The Big Parade – Historic Views of the Home Front

Small town America (Orange, CA) swept up with patriotic fervor - The Big Parade.

Small-town America (Orange, Calif.) swept up with patriotic fervor – The Big Parade.

Big Parade 01Although most of The Big Parade (1925) is set in the war-torn villages and battlefields of France, the acclaimed World War I drama also provides historic views of early downtown Los Angeles and Orange County. Told from the soldier’s point of view, the epic movie directed by King Vidor follows a trio of men from different walks of life brought together by combat.

Set in the Spring of 1917, the movie intertitles describe America then as a nation occupied in peaceful progression. Mills were humming with activity while buildings climbed skyward, monuments to commerce and progression.

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America’s buildings climbing skyward – the extant Barker Brothers Building at 7th and Flower. LAPL.

Big Parade 05 Broadway TunnelThe three male leads are introduced by their professions. Construction worker “Slim” (Karl Dane) is one of labor’s millions, building a nation, Bowery saloon-keeper “Bull” (Tom O’Brien) is a man of another trade, while idle “rich man’s son” James Apperson (John Gilbert) scoffs at ever taking over the helms of his father’s mill. Together these unlikely friends bond through the horrors of war.

Slim (Karl Dane) at work beside the Hall of Justice.

Slim (Karl Dane) at work beside the Hall of Justice.

This effect was created by building a simple construction set overlooking the south portal of the Broadway Tunnel.  The star marks where the set stood.  USC Digital Library

The effect of Slim working high in the air was created by building a simple construction set overlooking the south portal of the former Broadway Tunnel. The star marks where the set stood. USC Digital Library.

The effect of Karl Dane working high in the air was created by building a simple construction set on the terrace overlooking the south portal of the Broadway Tunnel. The camera captured the city streets far below in the background, but cut off the bottom of the set standing on the terrace. This technique was used repeatedly during the silent era, especially for stunt climbing comedies. At the time downtown Los Angeles had five major tunnels; the “upper” Hill Street Tunnel that ran under Fort Moore Hill between Temple and Sunset, the “lower” Hill Street Tunnel that ran under Court Hill between 1st and Temple, the 2nd Street Tunnel, the 3rd Street Tunnel alongside the Angel’s Flight incline railway, and the Broadway Tunnel that also ran under Fort Moore Hill from between California Street (near Temple) and Sunset, as shown here. The south portal of the Hill Street Tunnel is where Harold Lloyd filmed three of his stunt comedies, as described in this post. Other posts shows how the tunnels are situated to each other, and how they fit in with film noir classics such as Criss Cross (1949).  The Broadway Tunnel was demolished in the 1950s.  Only the 2nd Street and 3rd Street Tunnels remain.

Model at the Los Angeles County Museum

This 1940 model of downtown Los Angeles on display at the Natural History Museum shows the view from the former Broadway Tunnel overlook towards the Hall of Records Building (arrow), now demolished. The star marks where Karl’s construction site set was built.

Big Parade 11The movie kicks into gear when John Gilbert’s character James witnesses a parade around his home town square. Caught up in the fervor, tapping his feet to the militaristic music, John is easily persuaded to enlist by a group of his enthusiastic friends.  The parade scenes were filmed in the heart of Orange County at Plaza Square in Orange, California, marking the intersection of Glassell Street and Chapman Avenue, named for the two founders of the city.

John Gilbert drives west on Chapman Avenue towards Plaza Square.  At back, under construction, is the Odd Fellows

John Gilbert drives west on Chapman Avenue towards Plaza Square. At back is the Odd Fellows hall under construction at the NE corner of Chapman and Orange.  The yellow box marks the upper floor balcony. The red box shows the corner of the former First Christian Church, discussed further below, that once stood on the SE corner of Grand and Chapman.

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An aerial view of Plaza Square.  John Gilbert drives west along E. Chapman Avenue, top arrow, and stops at the oval. The other arrows show the fields on view presented in the movie.  The corner of the former First Christian Church (red box) appears in the movie frame above. LAPL.

A view towards the Dittmer's Mission Pharmacy building.

A view towards the Dittmer’s Mission Pharmacy building. The building once had a circular corner tower that was removed when the building was upgraded with an Art Deco style.  The side window patterns remain unchanged.

The former fountain at the center of Plaza Square appears behind the drummer during this shot.  USC Digital Library.

This elaborate fountain once stood at the center of Plaza Square. It appears behind the drummer in this shot. The fountain has since been relocated to the NW corner of the Orange Public Library. USC Digital Library.

John Gilbert beside the former bank building at 107 E. Chapman Avenue.  A more modern bank building stands at this corner today. Orange Public Library and History Center.

John Gilbert beside the former bank building at 107 E. Chapman Avenue. A more modern bank building stands at this corner today. Orange Public Library and History Center.

The Big Parade would prove to be one of the biggest hits of the silent-film era. Although remembered for humanizing the tragedy of war, it also preserves a bit of Southern California history as well.

