Author Archives: John Bengtson

The Lens of History – Hollywood before the Chaplin Studio

Above, only part of a vast panoramic view looking south at Hollywood, circa 1906. Can you spot the future site of the Charlie Chaplin Studio, nearly straight ahead? The hill in the foreground would become in 1914 the site to … Continue reading

Posted in Chaplin Studio, Charlie Chaplin, Hollywood History | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Live Virtual Silent Locations Tour with Esotouric

This Saturday January 16, at noon PST, Esotouric, L.A.’s most eclectic sightseeing tour company, is hosting my live virtual silent cinema scavenger hunt through L.A.’s historic Westlake neighborhood. Though webcast live, the event may be viewed later. Click the link … Continue reading

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Mary Pickford’s “A Beast at Bay” a century before LAX

Mary Pickford’s A Beast at Bay (1912), directed by D.W. Griffith, portends his 1916 feature Intolerance, overlaps with later films starring Mabel Normand, Douglas Fairbanks, and Buster Keaton, and reveals the future site of LAX (!), the Los Angeles International … Continue reading

Posted in Buster Keaton, Mary Pickford, One Week, The Goat | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Buster’s Brazen Bystanders

Bystanders appear frequently in the background of early films, a charming reminder of how the public witnessed the cinematic artform blossom, not only in theaters, but before their very eyes on the streets where they were made. The young girls … Continue reading

Posted in Buster Keaton, Cops | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Doug and Mary, Hedda and Jed, The Beverly Hillbillies Hollywood Appeal

What popular 1960s sitcom mentions Nita Naldi, twice, in the same episode? Where Douglas Fairbanks is scolded for pulling pranks, and a prescient plea is made to spare a classic-era movie studio from the wrecking ball? Psychologists say conjuring nostalgia … Continue reading

Posted in Hollywood History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

The Remarkable Charlie Chaplin Archives

The Charlie Chaplin Archives, housed in Bologna and accessible online, hosts thousands of rare photographs, production logs, scripts, and other fascinating studio records and documentation from Chaplin’s life and long career. Pick a favorite film, or subject of interest, and … Continue reading

Posted in Chaplin Studio, City Lights | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

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 … Continue reading

Posted in Buster Keaton, Doug MacLean, Harold Lloyd, Mabel Normand | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and Lyons & Moran – the “good” old days on New High Street

One of my all-time favorite discoveries are the young girls caught on camera intently watching Charlie Chaplin filming scenes from The Kid (1921) (read more HERE). A closer study of Harold Lloyd’s early short From Hand to Mouth (1919) reveals … Continue reading

Posted in Chaplin - Keaton - Lloyd Alley, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Lyons and Moran, The Kid | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Buster Keaton’s Go West Desert – “Frozen” in Time

Vintage movies are time machines, preserving fashion styles, means of transport, and urban locales for us to marvel at decades later. But when filmed at a remote locale, they also remind us a passing century is merely an eye-blink in … Continue reading

Posted in Buster Keaton, Go West | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Time Travel to 1919 Hollywood

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 … Continue reading

Posted in Chaplin - Keaton - Lloyd Alley, Hollywood History, Lyons and Moran | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

CHASE! A Tribute to the Keystone Cops

CHASE! A Tribute to the Keystone Cops, honors these still universally recognized icons of silent comedy with an anthology of entertaining and informative essays assembled and edited by Lon & Debra Davis. Historian Sam Gill provides the foreword, joined by … Continue reading

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

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 … Continue reading

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Time Travelers: Uncovering Old LA in Keaton Comedies

Criterion’s The Cameraman Blu-ray is loaded with extras, including Oscar-nominated Daniel Raim’s 2020 documentary Time Travelers: Uncovering Old LA in Keaton Comedies, revealing newly discovered connections between Keaton’s MGM debut and the earliest films of his career. Raim’s recent works … Continue reading

Posted in Buster Keaton, Culver City, The Cameraman | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Buster Keaton – Ghosts of Go West

I’m pleased to share another post by guest blogger Jeffrey Castel de Oro, who has made many wonderful Keaton discoveries over the years (read his popular prior post about the adobe appearing in Buster’s The Scarecrow HERE.) This ghostly image … Continue reading

Posted in Buster Keaton, Go West | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Caught on Camera – Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman in New York

The Criterion Collection’s stunning new Blu-ray release of Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman and Spite Marriage is loaded with bonus special features, including a new documentary Time Travelers I had the privilege of making with historian Marc Wanamaker and Oscar-nominated director … Continue reading

Posted in Buster Keaton, Manhattan, The Cameraman | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Charlie Chaplin’s Once Lost Film – A Thief Catcher

A once lost Chaplin film rediscovered?! It made international headlines a decade ago when producer-historian Paul Gierucki found and preserved A Thief Catcher (1914), a Ford Sterling comedy featuring Charlie Chaplin in a supporting role portraying a Keystone Cop. You … Continue reading

Posted in Charlie Chaplin, Edendale, Keystone Studio, Mabel Normand | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Arbuckle and Keaton Filmed in Culver City Years Before Laurel and Hardy

Harold Lloyd and Snub Pollard filmed comedies for producer Hal Roach at the Bradbury Mansion Rolin Studio, on Court Hill in downtown Los Angeles, for years before Roach opened his new studio in Culver City in 1920. (Read how they … Continue reading

Posted in Buster Keaton, Culver City, Laurel and Hardy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Harold Lloyd’s Earliest Days Filming in Edendale

The cinematic roots for the three great kings of comedy, Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd, trace back to the earliest days of filmmaking. As reported HERE, Chaplin staged scenes from his 1914 Keystone films Those Love Pangs and Tillie’s Punctured Romance … Continue reading

Posted in Edendale, Harold Lloyd, Keystone Studio | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Buster Keaton – More Backlot Scenes From Our Hospitality

Buster Keaton’s modest studio made it necessary for him to film many famous scenes at other studios with larger backlots. His pursuit through an archway by an army of police at the climax of Cops (1922) was filmed at the … Continue reading

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How Laurel and Hardy Filmed Duck Soup

Although they had appeared onscreen together in The Lucky Dog (1921), the Hal Roach short Duck Soup (1927) marks the first time Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were paired as comedy leads. They play a couple of hoboes who flee … Continue reading

Posted in Beverly Hills, Bunker Hill, Duck Soup, Laurel and Hardy | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments