Click to enlarge each image. James Cagney slows down to check out Jean Harlow. The view looks east down Wilshire Boulevard from Detroit Street towards the E. Clem Wilson Building on the corner of La Brea. LAPL
Thanks to the Turner Classic Movie Channel’s Pre-Code Festival this past month, I’ve been able to catch many great films for the first time, including the topic of this post, The Public Enemy (1931). Much has been written about this film, including the shocking scene where Cagney smashes a grapefruit into Mae Clarke’s face. I’ll leave the commentary to others, but as a fan of early Los Angeles, I was intrigued to discover a key scene, where Cagney picks up Jean Harlow on the street, was filmed along a couple of blocks of the Wilshire Boulevard shopping district known as the “Miracle Mile.”
Cagney and his buddy played by Edward Woods drive south down Detroit Street crossing Wilshire. The Wilshire Manor Apartments (oval) stand at back.
Cagney slows down to check out Jean Harlow. The view looks east down Wilshire from Detroit. The right image shows detail of the E. Clem Wilson Building. LAPL
This front view of Harlow, supposedly on the same corner of Detroit, was filmed one block further west, at the corner of Cloverdale Avenue, in front of the Dominguez Building. The real estate ad behind Jean also appears in this vintage view. USC Digital Library
Looking west at the Dominguez Building. LAPL
Why, if Cagney met Harlow on the corner of Detroit, was she was first filmed at the corner of Cloverdale? Because at the time the Detroit corner was an un-photogenic parking lot. The parking lot curb (oval) appears in the movie frame looking east, and in this 1932 view looking west, taken from the E. Clem Wilson Building. LAPL
Cagney stopped at the corner of Detroit (above). Harlow is introduced in closeup standing on Wilshire, near the same corner. Behind her, looking to the NW, are buildings (callout box) on the north side of Wilshire. USC Digital Library
The Tip Top Sandwich shop (oval) behind Jean, formerly occupied 5367 Wilshire. The remodeled building now hosts a Subway sandwich shop nearby. USC Digital Library
Cagney convinces Jean to allow him to give her a ride. These views show details on the building standing on the SE corner of Wilshire and Detroit. USC Digital Library
A modern view of the same corner. The window and door patterns of the brick building remain the same, so apparently it is the same building, stripped of all ornamentation.
Edward Woods plays chauffeur, driving Cagney and Harlow along side this beautiful building now lost to history. Notice the matching “NUTS” sign detail. The view looks toward the NE corner of Wilshire and Hauser, six blocks west of Detroit. A Pig ‘N Whistle restaurant stood on this corner during filming – the words barely appear on the awning as they drive by. LAPL
Continuing driving west along Wilshire from Hauser, the car passes an existing store, home to a Safeway at the time of filming, and to a “Pay n Takit” store in the vintage photo. It is now an IHOP restaurant. California State Library
Cagney drops Harlow off at Wilshire, west of the corner of Dunsmuir, with the Wilshire Tower Building in the background. California State Library
Delighted to get Jean Harlow’s phone number, Cagney dances a little jig, sadly blocked from view by extras walking in front of the camera. The Oscar Balzer shop appears in both images. California State Library.
Click to enlarge. 1940 view looking NW at the Miracle Mile – (1) driving past Hauser, (2) dropping Jean off across from the Wilshire Tower Building, (3) Jean’s close-up, (4) crossing Wilshire on Detroit, and (5) Jean’s intro shot by the Dominguez Building. The E. Clem Wilson Building on La Brea stands to the lower right. USC Digital Library
A 1930 view west of the filming sites along Wilshire – LAPL.
Bonus : Larry Harnisch writes on his The Daily Mirror blog that his “brain trust” Craig Deco, Lee Rivas and Nathan Marask determined that the interior of the May Co. department store appears during The Public Enemy as young thugs Tom and Matt slide down the center of an escalator to escape the cops.
The Public Enemy (C) 1931 Warner Bros.
Vintage photos from the Los Angeles Public Library, the USC Digital Library, and the California State Library. Color views Google Street View (C) 2014 Google.
A view of the intersection of Wilshire and Detroit today.
Wow!…Thanks so much for all you do John!…I am always impressed with your detective work!…I love the history of Hollywood and you continue to bring it back to life!…Thank-YOU!
Thank you Rex – I really appreciate it – John
Congratulations on all your success. You deserve all accolades that are passed your way. Here is what it looked like from the Frauenthal Theater in Muskegon Michigan as you received your “Buster” award. Thanks again.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/video.php v=529404103829454&set=vb.266780920091775&type=3&theater
I hope you don’t mind I shared your award win with the world. I included links to your work available via Amazon in the caption associated with each video.
Robert – thank you so much for doing this. I really appreciate it. Best wishes, John
This was a fun read, even more so because I used to live just off Wilshire in that area! That’s one of the more well-preserved districts outside of the downtown LA core.
Wonderful as I have many early photos of the Miracle Mile but NO film locations except for a few.
This set from ‘Public Enemy’ is wonderful and informative.
Pingback: How Barbara Stanwyck Filmed Night Nurse | Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more)
Great stuff! That was a lot of fun! Was in that area with your Keaton book a few years ago. What a blast we had!
As far as “Public Enemy”, I knew Bullock’s Department Store showed up in “Public Enemy” but not all these other sites. Guess it’s time to head back.
In case anyone’s interested, the E Clem Wilson Building was used as the Daily Planet in the first season (1951) of ‘The Adventures of Superman”.
Thanks for the comment Mike. As I understand it, Bullock’s does not actually appear in Public Enemy. Someone wrote to me that a documentary identifies the scene of Harlow getting out of Cagney’s car as being filmed in front of Bullock’s, but as shown here it was The Wilshire Tower Building, also known as Desmond’s.
I was wondering if Bullock’s really appeared after not finding it mentioned above. Guess I’ll have to head out to Wilshire again, armed with a printout of your blog (and a few other of your tours). I have all three of your books and have used the Chaplin & Keaton’s when on vacation in LA to hunt down sites. The details in the books are amazing. Is there a new book on the horizon?
I greatly enjoyed your fascinating and informative article. Thanks so much for contributing it to our Pre-Code Blogathon!
Thank you so much – best wishes, John
Another awesome post. I am now officially addicted to your site.
Couple visits ago, stopped as closely to the ‘Harlow drop-off’ as possible to take photos of the Tower across the street. Good seeing all the locations tied up neatly here- as usual, you did a thorough, great job.
Cool – thanks K
Loved this information! During late 50’s and early 60’s I lived right off Wilshire and So. Detroit. I can actually see the apartment house I lived in which is now sadly a parking lot. What history, what fun memories . Thanks for bringing this movie magic to light.
Thank you so much Sandy. Movies really are time machines
Incredible! I love Cagney, I’ve lived in the area for almost a decade, and I had no idea!
LikeLiked by 1 person