Charlie Chaplin and and film noir? It’s also true. As with my prior post about Harold Lloyd, Chaplin also has a connection to The Turning Point (1952), a noir crime drama where William Holden plays a cynical reporter investigating a corrupt cop. And given how the great silent comedians often crossed paths, Harold make a cameo appearance here too.
In Modern Times (1936), factory worker Charlie tightens bolts on an ever-accelerating assembly line, eventually suffering a nervous breakdown. After attempting to tighten the buttons on this matron’s dress (below left), he is carted off to a sanatorium (below right). These scenes were filmed on Jackson Street beside the Southern California Gas Company gas manufacturing plant.
Before pipeline technology allowed for the importation of natural gas over long distances, these plants manufactured gas locally by burning coal, and storing the resulting gas in large holding tanks. These tanks once stood east of City Hall. At 378 feet, the tallest of the three tanks stood more than twice as tall as the 150 height restriction for downtown commercial buildings.
In The Turning Point, reporter William Holden arrives by taxi (at left) to pay a visit to the mob boss played by Ed Begley, who runs a trucking company. The trucking company building stood at the NE corner of Center and Banning Streets. The gas storage tanks appearing in the movie frame once stood on blocks to the NW, NE, and SW of the intersection of Center and Ducommun Streets. The tallest of the three tanks (marked with a purple box) appears prominently during scenes from Chaplin’s early masterpiece The Kid (1921).
My book Silent Traces has an entire chapter devoted to Charlie Chaplin filming the factory sequences from Modern Times at the two gas plants located just east of City Hall. Look for future posts of Charlie filming at classic noir settings.
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 Turning Point (C) Paramount Pictures Corporation.
Vintage aerial (C) Google.