Buster, Harold, and Stymie at the Venice Pier

A prior post explains Buster Keaton and Orson Welles crossed paths filming in Venice, California. But what about Buster and Our Gang superstar Stymie Beard?

Above Buster in The High Sign (1920) and Orson directing A Touch of Evil (1958). Below – Buster and Matthew “Stymie” Beard.

During the 1933 Our Gang comedy Fish Hooky, the gang’s plan to skip school in order to go fishing back­fires when they discover their teacher has arranged to take the class to the amusement park that day, entirely for free. When they catch up with her at the beach, she shoos them away, warning them that the truant officer is after them.

Above, Our Gang alumna Mary Kornman plays the teacher, and her Our Gang co-star Mickey Daniels (left) plays the truant officer, seen here coyly chatting with Spanky McFarland, Dickie Moore, and Stymie Beard, not yet revealing to them his sinister occupation.

When Mary shoos the gang away, directly above her hand is the entrance to the Nautilus Apartments that once stood at 1811 Ocean Front Walk in Venice, just south of the pier. The red box marks the “Nautilus” signing hanging over the entrance, both in 1933, left, and in Keaton’s 1920 film, center. Before this same entrance is where Buster flashes the “fooled you” high sign to the audience when he does not slip on a banana peel dropped on the sidewalk.

Click to enlarge – above, this 1920 aerial view shows the Nautilus Apartment (yellow star) and the future picnic table site (red box), south of the amusement park pier that would burn down later in 1920, only to be quickly rebuilt. Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives.

Above, a January 9, 1933 ground level view of the Our Gang picnic site (red box) and the Nautilus Apartment (yellow star), by Anton Wagner. California Historical Society.

What’s more amazing, while writing this post I came to realize that the Nautilus Apartment building is still standing! I checked the online building permits for 1811 Ocean Front in Venice, and while undergoing numerous alterations and upgrades over the years, it appears the core building remains.

Fish Hooky has ties to another silent comedy, Harold Lloyd’s Grandma’s Boy (1922). At left triumphant Harold stands over the vanquished bully on the Higuera Bridge over Ballona Creek, due east of the so-called Forty Acres movie studio backlot in Culver City. The same bridge is where Joe Cobb and Allen “Farina” Hoskins persuade the gang to cut school to go fishing instead. Notice the matching farm house in the left and right images.

This view east shows part of the Forty Acres movie set backlot at left, the Higuera Bridge over Ballona Creek, and the same lone farm house to the right. Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives.

Please help support naming the Chaplin Keaton Lloyd alley in Hollywood by posting a review on Google Maps. Prototype alley sign design by noted Dutch graphic artist – Piet Schreuders. Download a 4-page brochure about the alley HERE.

Below, the Nautilus Apartment now “Muscle Beach” building.

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7 Responses to Buster, Harold, and Stymie at the Venice Pier

  1. Fascinating, and an interesting piece of research.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. John D. says:

    The Venice “arched doorways/windows” show up A LOT in “Adam 12”. Love the work you do!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rex K. says:

    LOVE the Our Gang location posts! Thanks for all of your great detective work John!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. profrap says:

    Great stuff on these early locations! I’m wondering whether you have any detailed photos of the amusements at Fraser’s pier prior to the 1915 fire — I’ve seen the ones at the “Imagine Santa Monica” site, and others from postcards — but none show the amusements close up. I’m looking for the “Eskimo Village” run by John C. Smith; his wife Esther and daughter Nancy appeared in a number of silents with Selig, Vitagraph, and Triangle.

    Like

    • Thanks – have you seen Jeffrey Stanton’s books about the Venice and Santa Monica Piers? I don’t recall seeing the Eskimo Village. The Venice pier burned late in 1920, after Keaton filmed The High Sign here.

      Like

      • profrap says:

        Yes, the Eskimo Village was only there for less than a year before the Fraser’s burned; I don’t think there’s anything about it in Stanton. The Inuit family there appeared in several feature (1-reel) films for Selig, then as extras and in minor parts for other studios.

        Remarkable how common fires were at structures on the water!

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  5. tamale624 says:

    Fantastic find. I drive by this area daily on my commute home. Now I have something to look forward to during my awful wait in the traffic. Looking forward to more finds.

    Liked by 1 person

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