The Prelinger Archives has just posted some amazingly sharp movie footage of Bunker Hill and downtown Los Angeles taken in the late 1940s. The stock footage was intended to be projected behind actors filming a traveling car scene within an indoor studio, but apparently was never used. The footage not only provides a wonderful glimpse of post-WWII Bunker Hill, now lost to civic redevelopment, but illuminates Los Angeles during the silent film era as well. You can access the video here. [UPDATE – Jim Dawson reports that this footage appears briefly during Shockproof, the 1949 Columbia Pictures release, in a scene where Cornel Wilde picks up Patricia Knight at her place at 507 Second Street (the Koster house)]. [UPDATE – you can download a PowerPoint Presentation showing how Harold Lloyd filmed Girl Shy on Bunker Hill at this newer post].
As I explain in my book Silent Visions, Harold Lloyd filmed scenes for seven different movies at the intersection of 3rd and Grand, on Bunker Hill, more scenes than at any other location in Los Angeles. As we will see, it was a popular place for Laurel and Hardy, and other Hal Roach Studio stars to film as well. The Prelinger film drives twice by Lloyd’s intersection of 3rd and Grand, providing razor sharp images of where Lloyd and other silent stars filmed.
This brief scene from Harold Lloyd’s An Eastern Westerner (1921) (above) looks up Grand, past the Angels Flight Pharmacy on the near right corner of 3rd, and the Lovejoy Apartments on the far corner of 3rd, way back to the onion dome of the Winnewaska Apartments on the corner of 2nd and Grand. (oval, above).
Ernie “Sunshine Sammy” Morrison appears in this scene from Hal Roach production The Non-Skid Kid (1922). Ernie is standing on Grand north of the 3rd Street intersection, and the onion dome of the Winnewaska Apartments on Second and Grand appears behind him up the street.
Captivated by the youth’s charm and mega-watt smile, Hal Roach signed Ernie to a two-year contract in 1919, before he had turned seven, making him reportedly the first black performer in history to be awarded a long-term Hollywood contract. Ernie appeared in three Lloyd pictures and numerous other Roach productions before becoming the first cast member of the original Our Gang.
Harold returned to 3rd and Grand to film several scenes for his first independently produced feature film Girl Shy (1924). Above, Harold is racing a commandeered horse wagon north up Grand towards 3rd.
Later in Girl Shy, Harold races his wagon west down 3rd towards the corner of Grand, past the Lovejoy Apartments. The same corner apartment building appears in the Prelinger film at 2:47 into the film.
During Harold Lloyd’s later feature comedy For Heaven’s Sake (1926), a double-decker bus commandeered by a quintet of drunken groomsmen races up Grand from the corner of 4th Street towards the 4th and Grand Service Garage, identified with a red oval on the sidewalk. In the Prelinger film, looking the opposite direction north up Grand, the garage appears to the left, also marked with a red oval.
Although Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy had briefly appeared together years earlier in The Lucky Dog (cir. 1919), the short film Duck Soup (1927) marks the first time the two comedic actors worked together at the Hal Roach Studios, though not yet paired as a “team.” During the film Oliver gives Stan a ride on his bicycle, including several scenes of them traveling south down Grand Avenue. During these scenes the camera either points north up Grand, so that we can see the actors, or down Grand, providing the audience with a point of view shot of the duo’s downhill ride. Above, Stan and Ollie ride south down Grand past the corner of 4th, with the 4th and Grand Service Garage visible behind them to the left.
A bit further during Stan and Ollie’s ride down Grand from 4th Street, we can see the Zelda Apartments (red oval) in both the movie, and at frame 2:00 during the Prelinger film.
As Stan and Ollie continue down Grand from 4th, they pass by the Biltmore Garage on the SE corner of 5th and Grand. The red box above matches the doors and windows in the Prelinger frame.
