Harpo, Chico, and James Cagney at the Brunswig Mansion

Imagine the star power – Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, and James Cagney all once stood on the same mansion front steps. Classic Los Angeles homes frequently played roles in golden-age films, and the former Brunswig Mansion, once standing at 3528 West Adams, appeared in two 1931 productions; Monkey Business starring the Marx Brothers, and Blonde Crazy with James Cagney and Joan Blondell. LAPL.

Above, Harpo and Chico arrive in style, compared to an establishing shot from Blonde Crazy.

The rose pattern window shades match with Harpo, Chico, and Jimmy.

Matching views east as Jimmy exits the Brunswig porch. The Guasti Mansion next door appears at back. You can read a full account of both homes at Duncan Maginnis’s Adams Boulevard blog posts; the Brunswig, and the Guasti.

Although the full Brunswig address was 3528, in both films the final digit “8” appears to have been knocked off of the pillar.

Although the Brunswig was demolished in 1955, its equally stunning next-door neighbor is still standing, the Gausti Mansion at 3500 West Adams, later owned by movie choreographer Busby Berkeley, and now home to the Peace Awareness Labyrinth and Garden. Among its many screen appearances, the Gausti is where Laurel & Hardy filmed Another Fine Mess (1930) (read more HERE) and Charley Chase filmed Fast Work (1930) (read more HERE).

Groucho and Harpo would visit another grand mansion to film scenes from Duck Soup (1933) at the Jewett Estate in Pasadena, where Buster Keaton filmed the opening joke from Cops (1922) beside the mansion gate (read more HERE).

Glamorous homes were often leased to studios as filming sites under the Assistance League’s Film Location Bureau, a charity established by Mrs. Hancock Banning. The Bureau maintained a directory of local mansions and estates available for filming. The studios paid rental fees directly to the Bureau, instead of the mansion owner, which the Bureau applied directly for charitable purposes. This efficient scheme for raising money saved studios the expense of building costly sets, and allowed homeowners to contribute to a worthy cause at no expense to themselves. The Los Angeles Times reports that the Film Location Bureau rented out the Brunswig Mansion for use in Pola Negri’s The Spanish Dancer (1923). Hollywood historian Mary Mallory writes about the Film Location Bureau HERE.

Posted in James Cagney, Marx Brothers | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Early Thrill Comedies – Who Was First?

Thrill comedies featuring a star hanging from the side of a tall building have long been a staple of silent films. The photo at left from Play Ball (1925) eloquently explains the brilliant technique with a single image. Starting with Look Out Below in 1919, Harold Lloyd would become the master of the genre, capped by his masterpiece Safety Last! (1923) that still enthralls audiences today. But when was this effect first used in a movie? I pondered this when film historian Jack Theakston inquired about Ignatz’s Icy Injury (1916), one of the earliest thrill films of which he was aware. While it would be fun to declare Ignatz the earliest winner, it’s likely the effect had already been employed for years, perhaps as early as by George Melies.

Using Lantern Media to research Ignatz, the L-KO Kompany’s Billy Armstrong comedy promoted at right in Universal’s The Moving Picture Weekly trade magazine, I quickly happened upon two other contemporary L-KO stunt comedies promoted by Universal, Billie Ritchie’s A Bold, Bad, Breeze (1916), and Dan Russell’s Rough Stuff (1917). As we’ll see, these three films share much in common with each other and with other stunt comedies of the era.

Above, the two stunt images from Ignatz touted in the July 8, 1916 Moving Picture Weekly trade advertisement; (left) looking west down 8th at the Hamburger’s Department Store, and south down Broadway (right). Both scenes were staged from atop the 1912 Chapman Building at the NE corner of 8th and Broadway.

Matching views west – the extant Chapman Building (756 Broadway) has a small two story structure on its large rooftop, where Billy Armstrong crawled around presumably with scaffolding or nets below out of camera range, but far from the 13 story drop to the street.

Click to enlarge – above, looking north up Broadway towards the two story structure atop the Chapman (Investment) Building where the filming took place. The “Examiner” Building (orange) and the four tall buildings immediately behind it all remain standing. USC Digital Library.

Ignatz was filmed atop 756 S. Broadway looking south towards the same block appearing north behind Harold Lloyd, where he filmed the clock scene from Safety Last! atop 908 S. Broadway. Notice the opposite views of the Majestic Theater (M), Tally’s Theater (T), and Hamburger’s (M). Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives.

Click to enlarge – next for discussion is Billie Ritchie’s A Bold, Bad Breeze, pictured here in the July 1, 1916 issue of The Moving Picture Weekly. Billie was filmed atop the extant Southern California Gas Company building at 950 S. Broadway, the same rooftop where Harold Lloyd staged the middle sequence of his climb in Feet First (1930). The “JOSEPH’S” wall sign at the left is where the “RADIO SUPPLY CO.” wall sign is to the right. The L.L. Burns building at back is 908 S. Broadway, where Lloyd staged the clock sequence from Safety Last! Both the 908 and 950 buildings remain standing, but a giant modern apartment complex has been built between them. USC Digital Library.

After solving this location the hard (but fun) way, I then found this full view photo depicting the view up Broadway. The white building behind Billie is where Harold Lloyd later filmed the clock scene from Safety Last!

Last comes Rough Stuff appearing in the August 4, 1917 issue of The Moving Picture Weekly. How did they film it? Again, from atop the same two story structure on the roof of the Chapman Building, only this time looking north. The beautiful white Hass Building in the background, at the NE corner of Broadway and 7th, remains standing, but has been “improved” with a modern facade. LAPL.

This other view from Rough Stuff also reveals the Bullock’s Building to the left, still standing on the NW corner of Broadway and 7th.

This absolutely convincing yet low-tech special effect no longer seems to be employed much today. One of the few (no longer modern) examples I’ve found was the 1985 pilot movie for the TV series Moonlighting with Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis. Looking south, the rooftop structure just to the right of Bruce is the same stairway entrance structure the cops are standing on, and pictured here to the right, both looking north.

A modern view from the two story structure atop the Chapman Building towards the Hamburger Building. (C) 2019 Microsoft.

Posted in Los Angeles Historic Core | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Harry Houdini Solves a Charlie Chaplin Mystery!

Harry Houdini helped to discover where Charlie Chaplin filmed crucial scenes for his very first movie Making a Living (1914). The initial scene of Charlie’s entire career (below), discovered by Kevin Dale and reported HERE, was staged in front of a residential porch adjacent to the Keystone Studio that is now site for the driveway to a Jack-In-The-Box restaurant!  The former house at 1722 Allesandro appears in five other Chaplin Keystone films and in many other Keystone films as well.

In his debut role, con man Charlie witnesses a spectacular automobile accident caught on film by a reporter, then steals the camera and rushes downtown to apply for work at a newspaper. Above, Charlie stands at the Broadway side of the former Los Angeles Times building on the corner of 1st Street. The building was then barely a year old, rebuilt after a horrific bomb blast destroyed it, killing over twenty people, during a labor dispute in 1910. My book Silent Traces reveals more locations and history from the film. LAPL.

Exploiting the stolen photos, the newspaper churns out “extra” editions of Charlie’s front page story, which he eagerly helps to distribute. Above left, Charlie loads bales of the hot-off-the press edition into the newsboys’ bicycle carts in the alley beside the paper, and above right, hands out more copies to the newsies at the corner office of the paper, where “LARGEST CITY CIRCULATION” appears conspicuously in the window.

Despite the paper boasting of its “largest” circulation, its identity, and hence its location, eluded me for years. But then famed magician Harry Houdini, via champion Houdini historian and blogger John Cox, came to the rescue. In John’s recent Wild About Harry post, he proves Houdini performed a suspended straight-jacket escape in downtown LA on December 4, 1915. John writes how this stunt was frustratingly difficult to confirm until he finally located the story searching microfilm of the Los Angeles Tribune at the downtown public library. When Harry accepted the paper’s challenge to perform the stunt suspended from its headquarters building, it made the front page both when Houdini first tested the block and tackle rigging (at left), and again the next day when he escaped the straight-jacket in two minutes suspended in front of huge crowd. The only newspaper reporting the stunt was the difficult to access Tribune itself, because at the time the competing newspapers ignored the story completely. No wonder confirming the story had been so challenging.

While it was exciting to read Houdini had performed his signature escape in Los Angeles so early in his career, what caught my eye is that the front of the newspaper matched Chaplin’s corner paper office. Founded in 1871, the Los Angeles Express began operating at 719-721 S. Hill Street in 1911, the same year the Los Angeles Tribune morning paper began publishing from the same building. The two papers were later run by the Express-Tribune Company.

When Charlie filmed here the Express was the city’s oldest surviving daily paper. The building parapet reads 1871-1910, presumably to honor the years spent at its former headquarters. In 1917 the Express-Tribune Company advertised that the combined circulation for its two papers exceeded 115,000. Other newspapers complained these figures were fraudulent, and filed suit against the owner-publisher E. T. Earl. While some contemporary accounts of the 1917 lawsuit appear in the Los Angeles Times, I wasn’t able to determine its eventual outcome, and Mr. Earl died suddenly early in 1919. The photo detail at left, attributed to November 1917, shows for some reason the building now deserted, stripped of its EXPRESS name and up for lease. USC Digital Library.

Above, matching window details confirm the site. The 1913 postcard comes courtesy of author-historian Brent Dickerson, who manages the absolutely fascinating A VISIT TO OLD LOS ANGELES website, guiding readers up and down each block of 1900-1920 era downtown Los Angeles.

Above, this 1910 aerial view, a snippet of a wide panorama taken from a hot air balloon (!), shows the alley leading west from Hill Street to Olive Street alongside the Express building (arrow). USC Digital Library.

Looking closer, this frame from a different movie print shows the former Hotel Washington boarding house at 711 S. Olive Street across from the Hill-Olive alley, appearing (right) in this 1907 photo. The hotel was demolished in 1917 to make way for the Coulter’s Dry Good store building (more below), still standing at this spot today. USC Digital Library.

The Hill-Olive alley appearing in the film was defined by five buildings, those flanking each end of the alley, and the Hotel Washington across the street at back (see map, Charlie marked by the star). The area was a booming construction site at the time, and only one of these five buildings (dark gray on map) survives today, the corner at 716-722 S. Olive built in 1906 as headquarters for the Home Telephone & Telegraph Company. The building’s distinctive quartet of pitched roof skylights shown above remain today.

This wider view west down 7th reveals the filming site on Hill Street stood half a block from the Los Angeles Athletic Club at 7th and Olive where Charlie often resided. (Charlie wrote to his brother Syd from the club as early as August 4, 1914). Given the club’s prominent role in Chaplin’s life, and its proximity to where he began his career, it’s easy to imagine Charlie would reflect about his debut filming on Hill Street when visiting the club. Harold Lloyd filmed Never Weaken (1921) on the roof of the Ville de Paris department store (center), built in 1916 after Charlie filmed in the alley. The photo is attributed to November 1917, likely correct, as the right corner of 7th at Hill stands bare (a demolition permit was pulled in September 1917), in preparation for the future Warner Bros. Downtown – Pantages Theater which began construction there in 1919. Astute reader “Skip” suggests the apparent anomaly “1920” on the center roof promotes LA’s projected 1,000,000 census tally for that future year. USC Digital Library.