Swept with patriotic fervor, John Gilbert decides to enlist - The Big Parade.

Inspired by his buddies, John Gilbert decides to enlist – The Big Parade.

For more images of the square you can visit Nathan Masters’s post How the City of Orange Circled Its Towne Square.  The Big Parade (C) 1925 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Color street images (C) 2014 Google.

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How Charlie Chaplin Filmed The Bank

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Click to enlarge each image.  Then and now – Charlie Chaplin strolls to work in The Bank beside the Trinity Auditorium. NOTE: Since first posting this story I have now seen the restored version of The Bank, and the picture quality is amazing!  During this scene in the restored film you can see bystanders, inside the building, watching Chaplin perform through the window.  The Blu-ray restoration will be available from Flicker Alley next spring.

Charlie Chaplin’s Essanay comedy The Bank (1915) marks his final appearance on camera in downtown Los Angeles.  While Broadway, and other nearby Historic Core streets appear in several of his early Keystone films, including Making A Living, His Favorite Pastime, The New Janitor, and especially His Musical Career, discussed in this post, Chaplin would never again stroll these classic urban settings for a movie [note: City Lights (1931) includes scenes of Charlie and the drunken millionaire, likely stunt doubles, driving around downtown].  Film preservationist Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films, the Paris-based company restoring Chaplin’s Essanay comedies, will be screening a restored version of The Bank at the Museum of Modern Art in New York on November 15, 2014, and at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on November 17, 2014.  Ben Model will accompany a further screening of The Bank at MoMA on November 24, 2014.

USC Digital Library

Click to enlarge.  Matching elements of the Trinity Auditorium, 851 S. Grand Avenue.  USC Digital Library.

The Bank opens with bank janitor Chaplin strolling to work beside the Trinity Auditorium Building, later known as the Embassy, located at 851 South Grand Avenue near Ninth Street. The first three stories were dedicated to the Trinity Church, while the upper six floors housed a men’s dormitory containing 330 rooms and a rooftop garden capped by a 70-foot diameter dome. The complex featured a library, a gymnasium, tennis and handball courts, a cafeteria, a cafe, and a barbershop. The church’s goal was to satisfy the requirements of mind, body, and soul. “We can take a man from the shower bath to the pearly gates” said Rev. C.C. Selecman when the facility opened.

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The auditorium renovation (Photo Hunter Kerhart) – DTLA Rising by Brigham Yen.

The 2,500-seat, three-tier auditorium, with elegant reception halls, and a banquet hall that could seat 1,000, was once the center of Los Angeles culture. The September 21, 1914 opening night concert featured basso opera singer Juan de la Cruz. The Los Angeles Philharmonic, the city’s first permanent symphony orchestra, made its debut here in 1919, playing Dvorzak’s New World Symphony. By the 1930s the hall was known as the Embassy, a celebrated venue for jazz concerts featuring Duke Ellington and Count Basie, while rock concerts played here in the 1960s.

Located in the burgeoning South Park entertainment district, a few blocks from the massive Los Angeles Convention Center and Staples Center complex, the Embassy is being converted into an Empire Hotel.

The Trinity was a popular early filming location.  Here it appears behind Harold Lloyd during Bumping Into Broadway (1919).

The Trinity was a popular early filming location. Here it appears behind Harold Lloyd during Bumping Into Broadway (1919).

Jovial inebriates Harold Lloyd and Roy Brooks stagger near The Trinity during High and Dizzy (1919).

Jovial inebriates Harold Lloyd and Roy Brooks stagger near The Trinity during High and Dizzy (1919).

USC Digital Library.

The Bradbury Mansion. USC Digital Library.

Work was Chaplin’s last Essanay project completed at the Bradbury mansion atop Court Hill (see post HERE). In June 1915, Chaplin and company moved to larger quarters at the rented Majestic Studios located at 651 Fairview Avenue in Boyle Heights, where The Bank was filmed on a large open-air shooting stage pictured below.

David Kiehn

Chaplin (2nd from left) and crew posing at the Majestic Studio. David Kiehn.

This wonderful shot below shows most of the cast and crew during The Bank‘s production. Notice the muslin light diffusers hanging over the open-air stage. Essanay historian David Kiehn’s book Broncho Billy and the Essanay Film Company identifies nearly every person in this shot. Producer Jesse Robins appears at both ends of this panoramic photo.  He accomplished this simply by walking behind the camera from one end of the group to the other during the exposure, as the camera slowly pivoted from left to right.

    The arrows identify matching details of the bank set as they appear in the film and in the group photo.

The arrows identify matching details of the bank set as they appear in the film and in the group photo.

The bank vault, checkerboard floor tiles, and grand staircase evident in the movie frame appear in the right part of the photo.

The desk, bank vault, checkerboard floor tiles, and grand staircase evident in the movie frames appear in the right part of the photo.

