Chaplin’s Beverly Wilshire Cigar

During one of my favorite jokes from City Lights, Charlie spies a cigar butt on the sidewalk while driving around in his millionaire friend’s luxury car.  Charlie leaps from the car, grabs the butt before another bum can take it, and then drives off, leaving the bewildered bum behind.

City Lights (c) Roy Export Company Establishment

Google Street View (c) 2011 Google Inc.

As we can see, the joke was filmed on South El Camino Drive, south from Wilshire Boulevard, across the street from the east side of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.  I had always surmised this was a true location, and not shot on a backlot, as the numerous balustrades, columns, and other building details in the background seemed too elaborate to be merely a set.  I kept an eye out for this setting for years, but nothing ever matched up.  One day it struck me that perhaps the setting was the back side of a grand downtown hotel, such as the Biltmore, but that proved false.

City Lights (c) Roy Export Company Establishment

For some reason I then remembered that the Beverly Wilshire Hotel appears during another scene from City Lights as part of Charlie and the millionaire’s drunken drive home.  Since Chaplin had already filmed in that neighborhood, it struck me to check out the hotel on Google Street View, where I quickly matched the shot.  This shot at the left from the drunken drive home actually shows the corner (oval) where Charlie grabbed the cigar butt.

The box marks the area shown in the movie - Los Angeles Public Library SPNB Photo Collection

City Lights (c) Roy Export Company Establishment

Here is a view of the hotel as it appears during the drunk driving scene.  Charlie and the Millionaire’s path takes them from traveling west along Wilshire to north on Rodeo Drive, with the hotel whizzing by as they make the turn.

Google Street View (c) 2011 Google Inc.

Here is a modern view of the same intersection.

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.

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8 Responses to Chaplin’s Beverly Wilshire Cigar

  1. I wondered since my childhood (I’m now 59) in what location the last scene of “Modern Times” was shot (the Tramp and the Girl going away hand in hand in that beautiful open road with the hills in the back ? Did you find it, please ? How does it look today ? Best wishes for your work of love. My favorites movies are silent : “Sunrise” and “City Girl” by Murnau. Alvaro Legido


  2. Pingback: New City Lights Release – Discoveries and Assumptions | Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more)

  3. Freaky says:

    Hello John! A great findingIMust look this iconic film.Also becauseof the number of old/new locations.And i guess you know f.E. the location of the “Charlie Chaplin City lights scene never added to the film”(Youtube-title). I,as Non-L.A.-ian have nearly no chance I know.


  4. Hi – the scene where Charlie plays with a stick stuck in a metal grate was filmed at the Chaplin Studio. Behind him are “buildings” that appear during other scenes. I have photos of the studio in my Silent Traces book, and you can see some photos at this other post.


    • Freaky says:

      Thanks John! In this case i wasn´t sure if its real or a set.So you solved the miracle!


      • Freaky says:

        And if i would have looked more carefully iwould´ve noticed that they are the same building: in the beginning total view of the city and in the background of the scene.So both studio of course 🙂


  5. Pingback: Keaton’s Missing Scene and Cameraman Tricks | Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more)

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