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 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.

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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.

 

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How Buster Keaton Filmed The General

Click to enlarge

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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Keaton’s The General on location in Cottage Grove

aageneral1aThe San Francisco Silent Film Festival special one-day “Silent Autumn” event opens Saturday morning, September 20, 2014, with a trio of classic Laurel & Hardy silent shorts, and features a 7:00 p.m. screening of Buster Keaton’s 1926 Civil War masterpiece The General, accompanied by the Alloy Orchestra.

Video 01Keaton filmed The General nearly 90 years ago on location in Cottage Grove, Oregon.  Not only do many locations that appear in the movie remain unchanged, but as explained in this brief video hosted by A.M.P.A.S., you can see that most of the filming took place within steps of the hotel where Keaton and crew stayed during production.

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Then and Now – 221 South 16th Street in Cottage Grove, Oregon, appears behind Buster during filming.

The Silent Autumn festival also includes Rudolph Valentino in The Son of the Sheik, a typical cinema program from 1914, the year Charlie Chaplin began making movies, and the influential German horror film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

You can read more about how Keaton filmed The General and his other classic comedies in my book Silent Echoes.

The General is available on Blu-ray from Kino International, and includes a bonus program that I prepared. Below, a Google Street View of the above filming site.

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Silent Era Hollywood Tour – Cinecon 50 – Author Presentation

Cover slide blueAttached to this post is a self-guided written tour to Hollywood silent film locations and studios that I have prepared in connection with the “Hollywood’s Silent Echoes” presentation I will be giving Friday, August 29, 2014, at 10:55 a.m. at the Egyptian Theater, 6712 Hollywood Boulevard, as part of the Cinecon 50 – Classic Film Festival.  With this tour you can follow a number of points I will cover during my presentation.

titlecardThe written tour starts at Hollywood and Vine, and encompasses nearly 50 filming locations and historic sites associated with Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Stan Laurel, and Harry Langdon, including several new discoveries not found in my books or previously posted tours.

Aside from early Hollywood, my talk this year will focus on Chaplin’s origins and some interesting connections between D.W. Griffith and Buster Keaton. 

During the lunch break after my talk I will lead a quick walking tour from the theater of the historic 1600 block of Cahuenga nearby.  I look forward to seeing you at Cinecon 50!

Hollywood’s Silent Echoes Tour – Cinecon 2014 – John Bengtson

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Charlie Chaplin’s Echo Park Home – 100 Years Later

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Cruel, Cruel Love – Charlie’s handyman races up the steps to 1629 Park Avenue (center), also appearing behind Chaplin (oval) as he stands at the NE corner of Echo Park.

Mabel Normand, Chaplin, Mack Swain, and Eva Nelson in Mabel’s Married Life (1914) beside the Echo Park bridge.

Mabel Normand, Chaplin, Mack Swain, and Eva Nelson in Mabel’s Married Life (1914) beside the Echo Park bridge.

As I explain in my book Silent Traces, Charlie Chaplin filmed several early comedies in Echo Park, just a few blocks south of the Keystone Studio where he began his film career 100 years ago. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it turns out that Chaplin and other Keystone stars also filmed beside homes that are still standing directly across the street from the park. As shown above and elsewhere below, Chaplin’s home in Cruel, Cruel Love (1914) is located at 1629 Park Avenue, at the NE corner of Logan Street. Other remaining homes along Park Avenue appear in Keystone films too (see below), standing just a few blocks east from where Chaplin filmed on Sunset Boulevard 100 years ago, as reported HERE.

Looking west along Park Avenue from Logan - scenes from A Film Johnie (left) and A Flirt's Mistake (right).

Looking west along Park Ave. from Logan St. – scenes from A Film Johnnie (left) and A Flirt’s Mistake (right).

01I began paying attention to the front porches appearing in early Keystone films after noticing that a dozen other movies were shot beside the front porch where Chaplin filmed the initial scene of his career (as reported HERE).

The porch in the Chaplin/Mabel Normand comedy Mabel at the Wheel (1914) reveals a “1629” address and an array of distinctive potted plants that clearly matches Chaplin’s porch in Cruel, Cruel Love (see below).

Four views of the 1629 Park Ave. porch.  Clockwise - A Flirt's Mistake, Mabel at the Wheel, today, and Cruel, Cruel Love

Click to enlarge.  Four views of the 1629 Park Ave. porch, now closed over; clockwise from upper left, Roscoe Arbuckle in A Flirt’s Mistake, Mabel Normand in Mabel at the Wheel, today, and Cruel, Cruel Love.

I also noticed a group of small bungalows that appears both in Cruel, Cruel Love and in Chaplin’s A Film Johnnie (1914), that reveal a street corner consistent in appearance to a corner appearing in the Roscoe Arbuckle comedy A Flirt’s Mistake (1914). The Arbuckle corner reveals a street sign reading “Park Ave” (see below).

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Click to enlarge. Matching views from Cruel, Cruel Love (top), A Film Johnnie (bottom) and A Flirt’s Mistake (right).  The street sign (orange oval) reads “Park Ave.”

