Charlie Chaplin encountered the abandoned infant who will become his son in The Kid (1921) along an alley running east-west between Cosmo and Cahuenga just south of and parallel to Hollywood Boulevard. A gang of police would later chase Buster Keaton down the same alley in Cops (1922), and Harold Lloyd and Bill Strother would later knock down policeman Noah Young there in Safety Last! (1923). The alley also appears in such films as Keaton’s 1920 short Neighbors, Lloyd’s 1921 short Never Weaken, and director Emory Johnson’s 1925 newspaper crime-drama The Last Edition. Note: the alley is now featured in the new Travel Channel show Time Traveling with Brian Unger (see end of post below).
The Last Edition, a once-lost film restored by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and EYE Institute Netherlands, was premiered at the 2013 Festival. Although set in San Francisco, with many identified SF locations, The Last Edition contains several scenes and pick-up shots that were actually filmed in Hollywood – a common practice with “location” movies, even today.
Aside from the San Francisco exteriors, The Last Edition provides fascinating glimpses of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper offices and printing plant. But what really captured my attention at the premiere was a pivotal scene filmed in Hollywood along the alley where Buster Keaton filmed Cops and Harold Lloyd filmed Safety Last! (I write about Buster and Harold filming at this same alley HERE and HERE.)
Preservationist and San Francisco Silent Film Festival President Rob Byrne was instrumental in identifying and restoring The Last Edition, a heretofore forgotten film. After informing Rob that his movie shared some Hollywood real estate in common with Buster and Harold, Rob graciously provided me online access to the film.
I thought some settings in The Last Edition looked familiar, and quickly realized that it provided the missing link in what I jokingly call the transitive property of film locations – that if A is filmed beside B, and B is filmed beside C, then A is filmed beside C.
As I write at page 199 of my Chaplin film location book Silent Traces, I knew Charlie filmed his initial discovery of “the Kid” at the same setting where Buster had filmed scenes from Neighbors; the details in the background alleys match up. However, because both Chaplin and Keaton had filmed other scenes from these movies near Chinatown and Skid Row, I had always assumed the settings pictured here were in downtown Los Angeles as well. By providing unique views of the alley where Buster filmed Cops, and matching views of an alley appearing in Buster’s Neighbors, The Last Edition supplied the connecting link to show Chaplin filmed The Kid at this alley in Hollywood as well. The 1919 Sanborn fire insurance map depicted here confirms that the back of the second floor of the former bakery at 1644 Cahuenga was supported on posts overhanging the first floor, which covered a brick oven at back (more clearly seen on the 1913 map), exactly matching the movie images from The Kid.
I can think of no Hollywood exterior that plays a greater role in silent movie history than this unique alleyway. Not only did Chaplin, Keaton, AND Lloyd shoot here, but in each case it was to film a recognized masterpiece that would later be inducted into the National Film Registry. Amazingly, the rediscovery of a forgotten film brought all of the pieces together.
The Last Edition contains a thrilling real-life stunt, as the reporter, played by Clarence Walker climbs up, down, and around the back of the wooden structures formerly standing at 6378-6374 Hollywood Boulevard in order to eavesdrop on the crime syndicate. As shown above, Clarence perched on an orange crate at the edge of the roof in order to reach up to the window of the room where the crooks were hatching their plan. The creaky building Walker climbs was replaced with a modern structure in 1936, adding to the documentary value of this rare footage.
In closing, two historic alleys bookend the tale of The Kid; the alley where Charlie first discovers the abandoned infant, and the alley where Charlie and Jackie Coogan are reunited after the authorities try to steal Jackie away into an orphanage. Remarkably both of these alleys still exist, and may be visited today. You can read about Charlie and Jackie filming their emotional reunion at Olvera Street at this post here.
PS – Below, yet another connection between The Last Edition and Buster Keaton’s Cops. Both contain scenes filmed at the Brunton Studio backlot north of Melrose, the future site to the Paramount lot.
I wish to express my sincere thanks to Rob Byrne, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, and EYE Film Institute Netherlands, for rescuing and restoring The Last Edition, and for their assistance with preparing this post.
Note: the alley now appears in the new Travel Channel show Time Traveling with Brian Unger. Although they didn’t have time on the show to point out the Keaton and Lloyd connections, it is great to see this long lost historic filming location being recognized by the media.
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. Used with permission.
The Last Edition EYE Film Institute Netherlands and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.
Cops and Neighbors licensed by Douris UK, Ltd.
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.
Vintage aerial photographs HollywoodPhotographs.com. Contemporary aerial view (c) 2013 Microsoft Corporation, Pictometry Bird’s Eye (c) 2010 Pictometry International Corp.
A March 2011 view west from Cosmo of the common filming site. Note: time does not stand still. The alleyway at back was recently closed to vehicles to make room for outdoor dining, and the driveway on Cahuenga leading into the Cops alley is now blocked to traffic by a raised curb and pedestrian sidewalk.