The Prelinger film continues south down Grand, turning right (west) at 5th, past the Biltmore Theater, the Biltmore Hotel, and the Los Angeles Public Library, then turning right (north) at Flower, and continuing north to 1st Street, where it turns right (east) onto 1st Street, where the film ends. [Note: some blogs regarding the Prelinger film incorrectly state that the last turn of the film is onto 2nd Street, forgetting that the drop-off of the west end of the 2nd Street tunnel would appear in the background during the turn if this was correct.]
Stock footage – The Internet Archive – Rick Prelinger, Prelinger Archives.
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.
California History Room, California State Library, Sacramento, California; Security Pacific National Bank Photograph Collection/Los Angeles Public Library.
great stuff! i just ordered your book from amazon! thank you! thank you! thank you!, ( i can’t say it enough!), for your amazing detective work.
Great – thanks! I hope you enjoy the book.
What a wonderful time capsule! I cannot believe how clear the film footage is. It is great to see those Llloyd and Stan/Ollie comparisons against such great footage and with greater perspective of the locations. Thanks for the link.
John’s blog is great — his book is AWESOME. You will not be disappointed. You’ll be in shock, page after page. It’s that good.
We definitely should have a time machine!
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Fantastic Travel thru Time ..priceless footage of an era gone forever…LA never looked so good, and so real…maybe one day humanity will be restored also….
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First time here. Awesome site. Great post.
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I understand you are in the process of gathering information for a Laurel and Hardy film location book. I have been involved with Laurel and Hardy filming locations for several years and would love to send you a DVD and information regarding these finds.
Please let me know what you think.
I’ve seen this DVD that Ken has, and it is quite interesting and amazing how many of these locations are still recognizable after all these years. You should talk with Ken.
John, great film archaeology as usual!
I believe I am able to isolate the year of this footage to 1948 or 1949. The latest model car I can identify is a 1948 Studebaker which enters the film at 1:06. Later at 5:32, the Mercury that is directly behind the filming vehicle clearly displays the California license plate issued in 1947 with black characters on a yellow background but with the addition of the validation tag in the upper right hand corner that was used on this plate in 1948, ’49 and ’50 before new plates were issued in 1951 with yellow characters on a black background. Unfortunately the validation tags for all three years were all light in color so it’s impossible to distinguish with certainty which of the three years it is for sure. As ’49 and ’50 both used silver/gray tags and only ’48 used a white tag, if I were to make an educated guess, I would say the tag looks closer to white than silver/gray so my guess would be the film was shot in 1948.
Keep up the great work!
Palm Springs, CA.
Hi Greg – wow, thank you for the great information. Your analysis seems spot on – Jim Dawson reports that some of this footage appears briefly in the movie Shockproof, released in January 1949 (according to IMDB), so the footage had to have been shot in 1948 or earlier. So it all fits – thanks again, John
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I ended up on this page searching for the filming locations of Duck Soup (1927). Thanks for the information! I find it fascinating to see these old sites as they were compared to their modern state – much much different. Having said that, I am curious if anybody knows about the house in the film.
Thanks Chris – someone sent me a candidate Duck Soup house a while back, but although it was similar, it had different features. I wonder if it belonged to someone Roach knew.
I have all your silent location books and love them and this site.
I am from the UK and am fascinated with old Hollywood and, thanks partly to you, old LA.
Can you point me to the best sources for maps showing Bunker Hill and its surrounding area?
like the one you have an extract from above showing building and streets.
Keep up the great work and many thanks.
Hi Patrick – thank you for your message. The two most useful map resources are the Sanborn fire insurance maps, which show the individual footprint of every building in the covered city. Here in California I can obtain these online through the Los Angeles Public Library. Another source is the Baist Atlas. The 1921 edition can be downloaded page by page from the David Rumsey Map Collection http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/view/search?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No&q=baist&search=Go David also has 1938 street maps of Los Angeles.
The map with the red route arrows can be downloaded here on Flickr https://flic.kr/p/ShakJk
Thank you so much for that John
Your sight just gets better and better.
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