Chaplin, Keaton, and Lois Weber’s “Suspense” in Beverly Hills

The beautiful new Kino Lorber Blu-ray release Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers features dozens of early films created by women, many unseen for decades. One highlight is Lois Weber’s home invasion thriller Suspense (1913). As shown in a prior post, the film provides remarkable views of early Hollywood at the dawn of the movie industry, including below the Lasky-DeMille barn reflected in a side view mirror during the husband’s race home to rescue his threatened family. The “Barn” is now home to the Hollywood Heritage Museum, located on Highland Ave. across from the Hollywood Bowl. Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives.

The Lasky-DeMille barn at the corner of Selma and Vine – movie frame reversed for comparison

Leaving early Hollywood behind, the climax of the 1913 film takes place in Beverly Hills, at landmark locations that are today completely unrecognizable.

During his frantic race home, the husband hits a tramp pausing in the middle of an isolated dirt road to light a cigarette. Remarkably, this rural view looks west along Sunset Blvd. in eastern Beverly Hills, where Sunset bends left, south at Doheny Road. The matching tree, and bend in the road, appear in this vintage aerial view. LAPL.

Looking west, moments before the tramp is knocked over by the car. The box marks the same orderly rows of trees in both images, perhaps this was part of the Beverly Hills Nursery, see more below.

A 1922 view north, showing Sunset bending left, south at the “Y” intersection with Doheny Road. The perpendicular road to the right is Doheny Drive. The circle and box mark the same tree, and rows of trees, in the two frames above. LAPL.

Then and now, matching views where Sunset bends left, south, at Doheny Road.

Later during the race home the husband passes a billboard (above) that seems to say “Beverly Hills Nursery,” which once operated along Sunset Blvd.

This scene looking west, as the husband races along Sunset further east of Doheny Drive, appears to show in the distance the trio of domes (see below) spanning the entrance to the recently opened, and then completely isolated, Beverly Hills Hotel.

Above, the once remote Beverly Hills Hotel – USC Digital Library. The hotel appears prominently during Lois Weber’s Lost By A Hair (1914, see below), also part of the Pioneers Blu-ray set. As explained in my book Silent Traces, Charlie Chaplin would later film scenes from The Idle Class (1921, right) at the hotel, including this view of the hotel from what is now Will Rogers Memorial Park across the street.

Above, several 1914 scenes at the Beverly Hills Hotel from Lois Weber’s Lost By A Hair.

Looking north at Sunset Blvd. running from the Beverly Hills Hotel (left oval) to the Doheny Road corner (right oval), with the Beverly Hills Nursery possibly appearing mid-way in between. Santa Monica Blvd. runs diagonally from the lower left to upper right, while the former Beverly Hills Speedway race track stands in the foreground, sheltered from Wilshire Blvd. (running left-right above) by a row of trees. LAPL.

Above left, looking east down Doheny Road, towards where Sunset Blvd. bends to the right (south), as the police race towards the husband’s car (star). The view to the right looks west along Doheny, the star suggests where the husband’s car was parked.

We now throw a little Buster into the mix. This newly discovered footage from Keaton’s The Blacksmith (1922) was filmed nine years later, with a matching view east down Doheny Road (now paved) towards the Sunset Blvd. bend. The blue oval marks both sides of the entrance gate leading to “La Collina,” the Benjamin Meyers estate. You can read a detailed account of the estate HERE.

Contrast enhanced, the view from Suspense of the police racing north from Doheny Road towards the family home (left), and a matching view south from Chaplin’s Shoulder Arms (1918), both show tree-lined Doheny Drive leading at an angle south towards the left-right dark windbreak of trees along Wilshire Blvd. Doheny’s receding angle in each shot tells us Shoulder Arms was filmed further east, closer to Doheny Drive, than Suspense.

Looking north in 1922 reveals the gate to La Collina (blue), the likely site of the family home in Suspense (yellow), and the site where Charlie fooled the German soldiers disguised as a tree in Shoulder Arms (red), relative to perpendicular Doheny Drive to the right. You can read more about Chaplin filming here in my book Silent Traces.

Assuming this scene of the husband running towards the home was filmed where the other scenes were filmed on Doheny Road, then the house (yellow oval) appearing at back is likely the house (yellow oval) in the aerial view below.

Above – click to enlarge – this wider view looking north reveals the gate to La Collina (blue), the likely family home in Suspense (yellow), and the site where Charlie fooled the German soldiers disguised as a tree in Shoulder Arms (red). Nearby, the corner of Cynthia Street and Hammond Street (orange) marks the likely spot of another new scene from Keaton’s The Blacksmith, when Big Joe Roberts chases Buster past a street sign that seems to say “HAMMOND.” The view seems to be looking west down Cynthia from Hammond towards Doheny Drive, and is close to Buster’s scene beside La Collina (blue), below. I have several prior posts about the “new” scenes from The Blacksmith, read more HERE.

The gate to La Collina, looking east with Buster, and looking north in this 1922 view.

Another wide 1922 view showing the La Collina gate (blue), the likely site of the Suspense house – now removed (yellow), and the field where Chaplin disguised himself as a tree in Shoulder Arms (red). HollywoodPhotographs.com.

A final view – Buster, Lois Weber, and Chaplin all filmed near Doheny Road in east Beverly Hills, while it was undeveloped.

Matching views of the La Collina estate gate today.

Kino Lorber Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers. Check out Mary Mallory’s recent post about Lois Weber HERE.

Looking west at Sunset and Doheny Road.

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2 Responses to Chaplin, Keaton, and Lois Weber’s “Suspense” in Beverly Hills

  1. How unnatural all this modern urbanism seems when compared to the early silent era!
    Intriguing to learn the locations. Thank you.

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