All images from Chaplin films made from 1918 onwards, copyright © Roy Export Company Establishment. CHARLES CHAPLIN, CHAPLIN, and the LITTLE TRAMP, photographs from and the names of Mr. Chaplin’s films are trademarks and/or service marks of Bubbles Incorporated SA and/or Roy Export Company Establishment. Used with permission.  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 Trinity at 851 S. Grand Avenue.

Posted in Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Los Angeles Historic Core | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

How Barbara Stanwyck Filmed Night Nurse

Click to enlarge each image posted.  Barbara Stanwyck and Ben Lyon watch Clark Gable's ambulance pass by.

Click to enlarge each image posted. Barbara Stanwyck and Ben Lyon watch Clark Gable’s ambulance pass by at the conclusion of Night Nurse. The Dominguez Building tower stands in the far distance.

Night Nurse 01Directed by William Wellman, Night Nurse (1931) is a classic pre-Code Warner Bros. production, loaded with gratuitous scenes of women undressing, men slapping around women, drunken mothers ignoring their children, women Night Nurse 05ainnocently sharing a bed, and a bootlegger who not only escapes the law but literally gets away with murder to expedite the “happy” ending.  Barbara Stanwyck stars as a scrappy nurse with a heart of gold, who is roommates with Night Nurse 76another nurse played by Joan Blondell.  Barbara hooks up with a jovial but lethal bootlegger, played by Ben Lyon, to rescue two children from a wealthy, derelict mother, whose chauffeur/lover “Nick,” menacingly played by Clark Gable, plots to kill the children for their trust fund.

The movie concludes with Barbara and Ben driving west down Wilshire Boulevard from the corner of Dunsmuir (above), the same spot where James Cagney drops off Jean Harlow in Public Enemy (1931) (see below).  You can read all about how Harlow and Cagney filmed many Public Enemy scenes along Wilshire Boulevard at this post HERE.

Night Nurse was filmed in fromt of the Wilshire Tower Building, the same spot where two years later James Cagney drops off Jean Harlow in Public Enemy (1933). The Oscar Balzer store (oval) appears in each image.

Night Nurse was filmed across from the Wilshire Tower Building, aka Desmond’s, at 5500-5528 Wilshire Boulveard, the same spot where James Cagney drops Jean Harlow off  in Public Enemy (1931). The Oscar Balzer store (oval) appears in each image. California State Library.

Night Nurse 37While driving along during the closing scene, Ben explains to Barbara that he told a couple of pals that he didn’t like Clark Gable’s character Nick very much, implying he had Nick taken for a ride.  Just then, they stop to watch an ambulance race by, unaware that it is taking Nick’s lifeless body to the morgue.

As Clark Gable's ambulance turns east from ;;;;;, we get a clear view west down Wilshire towards the Ralph's Market building on Hauser.  The Pig 'N Whistle restaurant's roof top sign appears during the shot.  Two years later, in Public Enemy, Jean Harlow and James Cagney drive past the same building.  You can read Pig 'N Whistle on the awning (oval).  LAPL.

As Clark Gable’s ambulance turns east from Burnside onto Wilshire, upper right, we get a clear view west down Wilshire towards the Ralph’s Market building on Hauser. The Pig ‘N Whistle restaurant’s roof top sign (oval) appears during the shot, above a painted “Ralph’s” sign on the wall. Jean Harlow and James Cagney drive by the same Pig ‘N Whistle restaurant (see awning sign, oval) in Public Enemy. LAPL.

Night Nurse begins with a frantic point of view shot filmed from within an ambulance as it races home, turning wildly right, then left, then right, then left and right again, until the vehicle comes to rest at the emergency room back entrance of California Hospital, located at 1414 South Hope Street.  The brick building appearing in the movie was completed in 1926, and demolished in 2000 after being damaged by the 1994 Northridge earthquake. A modern facility stands at the site today.

Travelin west along Venice Boulevard, the ambulance turns right at Grand, left at 15th Street, right at Catesby Lane, then left into the hospital receiving area.

Traveling west along Venice Boulevard, the ambulance turns right at Grand, left at 15th Street, right at Catesby Lane, then left into the hospital receiving area. The top left image looks west down Venice, the middle image looks north up Grand, and the bottom image looks west down 15th.

Looking west down Venice Boulevard we see the extant Finner Building at 1601 S. Hope Street, and the back of the extant Essex Apartment building (red oval).  USC Digital Library.

Click to enlarge. Looking west down Venice Boulevard we see the extant Frank Dillin Building at 1601 S. Hope Street, and the back of the extant Essex Apartment building (box). USC Digital Library.

This view looks west up 15th Street (arrow) towards Hope Street before the ambulance turns right onto Catesby Lane.  The same palm tree standing at the corner of California Hospital is marked in each image.  LAPL.

This view looks west up 15th Street (arrow) towards Hope Street before the ambulance turns right onto Catesby Lane, running behind the hospital. The same palm tree standing at the corner is marked in each image. LAPL.