Looking east along 7th at Olive, this scene of Charlie and the drunk millionaire driving home in City Lights (1931) was staged across the street from the Los Angeles Athletic Club, and one block from Charlie’s debut performance site beside the former newspaper. The Ville de Paris appears at left, along with the Coulter Dry Goods store (built in part on the former Hotel Washington site around the corner).

Above, a final then and now view looking west at the alley side of the 1906 Home Telephone & Telegraph building, still standing. The Coulter Building, rather than the Hotel Washington, now appears at the far end across the street.

Houdini had connections to Buster Keaton as well, including this scene from Harry’s 1919 thriller The Grim Game (1919), filmed at the Chaplin-Keaton- Lloyd Hollywood Alley. I have several posts about the historic locations appearing in Houdini’s The Grim Game HERE.

Be certain to check out the fantastic Chaplin at Keystone DVD set from Flicker Alley.

Below, the 719 S. Hill Street corner where Charlie Chaplin AND Harry Houdini both once stood, creating history, is now a parking lot. But thanks to the work of John Cox and Brent Dickerson, and the incredible array of resources now available online, we can appreciate Charlie’s sense of what Los Angeles looked like over 100 years when he began his career.

Posted in Charlie Chaplin, Harry Houdini, Los Angeles Historic Core | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

How Mary Pickford Filmed Daddy-Long-Legs Part One

In Daddy-Long-Legs (1919) Mary Pickford portrays an endearing young orphan later sent to college by an anonymous benefactor. Complications ensue when Mary meets her sponsor, unaware of his status, and they fall for each other. In what was Pickford’s most financially successful production up to that time, this charming film reveals surprisingly varied glimpses of early Los Angeles history.

To begin, Mary’s orphanage (upper left) was the same former Occidental College Hall of Letters building Charlie Chaplin would later use to portray a maternity hospital at the beginning of The Kid (1921) (lower left). The former college building was abandoned when Occidental moved to its new, larger Eagle Rock campus in 1914. By 1919 the hall had been deserted for years, and was perfectly cast to portray Mary’s orphanage. Mary filmed here first, well before Chaplin. USC Digital Library.

Mary lines up her fellow orphans along the north, back side of the former hall. The projecting left side of the building in the movie frame was later trimmed flush to the back wall, as confirmed by the 1950 Sanborn fire insurance maps. Also trimmed of its upper floor and peaked roof, the building still stands, a modest apartment block in Highland Park, surrounded by bungalows and strip malls. Color photo Tony Barraza.

Mary chases a fellow orphan east along the south face of the building. The Sanborn fire insurance maps confirm the large projecting porch in the movie frame was removed by 1950. Color photo Brad Alexander.

Mary and fellow orphan actor Wesley Barry pose by the NW corner of the building, essentially unchanged but for the landscaping. Color photo Jeffrey Castel de Oro.

Mary runs beside what was likely a prop wall built for the production, at the back, east corner of the building. Color photo Jeffrey Castel de Oro.

Wesley runs east along the south face – the porch now removed and doorway replaced with the two smaller windows at center. Color photo Tony Barraza.

Upper left, Mary chases an orphan along the east side of the hall, the same side appearing with Edna Purviance in The Kid (center). Notice the matching left drain spout in each vintage image. Color photo Tony Barraza.

Mary leads Wesley back inside the west entrance. Color photo Tony Barraza.

Witnessing the anonymous, long-legged shadow of her benefactor inspires Mary to call him “Daddy-Long-Legs.”

As I detail in my Chaplin book Silent Traces, Presidents Taft and Teddy Roosevelt also visited this campus building. So, Mary, the world’s most beloved actress, Chaplin, the world’s most beloved comedian, and two United States Presidents, all once visited this humble site. You can visit the inside of the building at this post HERE. The west entrance to the building is reached by walking between the row of bungalows at 121 N. Avenue 50, in Highland Park. Occidental College Archives and Special Collections.

Above, the left (north) side of the former Charles M. Stimson Library appears in this scene where a bum throws a seemingly worthless jug of hard cider over the wall. Mary and fellow orphan Wesley Barry find the jug and innocently become inebriated. The matching left side of the library appears at left in the above photo. My sense is the towering wall was built for the production – it facilitates the story, and does not appear in vintage photos. The telephoto image left, displaying no wall, looks east at where the bum stood to the left of the corner library. Once part of the Occidental campus, the former Stimson Library occupied the north corner of N. Avenue 50 and N. Figueroa Street. Above USC Digital Library and left California State Library.

A final view showing the west entrance – the left side of the building. (C) 2019 Microsoft. The vacant school building must have had the top floor removed and been converted to apartment use in the 1920s. It first appears listed as the Savoy Apartments, 121 N Av 50, in the 1926 City Directory, while the earliest building permit for the site (July 7, 1925) already describes the building as two stories tall and as “School altered to Apts.” Built in 1904, the building was declared Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument #585 on October 15, 1993.

Not only did Mary film at Occidental before Chaplin, at the time she was living at 56 Fremont Place, across the street from 55 Fremont Place (above left), the mansion later appearing in The Kid when Edna Purviance abandons her infant in a millionaire’s limousine. Mary’s 56 Fremont Place home appears center above in The Red Kimono (1925) – a movie staged with incredible locations, and above right as Jean Harlow’s home in Bombshell (1933). Chaplin’s production records (right) for filming this Fremont Place scene in The Kid simply identifies the setting as “Pickford Street,” tying the location directly to Mary. Given their close association, one can’t help but imagine that Mary was instrumental in bringing these two crucial filming locations to Charlie’s attention.

Daddy-Long-Legs opens with establishing shots explaining some babies are nourished and cared for in beautiful surroundings, while others are born to misery and strife.

The beautiful surroundings pictured above are the conservatories at Eastlake Park east of downtown, renamed Lincoln Park in 1917. The site is now home to a Lincoln Park senior center.

Click to enlarge – the conservatories appear at back, center, in this vintage aerial view looking east at the park – N. Mission Road to the left and Valley Blvd. to the right. HollywoodPhotographs.com.

The next opening scene compares laboring orphans to prisoners in a chain gang. This brief shot from DDL reveals the true Los Angeles Orphanage once located at 917 S. Boyle Avenue near Hollenbeck Park. Notice the matching peaked side entrance and fire escape. USC Digital Library.

Later known as the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, this home for girls opened in 1890 and was in use until 1953. Long since demolished, Mary had also earlier staged scenes at this orphanage, above left, for Stella Maris in 1918. USC Digital Library.

Above, another true orphanage scene from Stella Maris. Mary stands by the arch beneath the side entrance stairs at the far lower left of the vintage image. It is fascinating (and frustrating) how often long lost iconic buildings are narrowly presented in silent film.

Now that we’ve covered DDL‘s deserted campus setting, its true orphanage cameos, and how Mary likely influenced Chaplin’s choice of two key scenes from The Kid, we’ll cover all of the MANY remaining locations, in Part Two, including two beautifully preserved mansions. Stay tuned.

Below, 121 N. Avenue 50, the former campus building, where Mary filmed at the west entrance shown here.

Posted in Mary Pickford, The Kid | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Schindler

Click to enlarge – north up Kings Road at Waring

Several years ago, following my introduction of Sherlock Jr. at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, Los Angeles architect John Trautmann approached me to ask if I had noticed the famous Schindler house which appears in the background as Buster speeds along on his motorcycle.  Located at 835. N. Kings Road, this home would come to be revered as one of the most influential structures of the 20th century.

R.M Schindler (right), with architect Richard Neutra and Neutra’s wife Dionne and child in front of the house where the Neutras lived from 1925 until 1930.

R. M. Schindler was a progressive architect who emigrated from Vienna to work with Frank Lloyd Wright, first in Chicago in 1918, and then in Los Angeles in 1920.  Setting off on his own, Schindler built the Kings Road House in 1922, and for the next three decades went on to experiment with shaping space and making liveable, iconoclastic houses and apartments, mostly throughout Los Angeles.

The Kings Road House is still standing with its grounds intact, although hemmed in now by modern apartment buildings.  Organized on a “pinwheel” plan, in which vistas fly out from the core living spaces into the gardens beyond, it was built as a duplex, where each family could have its own indoor/outdoor realm.  Concrete slabs were poured flat on the ground and tilted vertically to form the walls, in which vertical strips of glass serve as windows.  The home’s rooftop sleeping porch is evident in the 1924 movie frame, but was yet to be constructed in the matching 1922 photo.

The Schindler House is now home to the MAK Center for Art and Architecture.

Posted in Buster Keaton, Sherlock Jr. | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The nearly last – Safety Last – joke

Three different Safety Last! rooftops for the closing scene, 548 S. Spring Street, 3rd and Spring, and 908 S. Broadway.

Surviving his heroic climb up a skyscraper during Safety Last!, Harold Lloyd falls into the arms of his loving fiancé Mildred Davis, waiting for him on the rooftop. As reported in another post, this satisfying conclusion was actually filmed from atop three different buildings all still standing in downtown, 548 S. Spring Street, the Washington Building at 3rd and Spring, and 908 S. Broadway. But as shown here, a fourth building was briefly involved in the final scene. (In all Lloyd employed 17 downtown buildings during his “thrill” comedies – see PDF list of descriptions here).

Harold’s roommate was supposed to make the climb (portrayed by real-life stunt climber Bill Strother), but Harold starts in his place when vengeful cop Noah Young chases Bill inside the building. At each floor of Harold’s climb Bill promises to switch places as soon as he can ditch the cop, a running gag.

The 908 S. Broadway building owners recreate the closing scene – Harold losing his shoes and socks.

Once safe at last on the roof, the movie closes with Harold losing his shoes and socks to a sticky puddle of tar (at left), the final joke of the movie, preceded by “drunken” character actor Earl Mohan helplessly entangled in a volleyball net (below). But the joke preceding Earl, the second to last joke of the entire film, tops off the running gag by showing Noah still chasing after Bill on a faraway roof down below, with Bill still pleading to Harold in tiny intertitle print “I’ll be right back – Soon as I ditch the cop.”

Noah Young chases Bill Strother along the roof of the former Mott Building.

This nearly last Safety Last joke was filmed looking down from the ten story Higgins Building, still standing at 2nd and Main, as Bill and Noah scramble north across rooftops from 141 S. Main to the Mott Building at 135 S. Main. Having studied the other Safety Last downtown locations, I knew this closing gag with Noah and Bill was not filmed near these other spots, and seemingly unsolvable, gave it no further thought.

