The Artist and its Amazing Ties to Chaplin, Pickford, Keaton and Lloyd

Tonight marks the Turner Classic Movie Channel premiere of the 2011 multi-Oscar-winning Best Picture The Artist. Depicting the silent movie era, and filmed on location in Hollywood, the movie has many amazing connections to early Hollywood history and its biggest stars. Here are a few highlights from my series of posts about The Artist.

Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights

 George Valentin's Tears of Love on the Los Angeles Theater screen, at left. Color image Floyd B. Bariscale http://www.flickr.com/photos/7294653@N07/3394648314/ca

George Valentin’s Tears of Love on the Los Angeles Theater screen, at left. Color image Floyd B. Bariscale http://www.flickr.com/photos/7294653@N07/3394648314/ca

To begin, Jean Dujardin’s character George Valentine premiered his failed production Tears of Love at the same theater where Charlie Chaplin premiered City Lights (1931) – the Los Angeles Theater.  You can read more about this amazing theater’s appearance in The Artist HERE.

Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid

56 Fremont Place was home to Mary Pickford from August 1918 to August 1919. It appears in the background from this scene (above left) appearing in Charlie Chaplin's The Kid, and as the home of Peppy Miller in The Artist (above right). The box marks the same corner of the house in each image.

56 Fremont Place was once home to Mary Pickford. It appears in the background (left) in The Kid, and as Peppy Miller’s home in The Artist (right). The box marks the same corner of the house in each image.

Bérénice Bejo’s character Peppy Miller lives in a mansion located at 56 Fremont Place, occupied for a time in 1918-1919 by America’s Sweetheart, silent film superstar Mary Pickford.

55 Fremont Place, as it appears in Charlie Chaplin's The Kid. This beautiful home was recently owned by prize-fighting legend Muhammad Ali, and stands directly across the street from 56 Fremont Place, the former Mary Pickford home appearing in The Artist.

55 Fremont Place in The Kid. This beautiful home, once owned by prize-fighter Muhammad Ali, stands across the street from 56 Fremont Place, the former Mary Pickford home appearing in The Artist.

Across the street from Mary Pickford’s house is the mansion where Edna Purviance abandons her infant son (see above) at the beginning of Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid (1921).

(c) 2011 Microsoft Corporation, Pictometry Bird's Eye (c) 2010 Pictometry International Corp.

(c) 2011 Microsoft Corporation, Pictometry Bird’s Eye (c) 2010 Pictometry International Corp.

The mansion where George Valentine lives is located at 104 Fremont Place (see above), behind the home Chaplin used when filming The Kid and close to Mary Pickford’s home.  Read more about the Fremont Place neighborhood HERE.

Buster Keaton’s One Week

Click to enlarge. The Kinograph Studio entryway and other studio scenes portrayed in The Artist were filmed at the Red Studios, 846 N. Cahuenga Boulevard. The Lillian Way entrance pictured here was fixed up to appear in the movie. The red box marks the same sliding door and shed in both images. The left yellow oval marks the shadow cast by the modern day rooftop air-conditioning unit (the right yellow oval), replaced with open sky in the movie frame. The other entrance to the Red Studios on Cahuenga was used in Who Framed Roger Rabbit ?, see end of post below. (c) 2011 Google.

The Lillian Way entrance to the Red Studios was fixed up to appear in the movie. The red box marks the same sliding door and shed in both images. The left yellow oval marks the shadow cast by the modern day rooftop air-conditioning unit (the right yellow oval), replaced with open sky in the movie frame. The Cahuenga entrance to the Red Studios on Cahuenga was used in Who Framed Roger Rabbit ? (c) 2011 Google.

oneweek1The studio entrance gate and other exterior studio scenes portrayed in The Artist were filmed at the Red Studios, 846 N. Cahuenga Boulevard, two blocks due south from the site of the former Buster Keaton Studios.  The block where the Red Studios is situated was used as a backlot for the Metro Studios to build exterior sets.   It was here that Buster Keaton constructed his disastrous build-it-yourself two-story home (left) for his debut independent short film One Week (1920).  To see vintage aerial photos of the backlot where Keaton filmed One Week, and how the Red Studios portrayed the Maroon Cartoon Studio in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, you can read more HERE.

Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last!

The Artist, George Valentin, portrayed by Jean Dujardin, takes a bow on the historic Orpheum Theater stage. Color image by Kara Brugman; http://www.flickr.com/photos/hyperbolation/2675673050/

George Valentin, portrayed by Jean Dujardin, takes a bow on the Orpheum Theater stage. Color image by Kara Brugman; http://www.flickr.com/photos/hyperbolation/2675673050/

The triumphant 1927 premiere of George Valentin’s hit movie A Russian Affair was staged inside the historic Orpheum Theater, located in the heart of the Los Angeles Historic Core, at 842 S. Broadway.

