During Douglas Fairbanks’ 1916 short comedy The Mystery of the Leaping Fish, a police van races from HQ down a quaint, post Victorian era Los Angeles street. Thirty-four years later, the same setting appears in the bleak film noir drama Edge of Doom, the same film, as I explain in this prior post, that shares a common setting on Witmer Street with both Harold Lloyd’s 1928 comedy feature Speedy, and the popular contemporary television sit-com The Office. As shown here, both the 1916 Fairbanks movie and the 1950 drama contain scenes filmed at the former Los Angeles City Jail (1897-1954) that once stood at 320-330 1st Street between Hill and Broadway.
Because the City Jail was located near Hill Street, it frequently appeared in the background of the various stunt and thrill comedies filmed above the Hill Street Tunnel overlooking 1st Street. This scene to the left from Harold Lloyd’s third stunt climbing comedy Never Weaken (1921) shows the jail in the background (oval). You can read more about how Lloyd filmed stunt comedies above the Hill Street Tunnel at this post HERE.
The Mystery of the Leaping Fish is an odd film, known for Fairbanks’ comic portrayal of a manic, drug-addled detective named Coke Ennyday. Whenever he needs a boost to defeat the villains, Doug injects himself with a fresh syringe, and like Popeye after eating his spinach, quickly dispatches the crooks. It is also a historically rich film, containing many scenes filmed near the Long Beach Pike, and beside Chinatown’s Ferguson Alley. I hope someday to discuss these other locations in a future post. But as shown here, Fairbanks now joins his brethren Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd, in filming at the classic downtown street corners that would later appear in film noir.
The Mystery of the Leaping Fish (1916)—Douglas Fairbanks: A Modern Musketeer Collection (David Shepard, Film Preservation Associates, Jeffrey Masino, Flicker Alley LLC). Edge of Doom Copyright 1950 The Samuel Goldwyn Company. 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.
Below, only the 1935 Los Angeles Times Building remains in this 2011 view.