Revisiting the scene years later, I realized from the light and angles that it was likely filmed looking north from the top of a fairly tall building. I also noticed trolley tracks in the street, and that one building had a finial (F) and a central, triangular parapet (P), while its neighbor had projecting twin bay windows, each sheltered by a curved roof (B) (see above). So I scrutinized vintage aerial photos for tall buildings south of two story parapets and bay windows, and before long found the corner of 2nd and Main. Once identified, numerous ground level photos and vintage maps confirmed the location. This street level view above looks north up Main from 2nd towards City Hall. USC Digital Library.

Above (click to enlarge), this 1927 view is one of several vintage aerial views that helped to identify this closing scene. The arrow marks the camera’s point of view.

Click to enlarge – another view from the Higgins Building looking down on where Noah chased Bill, with City Hall at back. Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives.

Above, the full view in the movie, filmed in 1922, with a matching aerial closeup from 1928.

Above, matching views up Main from Second, with City Hall at back. USC Digital Library and Palmer Conner collection Huntington Digital Library. At left, yet another view – LAPL.

HAROLD LLOYD images and the names of Mr. Lloyd’s films are all trademarks and/or service marks of Harold Lloyd Entertainment Inc. Images and movie frame images reproduced courtesy of The Harold Lloyd Trust and Harold Lloyd Entertainment Inc.

Below, a matching modern view north up Main Street from the Higgins Building on the left corner.

Posted in Harold Lloyd, Los Angeles Historic Core, Safety Last! | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

The Office – Film Noir – and Harold Lloyd

Click to enlarge.  Harold Lloyd’s Speedy (1928) looking south down Witmer towards the Mayfair Hotel.  Dwight, Erin, and Holly from The Office, shown below, stood by the stop sign on the right.  (C) 2011 Google Inc.

What do the television show The Office, the 1950 film noir drama Edge of Doom, and Harold Lloyd’s final silent comedy Speedy (1928) have in common?  They all filmed scenes looking southwest down Witmer Street towards the front of the Mayfair Hotel, at 1256 W. 7th Street, just west of downtown Los Angeles.

The Office (2011) – Erin, Holly, and Dwight on Witmer Street beside the Prince Rupert Apartments. (C) 2011 Google Inc.

In a prior post I write all about the pivotal 2011 episode from The Office where characters Michael Scott and Holly Flax meet on the roof of the Mayfair Hotel, and declare their love for each other.   Prior to that scene, Holly meets with characters Dwight Schrute and Erin Kemper on the street to devise a plan for locating Michael, who had wandered off dazed without his cell phone.  The scene, shown above, was filmed at the NW corner of Witmer and Ingraham, beside what was once called the Prince Rupert Apartments.  Notice the steep slope of the street.

Click to enlarge. The prominent entrance to the Kensington Apartments, 668 Witmer Street, now lost, appears in Edge of Doom – left, and in Speedy – right. The Mayfair Hotel stands at the end in both shots. The Burton Arms Apartments, with the vertical white corner detail, still stands at 680 Witmer.

Harold Lloyd used the slope of Witmer Street to good advantage during an early scene in Speedy, where Harold recovers his idle taxi cab that had accidentally been towed away by a moving van.  As Harold speaks with the truck driver, the taxi breaks loose and rolls down hill running over a traffic cop.

The unusual setting intrigued me, as it featured a downhill slope pointing towards a “T” intersection, capped by an uncommonly tall building, on which a trolley ran along the cross street.   Although Speedy was filmed primarily on location in Manhattan, I also knew many taxi sequences were filmed on Flower Street in downtown Los Angeles.  So I first checked the few trolley-line “T” intersections to be found along Bunker Hill, and in the downtown LA Historic Core, but nothing matched up.  Since other scenes from this sequence were filmed in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I checked nearby locales there as well to see if I could find this setting in New York, but it was another dead end.

From Speedy – a cop about to be flattened by Harold’s taxi, and perhaps the only extant photo record showing the front of the lost Kensington Apartments.

My first break came when I noticed the Mayfair Hotel appeared at back during a scene in Edge of Doom (see above, left), as a troubled youth played by Farely Granger steps into the Kensington Apartments once located at 668 Witmer.  With the Mayfair as a reference point, I now knew what the Kensington looked like, as it appeared on film, even though it is no longer standing.  My second break was my realization (as discussed in my prior post about The Office) that in the 1920s there were tall buildings, such as the Mayfair, located just west of downtown Los Angeles, beyond the Historic Core.  Then, while searching for a file, I somehow come upon the two above images from Edge of Doom and Speedy, and got a hunch to compare them side by side, making the match.

The Burton Arms Apartments, 680 Witmer, as it appears in Speedy, 1928, and today. (C) 2011 Google Inc.

I find it fascinating how this one setting reappears over the decades.  My sense is that “T” intersections are popular when filming for a number of reasons.  First, it cuts down on traffic disruption, as through traffic can be more easily diverted.  Next, it seems to be less visually distracting.  Instead of the lines of the street stretching far off into the distance, drawing the viewer’s eye towards the vanishing point on the horizon, the cross street cuts across the view, creating a backdrop that contains the viewer’s eye.

California Historical Society, Title Insurance and Trust Photo Collection, Department of Special Collections, University of Southern California.  (c) 2012 Microsoft Corporation, Pictometry Bird’s Eye (c) 2010 Pictometry International Corp.

The aerial views above look to the north.  The yellow arrow points SW down Witmer towards the Mayfair Hotel on 7th Street (yellow boxes), and the red ovals mark the corner stop sign where Dwight, Erin, and Holly stood (far above).  The pin to the upper right shows the site of the lost Kensington Apartments, now a parking lot.

You can read about how Lloyd filmed Speedy all over Manhattan and Brooklyn, at Coney Island, and in Los Angeles, in my Harold Lloyd location book Silent Visions.

HAROLD LLOYD images and the names of Mr. Lloyd’s films are all trademarks and/or service marks of Harold Lloyd Entertainment Inc. Images and movie frame images reproduced courtesy of The Harold Lloyd Trust and Harold Lloyd Entertainment Inc.   The Office copyright (c) 2011 NBCUniversal Media, LLC.  Edge of Doom Copyright 1950 The Samuel Goldwyn Company.

Posted in Film Noir, Harold Lloyd, Speedy, The Office, TV Shows | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Chaplin, Keaton, and Lois Weber’s “Suspense” in Beverly Hills

The beautiful new Kino Lorber Blu-ray release Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers features dozens of early films created by women, many unseen for decades. One highlight is Lois Weber’s home invasion thriller Suspense (1913). As shown in a prior post, the film provides remarkable views of early Hollywood at the dawn of the movie industry, including below the Lasky-DeMille barn reflected in a side view mirror during the husband’s race home to rescue his threatened family. The “Barn” is now home to the Hollywood Heritage Museum, located on Highland Ave. across from the Hollywood Bowl. Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives.

The Lasky-DeMille barn at the corner of Selma and Vine – movie frame reversed for comparison

Leaving early Hollywood behind, the climax of the 1913 film takes place in Beverly Hills, at landmark locations that are today completely unrecognizable.

During his frantic race home, the husband hits a tramp pausing in the middle of an isolated dirt road to light a cigarette. Remarkably, this rural view looks west along Sunset Blvd. in eastern Beverly Hills, where Sunset bends left, south at Doheny Road. The matching tree, and bend in the road, appear in this vintage aerial view. LAPL.

Looking west, moments before the tramp is knocked over by the car. The box marks the same orderly rows of trees in both images, perhaps this was part of the Beverly Hills Nursery, see more below.

A 1922 view north, showing Sunset bending left, south at the “Y” intersection with Doheny Road. The perpendicular road to the right is Doheny Drive. The circle and box mark the same tree, and rows of trees, in the two frames above. LAPL.

Then and now, matching views where Sunset bends left, south, at Doheny Road.

Later during the race home the husband passes a billboard (above) that seems to say “Beverly Hills Nursery,” which once operated along Sunset Blvd.

This scene looking west, as the husband races along Sunset further east of Doheny Drive, appears to show in the distance the trio of domes (see below) spanning the entrance to the recently opened, and then completely isolated, Beverly Hills Hotel.

Above, the once remote Beverly Hills Hotel – USC Digital Library. The hotel appears prominently during Lois Weber’s Lost By A Hair (1914, see below), also part of the Pioneers Blu-ray set. As explained in my book Silent Traces, Charlie Chaplin would later film scenes from The Idle Class (1921, right) at the hotel, including this view of the hotel from what is now Will Rogers Memorial Park across the street.

Above, several 1914 scenes at the Beverly Hills Hotel from Lois Weber’s Lost By A Hair.

Looking north at Sunset Blvd. running from the Beverly Hills Hotel (left oval) to the Doheny Road corner (right oval), with the Beverly Hills Nursery possibly appearing mid-way in between. Santa Monica Blvd. runs diagonally from the lower left to upper right, while the former Beverly Hills Speedway race track stands in the foreground, sheltered from Wilshire Blvd. (running left-right above) by a row of trees. LAPL.

Above left, looking east down Doheny Road, towards where Sunset Blvd. bends to the right (south), as the police race towards the husband’s car (star). The view to the right looks west along Doheny, the star suggests where the husband’s car was parked.

We now throw a little Buster into the mix. This newly discovered footage from Keaton’s The Blacksmith (1922) was filmed nine years later, with a matching view east down Doheny Road (now paved) towards the Sunset Blvd. bend. The blue oval marks both sides of the entrance gate leading to “La Collina,” the Benjamin Meyers estate. You can read a detailed account of the estate HERE.

Contrast enhanced, the view from Suspense of the police racing north from Doheny Road towards the family home (left), and a matching view south from Chaplin’s Shoulder Arms (1918), both show tree-lined Doheny Drive leading at an angle south towards the left-right dark windbreak of trees along Wilshire Blvd. Doheny’s receding angle in each shot tells us Shoulder Arms was filmed further east, closer to Doheny Drive, than Suspense.

Looking north in 1922 reveals the gate to La Collina (blue), the likely site of the family home in Suspense (yellow), and the site where Charlie fooled the German soldiers disguised as a tree in Shoulder Arms (red), relative to perpendicular Doheny Drive to the right. You can read more about Chaplin filming here in my book Silent Traces.

Assuming this scene of the husband running towards the home was filmed where the other scenes were filmed on Doheny Road, then the house (yellow oval) appearing at back is likely the house (yellow oval) in the aerial view below.

Above – click to enlarge – this wider view looking north reveals the gate to La Collina (blue), the likely family home in Suspense (yellow), and the site where Charlie fooled the German soldiers disguised as a tree in Shoulder Arms (red). Nearby, the corner of Cynthia Street and Hammond Street (orange) marks the likely spot of another new scene from Keaton’s The Blacksmith, when Big Joe Roberts chases Buster past a street sign that seems to say “HAMMOND.” The view seems to be looking west down Cynthia from Hammond towards Doheny Drive, and is close to Buster’s scene beside La Collina (blue), below. I have several prior posts about the “new” scenes from The Blacksmith, read more HERE.

