoodPhotographs.com.

The corner Sunset-Gower street sign (oval) visible beside the Nestor Studio during the shot appears much more closely during this shot from One of the Bravest (1914), presented on YouTube by the Dutch EYE Filmmuseum.

[As an aside, both frames above from One of the Bravest mark the earliest film appearance I’ve found of the former Hollywood joint fire/police station (above, left) that opened in 1913 at 1625 – 1929 Cahuenga, south from the corner of Hollywood Boulevard. The above right frame looks north up Cahuenga, showing the fire house to the left side of the frame. Inset photo at right Tommy Dangcil.]

Suspense is noteworthy for its daring camera angles, triptych scenes of the husband, wife, and burglar, inter-cutting between the tramp breaking down doors and the cars racing home, and inventive shots such as here, where the cops chasing the husband appear reflected in his side view mirror.

Thanks to the Blu-ray image quality in this new release, we can see that the Lasky-DeMille barn, at the SE corner of Vine and Selma, appears reflected in the mirror as the crew raced north up Vine. Above, reversing the movie frame for comparison clearly matches this historic view. After Lois Weber filmed here, in December 1913 Cecil B. DeMille, working with Jesse Lasky, leased the barn for the production of The Squaw Man (1914), known as the first feature film produced in Hollywood. The “Barn,” home to the Hollywood Heritage Museum, now stands on Highland Ave. across from the Hollywood Bowl. Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives.

Click to enlarge – 1919 – looking NW – the arrow runs north up Vine crossing Selma beside the Barn and the rest of the Famous Players Lasky Studio to the right. The next street up with the corner church is Hollywood Blvd. The large white home surrounded by trees, to the left of the cropping mark, is the Jacob Stern estate. Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives.

Above, this 1914 Baist Atlas map shows where the chase first turns right from Sunset onto Gower (right arrow), and then north up Vine past the Lasky-DeMille Barn on Selma (left arrow).

Next, during his frantic race home, the husband hits a tramp pausing in the middle of the road to light a cigarette. As we’ll see in part two of this post, this scene and the movie’s dramatic conclusion were filmed in Beverly Hills, where Sunset bends left, south at Doheny Road, near where Charlie Chaplin filmed his tree disguise scenes from Shoulder Arms (1918) and Buster Keaton filmed newly rediscovered scenes from The Blacksmith (1922). LAPL. Stay tuned for more Suspense!

A related post shows how Weber and other pioneer women filmmakers filmed at the Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd alley in Hollywood, years before the gents did.

Kino Lorber Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers.

Below, a matching view north up Gower towards Sunset today.

 

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Harold Lloyd’s The Kid Brother Was Close to Home

It’s time to celebrate the wonderful new Blu-ray release of Harold Lloyd’s classic comedy The Kid Brother by the Criterion Collection. Considered by many to be Lloyd’s masterpiece, this release is simply stunning, a beautiful clear crisp print, a choice between Carl Davis’s stirring orchestral score and the theater organ score recorded by Lloyd’s friend Gaylord Carter, and an abundance of fascinating bonus programs, including my own visual essay Close to Home. Close to Home looks at the many filming locations, including exteriors staged at the historic Lasky Ranch in Burbank, revealing how Lloyd filmed this seemingly remote production within a few miles of his Hollywood studio, while also focusing on Lloyd’s personal home life, and the movie’s domestic themes that had never before played such a role in Lloyd’s films.

Photo by Suzanne Lloyd

To begin, I want to honor Richard Simonton, Jr., who contributes a bonus program of behind the scenes photos and photos of deleted scenes. Richard’s father was one of Harold’s best friends, who regularly screened Lloyd’s films at their home theater, accompanied by Gaylord Carter on their home theater Wurlitzer organ, which Lloyd hired Gaylord to use to record scores for many of his films. Richard Jr. and his brother Robert served as audio engineers for these recording sessions. A veteran Disney Imagineer, Richard Jr. was also good friends with Lloyd, and among his many accomplishments, Richard was one of the principals who helped to establish the UCLA Film and Television Archive, and was instrumental in preserving much of Lloyd’s cinematic and photographic legacy. In 1973 Richard Jr. made a fine grain master positive print of The Kid Brother from the original camera negative shortly before the nitrate negative decomposed. Richard’s rescued print sat patiently in a vault for decades until it was scanned in 4K and digitally restored for this release. The movie looks amazing, for which we all owe Richard a tremendous debt of gratitude, not only here, but for all of the many other pre-1948 Paramount and Fox nitrate prints that found their way into the UCLA archives thanks to Richard’s efforts.

This post covers only a few of the many new discoveries and details revealed in my program. The Kid Brother opens with this incredibly dramatic sunrise scene of a medicine show wagon lumbering along a fire trail on Catalina Island. A matte painting created the V-shaped ridge, and as we’ll see further below, it’s a special effect Lloyd used more than once. (Photo Daniel P. Hogan). The scuttled ship was the Palmyra, an old lumber ship that ran from Seattle to San Pedro for 50 years.

Once part of the Spanish-era Rancho Providencia, the Lasky Ranch in Burbank lay nestled between the Los Angeles River and the hills of Griffith Park. Used as a movie ranch by Universal in 1912, producer Jesse Lasky leased the property for filming in 1918. Paramount built many outdoor sets here during the 1920s. Since Paramount was proudly releasing The Kid Brother, this is where Harold did most of the filming. As I report in a prior post, D.W. Griffith staged the Civil War battles scenes here for The Birth of a Nation (1915), and two massive oaks appearing in the film remain standing today.

Looking east – Lasky Ranch 1922 – Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives

In my essay I show a wedge-shaped bullfighting ring (yellow box above) built for Paramount’s 1922 production of Blood and Sand (see inset of director Fred Niblo with Rudolph Valentino beside the set – Donna Hill) while a ranch home and barn set built for Paramount’s The Old Homestead (1922) directed by James Cruze (red box above) appear as the home and barn for Harold’s rival Hank Hooper (below).

The touching scene where Harold climbs a tree to keep Jobyna in sight as she descends from a hilltop was staged on a hill (blue box on the above aerial) looking north towards the site of the Hooper farm. As I demonstrate in the essay, the future site of the Walt Disney Studios that opened in 1940 appears directly north behind Harold during this seemingly “remote” scene.

One revelation from working on the essay was discovering some of the back story regarding Lewis Milestone’s brief association directing The Kid Brother. As reported in Variety on July 7, 1926, the future two-time Oscar-winning director apparently resented Lloyd’s “interference,” and soon quit the project over disputes with his home studio Warner Bros. Co-director Ted Wilde then took over the production, but when Wilde later became ill, Lloyd gag-man Kitty Howe had to step in to finish the picture, earning a co-directing credit. Lantern Media. [Note: prior historical accounts report filming took place at Placentia and Santa Ana Canyon in Orange County, which is technically correct, as in early June Lloyd and Milestone filmed deleted scenes there by the Santa Ana River. Richard Simonton includes several photos from this river shoot in his bonus program.]

Last, while I now believe I made a mistake during my essay, it was pretty neat to find that Harold still has a few tricks up his sleeve. The early scene where the wagon seeks directions to Hickoryville was filmed looking north towards the Lasky Ranch from a fire trail high up in Griffith Park, paired here with matching vintage and contemporary photos (Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives, color photo E.J. Stephens). The movie frame looks down on what appears to be the Hickoryville sets in the far distance. While it always nagged me a bit there were so many buildings in the shot, and that these buildings stood much further south from where most of the other sets were built historically, with the DVD imagery available at the time I could only look so deep. But now with the Blu-ray to study I believe the appearance of Hickoryville was actually a matte painting of the town buildings superimposed over the trees. So Harold used this time-honored effect a second time during the film, and fooled me with it over 90 years later. [Note: all three images above show the approximate confines of where Stan Laurel and Buster Keaton would later be buried at what is now the Forest Lawn Cemetery that opened in 1952.]

Above, Harold races home to bring Sandoni (Constantine Romanoff) to justice. While the hills and fields of the Lasky Ranch have been graded, preserved now as peaceful cemetery grounds at Forest Lawn, there are moments when the mountain tops still realign with the past (Photo Paul Ayers).

One of the many bonus supplements is the rarely seen early Lloyd short That’s Him (1918). I’ve identified nearly every shot in the film, and hope to post about it some day, but for now, here’s a taste. Above, these views show the SE corner of Ord and New High Street. Lloyd later filmed scenes for From Hand to Mouth (1919) and For Heaven’s Sake (1926) at the SW corner across the street. LAPL. USC Digital Library.

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.

Below, the entrance to Forest Lawn – Hollywood Hills

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Buster’s Paramount Backlot Plunge

c. 1920s: Buster Keaton with Women in Swimsuits

Buster's Our Hospitality waterfall stunt

Buster’s Our Hospitality waterfall stunt

I’m pleased to update this post to announce that the 2019 San Francisco Silent Film Festival will conclude Sunday May 5, with a 8:00 pm screening of Buster Keaton’s second feature comedy Our Hospitality (1923), to be accompanied by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. Now that Buster’s complete silent film oeuvre is available on Blu-ray, and more historic Hollywood photos become available for study, we continue to learn more about how Buster crafted his amazing comedies. For one, Buster filmed scenes from Cops (1922) at three other studio backlots, including the original Metro Studios next to his own small studio, the pre-MGM Goldwyn Studios in Culver City, and the former Brunton Studios on Melrose, now part of current-day Paramount site.