Click to enlarge.  This circa 1928 photo looks up Broadway from Tenth Street (now Olympic).  The newly completed Los Angeles City Hall appears as the white tower in the far background.  Harold Lloyd filmed the clock stunt from Safety Last! (1923) on the roof to 908 S. Broadway (red oval above), just steps away from the Orpheum Theater that opened in 1926.  Today the Art Deco Ninth and Broadway Building, completed in 1930, obscures the painted Orpheum Theater wall sign.

This circa 1928 photo looks up Broadway from Tenth Street (now Olympic). The newly completed Los Angeles City Hall appears as the white tower in the far background. Harold Lloyd filmed the clock stunt from Safety Last! (1923) on the roof to 908 S. Broadway (red oval above), just steps away from the Orpheum Theater that opened in 1926. Today the Art Deco Ninth and Broadway Building, completed in 1930, obscures the painted Orpheum Theater wall sign. The yellow oval marks where Lloyd returned to film climbing stunts for Feet First (1930).  USC Digital Library.

As shown above, the Orpheum Theater stands just a few steps north from where Harold Lloyd staged his clock climbing stunt from Safety Last! (1923).  You can read more about the Orpheum Theater HERE and many posts about Safety Last! HERE.

Present Day Backlots and Uggie

My other posts show a variety of The Artist filming locations not reported elsewhere, including scenes where Uggie the dog comes to the rescue, where Peppy comes to the rescue, and how the present day Warner Bros. and Paramount Studios backlots were used to replicate silent-era Hollywood.

The Paramount backlot

The Paramount backlot – color image J. Eric Lnyxwiler

The Los Angeles Times reports some locales appearing in The Artist, as does Lindsay Blake’s ImNotAStalker.Com; including George’s duplex apartment; the history of the Red Studios where much of The Artist was filmed; and of the AFI “hospital” and the Wilshire Ebell where many interior scenes were filmed. The Wilshire Ebell Theater, at 743 Lucerne Boulevard, is also just steps away from the Mary Pickford home on Fremont Place.

The Artist (C) La Petite Reine, The Weinstein Company.  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. 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. One Week licensed by Douris UK, Ltd. Used with permission.

Posted in Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Mary Pickford, The Artist | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How Laurel and Hardy Filmed Another Fine Mess

Stan and Ollie ride south down Sunset Blvd. from Grand

Click to enlarge each image.  1930 vs. 1958. Stan and Ollie (well, their stunt doubles) ride south down Sunset Blvd. from Grand at the conclusion of Another Fine Mess. Palmer Conner Collection.

In 2001 Piet Schreuders wrote to me from his home in Amsterdam postulating (correctly) about the tunnel appearing at the conclusion of Laurel and Hardy’s 1930 comedy short Another Fine Mess. Apart from being an internationally acclaimed graphic designer, and creator of Furore Magazine, Piet’s amazing list of accomplishments include writing The Beatles’ London, a guide to The Beatles’ shooting and filming locations; co-founding The Beau Hunks music ensemble, which recreates the LeRoy Shield musical scores played during the Hal Roach Studio comedies; and creating a virtual reality computer model of downtown Culver City as it appeared when Laurel and Hardy filmed there so frequently in the 1930s. Piet has also tracked down the filming locations for such classic French films as Mr. Hulot’s Holiday (1951) and The Red Balloon (1956).

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The boys turn south from Sunset, past the Croyden Hotel Apartments, towards the north portal of the northern Hill Street Tunnel. Palmer Conner Collection.

Another Fine Mess is a remake of Stan and Ollie’s earlier film Duck Soup (1927), and the first movie to use the background music of Piet’s hero Mr. Shield. The story begins as the Boys hide from the police in what they believe is a deserted mansion.

Stan Laurel in White Wings   LAPL.

Stan Laurel’s solo appearance beside the mansion in White Wings (1923) – the mansion at 3500 W. Adams – Stan and Ollie dressed as a goat fleeing the home in Another Fine Mess. LAPL.

The mansion appearing in the film, still standing at 3500 West Adams Blvd., was built in 1910 by Secondo Gausti, and was later owned by film choreographer Busby Berkeley. The mansion is now home to the Peace Awareness Labyrinth & Gardens and is open for tours.

The movie concludes with a cartoon-style joke. Stan and Ollie flee the mansion dressed in a two-person goat costume (don’t ask), then quickly commandeer a tandem bicycle. The police chase the bicycling duo into a tunnel when a trolley approaches. The speeding trolley car strips the police of their clothing, while Stan and Ollie emerge from the other end of the tunnel relatively unscathed, but now riding unicycles, suggesting their tandem bike was torn in two.

The Boys continue towards the northern Hill Street Tunnel portal.  Palmer Conner Collection.

The Boys pass a distinctive billboard for Mt. Lowe as they continue towards the northern Hill Street Tunnel portal. Palmer Conner Collection.