The gate to La Collina, looking east with Buster, and looking north in this 1922 view.

Another wide 1922 view showing the La Collina gate (blue), the likely site of the Suspense house – now removed (yellow), and the field where Chaplin disguised himself as a tree in Shoulder Arms (red). HollywoodPhotographs.com.

A final view – Buster, Lois Weber, and Chaplin all filmed near Doheny Road in east Beverly Hills, while it was undeveloped.

Matching views of the La Collina estate gate today.

Kino Lorber Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers. Check out Mary Mallory’s recent post about Lois Weber HERE.

Looking west at Sunset and Doheny Road.

Posted in Beverly Hills, Lois Weber, The Blacksmith | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Alice Howell Early Hollywood Views

We all owe Ben Model a huge debt of gratitude for releasing his fantastic new Alice Howell Collection DVD, featuring 12 shorts starring the delightful (and mostly forgotten) comedienne, sourced from archival materials from the Library of Congress, BFI, DFI, EYE Filmmuseum and Lobster/Blackhawk, each accompanied by Ben’s new piano and theatre organ scores. There are so many early Hollywood connections in these films I could write a series of posts, but here’s a taste to get started.

To begin, not only does Distilled Love (filmed 1918 – released 1920) offer up great views of Oliver Hardy and future Keaton leading lady Sybil Seely (above), but as confirmed by exterior filming locations expert Mike Malone, the bathing beauties diving scene below was staged at the rock pool at Malibu State Park, then known as Crags Country Club. A retired national park ranger, who leads fascinating tours and lectures about Hollywood filming in the Santa Monica Mountains, the Paramount Ranch, and elsewhere, Malone confirmed the diving pool, and that it appeared decades later for scenes from The Planet of the Apes (1968). Color photo Mike Malone.

Next, the prison scenes (below) from A Convict’s Happy Bride (1920), where the inmates are released each day to eat lunch at home, were staged at the former Los Angeles East Side Division (Lincoln Heights) city jail, at 419 N. Avenue 19.

Take A Chance and The Hoose Gow

The jail was a very popular filming location, also appearing in Harold Lloyd’s 1918 short comedy Take A Chance, and during the opening of Laurel & Hardy’s The Hoose-Gow (1929).

The jail also appears, clockwise, in Harold Lloyd’s Bashful (1917) upper left above, Billy Bevan’s Be Reasonable (1921), Lige Conley and Jimmie Adams in A Fresh Start (1920), Billy West’s Rolling Stone (1919), and Snub Pollard’s Nip and Tuck (1923). The jail was originally built in 1909, and expanded in 1913. The jail was re-built again in 1931 to the five-story structure still standing there today (inset right), and later closed in 1965. Known as the Lincoln Heights Jail, the facility became infamous for Bloody Christmas, the vicious beating of Latino prisoners at the hands of the police, that took place on December 25, 1951, and portrayed in the James Ellroy novel and 1997 movie L.A. Confidential.

Last, the 1915 short Father Was A Loafer offers many great views filmed at Castle San Souci, where Charlie Chaplin, Mabel Normand, and Marie Dressler filmed Tilllie’s Punctured  Romance (1914), as well as scenes filmed in Hollywood on Cahuenga, but those must wait for another post. But as shown above, Alice’s co-star Billie Ritchie lived at 6089 Selma Avenue, still standing over 100 years later.

Alice Howell Collection DVD

The Father Was A Loafer home still standing at 6089 Selma Avenue in Hollywood.

 

 

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The Hollywood Heritage in Lois Weber’s Suspense

The beautiful new Kino Lorber Blu-ray release Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers is a revelation, a six-disc set featuring dozens of early films created by women, many unseen for decades. One highlight is Lois Weber‘s innovative and aptly titled home invasion thriller Suspense (1913). As shown here, Suspense provides some remarkable views of early Hollywood at the dawn of the movie industry.

A young mother, home alone (also portrayed by Ms. Weber) telephones her husband working late that a tramp is breaking into their home. When the tramp cuts the phone line, the frantic husband steals a car, pursued by the police, who all race furiously to reach the home in time.

Above, the chase kicks into gear as the husband and then the police turn right (south) from Sunset onto Gower, with the Nestor Film Company studios in the background. The view, first identified by noted Hollywood historian Mary Mallory, looks north up Gower towards Sunset. Nestor is credited as Hollywood’s first permanent movie studio. Nestor above, LAPL, the same corner turn right from Sunset onto Gower, at left, taken in 1922 HollywoodPhotographs.com.

The corner Sunset-Gower street sign (oval) visible beside the Nestor Studio during the shot appears much more closely during this shot from One of the Bravest (1914), presented on YouTube by the Dutch EYE Filmmuseum.

[As an aside, both frames above from One of the Bravest mark the earliest film appearance I’ve found of the former Hollywood joint fire/police station (above, left) that opened in 1913 at 1625 – 1929 Cahuenga, south from the corner of Hollywood Boulevard. The above right frame looks north up Cahuenga, showing the fire house to the left side of the frame. Inset photo at right Tommy Dangcil.]

Suspense is noteworthy for its daring camera angles, triptych scenes of the husband, wife, and burglar, inter-cutting between the tramp breaking down doors and the cars racing home, and inventive shots such as here, where the cops chasing the husband appear reflected in his side view mirror.

Thanks to the Blu-ray image quality in this new release, we can see that the Lasky-DeMille barn, at the SE corner of Vine and Selma, appears reflected in the mirror as the crew raced north up Vine. Above, reversing the movie frame for comparison clearly matches this historic view. After Lois Weber filmed here, in December 1913 Cecil B. DeMille, working with Jesse Lasky, leased the barn for the production of The Squaw Man (1914), known as the first feature film produced in Hollywood. The “Barn,” home to the Hollywood Heritage Museum, now stands on Highland Ave. across from the Hollywood Bowl. Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives.

Click to enlarge – 1919 – looking NW – the arrow runs north up Vine crossing Selma beside the Barn and the rest of the Famous Players Lasky Studio to the right. The next street up with the corner church is Hollywood Blvd. The large white home surrounded by trees, to the left of the cropping mark, is the Jacob Stern estate. Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives.

Above, this 1914 Baist Atlas map shows where the chase first turns right from Sunset onto Gower (right arrow), and then north up Vine past the Lasky-DeMille Barn on Selma (left arrow).

Next, during his frantic race home, the husband hits a tramp pausing in the middle of the road to light a cigarette. As we’ll see in part two of this post, this scene and the movie’s dramatic conclusion were filmed in Beverly Hills, where Sunset bends left, south at Doheny Road, near where Charlie Chaplin filmed his tree disguise scenes from Shoulder Arms (1918) and Buster Keaton filmed newly rediscovered scenes from The Blacksmith (1922). LAPL. Stay tuned for more Suspense!

A related post shows how Weber and other pioneer women filmmakers filmed at the Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd alley in Hollywood, years before the gents did.

Kino Lorber Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers.

Below, a matching view north up Gower towards Sunset today.

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Harold Lloyd’s The Kid Brother Was Close to Home

It’s time to celebrate the wonderful new Blu-ray release of Harold Lloyd’s classic comedy The Kid Brother by the Criterion Collection. Considered by many to be Lloyd’s masterpiece, this release is simply stunning, a beautiful clear crisp print, a choice between Carl Davis’s stirring orchestral score and the theater organ score recorded by Lloyd’s friend Gaylord Carter, and an abundance of fascinating bonus programs, including my own visual essay Close to Home. Close to Home looks at the many filming locations, including exteriors staged at the historic Lasky Ranch in Burbank, revealing how Lloyd filmed this seemingly remote production within a few miles of his Hollywood studio, while also focusing on Lloyd’s personal home life, and the movie’s domestic themes that had never before played such a role in Lloyd’s films.

Photo by Suzanne Lloyd

To begin, I want to honor Richard Simonton, Jr., who contributes a bonus program of behind the scenes photos and photos of deleted scenes. Richard’s father was one of Harold’s best friends, who regularly screened Lloyd’s films at their home theater, accompanied by Gaylord Carter on their home theater Wurlitzer organ, which Lloyd hired Gaylord to use to record scores for many of his films. Richard Jr. and his brother Robert served as audio engineers for these recording sessions. A veteran Disney Imagineer, Richard Jr. was also good friends with Lloyd, and among his many accomplishments, Richard was one of the principals who helped to establish the UCLA Film and Television Archive, and was instrumental in preserving much of Lloyd’s cinematic and photographic legacy. In 1973 Richard Jr. made a fine grain master positive print of The Kid Brother from the original camera negative shortly before the nitrate negative decomposed. Richard’s rescued print sat patiently in a vault for decades until it was scanned in 4K and digitally restored for this release. The movie looks amazing, for which we all owe Richard a tremendous debt of gratitude, not only here, but for all of the many other pre-1948 Paramount and Fox nitrate prints that found their way into the UCLA archives thanks to Richard’s efforts.

This post covers only a few of the many new discoveries and details revealed in my program. The Kid Brother opens with this incredibly dramatic sunrise scene of a medicine show wagon lumbering along a fire trail on Catalina Island. A matte painting created the V-shaped ridge, and as we’ll see further below, it’s a special effect Lloyd used more than once. (Photo Daniel P. Hogan). The scuttled ship was the Palmyra, an old lumber ship that ran from Seattle to San Pedro for 50 years.

Once part of the Spanish-era Rancho Providencia, the Lasky Ranch in Burbank lay nestled between the Los Angeles River and the hills of Griffith Park. Used as a movie ranch by Universal in 1912, producer Jesse Lasky leased the property for filming in 1918. Paramount built many outdoor sets here during the 1920s. Since Paramount was proudly releasing The Kid Brother, this is where Harold did most of the filming. As I report in a prior post, D.W. Griffith staged the Civil War battles scenes here for The Birth of a Nation (1915), and two massive oaks appearing in the film remain standing today.

Looking east – Lasky Ranch 1922 – Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives

In my essay I show a wedge-shaped bullfighting ring (yellow box above) built for Paramount’s 1922 production of Blood and Sand (see inset of director Fred Niblo with Rudolph Valentino beside the set – Donna Hill) while a ranch home and barn set built for Paramount’s The Old Homestead (1922) directed by James Cruze (red box above) appear as the home and barn for Harold’s rival Hank Hooper (below).

The touching scene where Harold climbs a tree to keep Jobyna in sight as she descends from a hilltop was staged on a hill (blue box on the above aerial) looking north towards the site of the Hooper farm. As I demonstrate in the essay, the future site of the Walt Disney Studios that opened in 1940 appears directly north behind Harold during this seemingly “remote” scene.

