Chaplin – 100 Years Ago on Sunset Boulevard

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Tillie’s Punctured Romance (1914) looking west towards Engine Co. No. 20 at 2144 Sunset Blvd.  A modern structure for Engine Co. No. 20 stands at the same address today.  LAFD Photo Album Collection

“Sunset Boulevard” – few words evoke the mystique and glamour of Southern California more than the name of this historic street that wends its way west from the heart of downtown Los Angeles to the Pacific Ocean. As discussed here, the busy street passed within a few blocks of the Keystone Film Co. studios where Charlie Chaplin began his movie career in 1914.  The remarkable image quality of the new Chaplin at Keystone collection from Flicker Alley, resulting from seven years of exacting restorations performed by Cineteca di Bologna and the British Film Institute in association with Lobster Films, confirms Chaplin filmed many scenes on Sunset Boulevard more than three decades before the landmark film starring Gloria Swanson and William Holden premiered in 1950.

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Standing Pat (1928) looking west down Sunset towards Engine Co. No. 20.  The tall narrow tower (box) told me this building was likely a fire station.

At top of this post, a band of Keystone Kops fall over themselves during the chase and gunfight climax of Tillie’s Punctured Romance, starring Charlie Chaplin, Marie Dressler, and Mabel Normand.  I solved the Tillie location when I noticed it was the same street scene (directly above) appearing in Standing Pat, “A Ton of Fun” comedy starring the overweight trio Hilliard Karr, Frank Alexander, and ‘Kewpie’ Ross.  The tall narrow tower (box, above) was a common feature used at fire stations to hang wet hoses to dry, and checking the Los Angeles Fire Department Historical Society confirmed the setting as 2144 Sunset Blvd.

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Engine Co. No. 20 appearing both in Tillie’s Punctured Romance and in A Film Johnnie (1914) as the trolley tracks on Sunset curve north at Mohawk Bend.

The “transitive theory of film location confirmation” now starts kicking into high gear.  Standing Pat confirmed the fire station at the SW corner of Sunset and Mohawk Street, which confirmed Tillie, so when I noticed the station also overlaps with a scene from Chaplin’s A Film Johnnie (above), the station confirmed that movie as well.  A leads to B leads to C.

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Eastward views towards Engine Co. No. 20 (LAFD Photo Album Collection – courtesy Mrs. George Walker) and in Cruel, Cruel Love (1914).  The ambulance is heading west from Mohawk Bend on Sunset.

Switching perspective, now looking east towards Mohawk Bend on Sunset, the fire station at top confirms the above scene from Chaplin’s Cruel, Cruel Love was also filmed on Sunset.

Charlie looking east towards KenmoreKnowing Chaplin filmed one scene for A Film Johnnie looking west beside the trolley lines on Sunset, it seemed likely the scene to the left was also filmed beside the Sunset trolley line, only this time looking east.

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The extant Kenmore Apartment building at back – the dotted red line marks the guard rail where Sunset crosses over Glendale Blvd.

The Kenmore Apartments building (1827 Sunset – originally numbered 1817 Sunset – built in 1912) stands behind Charlie, above, confirming the view east down Sunset towards the Glendale Blvd. overpass railing (dotted red line).

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The Kenmore Apartments as it appears during a scene from Cops (1922).  Originally numbered 1817 Sunset, a portion of the apartment sign reading “181*  Kenmor*” appears at back.  The front of the Kenmore was remodeled with streamline moderne elements, perhaps in the 1930s, to accommodate commercial store fronts on the ground floor.

Remarkably, the Kenmore Apartments played a later role in film history, portraying the new home of the family whose wagon-load of furniture is destroyed during Buster Keaton’s classic short film Cops.

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A modern close view of the Sunset/Glendale overpass (dotted red line)

Although the Kenmore (built in 1912) is still standing, it’s no longer possible to replicate the view of the Sunset/Glendale overpass from A Film Johnnie as the more “modern” Roberts Arms (built in 1922) today blocks the view.

This 1914 map shows Charlie’s path along Sunset from the Kenmore (upper right oval) towards the fire house (lower left oval). Notice the proximity to Echo Park where many Keystone comedies were filmed.

This 1914 map shows Charlie’s path along Sunset from the Kenmore (upper right oval) towards the fire house (lower left oval). Notice the proximity to Echo Park where many Keystone comedies were filmed.

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Recapping – Engine Co. No. 20 at Mohawk Bend as it appears in A Film Johnnie, Tillie’s Punctured Romance, and Standing Pat.  A comparable view of the larger, modern fire station on the same corner appears below.

For another fun location from A Film Johnnie, you can read HERE how the beautiful (and still standing) Bryson Apartment building stood in for the Keystone Studios during the film.

For additional Sunset history connections: (1) as explained in my book Silent Traces, Chaplin filmed his roller skate escape at the conclusion of The Rink (1916) along Sunset Blvd. near Occidental Blvd., and filmed a discarded scene from The Circus (1928) along the Sunset Strip near the former Café La Boheme at 8614 Sunset Blvd., (2) Buster Keaton filmed a scene from Cops at Sunset Blvd. and Detroit, a block from the Chaplin Studio, as shown in my post HERE; and (3) family-man Ward Cleaver’s office in the Leave it to Beaver TV show was located at 9034 Sunset Boulevard, as shown in my post HERE.

Chaplin at Keystone: Copyright (C) 2010 by Lobster Films for the Chaplin Keystone Project.  Cops licensed by Douris UK, Ltd.  Special thanks to Robert Arkus for supplying me with a copy of Standing Pat.

This maps shows the Keystone Studio site at 1712 Allesandro relative to Engine Co. No. 20 at Mohawk Bend, and the Kenmore Apartments near the Glendale Blvd. overpass.

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Harold Lloyd’s Why Worry? TCM Hollywood Connection

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In honor of the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival screening of Harold Lloyd’s 1923 feature comedy Why Worry? at the Egyptian Theater on Friday, April 11 at 7:15 pm, here are a couple of quick views from the conclusion of the film.  Lloyd’s granddaughter Suzanne will be in attendance, while composer Carl Davis will be on hand to conduct his original orchestral score for the film.

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Looking west down Hollywood Blvd. as actor John Aasen directs traffic at the intersection of Cahuenga.  The extant Toberman Hall (1907 – yellow oval) and Hotel Christie (red box, and below) appear at back.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhy Worry? concludes with Harold sprinting down Hollywood Boulevard to share with his friend, a gentle giant played by John Aasen, the news that Harold’s character has just become a father (see top).  They celebrate in the intersection of Cahuenga Boulevard, the same spot where Charlie Chaplin and Marie Dressler filmed Tillie’s Punctured Romance (1914), and near where Mary Pickford shot a 1918 Liberty Bond promotional film (see below).  You can read more about Chaplin and Pickford filming at this Hollywood landmark at these posts HERE and HERE.

The same corner appearing in Tillie's

Click to enlarge – the same corner appearing in Tillie’s Punctured Romance and in Mary Pickford 100% American.

With a bit of movie editing magic, while the giant stands at Cahuenga looking east as Harold runs towards him, the matching shot of Harold running west towards the giant was staged at Hollywood Boulevard beyond Sycamore Avenue, many blocks west from where the giant was standing (see below). You can read more about this setting, and how it appears in Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr. (1924) at this post HERE.

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Looking east down Hollywood Blvd. past the former Richfield gas station on the corner of Sycamore, as appearing in Lloyd’s Girl Shy (1924) left, and in Why Worry? (right).  Harold is supposedly running towards the giant who was actually filmed several blocks behind where Harold is running.

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.

Google Street View today.

 

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Chaplin Leads the Gang to the Hollywood Police

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Lisa Easy StreetAs I explain in my book Silent Traces, Charlie Chaplin’s landmark short film Easy Street (1917) contains scenes filmed on extant Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles (see below), where he would return a few years later to film his re-union with Jackie Coogan in The Kid (1921) (see The Kid post HERE). The Easy Street “T” intersection exterior set (left), was built in Hollywood within the NE corner of Buster NeighborsCahuenga and Romaine at the tiny Lone Star Studio backlot, the same spot where Buster Keaton, after taking over the studio in 1920 for his own productions, would build a similar “T”-shaped tenement set for his short film Neighbors (1920) (right).

Should I stay or should I go?  Charlie at the doorway

Should I stay or should I go? Charlie at the doorway. Postcard Tommy Dangcil

Despite reportedly spending $10,000 building his Easy Street set, Chaplin used a real police station (above) to film the scene where Charlie deliberates whether to join the force. His movements are a tour de force, showing the audience, through his physicality, his inner turmoil as he summons the courage to enter the building in order to enlist, then balks at the threshold, halting mid-step, then regains his nerve, marches towards the door, only to hesitate yet again. The scene was likely filmed in December 1916.