The Brunton Studio featured a unique “T” shaped concrete pool that Buster employed for two iconic water stunts; the once-lost high-dive gag from his 1921 short comedy Hard Luck, and the waterfall rescue stunt (above) that climaxes Our Hospitality.

Hard Luck

Click to enlarge – the Brunton Studio plunge as it appears in Hard Luck, with the left base of the “T” shaped pool covered over with thin wax made to look like brick. Many studios had backlot plunges, or pools, from which they could film water scenes, but only the Brunton Studio had a pool shaped like a “T” instead of a rectangle. Notice the distinctive background barn appearing in both images. Both views look east down Melrose Avenue. The upper right corner shows part of the original Douglas Fairbanks Studio, at the SE corner of Bronson Avenue, now the site of Raleigh Studios. aerial photo http://www.hollywoodphotographs.com/

Buster and his Chinese family in Hard Luck

Buster and his Chinese family in Hard Luck

During the climax of Hard Luck, Buster climbs a high diving platform, and hoping to impress the bathing beauties assembled to watch, performs a swan dive so far from the tower that he passes the far edge of the pool, and smashes through the brick deck creating a crater. The women peer deep into the hole, unable to see where he has gone. In what Buster would later recount as his biggest laugh-getting gag ever, years later Buster climbs back out of the crater wearing Chinese garb, followed by his Chinese wife and their children. Once considered lost, in many versions of the film the movie fades out just as Buster attempts his dive. But newer releases show the gag play out fully (see above). As Buster describes the scene in a 1929 interview, the left base of the “T” shaped pool was covered with thin wax painted to look like brick, allowing Buster to safely dive into pool deck.

As discussed in the comments below, Buster’s trajectory during the dive looks odd, and the scene cuts just as he touches the deck. Perhaps animation or some other effect supplemented the shot – perhaps what we have available today is an alternate take, while the footage of Buster filming the dive “for real” remains lost. In any case, the dive could only be staged as a true stunt with the arm of a “T” shaped pool covered over, which is precisely what Buster set up. Three years later, Keaton returned to the Brunton plunge to film the truly death-defying waterfall stunt from Our Hospitality.

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A side view of the Our Hospitality waterfall stunt set, built over the “T” shaped plunge at the Brunton Studios on Melrose.  The miniature hillside set standing to the left appears behind Buster during scenes filmed at the brink of the falls (see below), creating the illusion that he was far up off of the ground.  photo Photoplay Productions Ltd.

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The miniature hillside behind Buster is a set, apparent in the prior photo above.

During the climax of Our Hospitality, Buster rescues his girlfriend, played by his first wife Natalie Talmadge, from sweeping over the brink of a waterfall by swinging like a pendulum from a rope tied to a log jammed in the rocks, grabbing her just as she starts to fall.  Buster’s waterfall stunt set was also built astride the special “T” shaped pool that stood at the Brunton Studio, readily apparent in these behind the scenes photos above and further below. The Brunton Studio plunge was located just north of Melrose, due east of the modern Windsor Boulevard entrance gate to the Paramount Studios. Buster’s small studio, at Eleanor and Lillian way, stood just a few blocks away.

Buster at the top of the waterfall set - Paul Gierucki

Buster at the top of the waterfall set and practicing for the stunt – photos Paul Gierucki

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The orientation of the “T” shaped water pool, just north of Melrose, between where Windsor Boulevard and Irving Boulevard (neither yet plotted on this 1921 map) would later terminate at Melrose. The Robertson-Cole Studios and Brunton Studios depicted here are now all part of the modern Paramount Studios site.

This view shows the enclosed Keaton Studio stage (oval) relative to the plunge

This view shows the enclosed Keaton Studio stage (oval) relative to the plunge. aerial photo http://www.hollywoodphotographs.com/

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A view of the empty plunge – The Photodramatist Magazine September 1922.

 

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A front view of the Our Hospitality waterfall stunt set, looking west. photo Photoplay Productions Ltd.

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These shots from Our Hospitality of Buster scaling a cliff, left, and nearly falling from a cliff, center, were filmed on the waterfall stunt set, with the camera placed on its side, a technique frequently used during the 1960s Batman TV series, as Batman and Robin “climbed ” the face of an office building. The true image appears to the right.

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The Paramount Studios Melrose Avenue gate across from Windsor Boulevard. The Brunton Studio plunge once stood on the lot to the right (east) of the modern gate.

Our Hospitality and Hard Luck licensed by Douris UK, Ltd.  Special restored version of  Hard Luck copyright 1987 The Rohauer Collection.

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