One revelation from working on the essay was discovering some of the back story regarding Lewis Milestone’s brief association directing The Kid Brother. As reported in Variety on July 7, 1926, the future two-time Oscar-winning director apparently resented Lloyd’s “interference,” and soon quit the project over disputes with his home studio Warner Bros. Co-director Ted Wilde then took over the production, but when Wilde later became ill, Lloyd gag-man Kitty Howe had to step in to finish the picture, earning a co-directing credit. Lantern Media. [Note: prior historical accounts report filming took place at Placentia and Santa Ana Canyon in Orange County, which is technically correct, as in early June Lloyd and Milestone filmed deleted scenes there by the Santa Ana River. Richard Simonton includes several photos from this river shoot in his bonus program.]

Last, while I now believe I made a mistake during my essay, it was pretty neat to find that Harold still has a few tricks up his sleeve. The early scene where the wagon seeks directions to Hickoryville was filmed looking north towards the Lasky Ranch from a fire trail high up in Griffith Park, paired here with matching vintage and contemporary photos (Mary Mallory, color photo E.J. Stephens). The movie frame looks down on what appears to be the Hickoryville sets in the far distance. While it always nagged me a bit there were so many buildings in the shot, and that these buildings stood much further south from where most of the other sets were built historically, with the DVD imagery available at the time I could only look so deep. But now with the Blu-ray to study I believe the appearance of Hickoryville was actually a matte painting of the town buildings superimposed over the trees. So Harold used this time-honored effect a second time during the film, and fooled me with it over 90 years later. [Note: all three images above show the approximate confines of where Stan Laurel and Buster Keaton would later be buried at what is now the Forest Lawn Cemetery that opened in 1952.]

Above, Harold races home to bring Sandoni (Constantine Romanoff) to justice. While the hills and fields of the Lasky Ranch have been graded, preserved now as peaceful cemetery grounds at Forest Lawn, there are moments when the mountain tops still realign with the past (Photo Paul Ayers).

One of the many bonus supplements is the rarely seen early Lloyd short That’s Him (1918). I’ve identified nearly every shot in the film, and hope to post about it some day, but for now, here’s a taste. Above, these views show the SE corner of Ord and New High Street. Lloyd later filmed scenes for From Hand to Mouth (1919) and For Heaven’s Sake (1926) at the SW corner across the street. LAPL. USC Digital Library.

HAROLD LLOYD images and the names of Mr. Lloyd’s films are all trademarks and/or service marks of Harold Lloyd Entertainment Inc. Images and movie frame images reproduced courtesy of The Harold Lloyd Trust and Harold Lloyd Entertainment Inc.

Below, the entrance to Forest Lawn – Hollywood Hills

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Buster’s Paramount Backlot Plunge

c. 1920s: Buster Keaton with Women in Swimsuits

Buster's Our Hospitality waterfall stunt

Buster’s Our Hospitality waterfall stunt

I’m pleased to update this post to announce that the 2019 San Francisco Silent Film Festival will conclude Sunday May 5, with a 8:00 pm screening of Buster Keaton’s second feature comedy Our Hospitality (1923), to be accompanied by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. Now that Buster’s complete silent film oeuvre is available on Blu-ray, and more historic Hollywood photos become available for study, we continue to learn more about how Buster crafted his amazing comedies. For one, Buster filmed scenes from Cops (1922) at three other studio backlots, including the original Metro Studios next to his own small studio, the pre-MGM Goldwyn Studios in Culver City, and the former Brunton Studios on Melrose, now part of current-day Paramount site.

The Brunton Studio featured a unique “T” shaped concrete pool that Buster employed for two iconic water stunts; the once-lost high-dive gag from his 1921 short comedy Hard Luck, and the waterfall rescue stunt (above) that climaxes Our Hospitality.

Hard Luck

Click to enlarge – the Brunton Studio plunge as it appears in Hard Luck, with the left base of the “T” shaped pool covered over with thin wax made to look like brick. Many studios had backlot plunges, or pools, from which they could film water scenes, but only the Brunton Studio had a pool shaped like a “T” instead of a rectangle. Notice the distinctive background barn appearing in both images. Both views look east down Melrose Avenue. The upper right corner shows part of the original Douglas Fairbanks Studio, at the SE corner of Bronson Avenue, now the site of Raleigh Studios. aerial photo http://www.hollywoodphotographs.com/

Buster and his Chinese family in Hard Luck

Buster and his Chinese family in Hard Luck

During the climax of Hard Luck, Buster climbs a high diving platform, and hoping to impress the bathing beauties assembled to watch, performs a swan dive so far from the tower that he passes the far edge of the pool, and smashes through the brick deck creating a crater. The women peer deep into the hole, unable to see where he has gone. In what Buster would later recount as his biggest laugh-getting gag ever, years later Buster climbs back out of the crater wearing Chinese garb, followed by his Chinese wife and their children. Once considered lost, in many versions of the film the movie fades out just as Buster attempts his dive. But newer releases show the gag play out fully (see above). As Buster describes the scene in a 1929 interview, the left base of the “T” shaped pool was covered with thin wax painted to look like brick, allowing Buster to safely dive into pool deck.

As discussed in the comments below, Buster’s trajectory during the dive looks odd, and the scene cuts just as he touches the deck. Perhaps animation or some other effect supplemented the shot – perhaps what we have available today is an alternate take, while the footage of Buster filming the dive “for real” remains lost. In any case, the dive could only be staged as a true stunt with the arm of a “T” shaped pool covered over, which is precisely what Buster set up. Three years later, Keaton returned to the Brunton plunge to film the truly death-defying waterfall stunt from Our Hospitality.

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A side view of the Our Hospitality waterfall stunt set, built over the “T” shaped plunge at the Brunton Studios on Melrose.  The miniature hillside set standing to the left appears behind Buster during scenes filmed at the brink of the falls (see below), creating the illusion that he was far up off of the ground.  photo Photoplay Productions Ltd.

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The miniature hillside behind Buster is a set, apparent in the prior photo above.

During the climax of Our Hospitality, Buster rescues his girlfriend, played by his first wife Natalie Talmadge, from sweeping over the brink of a waterfall by swinging like a pendulum from a rope tied to a log jammed in the rocks, grabbing her just as she starts to fall.  Buster’s waterfall stunt set was also built astride the special “T” shaped pool that stood at the Brunton Studio, readily apparent in these behind the scenes photos above and further below. The Brunton Studio plunge was located just north of Melrose, due east of the modern Windsor Boulevard entrance gate to the Paramount Studios. Buster’s small studio, at Eleanor and Lillian way, stood just a few blocks away.

Buster at the top of the waterfall set - Paul Gierucki

Buster at the top of the waterfall set and practicing for the stunt – photos Paul Gierucki

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The orientation of the “T” shaped water pool, just north of Melrose, between where Windsor Boulevard and Irving Boulevard (neither yet plotted on this 1921 map) would later terminate at Melrose. The Robertson-Cole Studios and Brunton Studios depicted here are now all part of the modern Paramount Studios site.

This view shows the enclosed Keaton Studio stage (oval) relative to the plunge

This view shows the enclosed Keaton Studio stage (oval) relative to the plunge. aerial photo http://www.hollywoodphotographs.com/

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A view of the empty plunge – The Photodramatist Magazine September 1922.

 

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A front view of the Our Hospitality waterfall stunt set, looking west. photo Photoplay Productions Ltd.

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These shots from Our Hospitality of Buster scaling a cliff, left, and nearly falling from a cliff, center, were filmed on the waterfall stunt set, with the camera placed on its side, a technique frequently used during the 1960s Batman TV series, as Batman and Robin “climbed ” the face of an office building. The true image appears to the right.

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The Paramount Studios Melrose Avenue gate across from Windsor Boulevard. The Brunton Studio plunge once stood on the lot to the right (east) of the modern gate.

Our Hospitality and Hard Luck licensed by Douris UK, Ltd.  Special restored version of  Hard Luck copyright 1987 The Rohauer Collection.

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Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman

Buster Keaton and Marceline Day

I’m pleased to update this post to announce the 2019 San Francisco Silent Film Festival kicks off this year on Wednesday, May 1, with a 7:00 pm screening of Buster Keaton’s 1928 comedy triumph The Cameraman, in a beautiful new restoration undertaken by the Criterion Collection, Warner Bros. and Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna, and accompanied by Timothy Brock conducting an ensemble of students from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music performing his original score. The 2019 SFSFF Award for commitment to the preservation of silent cinema will be presented to Gina Luca Farinelli on behalf of the Cineteca di Bologna before the screening.

Set in New York, but filmed mostly in Hollywood, The Cameraman was Keaton’s last silent feature production, and his first film for his new studio MGM. Buster plays a tintype photographer, selling portraits on the sidewalk, who longs to become a newsreel cameraman in order to impress Sally (played by Marceline Day), a receptionist for the Hearst Newsreel Company.  While I cover the New York and Hollywood locations more extensively in my Keaton book Silent Echoes, here below are a few fun discoveries. (Note: for Manhattan fans, other recent posts reveal the setting of Marceline’s New York apartment appearing in the film at 20 W 58th St, and Buster running beside the newly-opened Bergdorf-Goodman department store, both seen HERE, and the setting for Buster’s New York apartment at 201 E 52nd St, revealed HERE).

Early in the film, Buster leaps aboard a moving fire truck at the iconic intersection of Hollywood and Vine, with the stately Taft Building standing in the background.

This circa 1934 aerial view of Hollywood (below) shows the path (arrow) of Keaton’s fire truck at Hollywood and Vine (1), and later its path as it travels north up Cahuenga towards Hollywood Boulevard (2), before turning left into the former Hollywood fire station (4).   The parking lot across from the fire station (3) is where Buster stows his pet cow Brown Eyes during his feature comedy Go West (1925), and the Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd alley up the street (5) is where a passing car whisks Buster away one-handed during Cops (1922).

Click to enlarge.  HollywoodPhotographs.com

(1) Hollywood and Vine; (2) up Cahuenga; (3) the Go West parking lot; (4) the fire station interior; (5) the Cops alleyway, part of the Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd alley.

You can download a PDF tour explaining more than a dozen silent movies filmed on Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood here Hollywood’s Silent Echoes Cahuenga Tour 2018.

Jumping to New York, when Sally calls Buster to tell him her plans have changed, and she is free to see him, Buster dashes up 5th Avenue from W 55th Street, and arrives at her apartment before she can hang up the phone. Later, Buster and Sally stroll along the same block.

During one of the few scenes filmed on location in New York, Buster races north up 5th Avenue from the corner of W 55th Street.  To the far right stands the 5th Avenue Presbyterian Church.  The spires in the center right background, my original clue to identifying this scene, belong to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the 11th largest church in the world.  In the modern view below the spires are blocked by glass skyscrapers. This stretch of 5th Ave also appears in W.C. Fields’ It’s The Old Army Game (1926), and in Harold Lloyd’s Speedy (1928) – read more HERE.

As mentioned, other posts reveal Madeline’s New York apartment, and Buster’s New York apartment.

The Venice Plunge interior, as it appears during the film.

Another notable location appearing in The Cameraman is the Venice Plunge (now lost), the large indoor swimming pool located beside the former Abbot Kinney Pier, where Buster and Sally go on a date. Charlie Chaplin filmed beside the Venice Plunge in 1915 for his short comedy By The Sea.

The front of the Venice Plunge.  Security Pacific National Bank Photograph Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

Buster beside the extant home at 2234 Channel Road in Newport Beach.

The conclusion of The Cameraman was filmed in Newport Beach in Orange County. The extant Newport Beach Pavilion appears in one early shot.  The boat race was staged near the south end of  Newport Bay. The oval in this aerial view below shows where the speed boat runs in a circle. The blue dot below show where Buster captures the speed boat on camera, standing before the extant home at 2234 Channel Road, appearing behind Buster during the scenes (at left).

Buster stood near the blue dot above, filming across the channel towards Bayside Drive, as the speed boat races in a circle (oval above). (C) 2012 Microsoft Corporation, Pictometry Bird’s Eye (c) 2012 Pictometry International Corp.

The Cameraman images (C) 1928 Turner Entertainment Co.

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Green Acres, Pickfair, Chaplin’s Breakaway Home, and Keaton’s Italian Villa

Below, 1937, Harold Lloyd’s Green Acres (red), Doug and Mary’s Pickfair (blue), Charlie Chaplin’s home (yellow), and Buster Keaton’s Italian Villa (orange). Who knew they were all spaced so close together?

Click to enlarge. Harold Lloyd’s Green Acres (red), Buster Keaton’s Italian Villa (orange), Charlie Chaplin’s home (yellow), and Pickfair (blue). Flight c-4686, Frame 8 UCSB Library.

I knew Charlie Chaplin’s home (yellow above and left) stood practically next door to Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford’s Pickfair home (blue above and left), but never realized that Charlie lived nearly as close to Buster Keaton (orange above and left), and that they all lived close to Harold Lloyd’s Green Acres estate as well (red above and left). Above, this 1937 photo taken from 8,400 feet shows just how close the five superstars once lived to one another. Another revelation, look at how Lloyd’s massive estate dwarfs the other impressive estates by comparison, perhaps larger in size than the three others combined. At left (Flight C_113, Frame 75 UCSB Library, click to enlarge), a 1927 photo taken at 18,000 feet, from more than twice the altitude, where you can see undeveloped land being graded for Lloyd’s Green Acres (red box), which began construction that year. For reference, the Beverly Hills Hotel on Sunset (green box) appears at the bottom of the image.

While many words have been written about these stately homes, my goal here is simply to share the marvel of seeing them all for the first time in close proximity to each other. Below, images of Keaton’s Italian Villa, 1018 Pamela Drive, with its grand stairway leading down to the pool. The 1937 aerial view is rotated looking east, to better match the other photos.

Below, Chaplin’s home at 1085 Summit Drive, featuring a long tapering lawn sloping west (left) towards a swimming pool at the far end of the property, a separate path leading to his famous tennis court, and a prominent forecourt (right) with room to park numerous cars. Rumored to have been hastily constructed by Charlie’s studio carpenters, the home was jokingly called the Breakaway House. Charlie Chaplin Image Bankboth.

Architectural historian David Silverman, of LA House Histories, reports David O. Selznick lived due south of Chaplin (see inset, red outline) while by 1937 Fred Astaire lived immediately next door at 1121 Summit Drive (see inset, maroon outline). Below, the Pickfair estate at 1143 Summit Drive, the 1937 aerial view rotated looking east to aid comparison. Notice the distinctive kidney-shaped pool at the far edge. LAPLboth.

Finally, Harold’s massive estate, 1740 Green Acres Drive, had over 40 rooms, with grounds featuring a dozen fountains, an Olympic size pool, and a nine-hole golf course. Be sure to enlarge the 1937 view to enjoy all of the details. California State Libraryboth.

Below, Green Acres portrays a foreign embassy during a 1975 episode of the classic-era TV detective series Columbo, starring Peter Falk. Read all about it HERE.

If you search on Google maps aerial view, you can see that while Pickfair and Charlie’s homes were extensively remodeled, the Pickfair swimming pool appears in the same spot, as does Charlie’s tennis court, while Buster’s and Harold’s beautiful homes, still relatively intact, today stand watch over many other homes occupying their estates’ subdivided grounds. Be sure to read the comments below, where readers identify other famous homes. Please share with me any that you can identify.

Note: Buster only lived here 10 months or so, but check out Duncan Maginnis’s post about Keaton’s now lost former home at 637 S. Ardmore Place. Duncan is the author of the amazingly rich series of blog posts about classic Los Angeles neighborhoods, including BERKELEY SQUARE; WESTMORELAND PLACE; WILSHIRE BOULEVARD; ADAMS BOULEVARD; WINDSOR SQUARE; ST. JAMES PARK; and FREMONT PLACE.

Posted in Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Doug Fairbanks, Harold Lloyd, Mary Pickford | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Silent Echoes LA Bus Tours and Podcast

Kim Cooper and Richard Schave are a married pair of Los Angeles history titans and guardian angels. Bloggers (Esotouric blog, 1947 Project), authors (The Kept Girl), and podcasters (You Can’t Eat the Sunshine) about everything LA, from Bunker Hill, film noir, true life crimes, and pop culture, they champion preservation of historic sites, conduct lectures and LA-themed literary salons (Los Angeles Visionaries Association – LAVA) with other historians and authors, and lead ESOTOURIC bus tours into the secret heart of Los Angeles, visiting offbeat literary and historic sites. How offbeat? Well, I’m excited to say they’ve invited me to conduct two Silent Echoes bus tours around Los Angeles this coming March 2 and 3. There are still a few spots open for the Sunday tour, and a spot might open here and there for Saturday from random cancellations. I want to thank and promote Kim and Richard for all they do to champion and preserve LA’s rich and unique history. For those who live in LA, be sure to check out their many diverse and fascinating tours.

I also had the honor of being interviewed recently by Mike Gebert for his informative Nitrateville Radio podcast. Aside from being an award-winning food critic (Fooditor) and Chicago food-themed video producer (Sky Full of Bacon), Mike is an authoritative and tireless promoter of classic era film. Moreover, Mike is site administrator for the NITRATEVILLE forum, dedicated to talking, collecting, and preserving classic film, recently celebrating its 11th year anniversary. I’ve enjoyed listening to Mike’s interviews with a variety of experts and authors, and am truly impressed by his insightful questions.

So yes, blatant self-promotion concerning my interview and tours, but I am truly proud and happy to promote ESOTOURIC and NITRATEVILLE , and want to thank Kim, Richard, and Mike for all that they do to promote and preserve our historic and cultural heritage.

I also want to give a shout out to film historian, author, and all-around great guy Frank Thompson, who interviewed me several years ago for his wonderful The Commentary Track classic film podcast.

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Hollywood Snapshots – a 1922 Time Machine

Facing a public relations nightmare in 1922 over recent scandals, the film community produced Hollywood Snapshots, a promotional film portraying screen folk as wholesome to middle America. Presented online by the National Film Preservation Foundation, Snapshots captures remarkable images of burgeoning early Hollywood, including Hollywood Boulevard, the Famous Players – Lasky Studio, and the Pickford – Fairbanks Studio.

During Snapshots a rube named Hezekiah travels to Hollywood to witness the decadence first hand. Here, looking east, he boards a  trolley, with the former Methodist Episcopal church at the SE corner of Hollywood and Vine appearing at back. The church was soon demolished to make way for the Taft Building which opened in 1923. USC Digital Library.

Hezekiah departs the trolley near the north end of Cosmo Street, with the Palmer Building, still under construction, behind him to the left, and the Markham Building to the right. The aerial view shows Cosmo looking west towards the corner of Cahuenga. Huntington Digital Library.

The trolley now travels east towards Cahuenga. The Security Bank Building to the left, which opened in 1922 as the tallest building in town, sparked the Hollywood construction boom during the 1920s. The tallest building on the right is the Markham Building.

This 1922 SE view along Hollywood Blvd. shows the church at Vine (oval), Cosmo (box), and the direction of the trolley heading towards Cahuenga. Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives.

Looking east down Hollywood Blvd. from Highland, before the landmark First National Bank building was constructed in 1927 on the NE corner to the left. The four story C.E. Toberman Building appears on the SE corner to the right. This corner building is now two stories tall. LAPL.

Further west, and still looking east, we see the H. P. Rehbein Richfield gas station on the SE corner of Sycamore, as it appears in the movie in 1922, left, and again as it appears in Harold Lloyd’s Girl Shy (1924) to the right.

The former Garden Court Apartments, 7201 Hollywood Blvd., stood across from Sycamore, appearing in the film, left, and in this Watson Family Photo Archive shot.

Hezekiah asks a local where to search for all of the scandals, in front of the former Hollywood Hotel, at the NW corner of Hollywood and Highland. USC Digital Library.

The film cuts to a shot of LA’s finest marching from the former joint fire/police station at 1629 N. Cahuenga. Tommy Dangcil.

Hezekiah then strolls north past the Vine Street entrance to the Famous Players – Lasky Studio (oval) above. The famous Lasky barn, future home to the Hollywood Heritage Museum, stands on the corner of Selma to the left. HollywoodPhotographs.com.

A closer view of the Vine Street entrance, paired with a 1920 photo. HollywoodPhotographs.com.

Here, Lois Weber exits the building, providing a slightly wider view, matching this 1922 photo. Many other stars appear in Snapshots leaving this doorway. HollywoodPhotographs.com.

During a brief scene, Carter De Haven (right) orders coke, no, not that kind, but you know, the drink in a bottle, from this vendor set up on Vine Street directly facing the studio. At back, the former home at 1518 Morningside Court (wait, there’s a Hollywood street called Morningside Court?!?) appears as well in this 1919 aerial view looking west across the Famous Players – Lasky Studio. HollywoodPhotographs.com.

Mary Pickford’s first husband Owen Moore appears on Second Street on the Brunton Studio lot looking north. She divorced Owen in 1920 to marry Douglas Fairbanks. HollywoodPhotographs.com. Below, a matching view, looking east, showing Moore’s spot (oval) and the direction of the camera. HollywoodPhotographs.com.

Another shot in the film shows the corner of the dressing rooms (oval) and the back of the mausoleum at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

With a sudden edit, Hezekiah now walks east along Santa Monica Blvd. towards the entrance gate of the Pickford-Fairbanks Studio. The giant castle set built for Robin Hood, filmed during 1922, appears at back.

A wider view of the entrance. HollywoodPhotographs.com.

Soon, Hezekiah strolls past Viola Dana, right corner of photo, eating food just like real people do, pictured at the Armstrong – Carleton Cafe. California State Library.

