Oliver Hardy at the Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd Alley

The block of Cahuenga south of Hollywood Boulevard was the most popular spot in town to film silent movies. As I’ve written in numerous tours and posts, everyone filmed there, from Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, to Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd. Even Stan Laurel, Harry Langdon, and Lloyd Hamilton filmed there. But it seemed that one holdout, until now, was Oliver Hardy. Instead, it turns out he was one of the first stars to film on this hallowed ground.

The Dutch Eye Filmmuseum recently posted Chaplin imitator Billy West’s 1918 barber shop comedy His Day Out (see YouTube link below) co-starring Oliver Hardy as his comic foil. Hardy had a long career in films before pairing with Stan Laurel in 1927, and appeared in many Billy West comedies, often channeling Chaplin’s nemesis Eric Campbell.

During the film Hardy briefly appears beside a barber pole, belonging to H. F. Graham’s barber shop at 1649 Cahuenga, off camera to the left. Oliver is in fact exiting from the 1651 Cahuenga vulcanizing store next door – notice the distinctive “FREE AIR” sign. Confirming the site, Colleen Moore filmed her 1920 comedy Her Bridal Nightmare beside the same vulcanizing store, where you can read “TUBES” and “TIRES” in the window, and see more clearly the store corner next to an alley entrance. That’s her sitting on the ground.

Looking west at Cahuenga running left to right, with Hollywood Blvd. at the right. Ollie and Colleen filmed their scenes across the street from where Buster Keaton runs onto Cahuenga from the Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd alley to catch a passing car one-handed in Cops (1922) (see inset at top of post above). The arrow marks Buster’s path running towards Cahuenga. Mary Pickford filmed at the same alley spot as Colleen, and Douglas Fairbanks climbed the three story Fremont Hotel to the left in this view – read more HERE.

Reversing Keaton’s frame from Cops reveals the cut off corner of the vulcanizing store across the street reflected in the window, matching the modern view. Hardy stood just to the right of the modern palm tree. You can actually read “TIRES” and TUBES” reflected over the Keaton movie frame corner doorway.

Blink and you’ll miss it, but at 10:54 Hardy steps outside directly across the street from the Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd alley. Say what you will about Billy West, but he was very adept with his impersonation.

A merged panoramic view west down the Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd alley towards where Oliver Hardy stood on Cahuenga (arrow), created from The Detectress (1919) left, and The Last Edition (1925). By 1925 the vulcanizing store had become a restaurant.

One interesting detail, reflected behind Ollie we can see the gas station that once stood on the NE corner of Hollywood and Cahuenga before the 6 story Security Trust and Savings Bank Building was completed there in 1922, Also appearing, the 5-globe style street lamps that once stood along Hollywood Blvd., as appearing in this detail photo of Harold Lloyd from Why Worry? (1923) standing at the NW corner of the same intersection.

His Day Out is remarkable for other reasons. To begin, the opening sequence was filmed beside Hollywood glamour portrait photographer Nelson Evans’ studio once located at 6039 Hollywood Blvd., next door to the St. Anne’s Infant Home. Signs for both appear during the film. The view matches a similar scene from Harold Lloyd’s 1918 comedy Look Pleasant Please, appearing here with Snub Pollard.

His Day Out also includes scenes filmed (upper right) at the south gated auto entrance to noted architect Edwin Bergstrom’s mansion at 590 N. Vermont, later home to theater magnate Alexander Pantages, before it was razed in 1951 to build a Jewish community center (now home to West Coast University). The upper left images combine scenes from Harry Houdini’s feature The Grim Game (1919) with the opening scenes from Keaton’s Cops, both at the mansion’s north pedestrian entrance gate (read more about The Grim Game HERE). The bottom wide shot of the mansion entrance was stitched together from pioneer film-maker Lois Weber’s 1916 drama Where Are My Children?

Above, matching views of the Bergstrom mansion appearing in His Day Out, left, and in Where Are My Children?

Returning to Hollywood, Colleen Moore (dressed as a man) and Harry Houdini both filmed beside the Cahuenga entrance to the Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd alley. The alley staircase behind them appears in this full reverse view from The Detectress. The staircase was removed by the time Keaton filmed Cops.

Before becoming a Japanese grocery – LAFire.com

Above left, Colleen Moore ran all around Cahuenga during Her Bridal Nightmare, here matching views south from the corner of Selma towards the Toribuchi Grocery, featuring “Japanese Rice and Tea” appearing in Buster Keaton’s The Goat (1921). Originally a small church, the grocery building previously served as Hollywood’s first fire station, Hose Co. No. 7, replaced by the larger joint fire/police station up the block that opened in 1913. The Sanborn maps and old phone books show that around 1920 there were a number of Japanese businesses, a Japanese laundry, baths, lodgings, and even a small Japanese school along Cahuenga north of Sunset. The story of this small Japanese enclave in Hollywood merits further attention.

His Day Out – courtesy Eye Filmmuseum; Her Bridal Nightmare courtesy Serge Bromberg-Lobster Films

Below, Oliver and Colleen’s vulcanizing store is now an adult book shop.

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One Response to Oliver Hardy at the Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd Alley

  1. Jim Dallape says:

    Another great article, John. Thanks for sharing.

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