Stan Laurel may have crossed paths with Buster Keaton (see former post), but for a time early in his career the English comedian was Charlie Chaplin’s understudy and room-mate, when they were both music hall entertainers touring the United States together in 1910 and 1912 as part of the Fred Karno Company.
When Laurel filmed Mandarin Mixup (1924), he used the same authentic Los Angeles Chinatown settings that Chaplin used in Caught in a Cabaret (1914) and in The Kid (1921).
Crammed in among noisy and smoke-choked railroad tracks, towering gaswork plants, and the often overflowing Los Angeles River, Chinatown was the city’s least desirable address. Working mostly in laundries and as vegetable truck farmers, the Chinese endured discriminatory laws and taxes, and were denied property ownership. The privately owned streets of Chinatown were never paved, and as lessees the Chinese suffered neglect at the hands of their landlords. 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 terminal which opened to great acclaim on May 7, 1939.
I discuss the numerous Chinatown spots where Chaplin filmed Caught in a Cabaret, Police (1916), Easy Street (1917), The Kid, and Modern Times (1936) in much further detail in my book Silent Traces.
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, 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.
John, another incredible post. I’m always impressed by your attention to the smallest clues. Are these library collection photos available for searching online?
Thanks Scott – you can search the LA Public Library photos online (a separate special collection there contains photos of the El Pueblo and Chinatown) and the USC Digital Archive. The California State Library also has online photos to search, for areas like Bunker Hill.
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