How Chaplin Filmed The Champion – on Location in Niles

the-champion-1915The upcoming San Francisco Silent Film Festival’s Day of Silents winter program this December 3 at the Castro Theater offers something for everyone, from Ernst Lubitsch’s 1926 Jazz Age gem So This is Paris, to the Oscar’s first ever Best Actor performance, Emil Janning’s portrayal of an exiled Russian general turned Hollywood extra in The Last Command (1928). The morning program leads off with three beautifully restored shorts Charlie Chaplin filmed for the Essanay Film Company in 1915, and co-presented by the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum. The films will be introduced by preservationist David Shepard, whose Blackhawk Films Collection was the source for many of the restorations. In addition to His New Job, filmed at the Essanay Studio in Chicago, and A Night in the Show, where Chaplin plays dual roles, we’ll be seeing The Champion, a boxing comedy filmed entirely on location in Niles, the second of five films Chaplin made for Essanay during his brief stay in the Bay Area before returning to Los Angeles to finish out his one-year contract with the studio.

During this early scene, Charlie and his little pal walk south down G Street in Niles towards studio bungalows that still stand today.

During this early scene Charlie and his little pal, a champion bulldog named Quapaw Lord Orry, walk south down G Street in Niles, beside the Essanay Studio fence, towards studio bungalows that still stand today.

champion-11As reported here, The Champion provides charming views of early Niles, including the former Essanay Studio facility that once stood at the corner of Niles Boulevard and G Street. During the film, Charlie’s hungry tramp character signs up to be a boxing sparring partner, only to end up winning the championship and Edna Purviance’s affections. Chaplin was an avid boxing fan, and by the time of filming had started on off-screen romance with Purviance, whom he had only recently hired to be his first leading lady.

Looking south at the Essanay facility, built in 1913, and Charlie's path down G Street.

Looking south at Chaplin’s path down G Street beside the Essanay Studio, built in 1913.

Looking north - Essanay built these bungalows for studio employees. To the far right is the home appearing with Charlie above.

Looking NW at G Street and 2nd – Essanay built these bungalows for studio employees. To the far right is the home appearing with Charlie in the fence scene above.

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A modern fire station with retro design now stands on the corner where the Essanay facility stood from 1913 to 1933 – the bungalows appear to the left. (C) Google Street View.

Looking west at the side of the Essanay studio. The same house appears in the Chaplin image - the gate in the studio fence appears right.

Looking west at the side of the Essanay Studio. The house at left appears in the Chaplin frame. At right, Charlie chases a boxer through the gate in the studio fence. Notice the enclosed glass shooting stage appearing behind Charlie’s head.

Looking north within the glass shooting stage, visible behind Charlie in the prior scene.

Looking north – filming The Champion within the glass shooting stage, visible behind Charlie in the prior scene.

Looking east - when Charlie chases a boxer out of the studio gate, the southern face of the Township Register newspaper building appears at back.

Looking east – when Charlie chases a boxer out of the studio fence gate, the southern face of the Township Register newspaper building appears at back. The inset shows the other side of the building.

Charlie struts and performs calisthenics within the fenced in studio ground. He walked with his dog along the other side of this fence. Looking east, the top of the extant Edison Theater peaks over the fence. The color view shows the side of the theater today, now home to the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum.

Looking east, Charlie struts and performs calisthenics within the fenced-in studio grounds. Above is a similar view east taken in Niles before the studio was built in 1913. The top of the extant Edison Theater (box) peeks over the fence, while the color view shows the side of the theater today, now home to the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum. Charlie walked his dog from left to right along the outside of this fence. (C) Google Street View.

Looking to the SW, this shows Charlie's gate and the corner of the studio at G Street.

Looking SW at the corner of the studio at G Street, and the studio fence gate (arrow). Notice the glass stage behind Charlie.

Charlie captures the attention of a policeman in this view looking west along the front of the studio. The bleachers for the adjacent Sullivan Park baseball field (box) appears in the upper right corner.

Click to enlarge – Charlie captures the attention of a policeman in this view looking west along the front of the studio. The bleachers for the adjacent Sullivan Park baseball field (box) appear in the upper right corner (see below).

