Imagine when Hollywood was still a town, with stately homes, dirt roads, orchards, and scores of vacant lots. Vintage photos are compelling, but silent films are true time machines, placing you at the spot to see and breathe a slice of reality. Working with the Library of Congress, Michael Aus has made such early films available to the public (his eBay link), including several early Lyons-Moran comedies. Watching them is a revelation. In particular, his release Waiting at the Church (1919) is one of the most visually consequential silent films I’ve ever seen, with scenes filmed all around La Brea, Highland, and nascent Hollywood Boulevard (above, from Cahuenga to Ivar). Scratching the surface, this introductory post selects just one scene per film to illustrate Hollywood’s past. HollywoodPhotographs.com.
To begin, groom Eddie Lyons and best man Lee Moran flee for an urgent errand at the opening of Waiting at the Church, staged beside the former First Methodist Episcopal Church on the corner of Hollywood and Ivar. California State Library.
Cinematically mismatched character actors approach the corner of Hollywood and Ivar, beside the original branch library, in Mrs Plum’s Pudding (1915 !!). LAPL.
Opening in 1907, the original branch library was relocated in 1922, to allow a more modern library facility to be built on the corner in 1923. This structure itself was moved half a block south to 1623 Ivar in 1939. That facility was later destroyed by arson in 1982, with a new library opening at 1623 Ivar in 1986. A streamline moderne building stands on the NW corner of Hollywood and Ivar today, it’s building permit issued late in 1939.
Eddie Lyons plays a country bumpkin in Taking Things Easy (1919), looking north up Cahuenga toward the corner of Hollywood Blvd. Note the awning for “GREEN ROOM CAFE” in both images. Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives.
This corner once existed because the remainder of the street was still empty lots!
During early December 1919, Charlie Chaplin filmed scenes here discovering an abandoned baby for The Kid (1921). A popular filming spot, in part due to the limited alternative locations at the time, the same setting appears in several early Universal films, including this matching view from Eleanor’s Catch (1916).
At back, that corner iron post to the left of Charlie is still present (right), part of the Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd Alley. At the time the east-west cross arm of the alley was nearly as long as the north-south stretch. In 1919 Hollywood was growing so quickly that even by the early 1920s many original landmarks were lost to progress. This PDF tour documents the 1600 block of Cahuenga, the busiest silent film location street in town.
I want to thank Michael Aus for working with the Library of Congress to make these entertaining time-travel films available to eager fans. Visit his eBay listing where you can purchase these films directly. Proceeds from the sale benefit the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum.
Also thanks to silent film super-hero Ben Model whose Undercrank Productions has released over 20 rare silent movie DVDs. His Silent Comedy Watch Party, a live-streamed silent comedy film show with live piano accompaniment, hosted each Sunday at 3 pm EDT with co-host film historian Steve Massa, provides laughs and sense of community to an appreciative shelter-in-place audience. Ben and Steve screened Waiting at the Church recently – you can watch it at their YouTube link HERE.
Last, another nod of gratitude to accomplished authors, photo archivists, and historians Marc Wanamaker and Bruce Torrence, for preserving priceless views of Hollywood’s past.
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.