Doug's turn at the station.

Doug’s turn at the station.

A few months later, Charlie’s friend Douglas Fairbanks would film his short comedy Flirting With Fate (1917) at the same police-station doorway (above).

Harry Langdon, left, in Stan Laurel, right, in Just Nuts (1922).

Harry Langdon, left, in Plain Clothes (1925) -  Stan Laurel, right, in Mixed Nuts (1922).

Following Charlie and Doug, the joint fire/police station, once standing at 1625-1627-1629 Cahuenga Boulevard, would become a very popular place to film. This makes perfect sense, as fire houses and police stations are commonly employed in all types of movies, and this was THE station serving most of Hollywood. I write much more about the joint station’s appearances in a prior post HERE.  As shown above and below, Harry Langdon, Stan Laurel, Lloyd Hamilton, Harold Lloyd, and Buster Keaton all filmed in front of the station, and if I had to guess, nearly every other silent comedian likely filmed here as well.

Comedian Lloyd Hamilton's turn - film unknown.

Comedian Lloyd Hamilton’s turn – film unknown.

Harold Lloyd in Hot Water - Buster Keaton in Three Ages

Harold Lloyd in Hot Water – Buster Keaton in Three Ages

The station appeared in Buster Keaton’s feature films Three Ages (1923) (above, right) and The Cameraman (1928), as well as in Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last! (1923) and Hot Water (1924) (above, left), and the early 1924 Our Gang short comedy High Society.  The station no doubt appears in dozens of other films, including the newspaper drama The Last Edition (1925) (see below) reported HERE.  What’s more, Keaton used the alley along the south side of the station for scenes from three different short films; The Goat (1921), Hard Luck (1921), and Neighbors (1920) (see post HERE).

The joint fire-police station appearing in The Last Edition.  Photo Tommy Dangcil.

The joint fire-police station appearing in The Last Edition. Photo Tommy Dangcil.

Click to enlarge.  Eric Campbell chases Charlie onto the Plaza de Los Angeles in Easy Street

Click to enlarge. Eric Campbell chases Charlie onto the Plaza de Los Angeles in Easy StreetUSC Digital Library

Chaplin fashioned his tenement set for Easy Street after Methley Street, in his boyhood London neighborhood  Lambeth.  To add greater realism, he also filmed at the Plaza de Los Angeles (above), and nearby Olvera Street, a slum alley that is today a popular Mexican market and tourist attraction.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge. Chaplin used the same slum alley for both films.

Above, four views of Olvera Street, a dingy slum alleyway at the time Chaplin filmed The Kid and Easy Street, reminiscent of his boyhood home (see more on The Kid at this post HERE).  Today Olvera Street is one of LA’s most popular tourist spots.

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.  Easy Street special edition (C) 2006 Film Preservation Associates.

Flirting With Fate (1917)—Douglas Fairbanks: A Modern Musketeer Collection (David Shepard, Film Preservation Associates, Jeffrey Masino, Flicker Alley LLC).

Neighbors (1920); Three Ages (1923) licensed by Douris UK, Ltd.

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.

Plain Clothes (C) 2007 All Day Entertainment and Lobster Films.

Site of the former Hollywood joint fire/police station

Posted in Buster Keaton, Chaplin Tour, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Harold Lloyd, Harry Langdon, Stan Laurel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Perry Mason at the Chaplin Studio – The Case of the Homecoming Kid

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1966 – Perry Mason and Paul Drake arrive at the Chaplin Studio in The Case of the Final Fade-Out

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2005 – a matching view of the entrance. Kermit the Frog, dressed as Chaplin, welcomes guests

One of the most gratifying experiences to come from working on my Charlie Chaplin book Silent Traces was being given a private tour of the Chaplin Studios, at 1416 N. La Brea Avenue in Hollywood, now home to The Jim Henson Company.  My book contains an entire chapter devoted to the studio, annotated with vintage and current photos, aerial views, and maps. 

Jackie 1921 and 1966

Jackie Coogan in 1921 and 1966

The studio has a long history, and while I was aware that it was once used to film the Perry Mason television show, I was pleasantly surprised when Thomas Peters wrote to me advising that the studio exteriors appear prominently in the final episode of the series, The Case of the Final Fade-Out, which first aired May 22, 1966.  You can stream this and other episodes online HERE.  Thomas also writes that studio exteriors appear during Season 5 – Episode 29; The Case of the Promoter’s Pillbox, while at the opening of Season 6 – Episode 8; The Case of the Stand-In Sister, a character in a phone booth gives an address, 1416 N. La Brea “Boulevard,” the studio’s avenue address.