Looking north, this frame from Ben Turpin's 1913 comedy shows the Sullivan Park baseball field, due west of the studio. The inset, reversed for comparison, comes from Charlie's scene.

Click to enlarge – looking north, this frame from Ben Turpin’s 1915 comedy Snakeville’s Champion shows the Sullivan Park baseball field, due west of the studio. The inset from Charlie’s scene in The Champion, reversed here for comparison, shows the park’s shaded bleachers. Turpin and Chaplin made two films together for Essanay, His New Job filmed in Chicago, and A Night Out filmed in Niles and Oakland.

Looking north, this panoramic view of the ball park combines frames from Ben Turpin's film. The inset shows the Essanay Studio baseball team in 1913. Second from the right stands Rollie Totheroh, Chaplin's cameraman for 26 years.

Click to enlarge – looking NE, this panoramic view of the ball park combines frames from Ben Turpin’s film. The inset shows the Essanay Studio baseball team in 1913. Second from the right stands Rollie Totheroh, who would become Chaplin’s cameraman in 1916, working with him until Rollie retired in 1954. This ball field stood due west of the studio. Historian David Kiehn writes that Chaplin did not necessarily endear himself to the townspeople during his brief stay. Notorious for his huge salary and signing bonus with Essanay, widely publicized at the time, Chaplin reportedly didn’t tip local waitresses, pay for his rounds at the bar, and mooched walnuts at the general store. “He was a shy person off-camera, and I think he tried to make up for it by pretending to be outgoing,” says Kiehn. “There are stories that at baseball games he would go under the bleachers and pinch the bottoms of women.” Presumably any bottom-pinching in Niles would have taken place here.

tramp-14Chaplin’s boss and Essanay co-founder Gilbert M. “Broncho Billy” Anderson, cinema’s first cowboy star, had been making films at Niles for a couple of years before Charlie arrived there in late January 1915. This recent post explains how Chaplin filmed the iconic shot of his Little Tramp traipsing down a country road, the concluding scene from The Tramp, at the same spot where Anderson had previously filmed action scenes for his cowboy films. The Tramp was Chaplin’s final champion-17production during his 10-week stint in Niles before heading to Los Angeles. Anderson and Chaplin became friends working together in Niles. At the right, Anderson plays a cameo in The Champion, seen here staring into the camera, as an extra watching Charlie’s boxing match. You can purchase a newly released two DVD set containing 16 Anderson Broncho Billy films, shot mostly at Niles, HERE.

All vintage images courtesy of David Kiehn, historian for the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, and author of the wonderful history of the studio, Broncho Billy and the Essanay Film Company. You can read more about Chaplin filming The Champion in my book Silent Traces.

1915-the-champion-2Preservationist Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films, and Cineteca di Bologna, have restored all 15 of Chaplin’s 1915 Essanay short comedies, available as a 5 disc Blu-ray/DVD box set from Flicker Alley. The restoration of The Champion was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum.

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.

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The Chaplin – Keaton – Lloyd Hollywood Alley

the-chaplin-keaton-lloyd-hollywood-alley-blog_page_04Three of the greatest silent comedies of all time, Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid (1921), Buster Keaton’s Cops (1922), and Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last! (1923), were each filmed at a small Hollywood alley you can still visit today. Running east-west between Cahuenga and Cosmo just south of Hollywood Boulevard, the unnamed alley was conveniently located to the studios, providing a secluded spot to shoot. Each film has been inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress as a work of enduring importance to American culture.

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Looking south, Charlie Chaplin in The Kid.

the-kid-blu-ray-41It was here Charlie’s Little Tramp discovers the abandoned infant he will raise as his son (portrayed as a child by Jackie Coogan) during the opening scenes from The Kid. This main view looks south, where a patio dining area blocks some of the view today. A reverse view (right) shows Charlie running north towards the same spot. As posted HERE, Charlie and Jackie Coogan reunite emotionally later in the film at Olvera Street downtown.

