Harry Houdini Solves a Charlie Chaplin Mystery!

Harry Houdini helped to discover where Charlie Chaplin filmed crucial scenes for his very first movie Making a Living (1914). The initial scene of Charlie’s entire career (below), discovered by Kevin Dale and reported HERE, was staged in front of a residential porch adjacent to the Keystone Studio that is now site for the driveway to a Jack-In-The-Box restaurant!  The former house at 1722 Allesandro appears in five other Chaplin Keystone films and in many other Keystone films as well.

In his debut role, con man Charlie witnesses a spectacular automobile accident caught on film by a reporter, then steals the camera and rushes downtown to apply for work at a newspaper. Above, Charlie stands at the Broadway side of the former Los Angeles Times building on the corner of 1st Street. The building was then barely a year old, rebuilt after a horrific bomb blast destroyed it, killing over twenty people, during a labor dispute in 1910. My book Silent Traces reveals more locations and history from the film. LAPL.

Exploiting the stolen photos, the newspaper churns out “extra” editions of Charlie’s front page story, which he eagerly helps to distribute. Above left, Charlie loads bales of the hot-off-the press edition into the newsboys’ bicycle carts in the alley beside the paper, and above right, hands out more copies to the newsies at the corner office of the paper, where “LARGEST CITY CIRCULATION” appears conspicuously in the window.

Despite the paper boasting of its “largest” circulation, its identity, and hence its location, eluded me for years. But then famed magician Harry Houdini, via champion Houdini historian and blogger John Cox, came to the rescue. In John’s recent Wild About Harry post, he proves Houdini performed a suspended straight-jacket escape in downtown LA on December 4, 1915. John writes how this stunt was frustratingly difficult to confirm until he finally located the story searching microfilm of the Los Angeles Tribune at the downtown public library. When Harry accepted the paper’s challenge to perform the stunt suspended from its headquarters building, it made the front page both when Houdini first tested the block and tackle rigging (at left), and again the next day when he escaped the straight-jacket in two minutes suspended in front of huge crowd. The only newspaper reporting the stunt was the difficult to access Tribune itself, because at the time the competing newspapers ignored the story completely. No wonder confirming the story had been so challenging.

While it was exciting to read Houdini had performed his signature escape in Los Angeles so early in his career, what caught my eye is that the front of the newspaper matched Chaplin’s corner paper office. Founded in 1871, the Los Angeles Express began operating at 719-721 S. Hill Street in 1911, the same year the Los Angeles Tribune morning paper began publishing from the same building. The two papers were later run by the Express-Tribune Company.

When Charlie filmed here the Express was the city’s oldest surviving daily paper. The building parapet reads 1871-1910, presumably to honor the years spent at its former headquarters. In 1917 the Express-Tribune Company advertised that the combined circulation for its two papers exceeded 115,000. Other newspapers complained these figures were fraudulent, and filed suit against the owner-publisher E. T. Earl. While some contemporary accounts of the 1917 lawsuit appear in the Los Angeles Times, I wasn’t able to determine its eventual outcome, and Mr. Earl died suddenly early in 1919. The photo detail at left, attributed to November 1917, shows for some reason the building now deserted, stripped of its EXPRESS name and up for lease. USC Digital Library.

Above, matching window details confirm the site. The 1913 postcard comes courtesy of author-historian Brent Dickerson, who manages the absolutely fascinating A VISIT TO OLD LOS ANGELES website, guiding readers up and down each block of 1900-1920 era downtown Los Angeles.

Above, this 1910 aerial view, a snippet of a wide panorama taken from a hot air balloon (!), shows the alley leading west from Hill Street to Olive Street alongside the Express building (arrow). USC Digital Library.

Looking closer, this frame from a different movie print shows the former Hotel Washington boarding house at 711 S. Olive Street across from the Hill-Olive alley, appearing (right) in this 1907 photo. The hotel was demolished in 1917 to make way for the Coulter’s Dry Good store building (more below), still standing at this spot today. USC Digital Library.

The Hill-Olive alley appearing in the film was defined by five buildings, those flanking each end of the alley, and the Hotel Washington across the street at back (see map, Charlie marked by the star). The area was a booming construction site at the time, and only one of these five buildings (dark gray on map) survives today, the corner at 716-722 S. Olive built in 1906 as headquarters for the Home Telephone & Telegraph Company. The building’s distinctive quartet of pitched roof skylights shown above remain today.