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Richard Anderson, as Lt. Steve Drumm

Moreover, one of the guest stars in the final show was Jackie Coogan, the former child superstar who had worked at the same studio 45 years earlier when filming Chaplin’s masterpiece The Kid (1921). What bittersweet memories Jackie must have had revisiting the studio after all those years.  His return must surely have been an on-set topic of conversation while filming the episode, and begs the question whether his casting was merely a coincidence, or an homage of some sorts.*  

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Three views of the studio film vault door – Chaplin’s butler (inset) retrieves Charlie’s most valuable possession from the vault, his tramp shoes.

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Dick Clark at the gate

Given that this was the concluding episode of the highly successful series, after nine years, and 271 episodes, it must have been a bittersweet moment for everyone involved.  Even the choice of the title, Final Fade-Out, suggests an awareness of the show’s own passing.

Aside from Coogan’s appearance, a young-looking Dick Clark (is that redundant?) plays a major role, as does veteran character actress Estelle Winwood.

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Erle Stanley Gardner

Erle Stanley Gardner, the prolific author of the original Perry Mason mystery novels, plays an un-credited cameo role as the last courtroom judge to appear in the series.020

The plot involves a murder that takes place at a movie studio during the filming of a scene.  Afterwards, the police briefly question a number of crew member witnesses, whose demeanor and appearance suggest they are all played by the real grips, camera operators, and other studio crew members from the show. 

The final shot of the series

The final fade-out from The Final Fade-Out; the concluding shot of the entire series

Above, the closing shot of the series, Perry Mason (Raymond Burr), Paul Drake (William Hopper), and Della Street (Barbara Hale) confer about their next big case.

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The Chaplin Studio during the Perry Mason years and originally.  When La Brea Avenue was widened in 1929, and the sidewalk was moved several feet east, the protruding architectural details of the buildings north of the entrance gate (yellow line) were trimmed flush to the new sidewalk.  The buildings south of the gate were physically moved east to preserve the details. Vintage Los Angeles

*(Oops, well, Coogan’s sentimental homecoming makes a good story, but it turns out he had appeared on the show twice before; in Season 5 – Episode 5, the Case of the Crying Comedian, and in Season 6 – Episode 28, the Case of the Witless Witness.  Maybe those were nostalgic experiences for him as well.)

There’s a brief period shot of the front of the Chaplin studios in this clip at 6:21:23:00

There’s a brief period shot of the front of the Chaplin studios in this clip at 6:21:23:00.  Thanks Skip!

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.

Perry Mason © MCMLXVI Paisano Productions All Rights Reserved.

Posted in Chaplin Studio, Chaplin Tour, Charlie Chaplin, The Kid | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Mary Pickford and the Silent Stars Meet at One Hollywood Corner

Tillie

Click to enlarge.  Mary Pickford peers from an alley towards the corner where Mabel Normand waits to confront Charlie Chaplin and Marie Dressler in Tillie’s Punctured Romance (1914).

Little Mary in 100% American

Mary Pickford in 100% American

America’s Sweetheart, Canadian-born Mary Pickford, was a staunch supporter of the World War I Liberty Bond campaign.  Aside from selling millions of dollars of bonds at various rallies across the country, she also encouraged bond sales by starring in a patriotic movie entitled Mary Pickford 100% American (1918).  You can see the movie (HERE).

The movie first caught my eye because early scenes depict the Abbot Kinney amusement park pier in Venice, California.  As shown in my books, the pier had appeared previously in Charlie

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Above, Harold Lloyd evades the police in Number Please?, while below Mary listens to a man selling Liberty Bonds in 100% American.  Both views look west down the Abbot Kinney Pier, past the Ship Cafe at the left. Chaplin filmed The Adventurer at the far west end of the pier.

Chaplin’s The Adventurer (1917), and would later appear in Harold Lloyd’s Number Please? (1920) and in Buster Keaton’s The High Sign (filmed in 1920 – released in 1921).  Although the pier burned down late in 1920, it was quickly re-built, and would appear again in such films as Laurel and Hardy’s Sugar Daddies (1927) and in Chaplin’s The Circus (1928).

