Decades before Bugs Bunny delighted audiences by tunneling into strange 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.
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.
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. One. Number 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.