Piet wrote to me with an enticing anecdote from Randy Skretvedt’s classic book “Laurel and Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies,” where stunt person Joe Mole recalled that he and his brother rode the unicycles for the scene “down by the old Hill Street tunnel.” Based on the series of maps and other materials he provided, Piet correctly concluded that the scene must have been filmed where the Pacific Electric Railway veers south from Sunset into the tunnel running beneath Fort Moore Hill.

Views of the tunnel portal before and after it was closed over. Mark Forer.

Views of the tunnel portal before and after it was closed over. Inset Mark Forer.

  LAPL.

Click to enlarge.  The north portal (top arrow) to the northern Hill Street Tunnel running from Sunset to Temple beneath Fort Moore Hill (dotted line).  The bottom arrow points to the Broadway Tunnel north portal. LAPL.

Los Angeles was a very different place in 1930. Originally cut off to the northwest by a series of hills, downtown LA was difficult to reach from Hollywood and parts west until a series of tunnels were built starting in 1901. By 1930 a series of six tunnels provided access to downtown; the 3rd Street Tunnel, the Broadway Tunnel, the twin-bore Hill Street Tunnel under Court Hill, the single-bore northern Hill Street Tunnel under Fort Moore Hill, the 2nd Street Tunnel, and the Hollywood subway tunnel running from Beverly/Glendale Boulevards south of Echo Park into the basement of the Subway Terminal Building. Although there were 11 tunnel portals to choose from, given the layout and other characteristics present during the scene, I agreed with Piet’s conclusion. But at the time there were so few reference photos available it was difficult to sense what the area looked like.

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Harold Lloyd and the Mt. LOW_ RAPID Electric

One thing that struck me watching the scene is that Stan and Ollie pass a billboard advertising the Pacific Electric railway to Mt. Lowe. Mt. Lowe had been on my radar ever since I became aware that Harold Lloyd once modified a trolley advertisement appearing in Hot Water (1924) to read “Mt. Low_” on the “RAPID Electric.” It’s baffling why Lloyd bothered to revise the Pacific Electric ad, but then only alter it slightly, and so this oddity was something I always remembered.

A closer view, riding south down Sunset from Grand (top arrow) then turning right towards the tunnel (bottom arrow).

A closer view, riding south down Sunset from Grand (top arrow) then turning right towards the tunnel (bottom arrow). Hill Street snakes around from the lower left corner to join Sunset in the middle of the photo.

A great number of vintage photos have become available for online searching since Piet wrote to me in 2001, and one particularly exciting collection is the Palmer Conner Collection of Color Slides of Los Angeles hosted by the Huntington Digital Library. While browsing the collection I noticed a billboard advertising Mt. Lowe. Remembering the Laurel and Hardy billboard, I pulled up the movie frame and found it was a match, confirming the tandem bike entered from Sunset Boulevard into the north portal of the northern Hill Street Tunnel. Likewise, comporting with geographic reality, the unicycles were filmed emerging from south portal of the tunnel, riding towards Temple Street.

nother view of the northern Hill Street Tunnel (dotted line) running from Sunset to Temple. The Boys entered at the Sunset portal (arrow). After the trolley tracks crossed Temple (running down the photo center) they continued left on Hill Street under Court Hill (yellow box).

Another view of the northern Hill Street Tunnel (dotted line) running from Sunset to Temple. The Boys entered at the Sunset portal (arrow). The trolley tracks continued right to left, crossing Temple Street (running down the photo center) until reaching the north portal of the Hill Street Tunnel that passed under Court Hill (yellow box). The tunnel under Court Hill had a second bore just for automobiles. The oval marks the south portal of the Broadway Tunnel. USC Digital Library.

The tunnel ran diagonally SE beneath Fort Moore Hill roughly from Sunset and Grand to Temple and Hill, passing underneath the playground of the Los Angeles High School. For decades after the tunnel was taken from service and the portals were sealed, a central section of the tunnel was used for storage by the Los Angeles Unified School District. This lasted until 2004, when construction of the current Los Angeles High School No. 9 on Fort Moore Hill necessitated filling in the remaining stretch of the tunnel.

The Boys exit the southern portal riding towards Temple Street.

The Boys exit the southern portal riding towards Temple Street.

For more locations earlier in the film (below), Steven J. Margaretic has posted photos of the Boys filming along West Adams in front of the mansion, and riding their tandem bicycle north on 5th Avenue crossing 25th Street, a block from the mansion.

Other locations identified by  Stephen J. at

Other locations from Another Fine Mess identified by Stephen J. Margaretic at ClassicVideoStreams.com.

PietYou can purchase Piet’s wonderful study of Laurel and Hardy filming on Main Street in Culver City, complete with street view maps and diagrams, together with fascinating articles about LeRoy Shield and other topics, at his website, HERE.  You can purchase Piet’s meticulous study of the Paris

Piet Schreuder's amazing map of Court Hill, the area within the yellow box two images up.

