Alice Howell Early Hollywood Views

We all owe Ben Model a huge debt of gratitude for releasing his fantastic new Alice Howell Collection DVD, featuring 12 shorts starring the delightful (and mostly forgotten) comedienne, sourced from archival materials from the Library of Congress, BFI, DFI, EYE Filmmuseum and Lobster/Blackhawk, each accompanied by Ben’s new piano and theatre organ scores. There are so many early Hollywood connections in these films I could write a series of posts, but here’s a taste to get started.

To begin, not only does Distilled Love (filmed 1918 – released 1920) offer up great views of Oliver Hardy and future Keaton leading lady Sybil Seely (above), but as confirmed by exterior filming locations expert Mike Malone, the bathing beauties diving scene below was staged at the rock pool at Malibu State Park, then known as Crags Country Club. A retired national park ranger, who leads fascinating tours and lectures about Hollywood filming in the Santa Monica Mountains, the Paramount Ranch, and elsewhere, Malone confirmed the diving pool, and that it appeared decades later for scenes from The Planet of the Apes (1968). Color photo Mike Malone.

Next, the prison scenes (below) from A Convict’s Happy Bride (1920), where the inmates are released each day to eat lunch at home, were staged at the former Los Angeles East Side Division (Lincoln Heights) city jail, at 419 N. Avenue 19.

Take A Chance and The Hoose Gow

The jail was a very popular filming location, also appearing in Harold Lloyd’s 1918 short comedy Take A Chance, and during the opening of Laurel & Hardy’s The Hoose-Gow (1929).

The jail also appears, clockwise, in Harold Lloyd’s Bashful (1917) upper left above, Billy Bevan’s Be Reasonable (1921), Lige Conley and Jimmie Adams in A Fresh Start (1920), Billy West’s Rolling Stone (1919), and Snub Pollard’s Nip and Tuck (1923). The jail was originally built in 1909, and expanded in 1913. The jail was re-built again in 1931 to the five-story structure still standing there today (inset right), and later closed in 1965. Known as the Lincoln Heights Jail, the facility became infamous for Bloody Christmas, the vicious beating of Latino prisoners at the hands of the police, that took place on December 25, 1951, and portrayed in the James Ellroy novel and 1997 movie L.A. Confidential.

Last, the 1915 short Father Was A Loafer offers many great views filmed at Castle San Souci, where Charlie Chaplin, Mabel Normand, and Marie Dressler filmed Tilllie’s Punctured  Romance (1914), as well as scenes filmed in Hollywood on Cahuenga, but those must wait for another post. But as shown above, Alice’s co-star Billie Ritchie lived at 6089 Selma Avenue, still standing over 100 years later.

Alice Howell Collection DVD

The Father Was A Loafer home still standing at 6089 Selma Avenue in Hollywood.

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8 Responses to Alice Howell Early Hollywood Views

  1. Bob Borgen says:

    I love all of your research and your posts — but they often cost me money! Now I want to get that Alice Howell set!


  2. Jim Reid says:

    Amazing work as always, John!


  3. A most interesting post, informing us that some of the ‘old stuff’ still survives. Glad you chose to present Alice Howell, a much underrated comedienne, who, as they said at the time ‘had some meat on ‘er’. I hope I’m not nit-picking, but the star of ‘Tillies’ was Marie Dressler, so her name should be first in the cast list, although I’d guess that, in re-releases, Chaplin headed the list. Such was the way of Hollywood.


  4. Richard Simonton says:

    Hi John, I attended the mid-1960’s groundbreaking for the Hollywood Museum, a few feet from where the Lasky Barn now stands. Several years later, I explored the treasures collected for the abandoned museum project, stored in cells at the Lincoln Heights Jail. I only remember a large stack of 30-IPS audio tapes on 14-inch reels of Groucho’s You Bet Your Life radio program, which they wouldn’t let me take, but gave me instead a Duplex step-contact motion picture printer from the silent days. I wonder what happened to the rest of the stuff. I know they also had an original print of The Birth of a Nation and Jack Oakie’s Edison Diamond Disc records. Thanks for the post, interesting and fun as always!


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