In Daddy-Long-Legs (1919) Mary Pickford portrays an endearing young orphan later sent to college by an anonymous benefactor. Complications ensue when Mary meets her sponsor, unaware of his status, and they fall for each other. Pickford’s most financially successful production to date, this charming film reveals surprisingly varied glimpses of early Los Angeles history as described below.
As revealed in Part One, Mary’s orphanage (upper left) was the same former Occidental College Hall of Letters building Charlie Chaplin would later use to portray a maternity hospital at the beginning of The Kid (1921) (lower left). The former college building was abandoned when Occidental moved to its new, larger Eagle Rock campus in 1914. By 1919 the hall had been vacant for years, and was perfectly cast to portray Mary’s orphanage. Mary filmed here first. You can read all about the deserted campus, and true orphanage locations HERE.
Mary’s 1919 production also traveled far and wide, from Malibu, to downtown, to a fashionable neighborhood near her own home at the time. Two beautiful mansions appearing in the film survive intact.
When wealthy trustees visit the orphanage, spunky Mary has a run-in with their spoiled brat daughter. Above, the family arrives back home at 450 S. Lucerne in Windsor Square, built in 1915. As seen to the left in this 1920 view north (click to enlarge), this Lucerne home (top box) stood just three blocks from Mary’s home in Fremont Place (bottom box), due south of Wilshire Blvd. running left – right. HollywoodPhotographs.com. Mary leased this home for a year in August 1918, moving out a few months after Daddy-Long-Legs premiered.
Above, parked on the 5th Street side of the house, the bratty daughter demands that her parents throw Mary out into the street. Residential historian Duncan Maginnis made this astonishing discovery. Duncan is the author of the amazingly rich and fascinating series of historical blog posts about classic Los Angeles neighborhoods, including BERKELEY SQUARE; WESTMORELAND PLACE; WILSHIRE BOULEVARD; ADAMS BOULEVARD; WINDSOR SQUARE; ST. JAMES PARK; and FREMONT PLACE. You can read more about 450 Lucerne at WINDSOR SQUARE.
Mary departs for college from the stately Southern Pacific Depot, opened late in 1914 (seen above, looking north), that once stood on Central Avenue at 5th. Unlike the far smaller and less formal Santa Fe Depot nearby, the Central Station had underground passages leading to numerous boarding platforms sheltered by distinctive awnings, visible at right. Both depots appeared frequently in early film. USC Digital Library.
Sadly, only narrow glimpses of the station appear in the movie. Above, Mary runs up a ramp from an underground passageway to one of the platforms. Notice the bystander in the central image wearing a conspicuous face mask, a precaution against the Spanish Influenza epidemic (1918-1919) raging during the time of filming. The outbreak cost more lives than were lost fighting World War One.
One of the depot’s twin waiting room clocks, depicted in Daddy-Long-Legs to the upper left, appears to the right in this scene from Souls for Sale (1923), where an extensive sequence was filmed inside the Central Station waiting room.
Above, this lovely title card depicting Mary’s college, painted by Ferdinand Pinney Earle, is nearly an exact represenation of the former Milspaugh Hall at the Los Angeles State Normal School, appearing here (right) in Buster Keaton’s 1927 feature comedy College. Located at Monroe Street and Vermont Avenue, the school was designated in 1919 as the Southern California Branch of the University of California (UCLA), before becoming Los Angeles Junior College in 1929 when the Westwood campus of UCLA opened. Still at the same site, the school is known today as Los Angeles City College.
Mary and her love interest (benefactor) played by Mahlon Hamilton share a quiet moment beside the rock pool at Malibu State Park, then known as Crags Country Club. Exterior filming locations expert Mike Malone, a retired national park ranger who leads fascinating tours and lectures about movies filmed in the Santa Monica Mountains and Paramount Ranch, confirmed the site (see matching red circle detail). The pool appeared in Buster Keaton’s The Paleface (1921) and decades later for scenes from The Planet of the Apes (1968). Color photo Mike Malone.
Click to rotate – 360° view above – when visiting the rock pool today people seem to leave behind their three-piece suits and floor length dresses.
Click to enlarge – above, a wide view of the once famous Busch Sunken Gardens in Pasadena. Huntington Digital Library. Mary filmed here at least twice, including her graduation scenes from Daddy-Long-Legs.
Mary’s graduation procession strolled along these curved paths at the Busch gardens, paired with a matching 1912 view. Mary had previously filmed many scenes here for Stella Maris as well. Millionaire beer brewer Adolphus Busch built the massive gardens in 1904. The park closed in 1938 and was sub-divided into numerous home sites. Pasadena Public Library.
Above, the closing scene from Stella Maris, with Conway Tearle and Mary beside the Busch gardens mill house. Known as “the Old Mill,” it still stands in Pasadena, part of a private residence. California State Library.
Now a wealthy and successful author, Mary boldly decides to confront her benefactor for the first time. She arrives at his home to repay him in full, and to confide in him that she has met a man she truly loves. All ends well when she discovers her true love and her benefactor are one and the same man.
Above, the benefactor’s home was portrayed by the Stearns residence, still standing at 27 St. James Park. Residential historian Duncan Maginnis, who discovered the Lucerne home above, provides a full history of the Stearns home and its environs at this post HERE.
Similar views as Mary exits the cab in front of the Stearns home, the iron fence and brick details still match.
Above, the view east from the cab also reveals at back a giant light post that once stood in the intersection of St. James Park and St. James Place. The small, secluded neighborhood was a popular filming site, appearing in several early comedy shorts. Also looking east (upper right above), the light post appears behind Harold Lloyd attempting suicide-by-automobile early in Haunted Spooks (1920). Looking west lower right above, towards the Stearns house to the far right, the back of the light post appears in Snub Pollard’s Where Am I? (1923).
Site of the happy ending, the benefactor’s home at 27 St. James Park.