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Looking east from Cahuenga, Buster Keaton in Cops.

the-chaplin-keaton-lloyd-hollywood-alley-blog_page_05The west end of the alley on Cahuenga appears in Keaton’s most famous short film Cops. Chased by a mob of angry police, Buster stops in the street and grabs a passing car one-handed that whisks him out of frame to safety (left – click to enlarge). At back appears the extant Palmer Building on Cosmo, still under construction at the time, that would become the future home of the now defunct Hollywood Citizen newspaper.  The art deco building on Cahuenga now standing to the left of the alley was completed in 1935 (designed by noted LA architects Morgan, Walls & Clements), making the alley slightly more narrow today.

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Looking east towards Cosmo, Harold Lloyd in Safety Last!

sl-cropLloyd is best remembered for hanging from a skyscraper clock in the stunt climbing thrill comedy Safety Last! Harold plays a department store salesman in this film, shown above calculating how to sneak in late to work. The east end of the alley portrayed the back of Harold’s store, where Lloyd filmed many scenes, with the Palmer Building on Cosmo forming a backdrop.

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Click to enlarge – looking NE at the alley running from Cahuenga (left) to Cosmo (right).

You can read more details about Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd filming at the alley HERE, how the alley appears in Harry Houdini’s 1919 feature The Grim Game HERE, how the site appears in the 1994 Johnny Depp/Tim Burton movie Ed Wood HERE, and how it appears in the newly discovered closing shot from Keaton’s 1922 short My Wife’s Relations HERE.

the-chaplin-keaton-lloyd-hollywood-alley-blog_page_06All 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.

Another appearance, in My Wife's Relations.

Another alley appearance, Buster in My Wife’s Relations.

Cops (1922) licensed by Douris UK, Ltd.  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.

Hollywood map detail © 1938 Thomas Bros. – David Rumsey Map Collection. Aerial photos courtesy HollywoodPhotographs.com and Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives.

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This link provides a comprehensive PDF tour of Hollywood silent movie filming locations.  Hollywood’s Silent Echoes Tour – Cinecon 2016 – John Bengtson.

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Chaplin’s The Tramp – ‘New’ Views of One of Cinema’s Most Iconic Scenes

The final scene from The Tramp (1915) recreated in 2016.

The iconic final scene from The Tramp (1915) (left) recreated in 2016 by Alani Taira (photo by Rena Azevedo Kiehn) – the opening scene below.

tramp-03Forever known as “the Little Tramp,” Charlie Chaplin filmed his eponymous short film The Tramp for the Essanay company over 100 years ago in Niles, California. When Chaplin arrived at the Bay Area studio early in 1915, the small rural facility had already produced dozens of comedies and westerns, many starring Chaplin’s boss and Essanay co-founder Gilbert M. “Broncho Billy” Anderson, cinema’s first cowboy star.

During The Tramp, Charlie falls for a kind-hearted farm girl played by Edna Purviance, but when he learns that she has a sweetheart, Charlie sadly returns to the open road. The comedy’s bittersweet ending was novel for its time, and provides one of the most poignant and enduring images in cinema history – the Little Tramp, traipsing down a lonesome road, his back to the audience, downtrodden, but suddenly straightening up, ready for a new adventure, as the camera irises in for the final fade out.

The same road sign, trees, and hillside features appear in the closing (left) and opening (right) scenes.

The same road sign, trees, and hillside features appear in the closing (left) and opening (right) scenes.

As I report in my book Silent Traces, Chaplin film location expert Gerald Smith made the incredible discovery that this lonely stretch of road can still be visited today along Niles Canyon. As shown above, it turns out that Charlie’s opening scene, dodging speeding cars, was filmed just a bit further west of the same spot as the closing scene.

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Click to enlarge. The Escape of Broncho Billy (1915) (left) and Broncho Billy’s Sentence (1915) (right), with matching hillside features as The Tramp (arrow), all filmed on Niles Canyon Road.

imgviewBut we now have even a broader perspective of this iconic setting. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Larry Telles, who funded and oversaw the project, the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum has just released a wonderful two DVD set featuring 16 early Broncho Billy westerns, filmed mostly at Niles from between 1912 to 1915, and ably accompanied by talented musicians Frederick Hodges and David Drazin; Broncho Billy Anderson: Film Pioneer. This DVD marks the first time these 16 films have been available on home video, and nearly every title was transferred from a beautiful, clear print. At just $25 including tax and shipping, this fascinating two disc set offers a priceless view of early cinema, and helps support the museum’s worthy cause.

the-escape-of-broncho-billy-03Having filmed in the Niles area for years, Anderson had ample time to find his favorite places to shoot; a twist in the road here, a gully there, as clearly evidenced in these 16 films. So when it turns out that Chaplin’s iconic filming spot for The Tramp appears tramp-03in Anderson’s films as well, it’s easy to imagine why. Perhaps during a lunch break, or over drinks after work at the nearby Hotel Wesley, Charlie likely mentioned to Anderson that he needed a certain setting for his latest film, and Anderson gladly obliged by recommending ‘his’ spot to Charlie.