Looking north, this 1950s aerial view shows the ambulance's path.  The box marks the extant Finn Building and the Essex Apartments on Hope Street. USC Digital Library

Looking north, this 1960s aerial view shows the ambulance’s path. The box marks the extant Frank Dillin Building and the Essex Apartments standing on opposing corners on Hope Street. USC Digital Library.

A contemporary view - California Hospital has been greatly remodeled.  The box marks the Finn Building and Essex Apartments on Hope Street.  (C) Microsoft Corporation.

A contemporary view – California Hospital has been greatly remodeled. The box marks the Frank Dillin Building and Essex Apartments on opposing corners on Hope Street. (C) 2014 Nokia. (C) 2014 Microsoft Corporation. Pictometry Bird’s Eye (C) 2012 Pictometry International Corp.

Night Nurse (C) 1931 Warner Bros.  Vintage photos from the Los Angeles Public Library, the USC Digital Library, and the California State Library.  Color views Google Street View (C) 2014 Google.

Looking east down Wilshire towards Dunsmuir today.

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How James Cagney Filmed Lady Killer

Click to enlarge each image below.  Which three of these buildings survive?

Click to enlarge this image and each image below. Which three of these buildings survive?

Lady Killer 01Eight downtown Los Angeles landmarks appear behind James Cagney during the opening scenes of Lady Killer (1933), yet only three survive to tell their tale. In this delightful pre-Code comedy/drama, Cagney plays Dan Quigley, a wise-cracking New York movie Lady Killer 03theater usher who falls in with a gang of crooks, and then flees to Los Angeles seeking a new life. Once there he stumbles into the movies and becomes an unlikely star, prompting the old gang to seek him out for blackmail and revenge.  The movie opens with dozens of uniformed Warner Bros. movie theater ushers lining up for inspection on an open downtown rooftop. Jimmy arrives late as usual, but charms his way out of trouble.

Who's late for roll call?  Cagney and the WB ushers on the roof of the former Arnold Building auto dealership and parking garage at 7th, Figueroa, and Wilshire.  LAPL.

Who’s late for roll call? Cagney (arrow) and the WB ushers on the roof of the former Arnold Building auto dealership and parking garage at 7th, Figueroa, and Wilshire, (5) above on the map. LAPL.

The movie begins with the ushers lining up for inspection.  The existing Barker Brothers Building, (4) above, appears to the right.  LAPL.

The movie begins with the ushers lining up for inspection. The existing Barker Brothers Building, 818 W. 7th Street, (4) above, appears to the right. LAPL.

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The Fine Arts Building, 811 W. 7th Street, (3) above, also known as the Signal Oil Building, also appears. LAPL.

LAFD Engine Co. No. 28, at 644 S. Figueroa, is now a restaurant.

Cagney runs past Los Angeles Fire Department Engine Co. No. 28, at 644 S. Figueroa, (6) above, now a restaurant. LOC.

When Jimmy dashes onto the roof from the stairwell shed, the former Bible Institute Building on Hope Street, (1) above, appears at back.  LAPL.  The building's later installed pair of large neon "JESUS SAVES" became a downtown landmark.

When Jimmy dashes onto the roof from the stairwell shed, the former Bible Institute Building at 6th and Hope Street, (1) above, appears at back. LAPL. The building later installed a pair of large neon “JESUS SAVES” rooftop signs that became a downtown landmark. The orange oval marks the Bible Institute wall sign – the yellow oval marks the Pacific Finance Building wall sign discussed below.

The former Pacific Finance Building (2) above. LAPL.

The side of the former Pacific Finance Building, (2) above, appears at back.  The building originally stood facing an alley that later became part of Wilshire Boulevard, when Wilshire was extended east from Figueroa to Grand during 1930-1931. The Pacific Finance Building was replaced by the 62 story First Interstate Bank Building, completed in 1973, and now called the Aon Center.    LAPL.

The former Gates Hotel (7) above and former Atlantic Richfield Building (8) appear at back.  LAPL.

The former Gates Hotel at 6th and Figueroa, (7) above, and former Richfield Building at 7th and Flower, (8) above, appear at back. The yellow oval marks the same letter “S” on the GATES rooftop neon sign. The Richfield Building, clad in black and gold terra cotta tile, was recognized as one of the great Art Deco masterpieces of modern architecture, but was sadly demolished in 1969. LAPLLAPL.

This reverse view shows the roof of the Arnold Building garage.  You can see the stairwell shed from which Cagney emerges, as well as the back of the Gates Hotel. LAPL.

This broad reverse view shows the stairwell shed on the roof of the Arnold Building garage (yellow box) from which Cagney emerges, as well as matching details on the back of the Gates Hotel (narrow yellow box). The red arrow marks the back of the LAFD Engine Co. No. 28 building, as it appears in the main photo, and the front as it appears in the movie.  Directly above the red arrow stands the former St. Paul’s Cathedral that stood on Figueroa (1923-1980). LAPL.

This later aerial view shows the various buildings in relation to the Arnold Building roof (5).  Note on the 1934 map that Wilshire Blvd. terminated at Figueroa.  The later aerial photo shows that Wilshire (dotted yellow line) was later extended three blocks further to Grand.  USC Digital Library.

Click to enlarge. This later aerial view shows the various buildings in relation to the Arnold Building roof (5), and the tower of the Los Angeles Public Library Building (circle). Note on the circa 1928 map that Wilshire Boulevard, to the left of the pink Arnold Building, then terminated at Figueroa. The aerial photo shows Wilshire (dotted yellow line) extending three blocks further from Figueroa to Grand, as completed during 1930-1931. USC Digital Library.

The now lost Statler. LAPL

The now lost Statler. LAPL

The Arnold Building was demolished to make way for the ultra-modern Statler Hilton Hotel that opened in 1952, at the time the largest hotel built in the US since the Waldorf Astoria in 1931. The massive hotel, once a downtown landmark, was recently obliterated to make way for the new 70 story Wilshire Grand Center currently under construction and set to open in 2017.  You can read all about the Statler Hotel’s demise at Steve Vaught’s entertaining and informative Hollywood architecture blog Paradise Leased.

Lady Killer 42Jimmy and Mae Clark flee “New York” for sunny California, as touted by this brochure (right), only to arrive by train during a thunderstorm.  The establishing shot of their arrival, below, shows the back of the Santa Fe Depot that was used perhaps more often than any other station as a filming location.  Harold Lloyd used the same station for scenes from both Girl Shy (1924) and Movie Crazy (1932), while this post shows how the station appears with Max Linder and Laurel & Hardy.

Jimmy arrives in "sunny California" at the rear of the Santa Fe Depot, a very popular place to film.  The post shows Max Linder and Laurel and Hardy filming at the same depot.  USC Digital Library.

Jimmy arrives in “sunny California” at the rear of the Santa Fe Depot, a very popular place to film that appears in dozens and dozens of films. This post shows how Max Linder and Laurel and Hardy also filmed at the same depot. USC Digital Library.

The gang fixes for Jimmy to be arrested on trumped up charges so they can follow and kill him after he is released from jail.  Mae Clark posts Jimmy’s bail, and picks him up beside the Hall of Justice in downtown Los Angeles, the true setting where criminals were jailed at the time.

Cagney's car pulls away from the Hall of Justice towards the south face of the Broadway Tunnel.  The recently refurbished Hall of Justice just reopened after being shuttered for decades.  While the building looks good as new, the tunnel, and the hill have been completely obliterated.  USC Digital Library.

Cagney’s car pulls away from the Hall of Justice, on the corner of  Broadway and Temple, towards the south face of the Broadway Tunnel. Completed in 1925, the recently refurbished Hall of Justice building reopened in 2014 after being shuttered for decades. While the building looks good as new, the Broadway Tunnel and its supporting hill were removed in 1949. USC Digital Library.

Despite initially being in on the plot to have Jimmy killed, Mae Clark warns him they are being followed, touching off a chase around Hollywood.

The action skips to Hollywood.  Cagney and Mae Clark are chased down Vine Street from Hollywood Blvd. past the Vine Theater (red box). LAPL.

The action skips to Hollywood. Cagney and Mae Clark are chased down Vine Street from Hollywood Boulevard past what is now the Montalban Theater located at 1615 Vine Street (red box). LAPL.

A companion contemporary view.

A companion contemporary view looking north up Vine towards Hollywood Boulevard and the Montalban Theater (red box).

Next, the killers chase Cagney north up Wilcox, where he turns left, west, onto Sunset Blvd.  The extant Hotel Wilcox appears in each image.  Notice that Wilcox was not yet a through street when this aerial view was taken in 1928.  Marc Wanamaker - Bison Archives.

Next, the killers chase Cagney north up Wilcox, where he turns left, west, onto Sunset Blvd. The extant Hotel Wilcox appears up the street in each image (yellow box). Notice that Wilcox was not yet a through street when this aerial view at left was taken in 1928. Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives; USC Digital Library.

Looking north up Wilcox from Sunset Blvd. today.  The Hotel Wilcox is still standing.

Looking north up Wilcox from Sunset Boulevard today. The Hotel Wilcox is still standing up the street.

Lady Killer 73Following a prolonged chase and gun battle, the movie ends in true Hollywood fashion – the crooks are vanquished, Mae the gun moll is rehabilitated, and Jimmy resumes his film career and weds a movie star.

Wrapping up, Harold Lloyd filmed a number of early street scenes in Hollywood for his thrill comedy short Never Weaken (1921).  The isolated shot below, edited to match with those filmed in Hollywood, was for some reason also filmed in downtown beside the Arnold Building, the same spot where Cagney would film on the roof a dozen years later.

Looking east along 7th Street toward the corner of Figueroa, with a matching view (inset) from Harold Lloyd's Never Weaken.  The Arnold Building where Cagney filmed on the roof, stands to the left.  USC Digital Library.

