Harpo, Chico, and James Cagney at the Brunswig Mansion

Imagine the star power – Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, and James Cagney all once stood on the same mansion front steps. Classic Los Angeles homes frequently played roles in golden-age films, and the former Brunswig Mansion, once standing at 3528 West Adams, appeared in two 1931 productions; Monkey Business starring the Marx Brothers, and Blonde Crazy with James Cagney and Joan Blondell. LAPL.

Above, Harpo and Chico arrive in style, compared to an establishing shot from Blonde Crazy.

The rose pattern window shades match with Harpo, Chico, and Jimmy.

Matching views east as Jimmy exits the Brunswig porch. The Guasti Mansion next door appears at back. You can read a full account of both homes at Duncan Maginnis’s Adams Boulevard blog posts; the Brunswig, and the Guasti.

Although the full Brunswig address was 3528, in both films the final digit “8” appears to have been knocked off of the pillar.

Although the Brunswig was demolished in 1955, its equally stunning next-door neighbor is still standing, the Gausti Mansion at 3500 West Adams, later owned by movie choreographer Busby Berkeley, and now home to the Peace Awareness Labyrinth and Garden. Among its many screen appearances, the Gausti is where Laurel & Hardy filmed Another Fine Mess (1930) (read more HERE) and Charley Chase filmed Fast Work (1930) (read more HERE).

Groucho and Harpo would visit another grand mansion to film scenes from Duck Soup (1933) at the Jewett Estate in Pasadena, where Buster Keaton filmed the opening joke from Cops (1922) beside the mansion gate (read more HERE).

Glamorous homes were often leased to studios as filming sites under the Assistance League’s Film Location Bureau, a charity established by Mrs. Hancock Banning. The Bureau maintained a directory of local mansions and estates available for filming. The studios paid rental fees directly to the Bureau, instead of the mansion owner, which the Bureau applied directly for charitable purposes. This efficient scheme for raising money saved studios the expense of building costly sets, and allowed homeowners to contribute to a worthy cause at no expense to themselves. The Los Angeles Times reports that the Film Location Bureau rented out the Brunswig Mansion for use in Pola Negri’s The Spanish Dancer (1923). Hollywood historian Mary Mallory writes about the Film Location Bureau HERE.

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6 Responses to Harpo, Chico, and James Cagney at the Brunswig Mansion

  1. Suzanne Harris says:

    Love that neighborhood, so much Los Angeles history (in as much as we have history, shut up Europe, nobody asked you😜) Is West Adams a trendy new area? Thanks for the post, I love them!

  2. Scott Charles says:

    Another great post, John! Interesting to learn about the Film Location Bureau, I never knew about that before!

    • Thanks Scott – I know little about the Film Location Bureau aside from a few mentions in the LA Times. One can only imagine how fascinating it would be to study their records – both the directory of participating mansions, and also the various movies filmed at each place. I assume these records are long lost to history.

  3. Lea S. says:

    The trivia about the Film Location Bureau is gold. Makes perfect sense why studios were able do so many location shots in these ritzy areas.

    • Aside from a few mentions in the LA Times, I’ve found very little about the Film Location Bureau. I can only imagine what a goldmine of information their directories and client accounts would reveal about classic-era films and architectural history.

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