Piet Schreuder’s amazing map of Court Hill, the area within the yellow box three images up.

locations appearing in The Red Balloon, HERE, and can purchase his Beatles guide to London HERE.  In closing, I also want to thank Piet for the remarkably informative 3D aerial maps that he contributed to my Harold Lloyd book Silent Traces that depict some of LA’s long lost neighborhoods. These elegant illustrations provide clarity and context to those seeking their way into the past.  Thank you Piet for your beautiful work.

Check out Piet’s virtual reality model of 1930s Culver City here, starting at 3:17.

Another Fine Mess (C) Hal Roach Studios, Inc.  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.

Site of the former tunnel portal today

 

Posted in Laurel and Hardy, Los Angeles Tunnels | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Mid City Views – How Hal Roach’s Taxi Boys filmed Taxi for Two

Then and Then - Super Hooper Dyne Lizzies (l) and Taxi for Two (r).

Then (1925) and Then (1932) - Super- Hooper-Dyne Lizzies (l) and Taxi for Two (r), both directed by Del Lord.

TB - TF2 - 01The 1932 Hal Roach Studio comedy Taxi for Two provides a fascinating glimpse of early Washington Blvd., and the mid-city neighborhood that sprung up south of Hollywood halfway between Culver City and downtown Los Angeles. Directed by Del Lord, one of Mack Sennett’s top directors, Taxi for Two re-stages some of the classic visual gags and car stunts Lord had made famous working for the Keystone Studio in the 1920s.

Super Hooper 13The highlight of the film comes when the Taxi Boys (Billy Gilbert and Ben Blue) run out of gas, and start pushing the rear of their taxicab blindly forward. The men are so intently focused on their task that they don’t notice when they push their cab into the rear of another vehicle, and continue forward pushing both cars. The boys soon push the two cars into a third vehicle, adding it to the chain, and then a fourth car, until finally a stalled trolley car joins the mix. The image of Billy and Ben pushing an undulating train of autos and trolleys down a city street recalls the Sisyphean image of Billy Bevan pushing a similar train of cars (above, right) in the Del Lord-directed Keystone comedy Super-Hooper-Dyne Lizzies (1925) (available as part of The Mack Sennett Collection, Vol. One from Flicker Alley).

Click to enlarge each image.  Looking east down Washington Blvd. toward the corner of West View Street.

Click to enlarge each image. Looking east down Washington Blvd. toward the corner of West View Street.

I found the many locations from Taxi for Two by first noticing a sign for the Beacon Market appearing in the background, above.  Although I couldn’t find such a market in the online City Directories at the Los Angeles Public Library, I did find a newspaper story in the library’s online Los Angeles Times newspaper archive that placed the market at the corner of W. Washington Blvd. and S. Rimpau Blvd.

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Looking east towards 4748 W. Washington Blvd. from Rimpau.

Once I had my bearings, I poked around the area using Google Street View and found the other filming spots along Washington Blvd.

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4818 W. Washington Blvd. just east of West View Street.

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Looking east towards the Union Public Market at the SE corner of W. Washington Blvd. and West View Street.

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The caravan turns right from Washington Blvd. on to West View Street, beside The Citizens National Trust and Savings Bank (now the site of a nursing home), a small architectural gem that once stood on the SW corner.  USC Digital Library.

I found the remaining locations, again, by snooping around adjacent streets on Google Street View.  My big break came when I noticed that West View Street (pictured above looking north) seemed to drop off below grade, as if Washington Blvd. ran along a hill.  So I searched the steep hills situated north of Washington Blvd. until I found the remaining shots.

Pickford Street.

Ben and Billy run down steep Pickford Street towards Rimpau, steps away from Washington Blvd.  The oval marks the back entrance way to 4175 Mascot Street appearing in both images.

4710 Pickford Street (note matching garage door).

4710 Pickford Street (a temporary structure has been added above the garage).

The first car stunts, where Billy and Ben chase the cars, were filmed on Pickford Street, a very steep hill just steps from Washington Blvd. where the earlier commercial street scenes were filmed. The later car stunts, where Billy and Ben dodge the cars, were filmed a few blocks further north on W. 17th St. at S. Rimpau Blvd., where the hill was less steep, and presumably safer for the actors. The director helped to disguise the shift in streets by showing only the south side of Pickford and the north side of 17th. The concluding scenes were filmed at 17th and Rimpau as well.

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The remaining stunts were performed on nearby W. 17th St., which was less steep. The duplex at 4723-4725 appears to the upper left.

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Ben and Billy prepare to dodge the speeding cars.  Behind them is the corner of S. Rimpau and W. 17th St.

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Looking towards the NE corner of S. Rimpau (l) and W. 17th St. (r).

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The taxi comes to rest between 4813 and 4807 W. 17th St.

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4813 W. 17th St. appears behind Ben in this reaction shot.

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The detached garage to 4807 W. 17th St.