Looking east along 7th Street toward the corner of Figueroa, with a matching view (inset) from Harold Lloyd’s Never Weaken. The Arnold Building, where Cagney filmed on the roof, stands to the left. The prominent Fine Arts Building, at the center, and the tall Barker Brothers Building, to the right, remain standing. USC Digital Library.

Lady Killer (C) 1933 Warner Bros.  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.

Vintage photos from the Los Angeles Public Library, the USC Digital Library, and color views Google Street View (C) 2014 Google.

A view of the Barker Brothers Building.

Posted in James Cagney, Pre-Code | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

How Charlie Chaplin Filmed The Adventurer

The Jeffrey Vance Collection - David Totheroh

Click to enlarge each view.  Haystack Rock then and now – The Jeffrey Vance Collection (l) – David Totheroh (r)

Here's Charlie

Here’s Charlie

Decades before Bugs Bunny delighted audiences by tunneling into madcap predicaments, escaped convict Charlie Chaplin tunneled to freedom in The Adventurer (1917) on a Malibu beach within the shadow of Castle Rock and Haystack Rock, prominent coastal landmarks that stood near the dusty dirt road that would one day become the Pacific Coast Highway.  The Adventurer, and Chaplin’s other eleven short comedies prepared for the Mutual Film Corporation, have all been lovingly restored on Blu-ray, available from Flicker Alley.

Adventurer_Page_02

Chaplin filmed early scenes near the mouth of Topanga Canyon, and the related swimming scenes in Venice.

When Chaplin filmed here in 1917, most of Malibu remained privately owned by May Rindge, widow of wealthy ranch owner Frederick Ringe. The public coastline road only traveled as far west as Topanga Canyon before it was forced to turn inland. Ms. Rindge battled in court for decades to protect her massive land holdings, bankrupting herself in the process, but in 1923 the US Supreme Court upheld California’s eminent domain powers, leading to the construction of the Roosevelt Highway (later Pacific Coast Highway) along her coastal land, that opened in 1929.  As explained in greater detail in my book Silent Traces, Chaplin filmed the initial beach scenes here, and the later scenes where he rescues Edna Purviance and others from the water in Venice to the south.

Looking east to the Castle Rock filming area.  The Pacific Coast Highway traversing Malibu would not be built for years.

Looking east to the Castle Rock filming site. The Pacific Coast Highway traversing Malibu (see Charlie’s dirt road at left) would not be built for years. Castle Rock towers at center – Haystack Rock appears to the right. USC Digital Library

USC Digital Library

Then and Then – USC Digital Library

Another view of the filming area after the road was paved.  USC Digital Library

Another view of the filming area after the road was paved. This was likely taken before the Pacific Coast Highway opened in 1929. The coast road originally had to turn inland at Topanga Canyon because the Malibu shore was privately owned. USC Digital Library

The Adventurer - then and now.  Jeffrey Castel De Oro

The Adventurer – then and now. Jeffrey Castel De Oro

A side view of Haystack Rock, in Chaplin's Carmen.  Jeffrey Castel De Oro

A side view of Haystack Rock (l) as it appears in Chaplin’s Burlesque on Carmen (1915), and as it appears today (r).  Chaplin’s publicity shot for The Adventurer (center) was staged in front of Haystack Rock.  Current view Jeffrey Castel De Oro.

An opposite view west towards Castle Rock, as it appears in Hearts and Flowers.  USC Digital Library

The Castle Rock beach was an extremely popular place to film. Now looking west, in the opposite direction toward Castle Rock, is a “Bathing Beauty” beach scene from the Mack Sennett comedy Hearts and Flowers (1919) available on the new CineMuseum Blu-ray release The Mack Sennett Collection available from Flicker Alley. USC Digital Library

Looking west where Coastline Drive meets the Pacific Coast Highway.  (C) Microsoft Corporation.

Looking west, Charlie eludes the police likely where Coastline Drive meets the Pacific Coast Highway. (C) Microsoft Corporation.

A modern view showing Coastline Drive (l), Haystack Rock, Castle Rock (leveled in 1945 as a safety measure), and the Chaplin filming site (r).  (C) 2014 Microsoft Corporation

A modern view showing Coastline Drive (l), Haystack Rock (center), the former Castle Rock site (it was leveled in 1945 as a safety measure), and the Chaplin filming site (r). (C) 2014 Google

The action jumps from Malibu to the Abbott Kinney Pier in Venice.  The tower of the Auditorium appears beside Edna Purviance and Eric Campbell.  Marc Wanamaker - Bison Archives

The action jumps from Malibu to the Abbot Kinney Pier in Venice. The tower of the Venice Auditorium (USC Digital Library) appears behind Edna Purviance and Eric Campbell.  Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives

With clever editing, Charlie dumps Eric into the water from the Center Street Pier (lower left), yet Eric hits the water beside the Abbott Kinney Pier (upper left).

Click to enlarge. With clever editing, Charlie dumps Eric into the water from the Center Street Pier (lower left), yet Eric hits the water beside the Abbot Kinney Pier (upper left).