Although hard to spot at first, I finally noticed that Chaplin’s “potted plant” porch also appears in A Flirt’s Mistake (see above), tying the pieces together.  So on a hunch, I researched “Park Ave” in connection with the 1629 “potted plant” address, and found that Chaplin’s Cruel, Cruel Love home is still standing due north of Echo Park at 1629 Park Avenue.

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Cruel, Cruel Love – Chaplin’s handyman runs along the north edge of Echo Park.  The home on the NW corner of Park and Logan (oval) is still standing.

Remarkably, a second home appearing both in Cruel, Cruel Love and in A Flirt’s Mistake, at the NW corner of Park and Logan, is also still standing (see above), as is the group of bungalows, just up the street, at what was originally 1711 – 1715 Park Ave (see below).

Standing between the corner home and the bungalows, on what was a vacant lot during the 1914 filming, is an apartment block built in the 1920s

Cruel, Cruel Love (top), A Film Johnnie (bottom). Between the bungalows and the corner home, on what was a vacant lot during the 1914 filming, is an apartment block (oval) built in the 1920s.

These two views from A Flirt's Mistake are keyed to the view north up Logan Street.

Two views from A Flirt’s Mistake keyed to north up Logan Street.  1629 Park Ave. stands to the right.

Below is a broad overview of the filming sites related to the north end of Echo Park. The arrow points west along Park Avenue past the corner of Logan.

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Click to enlarge. Three views from Cruel, Cruel Love; looking west past Logan from Park, looking at the porch of 1629 Park Ave., and a view from the corner of Echo Park towards 1629 Park Ave.

Perhaps most remarkably, when an ambulance arrives at Charlie’s home during Cruel, Cruel Love, the camera looks due west along Park Avenue, past Echo Park to the left (south), towards vintage homes on a hill in the far background that are still standing on N. Bonnie Brae Street. I can’t identify the homes positively, but they are likely among the four pictured here.

Click to enlarge. Perhaps most remarkably, when an ambulance arrives at Charlie’s home during Cruel, Cruel Love, the camera looks due west along Park Avenue, past Echo Park to the left (south), towards vintage homes on a hill in the far background (yellow ovals) that are still standing on N. Bonnie Brae Street. I can’t identify the homes positively, but they are likely among the four pictured here at the upper right.

These ovals mark where Chaplin filmed on Sunset Blvd, just a few blocks west from Echo Park

These ovals mark where Chaplin filmed other scenes from Cruel, Cruel Love on Sunset Blvd, just a few blocks west from Echo Park

Chaplin at Keystone from Flicker Alley: Copyright (C) 2010 by Lobster Films for the Chaplin Keystone Project.  Today photos Copyright (C) 2014 Google Inc.; Bing Maps Bird’s Eye – (C) 2014 NAVTEQ, Pictometry Bird’s Eye (C) 2014 Pictometry International Corp., (C) 2014 Microsoft Corporation.

1629 Park Avenue on Google Street View.

 

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Chaplin’s First Scene – a Very Busy Place to Film

Chaplin's first on-screen appearance

Chaplin’s on-screen debut.  Movie theater audiences first set eyes on Chaplin, this image of Chaplin, on February 2, 1914, 100 years ago.

In one of my earliest posts (reprinted below), I reported that the site of Chaplin’s first scene, from his initial movie Making a Living (1914), was filmed in front of a residential porch adjacent to the Keystone Studio that is now the site of a drive-way for a Jack-In-The-Box restaurant.  Upon further study, I realized that this porch appeared in FIVE other Chaplin Keystone films, and that the same porch appeared in many other Keystone films as well.  Here, below, are these five other Chaplin films, followed by five more Keystone titles, all filmed on the porch of the home that once stood due north of the Keystone Studio, where Chaplin filmed his very first scene.

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[Reprint of original post]  Following the release of the Chaplin at Keystone DVD Collection, for which I prepared a bonus feature program, Kevin Dale contacted me wondering if Chaplin had filmed the opening scene from his inaugural film Making a Living in front of the home adjoining the Keystone Studio.  The Keystone Studio environs frequently appear in Keystone productions, and after close study I am convinced Kevin is correct.  Assuming they shot Making a Living in sequential order, this marks the very first scene of Chaplin’s entire career.  It also means that when the film opened on February 2, 1914, 100 years ago, it was through this scene that movie audiences were first introduced to young Mr. Chaplin.  The site is now a driveway to a Jack-in-the-Box restaurant, while the main filming stage remains in use today as a Public Storage warehouse.

View of the Keystone Studio. The large stage with the sign on the roof is still standing.

The large Keystone Studio stage with the sign on the roof is still standing. Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives

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Comparing details likely confirms the location.  Notice the matching white trim of the square front porch steps, and the matching pair of palm trees.

The site is located approximately at 1710 Glendale Boulevard in Echo Park.  Bing Maps Bird’s Eye – © 2010 NAVTEQ, Pictometry Bird’s Eye © 2010 Pictometry International Corp., © 2010 Microsoft Corporation.

Chaplin at Keystone: Copyright (C) 2010 by Lobster Films for the Chaplin Keystone Project.

Young Mr. Chaplin stood here:

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