You can read about how three other Taxi Boys shorts solved a Laurel & Hardy filming location mystery at this post HERE.

Taxi for Two (C) 1932 Hal Roach Studios, Inc.  Color image 4818 W. Washington Blvd. (C) 2014 Microsoft Corporation, all other color images (C) 2014 Google.

Posted in Hal Roach Studios | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Even More Speedy – New York Locations

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During Speedy Harold Lloyd chases after his errant taxi by jumping on a passing car in front of 339 E. 57th St in New York. The four identical apartments to the east are now all lost to much taller buildings.

Harold Lloyd’s final silent comedy Speedy, filmed on location in New York during the summer of 1927, is a goldmine of vintage Manhattan locations.  While my book Silent Visions devotes 100 pages to the dozens of NYC (and Los Angeles) appearances in the film, and my other posts cover Speedy in great detail, there always seems to be one more setting awaiting discovery.

Of the long row of five identical

Momentarily stunned, Harold watches his taxi being towed east down E. 57th St. towards 1st Ave. Of the long row of five identical apartments depicted in the topmost image, only 339 E. 57th St. survives.

Harold’s first day as a taxi driver is a complete disaster. His troubles begin when he mistakes a construction site supervisor, waving to a land surveyor, as a customer flagging down a cab (below).  As Harold pulls over beside the active construction site, a painted wall at back advertises a number of 4-6-7 room apartments that will become available. Try as I might, this setting eluded my detection, but that 4-6-7 wall sign stayed with me.

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Looking to the NE, Harold parks beside the construction site for the 410 E. 57th St. apartments. The Queensboro (59th St.) Bridge appears at back.

I recently had the honor of spending a few hours looking through the Harold Lloyd film storage vault, studying the photos on file.  Aside from the thousands of 8×10 publicity stills taken to promote his films, Harold’s team also took a number of smaller 4×5 glass negatives, some candid shots, some location shots, to assist with production issues.  Although I only had time to glance at a few of these 4×5 negatives, by complete chance I pulled a slide that had a 4-6-7 sign painted on a wall. When my friend Richard Simonton arranged to send me a “positive” scan of the shot, I could instantly see that this was the setting where Harold filmed.  What’s more, the image revealed the future apartment’s complete address, 410 E. 57th St.

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Helping a customer with his luggage in front of the 410 construction site, Harold at first does not notice his cab being towed away. The red lines in each image above depict the same buildings along 419-433 E. 57th.

PDVD_011aI had hoped to solve this mystery early on by focusing on the modest scale Corn Exchange Bank branch visible on the SW corner of 1st Avenue and E. 57th St. during the scene (see left), but the bank once had twenty or more offices around New York, and so many Manhattan corner properties have since been upgraded that the spot eluded detection. A modern Chase Bank branch stands at the spot today.

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As Harold chases after his cab, his customer notices that the bottles of illegal booze hidden in his valise are now broken. The red box marks the same extant buildings in each image.

PDVD_009aThe world depicted by Speedy does not match geographic reality.  Harold first chases after his taxi by running east along E. 57th St, from 1st Ave. Yet in the next shot (see left) he chases his taxi by jumping on a car going east along E. 57th St. towards 1st Ave. (see scenes at the top of this post). Thus, this later shot (left) looks east towards the prior spot where Harold filmed, revealing common details as shown below.

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The same apartment for rent sign appears in both movie shots.

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The movie frame looking east towards 1st Ave. also captures the apartment awnings appearing in the still photo.

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The view looking east towards 1st Ave. shows the same short building standing on the NE corner of E. 57th St. A tall modern apartment in the color view (X) stands where shorter buildings once stood.

The scene with Harold chasing after his taxi continues with a sequence filmed in Los Angeles (!) looking towards the Mayfair Hotel where scenes from the noir thriller Edge of Doom (1950) and the hit television comedy The Office were filmed.  You can read more about this location at this post HERE.

Harold's chase after his taxi next continues in downtown LOS ANGELES (!)

Harold’s chase after his taxi continues next in downtown Los Angeles! You can read about it HERE.

With this latest discovery on E. 57th St, fewer and fewer locations from Speedy remain undetected.

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.  Color images (C) 2014 Google.

Posted in Harold Lloyd, Manhattan, Speedy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

The Big Parade – Historic Views of the Home Front

Small town America (Orange, CA) swept up with patriotic fervor - The Big Parade.

Small-town America (Orange, Calif.) swept up with patriotic fervor – The Big Parade.

Big Parade 01Although most of The Big Parade (1925) is set in the war-torn villages and battlefields of France, the acclaimed World War I drama also provides historic views of early downtown Los Angeles and Orange County. Told from the soldier’s point of view, the epic movie directed by King Vidor follows a trio of men from different walks of life brought together by combat.

Set in the Spring of 1917, the movie intertitles describe America then as a nation occupied in peaceful progression. Mills were humming with activity while buildings climbed skyward, monuments to commerce and progression.

