What do the television show The Office, the 1950 film noir drama Edge of Doom, and Harold Lloyd’s final silent comedy Speedy (1928) have in common? They all filmed scenes looking southwest down Witmer Street towards the front of the Mayfair Hotel, at 1256 W. 7th Street, just west of downtown Los Angeles.
In a prior post I write all about the pivotal 2011 episode from The Office where characters Michael Scott and Holly Flax meet on the roof of the Mayfair Hotel, and declare their love for each other. Prior to that scene, Holly meets with characters Dwight Schrute and Erin Kemper on the street to devise a plan for locating Michael, who had wandered off dazed without his cell phone. The scene, shown above, was filmed at the NW corner of Witmer and Ingraham, beside what was once called the Prince Rupert Apartments. Notice the steep slope of the street.
Harold Lloyd used the slope of Witmer Street to good advantage during an early scene in Speedy, where Harold recovers his idle taxi cab that had accidentally been towed away by a moving van. As Harold speaks with the truck driver, the taxi breaks loose and rolls down hill running over a traffic cop.
The unusual setting intrigued me, as it featured a downhill slope pointing towards a “T” intersection, capped by an uncommonly tall building, on which a trolley ran along the cross street. Although Speedy was filmed primarily on location in Manhattan, I also knew many taxi sequences were filmed on Flower Street in downtown Los Angeles. So I first checked the few trolley-line “T” intersections to be found along Bunker Hill, and in the downtown LA Historic Core, but nothing matched up. Since other scenes from this sequence were filmed in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I checked nearby locales there as well to see if I could find this setting in New York, but it was another dead end.
My first break came when I noticed the Mayfair Hotel appeared at back during a scene in Edge of Doom (see above, left), as a troubled youth played by Farely Granger steps into the Kensington Apartments once located at 668 Witmer. With the Mayfair as a reference point, I now knew what the Kensington looked like, as it appeared on film, even though it is no longer standing. My second break was my realization (as discussed in my prior post about The Office) that in the 1920s there were tall buildings, such as the Mayfair, located just west of downtown Los Angeles, beyond the Historic Core. Then, while searching for a file, I somehow come upon the two above images from Edge of Doom and Speedy, and got a hunch to compare them side by side, making the match.
I find it fascinating how this one setting reappears over the decades. My sense is that “T” intersections are popular when filming for a number of reasons. First, it cuts down on traffic disruption, as through traffic can be more easily diverted. Next, it seems to be less visually distracting. Instead of the lines of the street stretching far off into the distance, drawing the viewer’s eye towards the vanishing point on the horizon, the cross street cuts across the view, creating a backdrop that contains the viewer’s eye.
The aerial views above look to the north. The yellow arrow points SW down Witmer towards the Mayfair Hotel on 7th Street (yellow boxes), and the red ovals mark the corner stop sign where Dwight, Erin, and Holly stood (far above). The pin to the upper right shows the site of the lost Kensington Apartments, now a parking lot.
You can read about how Lloyd filmed Speedy all over Manhattan and Brooklyn, at Coney Island, and in Los Angeles, in my Harold Lloyd location book Silent Visions.
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 Office copyright (c) 2011 NBCUniversal Media, LLC. Edge of Doom Copyright 1950 The Samuel Goldwyn Company.