Although a busy two-lane highway today, Chaplin and Anderson’s filming spot still stands, a bit west of the blue emergency phone sign AL-84-125, along Niles Canyon Road east of town.

You can purchase the new Broncho Billy DVD HERE. To learn more about Broncho Billy, and the Essanay studio at Niles, be sure to check out historian David Kiehn’s invaluable book Broncho Billy and the Essanay Film Company.

Anderson and Chaplin were friends and appeared together. Here Anderson looks straight in the camera during Chaplin's boxing match in The Champion (1915).

Anderson and Chaplin were friends. He appears here looking straight at the camera during Charlie’s boxing match in The Champion (1915).

In turn, Charlie appears in Anderson's His Regeneration (1915).

In turn, Charlie appears in Anderson’s His Regeneration (1915).

Thanks to preservationist Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films, and Cineteca di Bologna, all 15 of Chaplin’s Essanay short comedies from 1915 have been beautifully restored, available as a 5 disc Blu-ray/DVD box set from Flicker Alley. 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.

Where Charlie AND Broncho Billy once filmed.

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Silent Witness – the House that Watched Over Chaplin and Keaton

looms at back as Chaplin surveys construction of the department store set for his first Mutual production The Floorwalker (1916).

1022 Cole Avenue looms at back as Chaplin surveys construction of the department store set for his first Mutual production The Floorwalker (1916). Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives.

The sturdy two-story home once located at 1022 Cole Avenue had a front row seat to some of the most remarkable scenes in early Hollywood history. Its rear dormer window looked down on the humble open air stage where Charlie Chaplin filmed his 12 Mutual comedy short films in 1916-1917, and where Buster Keaton later made his independently produced short and feature films (1920-1928). Moreover, the home appears peeking over the studio fence in many early scenes. One can only imagine the cinematic activity this home witnessed before it was demolished in 1929 to make way for the Technicolor Building, itself a landmark of Hollywood history, and now a Gold’s Gym.

This aerial view, taken in 1921 during Keaton’s production of The Goat, shows the home relative to the open air stage that Keaton would close over later that year.

This aerial view, likely taken March 7, 1921, shows the home relative to the open air stage that Keaton would close over later that year. Remnants of the Convict 13 prison guard tower set, discussed further below, can be seen in the far corner. The white wall near the prison set is Buster’s ‘WANTED’ poster appearing in The Goat. The Metro Studio front office buildings appear at top. HollywoodPhotographs.com.

The Boat - newly restored from The Blacksmith.

1022 Cole, similar views – The Boat (left) – newly restored from The Blacksmith (right).

Since Buster filmed more frequently than Charlie on the studio backlot, the home makes several cameo appearances in Keaton’s early short films. Above the home stands watch over The Boat (1921), as Buster and family realize that towing a boat through a too-narrow basement doorway has just destroyed their domicile. The Cole home also appears in some of the remarkably restored Lobster Films blacksmith-new-28footage from The Blacksmith (1922) newly released by Kino-Lorber. The home first appears over the fence in these scenes with Buster and Big Joe Roberts filmed inside the studio gate on Cahuenga, above and at left.

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Click to enlarge – 1022 Cole (box) and upper right during the opening and closing scenes from Day Dreams.

Although fairly obscured by a fake garden fence, the home also appears during the opening and closing scenes from Day Dreams (1922) shown above, purportedly looking from Reneé Adorée’s front porch, as Buster dodges a car when first greeting her, and again during his return home, via parcel post, following his failure to strike it rich in the big city.

The open area of the studio backlot faced 1022 Cole. HollywoodPhotographs.com.

