Buster Keaton – Hard Luck, The Goat – closeups at Westlake Park

Click to enlarge – Westlake Park – 1923. Focus on the top corner and bottom center of the park – National Archives

Vintage movies and photos are time machines. This rare 1923 photo reveals exactly where Buster Keaton flees from Big Joe Roberts during The Goat (1921) nearly a century ago.

This detail looks SE at the 7th Street and Alvarado corner of Westlake (now MacArthur) Park. The photo shows the very same bushes and streetlamps appearing alongside Buster.

Buster’s path (arrow) into the park. LAPL

Remarkably, the corner gas station at back in 1921 (you can barely read “Wilshire Oil Company Inc.” beside Joe’s hat) was moved to 1717 W 6th Street nearby the following year, with the corner site developed into store fronts, that in 1947 would become home to world-famous Langer’s Delicatessen. The Alvarado Theater and Newell Apartments further behind the gas station site remain standing, the rooftop stairwell enclosures match (red ovals above). Buster filmed other scenes from The Goat, and from My Wife’s Relations (1922), beside the Alvarado Arms and Weymouth apartments nearby, still standing further south on Alvarado.

Wilshire bisects the park USC Digital Library

Westlake Park was a very popular movie location, recognizable in early films because its central lake was much wider than the narrow competing lakes at Echo and Hollenbeck Parks. Sadly, Westlake lay directly in the path of Wilshire Blvd., a major thoroughfare, which originally terminated at the west side of the park. Despite protests and court battles, Wilshire was extended across the park in 1934, dividing the lake and park in two and forever changing its appeal. In 1942, while WWII was still raging, the park commission changed the name to MacArthur Park, at the behest of Wm. Randolph Heart’s campaign to promote the general as a viable Presidential candidate.

Other silent-era landmarks appear in the main photo, including the Ansonia Apartments, barely visible at the far left center edge, that portrays Edna Purviance’s home in A Woman of Paris (1923), and the now lost Regent Apartments at the lower left corner, that portrayed the front of the restaurant where Charlie Chaplin worked in The Rink (1916). The Dresden Apartments at the top center edge, is the mystery building Bill Strother climbs early during Safety Last! (1923).

Keaton filmed scenes here for Hard Luck earlier the same year. Above, looking north from Lake Street towards 7th Street and the park, a block west from Alvarado, despondent yet resourceful Buster avails himself of some free rope with which to attempt suicide. Notice to the left (west) the grass median between the sidewalk and curb – this once residential street was originally lined with stately homes.

In conclusion, a trio of statues honoring Gen. Harrison Otis, the Civil War veteran/original owner/editor/publisher of The Los Angeles Times newspaper, provide effective camouflage for Buster to pose frozen hiding from the police in Hard Luck, a joke Stan Laurel later copied or independently devised for his 1923 solo comedy White Wings.

The figures stood at the park entrance terminus of Wilshire Blvd., with Otis pointing west down the boulevard towards the sea. Otis’s home once stood across the street (left corner foreground), that would house the Otis Arts Institute beginning in 1918, now the Otis College of Art and Design (since relocated to Westchester). After the boulevard extension split the park, the figures were rotated 90 degrees, so the figure of Otis now points north. The foreground figure (a surveyor?) is now absent, perhaps hit by a car. LAPL.

The featured aerial photo of this famous park is one of many historic public domain photographs available from the National 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. This video further explains the alley – if you can, please leave a thumbs up.

Below, General Otis at MacArthur park.

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1 Response to Buster Keaton – Hard Luck, The Goat – closeups at Westlake Park

  1. Bill Counter says:

    A real treat! Thanks, John. It was lovely in that National Archives shot to also see the buildings for the Lake Theatre, 2118 W. 7th, and the De Luxe Theate, 656 S. Alvarado. I put details from the image on both pages, as well as on the Alvarado page. Great research, sir!

    Liked by 1 person

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