Jackie Coogan’s Charlie Chaplin’s Lost LA Alley – The Rag Man

Jackie Coogan returned twice more to an LA alley where he made The Kid with Charlie Chaplin. Early LA streets, now lost, appear in Jackie’s The Rag Man (1925).

Jackie plays an orphan who becomes a successful junk dealer working with character actor Max Davidson as his guardian and business partner. As shown further below, Jackie (and Charlie) cross paths with Buster Keaton and Harry Langdon in downtown LA.

I was stunned to learn most of The Rag Man was filmed on location in New York, and as reported in Mark Phillips’ phenomenal NYC IN FILM blog, many of these vintage locales remain recognizable today – read all about The Rag Man at https://nycinfilm.com/2017/12/24/rag-man-1925/. Above, looking north at Sutton Place from E 57th. Mark’s work documenting New York based movies is extraordinary, impeccably photographed and researched. I strongly encourage you to check Mark’s blog for your favorite NYC movies.

Back in LA, compare Jackie’s frame with a matching frame from The Kid. Both show the same “ARCADIA” street sign on the wall across the way (you can actually read it if you enlarge Charlie’s frame). To the right in both frames is Sanchez Alley, running north from Arcadia towards the Plaza de Los Angeles. The north end of Sanchez remains today, but the southern end of Sanchez, perpendicular to Arcadia, which ran north-south from Main St to Los Angeles St, were all demolished for a freeway. Mark’s blog has some great aerial views of this spot.

Charlie filmed his scene from The Kid as if the orphanage truck was speeding around a street corner. The truck, out of necessity, was quite narrow. Jackie’s broader view shows the corner was in fact a narrow passageway between buildings leading to a rear loading dock, depicted below in another of Jackie’s films, My Boy (1921).

Jackie’s My Boy frame at the right (hosted on YouTube) shows the entrance was enclosed by a vertically raised and lowered gate. Eye Filmmuseum.

Jackie loads new merchandise onto his junk cart in front of the open gated entrance. His frame forms a virtual panoramic view of the Baker Building, as Buster flees the police running south down Arcadia from Main St towards Los Angeles St during Cops (1922). Mark astutely reports that Eddie Cline, Buster’s co-director for many of his early shorts, also directed The Rag Man. So Eddie must have felt quite at home here, after already directing Buster’s chase scene at the same spot.

Above, facing the Arcadia entrance way, in a view looking SE, a friendly preacher checks on Jackie. The NW corner of the Hotel de Paris building appears behind him – note the matching twin-curves within single curve arch details in both images. The full photo looks north up Arcadia from Los Angeles St towards Main St, passing midway the south end of Sanchez Alley.

Matching views north looking up Arcadia towards Main St, the Baker Building to the left. This was all lost to a modern freeway.

Above, closer views of the detailed columns outlining the Baker Building perimeter. Once the most glamorous building in town, it fell on hard times, later serving as headquarters for Good Will Industries, before being demolished for a freeway. LAPL

Click to enlarge – a panoramic view of the west side of Arcadia, with Harry Langdon in Feet of Mud (1924), the Plaza Jewelry Co. at 114 Arcadia, Jackie (center) and Buster at right.

Looking north from Arcadia Street and Sanchez Alley towards the Plaza de Los Angeles. The inset photo is the Baker Building facing Main. These early streets appear in dozens of films, including Chaplin’s Police (1916), and Keaton’s Neighbors (1920), covered in great detail in my Chaplin book Silent Traces at pages 107-112. To whet your appetite here below are pages 211 and 212 discussing Arcadia and the Baker Building.

SilentTraces page 211

SilentTraces page 212

In closing, do yourself a favor and check out Mark Phillips’ phenomenal NYC IN FILM blog, covering classic NYC films from all decades, and especially his in-depth coverage of  The Rag Man at https://nycinfilm.com/2017/12/24/rag-man-1925/.

Another bonus, my latest YouTube video shows how Edna Purviance lost, and Charlie Chaplin found, the baby who would become The Kid. Jackie portrays The Kid, but he doesn’t appear, as this only covers the baby being found.

So much of early LA has been lost, but intriguing glimpses remain hidden in the background of silent film. Below, “Arcadia” is now an access road parallel to the freeway, viewed here looking at the north end of Sanchez. Rotate the image to see the freeway behind.

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2 Responses to Jackie Coogan’s Charlie Chaplin’s Lost LA Alley – The Rag Man

  1. Donna Heuman says:

    Fascinating…..many thanks for your continued brilliant observations…. with respect…. donna h. (Hollywood Heyday by R.G. Armstrong author)….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Chris Bungo says:

    Hi John. Yes, I was quite surprised the first time I looked at The Rag Man when I saw 26 Broadway and surroundings located at Bowling Green in lower Manhattan. That was the building where I started my company many decades ago!

    Liked by 1 person

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