In a prior post I explain how the same setting on Witmer Street appears in a Harold Lloyd silent comedy, a 1950 film noir classic, and in the recent sitcom The Office. Another post shows how early Buster Keaton comedies share settings with the popular police procedural television show Bones, while another post matches Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator with Parks and Recreation. Given that location filming has been taking place in Los Angeles now for over 100 years, it makes sense that certain neighborhoods have layers of cinematic history waiting to be discovered.
This post was prompted by a ping-back from Lindsay Blake’s I Am Not A Stalker.com pop culture locations website, reporting that the Trebor Apartments at 2520 W 7th Street portrayed the apartment home of Punky Brewster in the 1980s NBC sitcom. Although the show, starring Soleil Moon Frye as Punky, “takes place” in Chicago, the premiere episode opening credits were likely filmed entirely in Los Angeles, despite an unsubtle shot of some Illinois license plates in a parking lot. Lindsay linked her post to mine because I had previously reported that this same apartment appears in the 1926 Harry Langdon feature comedy The Strong Man. Below you can see matching images of the Trebor Apartments from 1926 and 1984.
During the show’s opening credits, actor George Gaynes locks up his photo shop once located at 651 Shatto Place (see above), and strolls past 1920’s era apartments located on the same block. The shot at the very top of this post of Punky was also filmed on this block. [Note: Lindsay recently visited Shatto Place, and has posted some great “today” photos of the following locations.]
Below, George continues his stroll south down Shatto Place past an actor playing a homeless man sitting beside the York Apartments.
The commercial building that once housed George’s photo shop stood at the SW corner of Shatto Place and Wilshire Boulevard. Below, a wider view of George’s shop from the opening credits, and a vintage view showing the storefronts along Shatto.
As I will report in another post, Harry Langdon filmed many scenes from The Strong Man along Wilshire Boulevard between Shatto Place and Vermont, around the corner from where Harold Lloyd filmed.
Harold Lloyd filmed an extended scene walking north up Shatto Place for his 1926 comedy For Heaven’s Sake. In the sequence, Harold’s character discovers a misleading newspaper story has been printed about him, and attempts to purchase and discard all of a newsboy’s copies of the paper.
This view below from For Heaven’s Sake looks south down the street towards the York Apartments mentioned above, and the duplex at 3040 W. 7th Street at the end of the block.
The apartments along Shatto Place were all built in 1922 and 1923, so it was a modern and fashionable neighborhood when Harold filmed there in 1926. In fact, in 1926 the storefront at the corner of Shatto Place and Wilshire was a Rolls Royce dealership!
Robby Cress runs a classic movie location blog, Dear Old Hollywood, that features a couple of location posts about the 1978 Richard Dreyfus comedy-detective thriller The Big Fix. Robby writes that the former Rolls Royce dealership later portrayed a storefront campaign headquarters in the Dreyfus film. Below is a frame grab from Robby’s post.
As shown below, Harold filmed his scenes walking north from the Pierre Crest Apartments past the Modena Apartments and storefronts, while the Punky Brewster opening credits were filmed with George Gaynes walking south from the shop at 651 Shatto, past the Pierre Crest and York Apartments, and with Soleil Moon Frye skipping south past the Modena Apartments.
Below a grand view matching images from 1926, 1984, and 2011.
You can learn all about how Harold Lloyd filmed For Heaven’s Sake in my book Silent Visions. You can watch the opening credits to the Punky Brewster premiere episode below.
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 Strong Man (C) 1926 First National Pictures, Inc., (C) renewed 1954 Warner Brothers Pictures, Inc. Punky Brewster (C) 1984 NBC Productions.
Below, the Modena Apartments at 661 Shatto Place.
Awesome post and analysis John! The Shatto Place commercial building also shows up in the film The Big Fix (1978) with Richard Dreyfuss and John Lithgow. In that film the building is used in the story as a campaign headquarters. The Big Fix features many Los Angeles locations I’m sure you would be able to connect back to the silent era!
Wow – thank you so much Robby. If it’s OK, I added links to your post, and a frame grab from The Big Fix, to show the now lost Shatto Place storefronts. Such an elegant building, hastily demolished, and apparently still just a vacant lot. Thanks again – John
I know, it is terrible about that destruction! I can’t believe they tore down such a nice looking building. Whether its a vacant lot or some new mega glass and steel structure that may erupt on the spot in the future, I would much rather have the original building.
Totally ok to use the frame grab and link. I’m all for adding to the discussion 🙂
More great work, John. One might wonder just why they went through the trouble of setting “Punky Brewster” in Chicago while filming exteriors in Los Angeles! The main story here, however, is that too much history is being thrown to the wrecking ball by those who have no appreciation as to what it is that they’re destroying.
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Punky Brewster does exist. Punky’s real name was Peyton Brewster a direct descendant of William Brewster, the ancestor of all the Brewsters including the inventor of Brewster Color.
Punky Brewster never met Harold Lloyd and Harry Langdon! Lloyd and Langdon will be thrilled today due to Punky Brewster show!
In “Between Showers (1915)” (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFs9wjsFoRo&spfreload=1) at about the 7:07 mark there is a clear view both of Chaplin and a “Shatto Place” street corner monument. What was the other street?
Charlie stands at the NW corner of Wilshire Blvd. and Shatto Place. Wilshire was once lined with stately homes.
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