The film then portrays good clean Hollywood folks relaxing at home. Sid Smith plays on a front lawn with a boy identified as “Master Zukor.” The home has a three digit address that appears to end with a “3.” The many porch details, now painted white, exactly match this photo of 503 S. St. Andrews (center house), now all lost to apartment blocks. UCLA Digital Library. The Sanborn maps confirm the 503 address had an octagonal corner, as depicted here. Strangely, the home was not owned by Smith, but by Charles F. Zaruba, proprietor of the Washington Photoplay Theater. Perhaps this “Zukor” lad is Zaruba’s son Lionel. I wasn’t before aware of Sid Smith – the Internet says the film comedian died from drinking poisoned hooch in 1928. Historic Los Angeles residence expert Duncan Maginnis, together with “Flying Wedge” at the “Noirish LA” photo history site, identified this location – you can read a full post HERE.

Above, devoted son Jack Kerrigan has tea with Mom while playing with his dog. Kerrigan never married, and reportedly lived with his mother and his domestic partner James Carroll Vincent. This view of his porch (above) reveals the home’s 2307 N. Cahuenga address. UCLA.

Several homes along Cahuenga remain standing. The box marks Jack Kerrigan’s L-shaped house, hidden by the trees, now an apartment block. Huntington Digital Library.

You can see Kerrigan’s L-shaped house (oval) in this SE view of the Hollywood Bowl. Huntington Digital Library.

Above, Lloyd Hughes in front of the Iris Theater (see name on the floor behind him) at 6508 Hollywood Blvd. In 1922 Hughes starred with Mary Pickford in Tess of the Storm Country. As Paramount archivist Charles Stepczyk writes, the advert behind Lloyd is for Frank Mayo’s “Tracked to Earth.” At left, 6508 Hollywood Blvd. as it appears today. HollywoodPhotographs.com.

Below, Hezekiah strolls north past the Hollywood Legion Stadium at 1628 N. El Centro. USC Digital Library.

Looking north at the Famous Players – Lasky Studio. The oval marks the famous “barn” on Selma and Vine, now relocated across from the Hollywood Bowl, and home to the Hollywood Heritage Museum. The box at right marks the former stadium at 1628 N. El Centro Ave. Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives.

Above left, Rev. Neal Dunn’s “Little Church Around the Corner,” the St. Mary of the Angels Episcopal Church at 1743 N New Hampshire, appears in the film. I couldn’t find a matching photo of the church, but Rev. Dunn was well known then as the “Padre of Hollywood,” who frequently extolled the noble and virtuous Hollywood community to the press. At right, Rev. Dunn officiated the July 31, 1922 wedding of Jack Pickford and Marilyn Miller, hosted by Doug and Mary at Pickfair. That smiling chap in the center next to Dunn looks familiar ; )

The film also shows a typical Sunday morning in Hollywood, with the Fifth Church of Christ Scientist, once located at 7107 Hollywood Blvd. on the NW corner of La Brea, packed with devoted parishioners. LAPL.

Finally, Snapshots includes many cameos appearances. Top row, left to right, 1922 WAMPAS Baby Star Kathryn McGuire (her name is misspelled in the film) before landing roles with Buster Keaton in Sherlock Jr. and The Navigator, Ramon Navarro during a dueling scene with swords from the lost film Trifling Women, and Alice Terry and Rudolph Valentino almost kissing in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Bottom row, left to right, another shot of Rudy, French comedian Max Linder performs his morning calisthenics, and young mother Jane Novak smiles for the camera.

Snapshots also portrays a number of stars exiting the Famous Players – Lasky Studio. Here is a full list of star cameos in order of appearance: Agnes Ayers, Jack Holt, Lois Wilson, Anna Q. Nilsson and James Kirkwood, Alta Allen, Mitchell Lewis, June Mathis, Carter De Haven, Owen Moore with director “Vic” Herman, Milton Sills, Walter Heirs, Wesley “Freckles” Barry, Harry Rapf and director Jack Warner, Max Linder, Katherine [sic] McGuire, Viola Dana, Sid Smith and Master Zukor, Jane Novak and daughter Baby Virginia, Jack Kerrigan and his mother, Dorothy Philips, Lloyd Hughes, Rev. Neal Dodd’s “Little Church,” Ramon Navarro in Trifling Women, Lewis Stone, Miss Alice Terry and Rudolph Valentino, “Rudolpho” playing “Armand” to Mme. Nazimova’s “Camille,” Vola Vale with husband Al Russell and son, and “Pal” the canine star.

In closing I want to once again thank photo archivists and historians Marc Wanamaker and Bruce Torrence, whose invaluable photographs make this narrative possible.

Thanks also to the National Film Preservation Foundation for sharing online so many historic films. Be certain to check out my post about the many historic connections among Chaplin, Stan Laurel, and Harold Lloyd with Harry Carey’s Soft Shoes (1925), a wonderfully rich film that the NFPF has also posted online for viewing.

Be sure to read Paramount archivist Charles Stepczyk’s fascinating research paper about how and why Snapshots was made.

Hollywood Snapshots. Copied at 18 frames per second from a 35mm tinted nitrate print preserved by the Academy Film Archive from source material provided by the New Zealand Film Archive. Running Time: 13-1/2 minutes (silent, no music).

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Harry Langdon – His Marriage Wow

Harry Langdon plays a nervous groom and newlywed in his 1925 comedy short His Marriage Wow (1925), available as part of The Mack Sennett Collection: Volume 1 Blu-ray, and the out of print Lost and Found: The Harry Langdon Collection. Absent-minded, Harry first waits patiently for the wedding to begin inside the wrong church, then dashes off hoping to reach the correct church in time. A creepy wedding guest played by Vernon Dent helpfully informs Harry that his bride is so beautiful she must only be interested in collecting Harry’s life insurance policy after they wed. Months later, Harry suspects he’s been poisoned at a family meal, and dinner guest Vernon, now revealed to the audience as a lunatic asylum escapee, offers to drive Harry to the hospital. Will Harry survive their wild ride around 1925 Hollywood?

The late Mrs. Eleanor Keaton on the steps of the Seven Chances church, left and above. She joked that whereas hundreds of women before her had failed, she was the one woman to marry Buster.

Above, Harry filmed at the Greater Page Temple, 2610 La Salle Avenue, the same church where Buster Keaton confronts a mob of angry brides in his 1925 feature comedy Seven Chances. Harry runs from the church, and below, asks a cop for directions, looking east on 1st at Larchmont. This corner appeared in many films, including those made by the Three Stooges and Harold Lloyd.

Larry Fine in Hoi Poloi (1935), Harold Lloyd and family in Hot Water (1924), and Harry Langdon in His Marriage Wow, a panorama at 1st and Larchmont. The home at back still stands.

The same view east on 1st at Larchmont – the corner gas station is now a BofA – the home at back still stands.

Langdon filmed many scenes from his later short film Saturday Afternoon (1926) at this same corner of 1st and Larchmont, here looking south at the SW corner. Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives.

Again, Harry in Saturday Afternoon, at 221 S. Larchmont.

The center-of-the-street poles supporting the former Larchmont electric trolley wires were a popular silent film comic device – above, another scene with Harry from Saturday Afternoon.

Returning to His Marriage Wow, thinking his bride is in a taxi Harry dashes north up Edgemont towards Fountain Avenue. The twin bungalow porch roofs at 1259 and 1257 Edgemont St appear to the left, with a corner drug store at back, all still standing today. The same porch roofs and corner drug store appear to the left during this shot of Monty Banks also running north up Edgemont during a scene from Derby Day (1922), one of the comedy shorts presented as part of the wonderful Found at “Mostly Lost”: Volume 2 release of previously unidentified early films, produced by, and in some cases accompanied by, noted silent film musician and preservationist Ben Model, in association with the Library of Congress.

The transitive theory of matching film locations now kicks in. Once the Monty Banks film (upper right) revealed the corner drug store was named the Ambrose Pharmacy, placing it at the SW corner of Edgemont and Fountain, this clue tied down the prior scenes of Harry and Monty running north up Edgemont towards Fountain. The same corner drug store also appeared in Harold Lloyd’s Hot Water, as Jobyna Ralston straightens Harold’s tie as they travel west on Fountain towards Edgemont. Langdon himself later filmed an early scene here for Saturday Afternoon. This color view looking west shows the corner drug store building unchanged, while the church to the right behind Harold, Jobyna, and Harry, was upgraded with a 1930 remodel addition now standing flush with the corner.

The transitive film location theory yielded more discoveries. Once I became aware of Edgemont Street, I realized that these numerous scenes above, the first two from Lloyd Hamilton’s Breezing Along (1927) (“American Slapstick Volume Two” All Day Entertainment), and the rest from Harry’s His Marriage Wow, were all filmed on Edgemont at the SE corner of Fountain, across from the drug store. The corner brick building, and its back doorway pictured above, still stands, while the classic bungalow originally next door was lost to another commercial building.

Above, the back door of 1262 Edgemont, with Lloyd Hamilton, and today. Below, when Harry drops his bride’s wedding ring, it sticks to the tire of a passing car.

Chasing the car for his bride’s wedding ring, Harry runs north up Larchmont towards the corner of Beverly, matching Buster Keaton’s flee to safety in Sherlock Jr. (1924). The two buildings to the left are the same in each shot. At the time the block, now lined with commercial buildings, still had vacant lots. The building directly behind Harry (ironically now demolished) was not yet built when Keaton filmed here.

His Marriage Wow kicks into high gear when Harry accepts a ride with crazy-man Vernon Dent. These two His Marriage Wow automobile scenes and matching Sherlock Jr. scene all show the once elaborately detailed building at the SE corner of Beverly and Larchmont.

Looking south down Larchmont, to the left the SE corner of Beverly appearing above, and to the right, the SW corner appearing in the scenes below. LAPL.

During their wild ride Vernon drives the car into another center trolley pole. The view below matches Lloyd Hamilton, upper right, in the Roscoe Arbuckle directed comedy short The Movies (1925), at the SW corner of Larchmont and Beverly. Today much of the building’s ornamentation has been removed.

Above, Harry and Vernon at left, Lloyd Hamilton upper right, at the SW corner of Larchmont and Beverly.

Above, Vernon and Harry continue their wild ride, traveling west along Hollywood Boulevard. Many 1920s-era landmarks appear during the scene, including the intersection of Hollywood and Cahuenga, below, and this view of the blade sign for Grauman’s Egyptian Theater, opening in 1922, with the towering Hotel Christie appearing at back on the corner of McCadden Place, opening in 1923.

Later, Vernon and Harry drive west past the intersection of Cahuenga, where the building at 6410 Hollywood Blvd., appearing with Charlie Chaplin and Marie Dressler in Tillie’s Punctured Romance (1914), still stands today.