The arrow in this circa 1920 photo marks where Renee’s house would later be built for Day Dreams in 1922, facing a small vacant lot across the street, behind which stood 1022 Cole. HollywoodPhotographs.com.

1022 at right

The Blacksmith – 1022 Cole at right

Chaplin and Keaton built their biggest sets in the empty backlot corner at Romaine and Cahuenga pictured at right above. Chaplin built the “T”-shaped tenement set for Easy Street (1917) at this corner, and likely built the fountain and spa exterior set from The Cure (1917) there as well. As explained further below, the above view shows both the prison set from Buster’s Convict 13 (1920), and Buster’s similarly configured tenement set from Neighbors (1920). Buster also used the small vacant lot across the blacksmith-new-04street from the studio (shown above) for many films including College (1927), where he built a dormitory set on the vacant lot. This vacant lot appears in many restored scenes from The Blacksmith (left), where in one shot (above) 1022 Cole appears again at back to the right.

A closer view of the small corner backlot shows where Buster filmed this scene from The Boat.

A closer view of the small corner backlot shows where Buster filmed this scene from The Boat.

This even closer view shows the Convict 13 prison set, and the Neighbors tenement set.

This even closer view shows the Convict 13 prison set, and the Neighbors tenement set.

Note the 1022 address by the door.

Note the 1022 address by the door.

While Day Dreams marked the final onscreen appearance for the back of the Cole Avenue home, Buster saved the best for last when filming Sherlock Jr. (1924), where the front of 1022 Cole portrays his fiancé’s family home. The home appears in full view when Buster pays Kathryn McGuire a visit, and again in closer view when Buster, an amateur detective, ponders whether to shadow his rival up the street. The 1022 address appears clearly visible beside the door, and in faded numbers on the front step.

1022 Cole, in both real and "reel" life. HollywoodPhotographs.com.

Click to enlarge – 1022 Cole in real life (left) and in “reel” life from Sherlock Jr. HollywoodPhotographs.com.

Geographically consistent, the following scene of Buster closely tracking Ward Crane’s every step and gesture was filmed looking east as they walk north from the home up Cole, providing a clear view of the Keaton Studio enclosed stage and corner barn, perhaps the only extant movie footage in which this historic studio appears.

Looking east from Cole towards the Keaton Studio barn and enclosed shooting stage. HollywoodPhotographs.com.

Looking east from Cole towards the Keaton Studio barn and enclosed shooting stage. HollywoodPhotographs.com.

On a human note, I checked the city directories online at the LA Public Library, and found that Allen J. Henderson, a salesman, lived at 1022 Cole in 1916, while Edgar C. Beach, a ‘pumper’ lived there in 1917. Juanita D. Caplinger resided there in 1920, Louis J. Ramirez, a truck foreman, later salesman, lived there the longest, during 1921-1923, while Taylor E. Duncan, photographer lived there in 1924. Robert wrote to me that the 1920 census shows Juanita was the sister in law, along with several members of the Gilman family, all living at 1022 Cole. One of them, Frederick Gilman, is listed in the census as occupation “Actor,” and appears to be the gent listed here at IMDB.

Frame images from Buster Keaton: The Shorts Collection 1917 – 1923 (C) 2016 Kino-Lorber, Lobster Films.

1022 Cole Avenue today.

Posted in Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Daydreams, Sherlock Jr., The Blacksmith, The Boat | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Modern Times – Citizen Kane – Humphrey Bogart Factory Gate

Matching views from Modern Times and Citizen Kane.

Charlie again out of work – tough times for Charles Foster Kane – matching views from Modern Times and Citizen Kane.

modern-times-02I recently watched Citizen Kane (1941) for the first time in years, broadcast on TCM, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Having seen it many times before, the scenes and the dialog were all familiar, but still powerful and engaging. But now that I’m afflicted with ‘location-itis’ I couldn’t help but notice a common setting appearing in the Orson Welles classic with a scene from Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936) (see above and right).

The closed factory gate depicting Charles Foster Kane reeling from the 1929 crash during the mock newsreel of his life at the outset of Citizen Kane is the same factory gate Chaplin used for the factory scenes late in Modern Times where Charlie and other workers recently re-hired after a long shutdown must suddenly go on strike, leaving Charlie once again out of work. You can read more about this Modern Times setting in my book Silent Traces.

