Where Roscoe Arbuckle Filmed His Brooklyn Vitaphone Shorts

(C) 2017 Google.

By choice or necessity, Roscoe used nearly every available corner and apartment. (C) 2017 Google.

This first page cover spots (1), (2), (3), (4), and (12) above. Remember to click each image for a larger view.

Hey Pop - 1 - 1501 Elm Ave facing Dorman Square

(1) – Hey Pop – 1501 Elm Ave, now a Dunkin/Baskin facing Dorman Square.

The establishing shot (1) of the restaurant where Roscoe works as a short order cook in Hey Pop was named for tiny Dorman Square, which it faces. Promoted as “A Good Place to Eat,” the site is now home to a combo Dunkin Donuts – Baskin Robbins. By playing a hash house cook for his return-to-the-screen debut, Roscoe was able to reuse jokes from his prior silent comedy The Cook (1918), co-starring Al St. John and a young Buster Keaton. Roscoe was comedically adept at flipping butcher knives and sauce pans, and recreates such stunts here.

1 - Hey Pop - restaurant is coffee shop behind Roscoe in Buzzin' Around.

(1) – Hey Pop – the restaurant appears as the coffee shop behind Roscoe in Buzzin’ Around.

The restaurant – coffee shop appears behind Roscoe during a scene in his next Vitaphone short Buzzin’ Around. When, in Hey Pop, a Depression-weary mother abandons her son Bill at the restaurant where Roscoe is cook, Roscoe informally adopts the lad. Borrowing themes from Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid (1921), Roscoe and Bill must flee when menacing orphanage thugs insist on sending Bill away.

2 - Buzzin' Around - view east down M Ave.

(2) – Buzzin’ Around – Ave M east towards Dorman Square. Al St. John and Roscoe share a ride with Pete the Pup*.

The finale to Buzzin’ Around (2) was staged traveling west down Ave M from Dorman Square. In that movie Roscoe visits town to sell his secret liquid formula that, once applied to porcelain, prevents it from breaking. Roscoe’s sales pitch at a china shop goes horribly wrong when his sample is switched, leading to an all-out china fight. Before the cops arrive Al St. John and Pete the Pup rescue Roscoe in a motorized bathtub side-car. *(Our Gang authority Richard Bann explains that no fewer than three (and perhaps many more) different Petes have appeared on screen. Pete’s trainer Harry Lucenay had been recently fired from Our Gang, and when Ray McCarey (Leo’s younger brother), who had been writing for Our Gang, left to work for Vitaphone in Brooklyn, he sent for Lucenay. The multiple Petes explains how the pooch could make so many public appearances across the country, and why his distinctive halo-eye makeup switches from left eye to right in different films.)

3 - Buzzin' Around.

(3) – Buzzin’ Around. At right the triangle building at Ave M and E 15th.

Car troubles plague Roscoe all during Buzzin’ Around. Here (3) he stops at a roadblock next to a narrow triangle building where Ave M and E 15th meet.

3 - Buzzin' Around - view across then vacant lot towards 1424 Elm Ave (yellow oval).

(3) – Buzzin’ Around – view from Ave M south across a then-vacant lot towards 1424 Elm Ave (yellow oval) at back.

This further view of the roadblock (center above) looks south, showing the back of the triangle building to the left, and across what was then a vacant lot towards the extant store fronts along Elm Ave. A tall building stands on the lot today, blocking the view of Elm.

4 - Buzzin' Around - traveling west along Elm towards corner of E 14th.

(4) – Buzzin’ Around – traveling west along Elm towards the corner of E 14th.

Earlier in Buzzin’ Around, before the big china fight, Roscoe backs his jalopy into a fancy convertible, locking bumpers with the car. When Roscoe drives west along Elm towards E 14th (4), he unknowingly tows the convertible along with him.

12 - Buzzin' Around - entrance at 1317 E 14th showing corner of Elm.

(12) – Buzzin’ Around – entrance at 1317 E 14th showing the corner of Elm at back.

The convertible’s owner spies his car being towed away from the entrance (12) at 1317 E 14th. The unique brick details near the ground to the right of the door appear in Google Street View shots, confirming the spot.

Below – the view towards Dorman Square. Next, spots (5), (6), (7), and (8).

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12 Responses to Where Roscoe Arbuckle Filmed His Brooklyn Vitaphone Shorts

  1. Bill Counter says:

    Thanks, John! Great as always.


  2. Tom Carr says:

    John, your remarkable eye works equally well on both coasts! I really enjoyed this post, because I’m a native New Yorker and I own the Arbuckle-Shemp Howard DVD. I’m not from Brooklyn, though (Manhattan), so I was stumped trying to figure out just where these films were made. Brooklyn or Queens, obviously, but just WHERE? Now I know. Thanks!

    Poor Roscoe, though… he still “had it,” but cruel fate cut him down.


  3. travsd says:

    Reblogged this on Travalanche and commented:
    There’s no way the Travalanche readers won’t LOVE this article and the blog it comes from. Thanks John Bengtson!


    • Thank you Trav – given LA’s dismal preservation record it’s remarkable to see how little in Brooklyn has changed after 85 years. Do you know any local history groups that might appreciate this information? John


  4. Pingback: Arbuckle – Keaton at the Bronx Biograph Studio | Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more)

  5. Sandy says:

    Loved this information. Late 50’s early 60’s I lived one block south of Wilshire on Detroit in a building I can see! It has since been torn down and is a parking lot. So many familiar landmarks where movies and history were made.


  6. DW Miller says:

    The Midwood, Brooklyn neighborhood near the Avenue M subway stop has changed so in the past 5 years. The demolition of the former Vitagraph studio site that was used by an Orthodox Jewish girls’ school and the building of rental apartments there, and the transformation of the former NBC Brooklyn I & II studios across East 14th Street into a Jewish social services & community center (Brooklyn I) and a self-storage facility (Brooklyn II) Progress. At least the Vitagraph smokestack still stands.


    • Thanks for the update DW – change is inevitable, but it always makes me a bit sad when some classic building or neighborhood is demolished, or loses its character. It was fun tracking these down using Google maps – I’ve never visited in person


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