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America’s buildings climbing skyward – the extant Barker Brothers Building at 7th and Flower. LAPL.

Big Parade 05 Broadway TunnelThe three male leads are introduced by their professions. Construction worker “Slim” (Karl Dane) is one of labor’s millions, building a nation, Bowery saloon-keeper “Bull” (Tom O’Brien) is a man of another trade, while idle “rich man’s son” James Apperson (John Gilbert) scoffs at ever taking over the helms of his father’s mill. Together these unlikely friends bond through the horrors of war.

Slim (Karl Dane) at work beside the Hall of Justice.

Slim (Karl Dane) at work beside the Hall of Justice.

This effect was created by building a simple construction set overlooking the south portal of the Broadway Tunnel.  The star marks where the set stood.  USC Digital Library

The effect of Slim working high in the air was created by building a simple construction set overlooking the south portal of the former Broadway Tunnel. The star marks where the set stood. USC Digital Library.

The effect of Karl Dane working high in the air was created by building a simple construction set on the terrace overlooking the south portal of the Broadway Tunnel. The camera captured the city streets far below in the background, but cut off the bottom of the set standing on the terrace. This technique was used repeatedly during the silent era, especially for stunt climbing comedies. At the time downtown Los Angeles had five major tunnels; the “upper” Hill Street Tunnel that ran under Fort Moore Hill between Temple and Sunset, the “lower” Hill Street Tunnel that ran under Court Hill between 1st and Temple, the 2nd Street Tunnel, the 3rd Street Tunnel alongside the Angel’s Flight incline railway, and the Broadway Tunnel that also ran under Fort Moore Hill from between California Street (near Temple) and Sunset, as shown here. The south portal of the Hill Street Tunnel is where Harold Lloyd filmed three of his stunt comedies, as described in this post. Other posts shows how the tunnels are situated to each other, and how they fit in with film noir classics such as Criss Cross (1949).  The Broadway Tunnel was demolished in the 1950s.  Only the 2nd Street and 3rd Street Tunnels remain.

Model at the Los Angeles County Museum

This 1940 model of downtown Los Angeles on display at the Natural History Museum shows the view from the former Broadway Tunnel overlook towards the Hall of Records Building (arrow), now demolished. The star marks where Karl’s construction site set was built.

Big Parade 11The movie kicks into gear when John Gilbert’s character James witnesses a parade around his home town square. Caught up in the fervor, tapping his feet to the militaristic music, John is easily persuaded to enlist by a group of his enthusiastic friends.  The parade scenes were filmed in the heart of Orange County at Plaza Square in Orange, California, marking the intersection of Glassell Street and Chapman Avenue, named for the two founders of the city.

John Gilbert drives west on Chapman Avenue towards Plaza Square.  At back, under construction, is the Odd Fellows

John Gilbert drives west on Chapman Avenue towards Plaza Square. At back is the Odd Fellows hall under construction at the NE corner of Chapman and Orange.  The yellow box marks the upper floor balcony. The red box shows the corner of the former First Christian Church, discussed further below, that once stood on the SE corner of Grand and Chapman.

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An aerial view of Plaza Square.  John Gilbert drives west along E. Chapman Avenue, top arrow, and stops at the oval. The other arrows show the fields on view presented in the movie.  The corner of the former First Christian Church (red box) appears in the movie frame above. LAPL.

A view towards the Dittmer's Mission Pharmacy building.

A view towards the Dittmer’s Mission Pharmacy building. The building once had a circular corner tower that was removed when the building was upgraded with an Art Deco style.  The side window patterns remain unchanged.

The former fountain at the center of Plaza Square appears behind the drummer during this shot.  USC Digital Library.

This elaborate fountain once stood at the center of Plaza Square. It appears behind the drummer in this shot. The fountain has since been relocated to the NW corner of the Orange Public Library. USC Digital Library.

John Gilbert beside the former bank building at 107 E. Chapman Avenue.  A more modern bank building stands at this corner today. Orange Public Library and History Center.

John Gilbert beside the former bank building at 107 E. Chapman Avenue. A more modern bank building stands at this corner today. Orange Public Library and History Center.

The Big Parade would prove to be one of the biggest hits of the silent-film era. Although remembered for humanizing the tragedy of war, it also preserves a bit of Southern California history as well.

Swept with patriotic fervor, John Gilbert decides to enlist - The Big Parade.

Inspired by his buddies, John Gilbert decides to enlist – The Big Parade.

For more images of the square you can visit Nathan Masters’s post How the City of Orange Circled Its Towne Square.  The Big Parade (C) 1925 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Color street images (C) 2014 Google.

Posted in Los Angeles Tunnels, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

How Charlie Chaplin Filmed The Bank

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Click to enlarge each image.  Then and now – Charlie Chaplin strolls to work in The Bank beside the Trinity Auditorium. NOTE: Since first posting this story I have now seen the restored version of The Bank, and the picture quality is amazing!  During this scene in the restored film you can see bystanders, inside the building, watching Chaplin perform through the window.  The Blu-ray restoration will be available from Flicker Alley next spring.

Charlie Chaplin’s Essanay comedy The Bank (1915) marks his final appearance on camera in downtown Los Angeles.  While Broadway, and other nearby Historic Core streets appear in several of his early Keystone films, including Making A Living, His Favorite Pastime, The New Janitor, and especially His Musical Career, discussed in this post, Chaplin would never again stroll these classic urban settings for a movie [note: City Lights (1931) includes scenes of Charlie and the drunken millionaire, likely stunt doubles, driving around downtown].  Film preservationist Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films, the Paris-based company restoring Chaplin’s Essanay comedies, will be screening a restored version of The Bank at the Museum of Modern Art in New York on November 15, 2014, and at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on November 17, 2014.  Ben Model will accompany a further screening of The Bank at MoMA on November 24, 2014.

USC Digital Library

Click to enlarge.  Matching elements of the Trinity Auditorium, 851 S. Grand Avenue.  USC Digital Library.

The Bank opens with bank janitor Chaplin strolling to work beside the Trinity Auditorium Building, later known as the Embassy, located at 851 South Grand Avenue near Ninth Street. The first three stories were dedicated to the Trinity Church, while the upper six floors housed a men’s dormitory containing 330 rooms and a rooftop garden capped by a 70-foot diameter dome. The complex featured a library, a gymnasium, tennis and handball courts, a cafeteria, a cafe, and a barbershop. The church’s goal was to satisfy the requirements of mind, body, and soul. “We can take a man from the shower bath to the pearly gates” said Rev. C.C. Selecman when the facility opened.

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The auditorium renovation (Photo Hunter Kerhart) – DTLA Rising by Brigham Yen.

The 2,500-seat, three-tier auditorium, with elegant reception halls, and a banquet hall that could seat 1,000, was once the center of Los Angeles culture. The September 21, 1914 opening night concert featured basso opera singer Juan de la Cruz. The Los Angeles Philharmonic, the city’s first permanent symphony orchestra, made its debut here in 1919, playing Dvorzak’s New World Symphony. By the 1930s the hall was known as the Embassy, a celebrated venue for jazz concerts featuring Duke Ellington and Count Basie, while rock concerts played here in the 1960s.

Located in the burgeoning South Park entertainment district, a few blocks from the massive Los Angeles Convention Center and Staples Center complex, the Embassy is being converted into an Empire Hotel.

The Trinity was a popular early filming location.  Here it appears behind Harold Lloyd during Bumping Into Broadway (1919).

The Trinity was a popular early filming location. Here it appears behind Harold Lloyd during Bumping Into Broadway (1919).

Jovial inebriates Harold Lloyd and Roy Brooks stagger near The Trinity during High and Dizzy (1919).

Jovial inebriates Harold Lloyd and Roy Brooks stagger near The Trinity during High and Dizzy (1919).

USC Digital Library.

The Bradbury Mansion. USC Digital Library.

Work was Chaplin’s last Essanay project completed at the Bradbury mansion atop Court Hill (see post HERE). In June 1915, Chaplin and company moved to larger quarters at the rented Majestic Studios located at 651 Fairview Avenue in Boyle Heights, where The Bank was filmed on a large open-air shooting stage pictured below.

David Kiehn

Chaplin (2nd from left) and crew posing at the Majestic Studio. David Kiehn.

This wonderful shot below shows most of the cast and crew during The Bank‘s production. Notice the muslin light diffusers hanging over the open-air stage. Essanay historian David Kiehn’s book Broncho Billy and the Essanay Film Company identifies nearly every person in this shot. Producer Jesse Robins appears at both ends of this panoramic photo.  He accomplished this simply by walking behind the camera from one end of the group to the other during the exposure, as the camera slowly pivoted from left to right.

    The arrows identify matching details of the bank set as they appear in the film and in the group photo.

The arrows identify matching details of the bank set as they appear in the film and in the group photo.

The bank vault, checkerboard floor tiles, and grand staircase evident in the movie frame appear in the right part of the photo.

The desk, bank vault, checkerboard floor tiles, and grand staircase evident in the movie frames appear in the right part of the photo.

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 Trinity at 851 S. Grand Avenue.

Posted in Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Los Angeles Historic Core | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

How Barbara Stanwyck Filmed Night Nurse

Click to enlarge each image posted.  Barbara Stanwyck and Ben Lyon watch Clark Gable's ambulance pass by.

Click to enlarge each image posted. Barbara Stanwyck and Ben Lyon watch Clark Gable’s ambulance pass by at the conclusion of Night Nurse. The Dominguez Building tower stands in the far distance.