Above, Harry and Vernon then pause in front of the Hollywood Community Bakery (visible sign in the store window), at 1223 N. Vine on the corner of La Mirada. The twin back wall windows have been filled in, but their outlines remain.

At left, Buster Keaton follows a potential a bride in Seven Chances. Both views look south down Vine from south of or north of Melrose. The small church at back appearing in both scenes (see small rooftop arch), built in 1922 at 600 N. Rossmore, is still standing. You can read much more about Keaton filming this scene HERE.

The Rossmore Apartments, built in 1924, at 649 N. Rossmore Avenue appear at back (yellow oval).

A final shot, Vernon and Harry drive north up Larchmont from the corner of 1st, matching a reverse view photo view. The distinctive building is no longer standing. LAPL.

You can read several posts about Harry Langdon’s The Strong Man (1926) HERE, and other Langdon posts HERE.

Below, looking south down Larchmont from Beverly.

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Laurel & Hardy’s Liberty Rooftop

Shortly after the San Francisco Silent Film Festival presented Laurel & Hardy’s high-rise comedy Liberty (1929), accompanied by Jon Mirsalis, TCM broadcast the 1933 MGM drama Day of Reckoning, starring Richard Dix. The Dix film was full of surprises. For one, young Our Gang star Spanky McFarland was on loan from the Hal Roach Studios to portray Dix’s son. But what really knocked me out was Dix’s rooftop jail fight, staged identically to Stan & Ollie’s comic escapades. Both sequences were filmed atop the Western Costume Building at 939 S. Broadway.

Click to enlarge – the Western Pacific Bldg. at 1031 S. Broadway still stands at back.

After escaping prison in Liberty, Stan and Ollie ditch their prison garb for civilian clothes, but accidentally don each other’s mismatched trousers. They spend most of film attempting to swap pants, only to end up trapped atop a construction site. Coincidentally Richard Dix plays a prisoner in Day of Reckoning as well, convicted for embezzling to appease his spendthrift wife, who promptly dumps him. Dix nearly dies in a fight atop the prison hospital roof, that eventually leads to his release and reunion with his now motherless children, the boy played by Spanky. Considering MGM distributed Roach’s films, it’s conceivable Roach personnel advised the Dix crew about staging the daring fight.

While the rooftop gags in Liberty continue to thrill audiences, the premise of the film was not exactly original. Hal Roach’s 1927 Our Gang comedy The Old Wallop had previously placed the young Our Gang kids in a similar predicament as Stan and Ollie.

Above, The Old Wallop (1927) and Liberty (1929). Here’s a bit of trivia – the actual building permit, pulled on September 29, 1928, for permission to build a 24 foot x 24 foot “motion picture set” for Liberty atop the Western Costume Building. As noted Laurel & Hardy author Randy Skretvedt reports, “the permit is signed on behalf of the Hal Roach Studios by “L French,” or Lewis Alver French, who oversaw the accounting at the studio.  He had been the accountant at a firm Hal Roach worked at when he was a truck driver, and Roach told him that if he ever started his own business, he’d want Mr. French as his accountant. He made good on that pledge!  Lewis’s son was Lloyd French, who became an assistant director and ultimately a director at the Roach lot.”

Because Stan and Ollie’s Liberty was filmed looking south, it provides unique views of Broadway past Olympic (originally 10th Street). Above, the narrow triangle building, now lost, was the rooftop where Harold Lloyd built sets for the first phase of his stunt climbs during Safety Last! (1923) and Feet First (1930).

This view south from Day of Reckoning shows the Los Angeles Railway Building at Broadway and 11th, where Dorothy Devore staged her stunt climbing comedy Hold Your Breath (1924). Again, Dorothy’s movie was filmed looking north. Photo Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives.

Harold Lloyd built a stunt climbing set, looking north, for the second phase of his climb in Feet First atop 950 S. Broadway across the street from the Western Costume Building at 939 S. Broadway, where Stan and Ollie filmed looking south. (C) 2018 Microsoft.

As shown above, rooftop scenes from Liberty and Feet First were staged directly across the street from each other.

For comparison, Dix hangs on for dear life – safely atop the Western Costume Building roof, and safely in front of a rear screen projection. Filming atop rooftops is such a simple and powerful effect – I am baffled why it still isn’t commonly used.

This view north from Day of Reckoning shows the extant building at the corner of 9th and Hill (left), and back of the May Company Building (right), while the RKO Theater (dome) at 8th and Hill has been demolished LAPL.

During Day of Reckoning Una Merkel and her milkman boyfriend take Spanky to the Temple Street side of the Hall of Justice so Spanky can wave at his father Richard Dix.

Above, a farewell view of Stan and Ollie trying to swap pants beside the Adams Hotel alley in Culver City, now lost, paired with a view from Charlie’s Angels (1979), from guest blogger Jim Dallape’s very popular post From Roach’s to Roaches – Stan & Ollie Meet Starsky & Hutch.

Check out this fascinating “Finding Lost Angeles” post about the Western Costume Company where all the scenes were filmed.

Looking south from 939 Broadway today towards the Western Pacific Bldg.

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Before the Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd Alley

The beautiful new Kino Lorber Blu-ray release Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers is a revelation, a six-disc set featuring dozens of early films created by women, many unseen for decades. One of the biggest surprises was witnessing the Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd alley appear in several films, each made years before the gents all filmed there.

Above, matching views from The Purple Mask (1917), written and co-directed by its star Grace Cunard, and Buster Keaton in Cops (1922), both filmed looking east from Cahuenga just south from Hollywood Boulevard. In all, three early Universal films from the Kino Lorber set were filmed here.

A trio of views, The Purple Mask, Harry Houdini in The Grim Game (1919), and Buster in Cops. It makes you wonder, if three early surviving Universal films were made here, as well as Houdini’s early Paramount release, how many films that don’t survive were made here as well? Perhaps a dozen? More?

The alley is T-shaped, the east-west part with Buster appearing above. Here now is the north-south part, looking south at the back of some brick ovens appearing with Grace Cunard in The Purple Mask, and with Chaplin in The Kid (1921). Hollywood was sparsely developed during the mid-teens of the last century. The intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Cahuenga was one of the few commercial corners in town. Since Universal was close by, the alley was likely used out of necessity or convenience. The Famous Players – Lasky Studio, where Houdini filmed The Grim Game, was closer still, just a couple of blocks away.

Looking north up the alley, from Eleanor’s Catch (1916), starring and directed by Cleo Madison, and Charlie in The Kid. Twenty years ago, before hundreds of silent films became available to home viewers, I’d struggle to find a single location in a single film. Once solved, it somehow felt this must be the setting’s unique appearance on film. These early Universal films completely destroy this false assumption. Instead, it makes perfect sense that these locations were commonly known and frequently used. Thus, when Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd filmed here (for a total of at least six different films), they weren’t pioneers capitalizing on their own clever sense of locales. They were simply filming where everyone already knew to film.

A closer view of the alley stairs, from co-director Lois Weber’s Where Are My Children? (1916) and Charlie and Minnie Stearns in The Kid.

Another trio, Gale Henry in her self-produced comedy The Detectress (1919), Charlie and Minnie, and a scene from a later movie, The Last Edition (1925), a film that makes great use of the alley, and the common thread that originally tied all of the alley discoveries together.

Views looking west down the alley from Cosmo towards Cahuenga, The Purple Mask at left, and Buster Keaton’s Neighbors (1920) at right. Notice the white shed to the right of center in both shots. The far side of Cahuenga across the street has no buildings in the 1917 view. Notice too the corner pole left of center in the Keaton frame – it appears below.

This cast iron corner pole is still present, appearing in 1916 in Eleanor’s Catch, beside Lisa Marie as Vampira in the Johnny Depp biopic Ed Wood (1994), and a modern view today.

Three views looking west towards Cahuenga showing the back of the alley loading dock, in The Purple Mask, Eleanor’s Catch, and The Detectress.

Above, the Cahuenga entrance to the alley appearing with Colleen Moore disguised as a man in Her Bridal Nightmare (1919), and a scene from the Al Christie comedy Hubby’s Night Out (1917) linked on YouTube.

Above, a 1919 view of the T-shaped alley. When Chaplin filmed scenes for The Kid here, the studio records note that on December 1, 1919, he filmed at “Hall’s grocery,” and the next day at “Hall’s alley.” Christopher C. Hall owned a grocery store at 6382 Hollywood Blvd., that backed onto this alley. Further, in 1913 he built the distinctive two story home on the alley at 1645 Cosmo (oval photo above), just steps from his store. So “Hall’s alley” was an appropriate name. The star above marks where the camera stood on Cahuenga to film the back of Mr. Hall’s home appearing in these three scenes above. Note: in Keaton’s view above the trees that belonged to the Jacob Stern estate are blocked from view by the Palmer Building on Cosmo nearing completion. At right, Keaton hides in a laundry basket beside Mr. Hall’s home during Neighbors. Notice the corner cast iron pole behind Buster which still remains. The home was demolished in 1956.

Above, more views of  Mr. Hall’s house at 1645 Cosmo from Billy West’s Don’t Be Foolish (1920) linked on the Internet Archive. Check out Kino Lorber Blu-ray release Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers.

Part of the Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd Alley, a view west from Cosmo towards Cahuenga today, with Mr. Hall’s home long since gone. Zoom to see the corner cast iron pole still standing.

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Chaplin falls for The Kid – every scene now identified

Charlie Chaplin’s masterpiece The Kid (1921) tells the story of the Little Tramp discovering, trying to avoid, and eventually falling in love with an abandoned infant, played out scene by scene at the end of this post. As I write in a prior post, you can see bystanders watching the filming, such as a delighted girl peeking through a screen door as Charlie strolls by a matron with a baby carriage. But where was this filmed?

Likewise, Charlie gives the baby to an old man at the Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd alley in Hollywood (left), but then the old man exits an alley beside a 713 address, nowhere near Hollywood. Where was this filmed? As shown below, every scene in the entire sequence leading to Charlie falling for the kid is now identified. While many of these locations appear in my book Silent Traces, and in other posts including How Charlie Chaplin Filmed The Kid, these two key scenes eluded detection for years.

Click to enlarge – 1935 view looking west at the existing Hall of Justice, the Plaza de los Angeles, and Olvera Street. The red oval (left) marks the old man with the baby, the yellow oval marks where the thieves stood, and the orange oval (right) marks the matron with the stroller. Chaplin filmed many scenes in Chinatown, and both north and south of the Plaza. Chinatown would be demolished to build the Union Train Station. Much of the area to the left is now lost to the 101 freeway. USC Digital Library

To begin, let’s focus on when the thieves discover there’s an abandoned baby inside their stolen car. This was filmed at the back of the former Rescue Mission, beside a rail spur branching off from the main rail line along Alameda, next to a crumbling brick wall. Although the above photo was taken over a dozen years later, the yellow oval marks where they stood. Below, the yellow “X” marks where they stood.