Notice the banking hours in this reverse view: Weekdays 10 - 3, Saturdays 9:45 - 12, and Saturday evenings 5 - 7

Banking Hours Weekdays 10 – 3, Saturdays 9:45 – 12, Saturday Evenings 5 – 7

Throughout the movie Mary forgoes simple expenditures in order to save enough to purchase a bond.  While waiting in line at the bank to make her purchase, Mary momentarily loses her bankroll, and accuses another patron of stealing it from her.  While a bank guard harasses the falsely accused man, Mary recovers the money, makes her purchase, and dashes from the bank, calling out to the guard that it was all a mistake before she embarrassingly flees the bank and runs down the street.

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After falsely accusing a man, Mary sheepishly peeks from an alley corner on the west side of Cahuenga.  Down the street behind her is a sign for BARKER’S BAKERY.  The Fremont Hotel (with the ROOMS sign) further down the street appears in a Douglas Fairbanks movie, below.

When I noticed the distinctive BARKER’S BAKERY sign on Cahuenga above Mary’s head, I realized that the bank where Mary purchases her bond once stood at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Cahuenga – the intersection where so many other early movies were filmed.  I report in prior posts (HERE) and (HERE) how Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd all filmed near this corner, but now we can add Mary Pickford to the mix. 

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Harold Lloyd’s future wife Mildred Davis in Never Weaken (1921), a policeman in the Christie comedy Hubby’s Night Out (1917), and Mary are all standing at the same alley corner on the west side of Cahuenga.  As shown further below, the alley Buster Keaton used in Cops (1922) stands on the east side of Cahuenga.

As shown below, Douglas Fairbanks filmed a building-climbing stunt from Flirting With Fate (1916) just a bit down the street from Mary. 

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.  This view shows the west side of Cahuenga – the corner of Hollywood Blvd. at the right.  Douglas Fairbanks climbs up the front of the Fremont Hotel that stood south of the bakery.

Putting the elements together below, this single site represents a spot where many of Hollywood’s biggest stars; namely Charlie Chaplin, Mabel Normand, Marie Dressler, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford, each filmed a scene.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge. Clockwise from the bottom, Harold Lloyd in Why Worry? (1923); Mabel Normand, Charlie Chaplin, and Marie Dressler in Tillie’s Punctured Romance; Buster Keaton in Cops; Douglas Fairbanks in Flirting With Fate; and Mary Pickford in 100% American.

My thanks to Jonathan Kaplan, at Vintage Venice Tours, for bringing this film to my attention.  Below, Mary’s alley on the west side of Cahuenga.  The bank building to the right was expanded two floors higher, with an Art Deco makeover, in the late 1920s.

Posted in Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Harold Lloyd, Mary Pickford, Venice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Laurel & Hardy Hit The Skids

County Pan

During their ride home from the hospital in County Hospital (1932), Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy (well, their stunt doubles) skid at a wide intersection beside a Gothic-windowed auto garage.  The zig-zag detailing remains on the garage wall.

County Hospital Slide - Tilden

This unusual intersection also appeared in the Hal Roach “Taxi Boys” comedies Thundering Taxis (1932) and What Price Taxi? (1932).  The curb in the latter film says “TILDEN AVE,” identifying the spot as where Washington Place, Tilden Avenue, and Washington Boulevard meet.  The two skid stunts depicted here were likely staged at this spot (red oval below) because the intersection was unusually wide, providing an extra measure of safety.

Tilden MapThe Culver City Rollerdrome skating rink (yellow box, left) stood near the wide intersection, and for a time a mini-golf course (green box) stood on the corner.  The Rollerdrome (1929-1970) was a local landmark for decades.  The mini-golf course sign appears in the movie frame below.

The Culver City Rollerdrome and the Miniature Golf sign

The Culver City Rollerdrome stood by the short-lived mini-golf course (notice the Golf sign)

Below, these vintage aerial photo details show the large skating rink beside a flat patch of earth where the mini-golf course stood.  The garage with the Gothic windows stands near the corner – the skid area marked with a red oval.  (I came upon these photos at pages 12 and 144 of MGM:Hollywood’s Greatest Backlot, Steve Bingen’s best-selling illustrated history of the studio’s outdoor sets and stages).

Tellefson Park stands today on the site of the former Rollerdrome and mini-golf course, and the corner garage still services cars.

(C) Hal Roach Studios, Inc.

