Chaplin’s Earliest Scenes Beside the Selig Studio

When Charlie Chaplin began his film career at the Keystone Studio in 1914, the Selig Polyscope studio (above) stood just two blocks to the north, sandwiched between Clifford and Duane Streets along Allesandro (now Glendale Boulevard) in Edendale. Opening in 1909, Selig was reportedly the first permanent movie studio built in Los Angeles. I was unfamiliar with Selig, but when I first noticed it in a vintage photo, I realized it was the setting for several scenes from Chaplin’s Keystone career.

This rare photo looking NW, conveniently featuring a Clifford/Allesandro corner street sign, reveals the Selig Studio was enclosed by a stucco wall sloping uphill and topped with distinctive miniature turrets. HollywoodPhotographs.com.

A similar wall sloping uphill with matching turrets appears above as Charlie flirts with a pretty girl during Those Love Pangs (1914). Given the matching elements and its location two blocks from the Keystone Studio, I’m convinced Charlie filmed this scene looking west uphill along the Duane Street side of the Selig studio wall.

Next, using the Love Pangs frame (upper left) as a reference, I’m convinced these scenes from Tillie’s Punctured Romance (1914) were also filmed on Duane Street, further uphill, along the back corner of the Selig studio wall. The short lattice fence beside the children in the Love Pangs frame appears clearly here in the Tillie frames. The two homes at back were 2212 and 2216 Duane Street, now the site of modern apartments.

One discovery often leads to another. During Tillie, Charlie and co-star Mabel Normand seek refuge in a movie theater after stealing Tillie’s (Marie Dressler) pocketbook. They panic when the plot onscreen involves similar thievery, and they find themselves seated next to a detective played by Charley Chase.

After learning that the Selig studio wall facing Allesandro was lined with a series of inset curved arches, it’s clear that the film-within-a-film drama (see above) that upset Charlie and Mabel was filmed alongside the studio wall.

Likewise, this film-within-a-film view from Tillie, above left, shows the Clifford/Allesandro corner gate entrance to the Selig Studio.

A final tidbit, just for fun. While King Vidor’s celebrated “everyman” drama The Crowd (1928) caused a minor stir for daring to show a flush toilet in the background of one domestic scene, often cited as the porcelain appliance’s screen debut, it appears Tillie beat this record by more than a dozen years. There must have been a hardware or plumbing store near the small restaurant where Marie Dressler works during Tillie. The children at back are too fascinated watching Charlie at work to notice they are standing behind a commode, apparently promoted for sale as a sidewalk display.

I detail many other Tillie locations in my book Silent Traces, and other “new” locations elsewhere in this blog (HERE).

Be sure to check out the wonderful Flicker Alley Chaplin at Keystone DVD collection that makes these discoveries possible.

Below, site of the former Selig Polyscope studio at 1845 Glendale Blvd.

This entry was posted in Charlie Chaplin, Keystone Studio, Tillie's Punctured Romance and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Chaplin’s Earliest Scenes Beside the Selig Studio

  1. Bruce Torrence says:

    Fabulous research and photos. Best, Bruce

    >

    • Thank you so much Bruce. Your photos make this research possible. I almost emailed you, as I saw The Hunchback of Notre Dame for the first time a week ago, and was excited to see your grandfather Ernest playing a pivotal role in the film. He was great – very charismatic on screen. After all this time I’m finally appreciating his wonderful career aside from playing Buster Keaton’s dad in Steamboat Bill, Jr. Thanks again, John

  2. Thanks for this post, which is most enlightening. Your levels of observation and perseverance are much appreciated. Like many people, I thought these scenes were shot in posh localities downtown, and not in humble Edendale. Naturally, the scenes could not have been shot outside the Keystone, which, as Chaplin later said, was then a junkyard surrounded by a green fence. This reminds us that a flush toilet could not have been shown in Keystone, where they relied on chamber pots for years (perhaps they put the sewers in when they built replica Selig towers). ‘Tillies’ is remarkable for being the film in which Normand and Chaplin played supporting roles. “The film had little merit” said the modest Charlie.

    • Thank you KSG – junkyard surrounded by a green fence – that sounds about right, I didn’t know the Keystone fence was painted green. Yes, Marie Dressler was most definitely the star of Tillie.

  3. Bill Counter says:

    Thanks, John! A fun post — I didn’t know anything about the Selig studio.

  4. David Morrison says:

    This post inspired me to check out the current map. It is nice to note that the Selig Polyscope Company is commemorated in the names of the streets in the new subdivision that replaced the Selig Studios: Selig Drive, Polyscope Place, and Silent Era Drive. Not everything gets lost entirely!

    • Thanks David – I noticed those street names too. I guess it’s a good thing, those street names might occasionally lead someone to investigate why they’re named that way.

  5. It’s fascinating to see these places today. Thanks for doing the legwork! 😉

    Also, welcome to CMBA. Cheers! *clink!*

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