Harry Langdon’s 1926 comedy feature The Strong Man contains many exterior scenes filmed in the Korea Town area of Los Angeles near Wilshire and MacArthur Park. Harry plays a WWI veteran who returns to the States hoping to meet his faithful pen-pal, Mary Brown, whose letters encouraged him during the war. True to Harry’s infant-like persona, Harry naively asks the doorman at a busy hotel (supposedly in Manhattan) if he knows Mary Brown. Playing along, the doorman tells Harry “sure I know Mary – she passes by that nearby corner every day.” Waiting at the corner, Harry soon meets an unscrupulous woman, played by Gertrude Astor, who pretends to be Mary in order to hide a wad of stolen cash in Harry’s coat before she is searched by a suspicious police detective.
The scenes with the doorman, “Mary,” and the detective, were all filmed along the commercial building that once stood on the south side of Wilshire Boulevard, between Vermont Avenue to the west, and Shatto Place to the east. Many of these shots are identified at the top of this post. As depicted here, the doorman tells Harry to wait for Mary at the corner of Shatto Place, just a few steps to the left from where they are standing at 3142 Wilshire.
Although the doorman and Harry were filmed just steps away from the corner of Shatto Place, Harry is filmed waiting for Mary at the corner of a similar but different building at Carondelet and W. 7th Street a few blocks away. Perhaps director Frank Capra thought seeing a Rolls Royce window sign in the background of the Shatto Place corner would be too distracting, and so filmed at a more generic setting instead. Thankfully the corner where Harry does wait for Mary still survives (directly above) and comprises my second post about The Strong Man.
I also discovered that Harold Lloyd filmed many scenes from For Heaven’s Sake (1926) nearby on Shatto Place, around the corner from Wilshire, the same setting where the opening credits for the Punky Brewster television show were filmed in 1984, as both described in this post HERE.
The discoveries reported here are bittersweet, because the once-beautiful building on Wilshire was already half-demolished the first time I visited the site early in 2002, and fully demolished soon thereafter. I took what photos I could at the time, not knowing how or whether I would ever be able to use them later on. This comparison shot below is nearly meaningless, as there appear to be no remaining matching elements between the 1926 and 2002 images.
This post only became possible after I discovered some wonderful vintage photos at the USC Digital Library that allowed me to visually match the various shots in the movie. Once again we see how Los Angeles history is preserved in classic movies of the past.
You can read about how “Mary” attempts to lure Harry into her apartment, in order to retrieve her cash, in my original post about The Strong Man, HERE.
As shown on Google Street View below, the demolished lot on Wilshire and Vermont remained vacant well into 2011, but a twin-tower high-rise condominium on the site is rapidly nearing completion.
The Strong Man (C) 1926 First National Pictures, Inc., (C) renewed 1954 Warner Brothers Pictures, Inc.