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Buster Keaton and The Three Stooges – Round 6

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Click to enlarge.  The extant Olympic Auditorium appearing in Keaton’s Battling Butler and in the Three Stooges’ Punch Drunks (1934).  This is my sixth post about filming connections between Buster and the Stooges.

In his 1926 self-directed feature comedy Battling Butler, Buster plays an effete millionaire who seeks to impress a girl by allowing her to mistakenly believe he is a champion boxer sharing the same name.  As might be guessed, the movie ends when amateur Buster, spurred by love and honor, defeats the pro boxer in a fight and wins the girl’s heart.

Box 1Key scenes took place in the newly opened Olympic Auditorium, still standing at 18th and Grand in downtown Los Angeles.  Construction began on January 10, 1925, with world champion fighter Jack Dempsey on hand for the ceremonies, breaking ground with a steam shovel.  Dempsey returned when the completed arena opened August 5, 1925, and was presented with a solid gold lifetime ticket, the size of a calling card, good for all future events at the venue.  The so-called “Punch Palace” was built in preparation for the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games, and was the largest arena of its kind west of New York City, reportedly seating up to 15,300.  The boxing and wrestling hall could be converted to host other programs, and the California Grand Opera Company performed there during October 1925.

Buster and his valet, played by Snitz Edwards, sit stunned in Olympic Auditorium, after the formerly obscure boxer who shares Keaton’s name has unexpectedly become champion.

Buster and his valet, played by Snitz Edwards, sit stunned after witnessing a formerly obscure boxer who shares Keaton’s name unexpectedly win a championship bout.

The marquee in Punch Drunks

The marquee as it appears in Punch Drunks

Because Buster started working on Battling Butler only months after the arena first opened, its role in the movie could be its debut appearance on film.  Aside from appearing with the Three Stooges in Punch Drunks, the arena has been used as a location for classic films such as Rocky (1976) and Million Dollar Baby (2004).  You can find my five other posts about Buster and the Stooges HERE.

Remarkably, the William Holden film noir drama The Turning Point (1952) has strong connections to all three leading silent comedy stars.  The movie not only makes great use of the arena where Buster filmed (see below), it also shares noir locations on Bunker Hill with Harold Lloyd’s 1924 feature Hot Water, and in the gas tank district with Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 comedy Modern Times.

Four views of the Olympic Auditorium from The Turning Point

Four views of the Olympic Auditorium from The Turning Point

As I reported a while back in my column for The Keaton Chronicle, the film concludes with Buster, decked out in boxing shorts and a silk top hat, strolling down a city boulevard at night with his girl on his arm, oblivious to the curious onlookers surrounding them.

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Click to enlarge.  The Biltmore Hotel, designed by Schultze & Weaver in 1922, is located on Olive Street facing Pershing Square.  Keaton strolled from the corner of 5th and Olive, with the San Carlos Hotel across 5th Street, which bears a “STEAMSHIP TICKETS” sign (oval) in each image.  UCLA Libraries – Digital Collection.

Unlike Buster’s contemporary Harold Lloyd, Keaton seldom filmed in the downtown Los Angeles Historic Core, and locating this concluding shot eluded me for years.  But once I determined that Harold had used the Olive Street entrance of the classic Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel for scenes from For Heaven’s Sake, I realized Keaton had filmed here too.  The Biltmore has appeared in dozens of films.

bb 18Although usually ranked among Keaton’s lesser works, I’ve always found Battling Butler to be quite charming.  The film contains many thoughtfully composed scenes, such as Buster’s fiancé framed bb 75through the rear window of his limousine, receding into the distance as Buster drives away, and a tracking shot of Buster and Snitz, lost in thought, sitting on the steps of a moving passenger train.

Some other interesting visual framing devices from Battling Butler

Some other interesting visual framing devices from Battling Butler

bb 31 cIn closing, Battling Butler also contains a clear image of Buster’s injured right index finger during a scene where he registers at a hotel.  Buster trapped his finger in a clothes mangler as a young child, and had to have the tip amputated. bb 09 This shot to the right, of “Buster” holding an engagement ring, was filmed using a hand double.  It is a strange coincidence that both Buster and Harold Lloyd had injured right hands.

Battling Butler (C) 1926 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corporation. (C) renewed 1954 Loew’s, Inc. Punch Drunks copyright Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.  The Turning Point (C) Paramount Pictures Corporation.

Today the Olympic Auditorium is home to a church.

Posted in Buster Keaton, Film Noir, The Turning Point, Three Stooges | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments