I recently watched Citizen Kane (1941) for the first time in years, broadcast on TCM, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Having seen it many times before, the scenes and the dialog were all familiar, but still powerful and engaging. But now that I’m afflicted with ‘location-itis’ I couldn’t help but notice a common setting appearing in the Orson Welles classic with a scene from Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936) (see above and right).
The closed factory gate depicting Charles Foster Kane reeling from the 1929 crash during the mock newsreel of his life at the outset of Citizen Kane is the same factory gate Chaplin used for the factory scenes late in Modern Times where Charlie and other workers recently re-hired after a long shutdown must suddenly go on strike, leaving Charlie once again out of work. You can read more about this Modern Times setting in my book Silent Traces.
The year following Modern Times the factory gate appeared again during The Great O’Malley (1937), a Warner Bros. melodrama with Pat O’Brien in the lead. When by-the-book policeman O’Brien stops Humphrey Bogart for a minor traffic infraction, a loud muffler on his car, it causes Bogie to be late, losing his chance for a factory job. Unable to support his family, Bogart commits a petty crime and is sent to jail. O’Brien eventually learns compassion, and secretly helps Bogie’s family, and helps
arrange for his early parole. Delmar Watson appears with a credited role. The nine Watson family children, “The First Family of Hollywood,” appeared collectively in nearly 1,000 silent and classic-era films, and are honored with a star on Hollywood Boulevard. Their father Coy Watson Sr. was a Hollywood cowboy and special effects man who among other projects rigged the flying carpet for Douglas Fairbanks in The Thief of Bagdad (1924).
When I read correctly online that Balboa Park in San Diego, and Oheka Castle, the enormous Long Island estate of magnate Otto Kahn, were used to depict Xanadu during the mock newsreel footage from Citizen Kane, I couldn’t help myself, and created these ‘then and now’ images, presented below without further elaboration. Color images (C) Google.