This wider view west down 7th reveals the filming site on Hill Street stood half a block from the Los Angeles Athletic Club at 7th and Olive where Charlie often resided. (Charlie wrote to his brother Syd from the club as early as August 4, 1914). Given the club’s prominent role in Chaplin’s life, and its proximity to where he began his career, it’s easy to imagine Charlie would reflect about his debut filming on Hill Street when visiting the club. Harold Lloyd filmed Never Weaken (1921) on the roof of the Ville de Paris department store (center), built in 1916 after Charlie filmed in the alley. The photo date is attributed to November 1917 – curious, since the center roof sign mentions “1920,” yet the right corner of 7th at Hill stands bare (a demolition permit was pulled in September 1917), in preparation for the future Warner Bros. Downtown – Pantages Theater which began construction there in 1919. USC Digital Library.

Looking east along 7th at Olive, this scene of Charlie and the drunk millionaire driving home in City Lights (1931) was staged across the street from the Los Angeles Athletic Club, and one block from Charlie’s debut performance site beside the former newspaper. The Ville de Paris appears at left, along with the Coulter Dry Goods store (built in part on the former Hotel Washington site around the corner).

Above, a final then and now view looking west at the alley side of the 1906 Home Telephone & Telegraph building, still standing. The Coulter Building, rather than the Hotel Washington, now appears at the far end across the street.

Houdini had connections to Buster Keaton as well, including this scene from Harry’s 1919 thriller The Grim Game (1919), filmed at the Chaplin-Keaton- Lloyd Hollywood Alley. I have several posts about the historic locations appearing in Houdini’s The Grim Game HERE.

Be certain to check out the fantastic Chaplin at Keystone DVD set from Flicker Alley.

Below, the 719 S. Hill Street corner where Charlie Chaplin AND Harry Houdini both once stood, creating history, is now a parking lot. But thanks to the work of John Cox and Brent Dickerson, and the incredible array of resources now available online, we can appreciate Charlie’s sense of what Los Angeles looked like over 100 years when he began his career.

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How Mary Pickford Filmed Daddy-Long-Legs Part One

In Daddy-Long-Legs (1919) Mary Pickford portrays an endearing young orphan later sent to college by an anonymous benefactor. Complications ensue when Mary meets her sponsor, unaware of his status, and they fall for each other. In what was Pickford’s most financially successful production up to that time, this charming film reveals surprisingly varied glimpses of early Los Angeles history.

To begin, Mary’s orphanage (upper left) was the same former Occidental College Hall of Letters building Charlie Chaplin would later use to portray a maternity hospital at the beginning of The Kid (1921) (lower left). The former college building was abandoned when Occidental moved to its new, larger Eagle Rock campus in 1914. By 1919 the hall had been deserted for years, and was perfectly cast to portray Mary’s orphanage. Mary filmed here first, well before Chaplin. USC Digital Library.

Mary lines up her fellow orphans along the north, back side of the former hall. The projecting left side of the building in the movie frame was later trimmed flush to the back wall, as confirmed by the 1950 Sanborn fire insurance maps. Also trimmed of its upper floor and peaked roof, the building still stands, a modest apartment block in Highland Park, surrounded by bungalows and strip malls. Color photo Tony Barraza.

Mary chases a fellow orphan east along the south face of the building. The Sanborn fire insurance maps confirm the large projecting porch in the movie frame was removed by 1950. Color photo Brad Alexander.

Mary and fellow orphan actor Wesley Barry pose by the NW corner of the building, essentially unchanged but for the landscaping. Color photo Jeffrey Castel de Oro.

Mary runs beside what was likely a prop wall built for the production, at the back, east corner of the building. Color photo Jeffrey Castel de Oro.

Wesley runs east along the south face – the porch now removed and doorway replaced with the two smaller windows at center. Color photo Tony Barraza.

Upper left, Mary chases an orphan along the east side of the hall, the same side appearing with Edna Purviance in The Kid (center). Notice the matching left drain spout in each vintage image. Color photo Tony Barraza.

Mary leads Wesley back inside the west entrance. Color photo Tony Barraza.

Witnessing the anonymous, long-legged shadow of her benefactor inspires Mary to call him “Daddy-Long-Legs.”

As I detail in my Chaplin book Silent Traces, Presidents Taft and Teddy Roosevelt also visited this campus building. So, Mary, the world’s most beloved actress, Chaplin, the world’s most beloved comedian, and two United States Presidents, all once visited this humble site. You can visit the inside of the building at this post HERE. The west entrance to the building is reached by walking between the row of bungalows at 121 N. Avenue 50, in Highland Park. Occidental College Archives and Special Collections.