Night Nurse 01Directed by William Wellman, Night Nurse (1931) is a classic pre-Code Warner Bros. production, loaded with gratuitous scenes of women undressing, men slapping around women, drunken mothers ignoring their children, women Night Nurse 05ainnocently sharing a bed, and a bootlegger who not only escapes the law but literally gets away with murder to expedite the “happy” ending.  Barbara Stanwyck stars as a scrappy nurse with a heart of gold, who is roommates with Night Nurse 76another nurse played by Joan Blondell.  Barbara hooks up with a jovial but lethal bootlegger, played by Ben Lyon, to rescue two children from a wealthy, derelict mother, whose chauffeur/lover “Nick,” menacingly played by Clark Gable, plots to kill the children for their trust fund.

The movie concludes with Barbara and Ben driving west down Wilshire Boulevard from the corner of Dunsmuir (above), the same spot where James Cagney drops off Jean Harlow in Public Enemy (1931) (see below).  You can read all about how Harlow and Cagney filmed many Public Enemy scenes along Wilshire Boulevard at this post HERE.

Night Nurse was filmed in fromt of the Wilshire Tower Building, the same spot where two years later James Cagney drops off Jean Harlow in Public Enemy (1933). The Oscar Balzer store (oval) appears in each image.

Night Nurse was filmed across from the Wilshire Tower Building, aka Desmond’s, at 5500-5528 Wilshire Boulveard, the same spot where James Cagney drops Jean Harlow off  in Public Enemy (1931). The Oscar Balzer store (oval) appears in each image. California State Library.

Night Nurse 37While driving along during the closing scene, Ben explains to Barbara that he told a couple of pals that he didn’t like Clark Gable’s character Nick very much, implying he had Nick taken for a ride.  Just then, they stop to watch an ambulance race by, unaware that it is taking Nick’s lifeless body to the morgue.

As Clark Gable's ambulance turns east from ;;;;;, we get a clear view west down Wilshire towards the Ralph's Market building on Hauser.  The Pig 'N Whistle restaurant's roof top sign appears during the shot.  Two years later, in Public Enemy, Jean Harlow and James Cagney drive past the same building.  You can read Pig 'N Whistle on the awning (oval).  LAPL.

As Clark Gable’s ambulance turns east from Burnside onto Wilshire, upper right, we get a clear view west down Wilshire towards the Ralph’s Market building on Hauser. The Pig ‘N Whistle restaurant’s roof top sign (oval) appears during the shot, above a painted “Ralph’s” sign on the wall. Jean Harlow and James Cagney drive by the same Pig ‘N Whistle restaurant (see awning sign, oval) in Public Enemy. LAPL.

Night Nurse begins with a frantic point of view shot filmed from within an ambulance as it races home, turning wildly right, then left, then right, then left and right again, until the vehicle comes to rest at the emergency room back entrance of California Hospital, located at 1414 South Hope Street.  The brick building appearing in the movie was completed in 1926, and demolished in 2000 after being damaged by the 1994 Northridge earthquake. A modern facility stands at the site today.

Travelin west along Venice Boulevard, the ambulance turns right at Grand, left at 15th Street, right at Catesby Lane, then left into the hospital receiving area.

Traveling west along Venice Boulevard, the ambulance turns right at Grand, left at 15th Street, right at Catesby Lane, then left into the hospital receiving area. The top left image looks west down Venice, the middle image looks north up Grand, and the bottom image looks west down 15th.

Looking west down Venice Boulevard we see the extant Finner Building at 1601 S. Hope Street, and the back of the extant Essex Apartment building (red oval).  USC Digital Library.

Click to enlarge. Looking west down Venice Boulevard we see the extant Frank Dillin Building at 1601 S. Hope Street, and the back of the extant Essex Apartment building (box). USC Digital Library.

This view looks west up 15th Street (arrow) towards Hope Street before the ambulance turns right onto Catesby Lane.  The same palm tree standing at the corner of California Hospital is marked in each image.  LAPL.

This view looks west up 15th Street (arrow) towards Hope Street before the ambulance turns right onto Catesby Lane, running behind the hospital. The same palm tree standing at the corner is marked in each image. LAPL.

Looking north, this 1950s aerial view shows the ambulance's path.  The box marks the extant Finn Building and the Essex Apartments on Hope Street. USC Digital Library

Looking north, this 1960s aerial view shows the ambulance’s path. The box marks the extant Frank Dillin Building and the Essex Apartments standing on opposing corners on Hope Street. USC Digital Library.

A contemporary view - California Hospital has been greatly remodeled.  The box marks the Finn Building and Essex Apartments on Hope Street.  (C) Microsoft Corporation.

A contemporary view – California Hospital has been greatly remodeled. The box marks the Frank Dillin Building and Essex Apartments on opposing corners on Hope Street. (C) 2014 Nokia. (C) 2014 Microsoft Corporation. Pictometry Bird’s Eye (C) 2012 Pictometry International Corp.

Night Nurse (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.

Looking east down Wilshire towards Dunsmuir today.

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