A reverse view of Eric's bifurcated spill into the water.  The Abbot Kinney Pier would burn almost completely a few days after this photo was taken in 1920.  It was quickly rebuilt in 1921.  Marc Wanamaker - Bison Archives

A reverse view of Eric’s bifurcated spill into the water. The Abbot Kinney Pier would burn almost completely a few days after this photo was taken in 1920. It was quickly rebuilt in 1921. Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives

The front of the Venice Auditorium appears in both images, along with a "MUIRAUQA" sign, the back of the illuminated sign for the Venice AQUARIUM.  LAPL

The front of the Venice Auditorium appears in both images, along with a “MUIRAUQA” sign, the back of the illuminated sign for the Venice AQUARIUM. LAPL

This view from Harold Lloyd's 1920 short comedy Number Please? reveals the AQUARIUM sign as it appeared to the public strolling down the pier.  The inset view looks the other way.  LAPL

This view from Harold Lloyd’s 1920 short comedy Number Please? shows the same AQUARIUM sign as it appeared to the public strolling down the pier. The inset view looks the other way. LAPL

The Abbot Kinney Pier burned in late 1920, but was quickly rebuilt in 1921.  The re-built pier appears prominently during Chaplin’s 1928 feature comedy The Circus. Following years of decline, and subsequent fires, the pier was closed and demolished in 1946.  Chaplin also filmed Kid Auto Races at Venice Cal. (1914) (see blog post HERE) and By The Sea (1915) in Venice.  All three films are also discussed in my book Silent Traces.

The Adventurer (1917) from the new Blu-ray release Chaplin’s Mutual Comedies 1916-1917.  All images from Chaplin films made from 1918 onwards, copyright © Roy Export Company Establishment. CHARLES CHAPLIN, CHAPLIN, and the LITTLE TRAMP, photographs from and the names of Mr. Chaplin’s films are trademarks and/or service marks of Bubbles Incorporated SA and/or Roy Export Company Establishment. Used with permission. Hearts and Flowers (1919) from the new Blu-ray release The Mack Sennett Collection Vol. OneNumber Please? (1920) 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.

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Cagney and Harlow on The Public Enemy’s Miracle Mile

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Click to enlarge each image.  James Cagney slows down to check out Jean Harlow.  The view looks east down Wilshire Boulevard from Detroit Street towards the E. Clem Wilson Building on the corner of La Brea.  LAPL

Public Enemy 48Thanks to the Turner Classic Movie Channel’s Pre-Code Festival this past month, I’ve been able to catch many great films for the first time, including the topic of this post, The Public Enemy (1931). Much has been written about this film, including the shocking scene where Cagney smashes a Public Enemy 07grapefruit into Mae Clarke’s face.  I’ll leave the commentary to others, but as a fan of early Los Angeles, I was intrigued to discover a key scene, where Cagney picks up Jean Harlow on the street, was filmed along a couple of blocks of the Wilshire Boulevard shopping district known as the “Miracle Mile.”

Cagney and his buddy played by Edward Woods drive south down Detroit Street crossing Wilshire.  The Wilshire Manor Apartments (oval) stand at back.

Cagney and his buddy played by Edward Woods drive south down Detroit Street crossing Wilshire. The Wilshire Manor Apartments (oval) stand at back.

This aerial view shows Cagney's path down Detroit across Wilshire.

This aerial view shows Cagney’s path down Detroit across Wilshire. USC Digital Library

Cagney slows down to check out Jean Harlow.  The view looks east down Wilshire from Detroit.

Cagney slows down to check out Jean Harlow. The view looks east down Wilshire from Detroit.  The right image shows detail of the E. Clem Wilson Building.  LAPL

This front view of Harlow, supposedly on the same corner, was filmed one block further west, at the corner of Cloverdale Avenue.  The real estate ad behind Jean also appears in this vintage view.

This front view of Harlow, supposedly on the same corner of Detroit, was filmed one block further west, at the corner of Cloverdale Avenue, in front of the Dominguez Building. The real estate ad behind Jean also appears in this vintage view. USC Digital Library

Looking west at the Dominguez Building.

Looking west at the Dominguez Building.  LAPL

Why did Cagney meet Harlow on the corner of Detroit, yet they first filmed her at the corner of Cloverdale?  Because at the time the Detroit corner was an un-photogenic parking lot.  The parking lot curb (oval) appears in this view looking west.

Why, if Cagney met Harlow on the corner of Detroit, was she was first filmed at the corner of Cloverdale? Because at the time the Detroit corner was an un-photogenic parking lot. The parking lot curb (oval) appears in the movie frame looking east, and in this 1932 view looking west, taken from the E. Clem Wilson Building. LAPL

Cagney stopped at the corner of Detroit (above).  Harlow is introduced in closeup standing on Wilshire, near the same corner, but looking to the NW, with a row of buildings on Wilshire behind her.

Cagney stopped at the corner of Detroit (above). Harlow is introduced in closeup standing on Wilshire, near the same corner.  Behind her, looking to the NW, are buildings (callout box) on the north side of Wilshire. USC Digital Library

The Tip Top Sandwich shop (oval) behind Jean, formerly occupied 5367 Wilshire. The remodeled building now hosts a Subway sandwich shop nearby.

The Tip Top Sandwich shop (oval) behind Jean, formerly occupied 5367 Wilshire. The remodeled building now hosts a Subway sandwich shop nearby. USC Digital Library

Cagney convinces Jean to allow him to give her a ride. These views show details on the building standing on the SE corner of Wilshire and Detroit.

Cagney convinces Jean to allow him to give her a ride. These views show details on the building standing on the SE corner of Wilshire and Detroit. USC Digital Library

A modern view of the same corner.  The window and door patterns of the brick building remain the same, so apparently it is the same building, stripped of all ornamentation.

A modern view of the same corner. The window and door patterns of the brick building remain the same, so apparently it is the same building, stripped of all ornamentation.

Edward Woods plays chauffeur, driving Cagney and Harlow along side this beautiful building now lost to history.  Notice the matching "NUTS" sign detail.  The view looks toward the NE corner of Wilshire and Ridgley.

Edward Woods plays chauffeur, driving Cagney and Harlow along side this beautiful building now lost to history. Notice the matching “NUTS” sign detail. The view looks toward the NE corner of Wilshire and Hauser, six blocks west of Detroit. A Pig ‘N Whistle restaurant stood on this corner during filming – the words barely appear on the awning as they drive by.  LAPL

Continuing driving west along Wilshire from Ridgely, the car passes an existing store, home to a Safeway at the time of filming, and to a Pay n Takit  store in the vintage photo.

Continuing driving west along Wilshire from Hauser, the car passes an existing store, home to a Safeway at the time of filming, and to a “Pay n Takit” store in the vintage photo. It is now an IHOP restaurant.  California State Library

Cagney drops Harlow off at Wilshire, with the Wilshire Tower building in the background.

Cagney drops Harlow off at Wilshire, west of the corner of Dunsmuir, with the Wilshire Tower Building in the background. California State Library

Delighted to get Jean Harlow's phone number, Cagney dances a little jig, sadly blocked from view by extras walking in front of the camera.

Delighted to get Jean Harlow’s phone number, Cagney dances a little jig, sadly blocked from view by extras walking in front of the camera. The Oscar Balzer shop appears in both images. California State Library.

Click to enlarge.  Looking NW - (1) driving past Hauser, (2)

Click to enlarge. 1940 view looking NW at the Miracle Mile – (1) driving past Hauser, (2) dropping Jean off across from the Wilshire Tower Building, (3) Jean’s close-up, (4) crossing Wilshire on Detroit, and (5) Jean’s intro shot by the Dominguez Building. The E. Clem Wilson Building on La Brea stands to the lower right. USC Digital Library

Bonus : Larry Harnisch writes on his The Daily Mirror blog that his “brain trust” Craig Deco, Lee Rivas and Nathan Marask determined that the interior of the May Co. department store appears during The Public Enemy as young thugs Tom and Matt slide down the center of an escalator to escape the cops.

The interior of the May Co. department store - thanks to LA Daily Mirror

The interior of the May Co. department store – thanks to LA Daily Mirror.  LAPL

Public Enemy 47The Public Enemy (C) 1931 Warner Bros.

Vintage photos from the Los Angeles Public Library, the USC Digital Library, and the California State Library.  Color views Google Street View (C) 2014 Google.

A view of the intersection of Wilshire and Detroit today.

 

Posted in James Cagney, Pre-Code | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

How Buster Keaton Filmed The General

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Click to enlarge. Buster and crew stayed at the Bartell Hotel (1), steps from the Union Camp set (2) built north of the tracks and filmed looking north, (3) the half-mile length of parallel train tracks (dotted line) used for all of the tracking shots, all filmed looking south (4) the open field (green outline) between Main Street and the tracks, used for the Confederate army retreat, filmed looking south, and (5), the Marietta and Chattanooga town sets, built south of the tracks and filmed looking south. (C) 2014 Nokia (C) 2014 Microsoft Corporation Pictometry Bird’s Eye (C) 2012 MDA Geospatial Services Inc.

I had the honor of introducing Buster Keaton’s 1926 masterpiece The General at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival’s inaugural Silent Autumn Festival this past September 20, 2014.  Preceding the show, these informational slides (below) prepared by the festival’s Artistic Director Anita Monga, ran on a loop as people took their seats.  Although Keaton had to travel 900 miles north from Hollywood to Cottage Grove, Oregon to film The General, the vast majority of the location shooting took place just steps from the hotel where Buster stayed (above).

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Video 01This brief video hosted by A.M.P.A.S. from a talk I gave in 2011 further explains how Buster filmed The General in Cottage Grove.  You can read all about filming The General in my Keaton film locations book Silent Echoes.

The Bartell Hotel building in Cottage Grove where Keaton and crew stayed during the production.

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