Above, the left (north) side of the former Charles M. Stimson Library appears in this scene where a bum throws a seemingly worthless jug of hard cider over the wall. Mary and fellow orphan Wesley Barry find the jug and innocently become inebriated. The matching left side of the library appears at left in the above photo. My sense is the towering wall was built for the production – it facilitates the story, and does not appear in vintage photos. The telephoto image left, displaying no wall, looks east at where the bum stood to the left of the corner library. Once part of the Occidental campus, the former Stimson Library occupied the north corner of N. Avenue 50 and N. Figueroa Street. Above USC Digital Library and left California State Library.

A final view showing the west entrance – the left side of the building. (C) 2019 Microsoft. The vacant school building must have had the top floor removed and been converted to apartment use in the 1920s. It first appears listed as the Savoy Apartments, 121 N Av 50, in the 1926 City Directory, while the earliest building permit for the site (July 7, 1925) already describes the building as two stories tall and as “School altered to Apts.” Built in 1904, the building was declared Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument #585 on October 15, 1993.

Not only did Mary film at Occidental before Chaplin, at the time she was living at 56 Fremont Place, across the street from 55 Fremont Place (above left), the mansion later appearing in The Kid when Edna Purviance abandons her infant in a millionaire’s limousine. Mary’s 56 Fremont Place home appears center above in The Red Kimono (1925) – a movie staged with incredible locations, and above right as Jean Harlow’s home in Bombshell (1933). Chaplin’s production records (right) for filming this Fremont Place scene in The Kid simply identifies the setting as “Pickford Street,” tying the location directly to Mary. Given their close association, one can’t help but imagine that Mary was instrumental in bringing these two crucial filming locations to Charlie’s attention.

Daddy-Long-Legs opens with establishing shots explaining some babies are nourished and cared for in beautiful surroundings, while others are born to misery and strife.

The beautiful surroundings pictured above are the conservatories at Eastlake Park east of downtown, renamed Lincoln Park in 1917. The site is now home to a Lincoln Park senior center.

Click to enlarge – the conservatories appear at back, center, in this vintage aerial view looking east at the park – N. Mission Road to the left and Valley Blvd. to the right. HollywoodPhotographs.com.

The next opening scene compares laboring orphans to prisoners in a chain gang. This brief shot from DDL reveals the true Los Angeles Orphanage once located at 917 S. Boyle Avenue near Hollenbeck Park. Notice the matching peaked side entrance and fire escape. USC Digital Library.

Later known as the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, this home for girls opened in 1890 and was in use until 1953. Long since demolished, Mary had also earlier staged scenes at this orphanage, above left, for Stella Maris in 1918. USC Digital Library.

Above, another true orphanage scene from Stella Maris. Mary stands by the arch beneath the side entrance stairs at the far lower left of the vintage image. It is fascinating (and frustrating) how often long lost iconic buildings are narrowly presented in silent film.

Now that we’ve covered DDL‘s deserted campus setting, its true orphanage cameos, and how Mary likely influenced Chaplin’s choice of two key scenes from The Kid, we’ll cover all of the MANY remaining locations, in Part Two, including two beautifully preserved mansions. Stay tuned.

Below, 121 N. Avenue 50, the former campus building, where Mary filmed at the west entrance shown here.

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Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Schindler

Click to enlarge – north up Kings Road at Waring

Several years ago, following my introduction of Sherlock Jr. at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, Los Angeles architect John Trautmann approached me to ask if I had noticed the famous Schindler house which appears in the background as Buster speeds along on his motorcycle.  Located at 835. N. Kings Road, this home would come to be revered as one of the most influential structures of the 20th century.

R.M Schindler (right), with architect Richard Neutra and Neutra’s wife Dionne and child in front of the house where the Neutras lived from 1925 until 1930.

R. M. Schindler was a progressive architect who emigrated from Vienna to work with Frank Lloyd Wright, first in Chicago in 1918, and then in Los Angeles in 1920.  Setting off on his own, Schindler built the Kings Road House in 1922, and for the next three decades went on to experiment with shaping space and making liveable, iconoclastic houses and apartments, mostly throughout Los Angeles.

The Kings Road House is still standing with its grounds intact, although hemmed in now by modern apartment buildings.  Organized on a “pinwheel” plan, in which vistas fly out from the core living spaces into the gardens beyond, it was built as a duplex, where each family could have its own indoor/outdoor realm.  Concrete slabs were poured flat on the ground and tilted vertically to form the walls, in which vertical strips of glass serve as windows.  The home’s rooftop sleeping porch is evident in the 1924 movie frame, but was yet to be constructed in the matching 1922 photo.

The Schindler House is now home to the MAK Center for Art and Architecture.

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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.

 

 

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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.

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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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