Buster, Harold, Mabel, and Doug, and the murder of Wm. Desmond Taylor!

This post contains a variety of odds and ends. To begin, thanks to Tommy Dangcil we can see exactly where Buster Keaton staged a scene from Cops (1922) in front of the grand stairway leading to the former First Baptist Church in Hollywood. Look how the images above match perfectly – click to enlarge.

Side view before the 1935 fire

Tommy is a Hollywood historian (and a feature motion picture lighting engineer) whose newly released third book Hollywood California Through Time compares rare vintage Hollywood images from his private collection with modern color views. I wrote a lengthy post detailing this church discovery (read more HERE), filled with distant or oblique views of the camera-shy church once standing at 6682 Selma Avenue in Hollywood, completely rebuilt in 1936 after a destructive fire. But with Tommy’s beautiful photo we can match Buster exactly to this lost landmark a century later – a ghost of a ghost. BTW, this scene immediately follows Buster’s escape from the Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd Alley, see below.

Next, Harold Lloyd’s squabble-with-your-neighbors comedy short, Just Neighbors (1919), includes many scenes staged beside and even inside the grand and long-lost Southern Pacific train depot (read more HERE), and sidewalk scenes on long-lost Court Hill just steps from the former Bradbury Mansion – Rolin Studio, covered in my Lloyd book Silent Visions. But as seen streaming on the Criterion Channel, Harold’s barely legible mailbox address (lower right) confirms the above home still stands at 1127 N. Westmoreland Avenue.

This view north matches the distinctive uphill rise at the end of the street as Harold and co-star neighbor Snub Pollard arrive home. The narrow street still retains the wide median between sidewalk and curb.

Silent film superhero Ben Model of Undercrank Productions has released over twenty rare silent films, with more to come. His recent The Douglas MacLean Collection ended up matching Doug’s feature One A Minute (1921) with the same rural train station appearing later during Harold Lloyd’s Girl Shy (1924, above right). It turns out Mabel Normand (above left) portraying a star-struck girl from a small town in Illinois in The Extra Girl (1923), filmed at this station too, part of the Mack Sennett Collection Vol. One.

While Mabel barely catches her train to Hollywood (see her departing POV at left), Harold just misses his train, leading to his epic race by horse, motorcycle, and stolen car to stop an illegal marriage. Read more about the now lost Hynes station once located north of Long Beach HERE.

Last, included with Ben’s Douglas MacLean Collection is the modestly named A Trip Through the World’s Greatest Motion Picture Studios (1920) promoting the Thomas H. Ince Studio in Culver City. While this fascinating reality film deserves a lengthy post of its own, here’s a final tidbit. Portrayed as a loveable goof, always late for work, the film shows Doug gulp his morning coffee, then dash out his front door, along with a view of his apartment courtyard (all above).

But where did Doug live then? At the same 400 A-B to 414 A-B South Alvarado courtyard of duplexes where silent film director William Desmond Taylor was notoriously murdered at his 404-B home in 1922 (upper left photo – taken much later – the women are wearing slacks!). Doug’s wife Faith is widely believed to have seen Taylor’s killer! Hearing a loud noise, she checked out her front door and saw someone leave Taylor’s home, whom she said was dressed “like my idea of a motion picture burglar.” So the movie provides real time glimpses of the future crime scene. Charlie Chaplin’s long-time leading lady Edna Purviance was also Taylor’s neighbor at the time. Note: the main graphic image above incorrectly depicts the MacLeans as living across from Taylor. But the 2-12-1922 Los Angeles Examiner and other sources report their address as 406-B, adjacent to Taylor’s home. Doug’s movie frame exiting his front door confirms this. The foreground steps appearing as Doug leaves his home are the same foreground steps appearing in the upper left photo taken much later. LAPL. LAPL.

Poor Mabel was the last person to see Taylor alive the night he was killed. This photo view looking east (left) shows the courtyard entrance along Alvarado, where Mabel’s car was parked – the black arrow pointing to Taylor’s 404-B home, the highlight matches Doug’s home at 406-B. This supposedly corresponding shot (right) of Doug racing to his car was not filmed at this Alvarado entrance. Given the grade of the 400 block of Alvarado, and the steeply sloped front lawns across the street, Doug’s scene, which even shows a street corner, was staged elsewhere, I guess for a prettier view.

UPDATE: Movie magic, Doug’s dash towards his car was filmed over 5 miles away from his home on Alvarado, with the more scenic home still standing at 3825 W. Adams in the background. Thank you once again to Duncan Maginnis for identifying a classic home – Adams Blvd blog.

Buster’s scene in front of the church immediately follows his escape from the Chaplin Keaton Lloyd alley by grabbing a passing car one-handed.

Please help support naming the alley 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 and share it with others.

Below, the replacement church on Selma in Hollywood that opened in 1936.

This entry was posted in Buster Keaton, Doug MacLean, Harold Lloyd, Mabel Normand and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Buster, Harold, Mabel, and Doug, and the murder of Wm. Desmond Taylor!

  1. Bob Borgen says:

    Love all these time travel adventures — thanks for this (and all of your) fascinating posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Warren Mcivor says:

    Such a wonderful site. to just breath in these areas as though they still exist take me to another place after a days work. Thankyou John

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Warren Mcivor says:

    Such a wonderful site. To just breath in these areas as though they still exist takes me to another place after a days work. Thankyou John

    Liked by 1 person

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