My friend Steve Vaught, who writes a wonderful blog about historic Hollywood and Southern California architecture at Paradise Leased, recently appealed to his readers, with great success, for help identifying certain classic Hollywood homes. So I thought I would give this puzzle a public airing.
Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel, and lesser known comic Hank Mann all used the above setting as a jail location. Although it almost looks as if it were some type of warehouse, the fact that three separate comics used it as a jail leads me to believe it was a real jail. I’ve tried every which way to solve this puzzle, but have had no luck. Does anyone have any ideas about where or what this might be?
A view of the gate from the inside, as it appears in Hank Mann’s The Janitor.
UPDATE – We already have a solution!
My friend Mary Mallory wrote in wondering if this setting might have been the LA County Morgue, at 1104 N. Mission Road, that appears as a “jail” in the Laurel & Hardy comedies The Second Hundred Years (1928), and The Hoose-Gow (1929). This was the break I was looking for.
The Morgue was actually part of the original Los Angeles County Hospital, a complex of about a dozen buildings standing on the east side of Mission Road between Zonal Avenue to the north and Marengo Street to the south. The complex was built prior to 1915 (Chaplin filmed in 1916). We know from the Laurel & Hardy frame above that the Morgue had gates identical to our mystery gate. (The Laurel & Hardy gate, in fact, was on Marengo Street). Moreover, the elements within the yellow box (above) of the Psychopathic Ward of the Los Angeles County Hospital seem to match the elements of the mystery spot.
I will confirm with a future post that the Chaplin jail was in fact the front gate to the former Psychopathic Ward. While the Laurel & Hardy gate stood/stands on the south side of the hospital campus on Marengo Street, the Chaplin gate stood on the north side of the campus, by the bend in the road on Zonal Avenue (formerly Griffin Avenue), just east from the corner of Mission Road.
You can find The Janitor on the Silent Comedy Mafia #1 DVD; Police can be found on the Chaplin Essanay Comedies Vol. 3 DVD; and Detained can be found on the Stan Laurel Collection Volume 2 DVD.
It seems very unlikely that filming would be allowed inside the gates of a real jail. A factory or some other industrial location, as you suggested, seems more plausible.
Are there any connections between the three comics? Same studio? Or perhaps the location was close to the studios and convenient, and therefore commonly known among movie people?
Hi Stephen – yeah, I guess it would pose a security risk to let film people come in to shoot, so maybe it is just a warehouse type of place. It certainly has an impressive front gate.
There is no connection between these three comics and their films – just a coincidence, or rather more likely, at the time the Hollywood types commonly understood that this was a convenient place to shoot a jail scene.
Could it be what is now the LA County Morgue at 1104 N. Mission Road? I can’t get the gate to come up, but I know Laurel and Hardy filmed here, using the gate as the gate of the prison they were getting out of.
I think you got it Mary! See the update I have added above. Thank you so much for your savvy response.
Oops, hope this photo link works:
If you look at a google street view image of 1655 Marengo Los Angeles you will see that the right side of the gate – the wall and pillars – is still there.
Thanks Andrew – Google Street View sure comes in handy. I don’t live in Southern California, and I remember long ago planning trips to see what certain street corners look like. Now it’s all available at the click of a button.
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Serendipity, John! My new Theda Bara book’s got a scene at the LA morgue, but I was waiting until I got to final edits to figure out the details of its address and general appearance. Thanks for the post and the heads-up to “Paradise Leased.”
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I have just spent two hours looking over your blog.It is the best blog I have ever seen.Locations that I have always been curious about being detailed out with specific points circled. This is my dream come true.
Hi Kim – thank you so much for your kind thoughts – I appreciate it. John