The Great O'Malley

Humphrey Bogart runs to save his job in The Great O’Malley (1937).

Bogie, down on his luck.

Bogie, down on his luck.

The year following Modern Times the factory gate appeared again during The Great O’Malley (1937), a Warner Bros. melodrama with Pat O’Brien in the lead. When by-the-book policeman O’Brien stops Humphrey Bogart for a minor traffic infraction, a loud muffler on his car, it causes Bogie to be late, losing his chance for a factory job. Unable to support his family, Bogart commits a petty crime and is sent to jail. O’Brien eventually learns compassion, and secretly helps Bogie’s family, and helps

Delmar Watson

Delmar Watson

arrange for his early parole. Delmar Watson appears with a credited role. The nine Watson family children, “The First Family of Hollywood,” appeared collectively in nearly 1,000 silent and classic-era films, and are honored with a star on Hollywood Boulevard. Their father Coy Watson Sr. was a Hollywood cowboy and special effects man who among other projects rigged the flying carpet for Douglas Fairbanks in The Thief of Bagdad (1924).

The gate stood at Ramirez (arrow). LAPL.

Click to enlarge. The factory gate stood at Ramirez and Howard (arrow) east of the former Chinatown. LAPL.

The Chaplin crew at work filming Modern Times near the corner of Ramirez and Howard (note the street sign at back).

The Chaplin crew at work filming Modern Times near the corner of Ramirez and Howard (note the street sign at back).

When I read correctly online that Balboa Park in San Diego, and Oheka Castle, the enormous Long Island estate of magnate Otto Kahn, were used to depict Xanadu during the mock newsreel footage from Citizen Kane, I couldn’t help myself, and created these ‘then and now’ images, presented below without further elaboration. Color images (C) Google.

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Cinecon 2016 Silent Echoes Hollywood Walking Tours

Similar views from Never Weaken, My Wife's Relations, and Safety Last!, both before and after the Palmer Building was completed at back.

Harold, Buster, and Harold – sites from Never Weaken, a newly discovered scene from My Wife’s Relations, and Safety Last! that we’ll visit on the Cinecon 2016 walking tour.

The block of Cahuenga south of Hollywood Boulevard was the setting for more silent movie filming than any other spot in town. I’ll be leading walking tours of this historic site at the upcoming Cinecon 52 Classic Film Festival during the Saturday and Sunday lunch breaks, September 3 and 4.  You can meet us at the Egyptian Theater, 6712 Hollywood Boulevard, on Saturday at about 12:05, and on Sunday at about 12:40, or join us when the tour kicks in to high gear at 6410 Hollywood Boulevard near the SW corner of Cahuenga, at about 12:15 on Saturday, and about 12:50 on Sunday. The tours are free.  For those walking from the theater the round trip will be about 1.2 miles. A highlight of the tour will be visiting the site of a newly discovered scene from Buster Keaton’s 1922 comedy My Wife’s Relations (center above), discussed in my prior post HERE.

Houdini also filmed a brief scene at the Cahuenga alley just south of Hollywood Blvd. where Buster filmed this famous stunt from Cops. The tall Palmer Building, undergoing construction behind Buster, still stands on Cosmo Street.

Visit where Harry Houdini filmed The Grim Game (1919) and Buster Keaton filmed Cops (1922).

You can download a comprehensive PDF tour of Hollywood silent movie filming locations at this link.  Hollywood’s Silent Echoes Tour – Cinecon 2016 – John Bengtson.

My Wife Hollywood Alley Pan 02

A newly discovered scene! Buster at the Hollywood alley.

You can read other posts highlighting some of the locations we’ll see HERE and HERE.

Click to enlarge. Clockwise from the bottom, Harold Lloyd in Why Worry? (1923); Mabel Normand, Charlie Chaplin, and Marie Dressler in Tillie’s Punctured Romance; Buster Keaton in Cops; Douglas Fairbanks in Flirting With Fate; and Mary Pickford in 100% American.

Click to enlarge. The corner of Hollywood and Cahuenga. Clockwise from the bottom, Harold Lloyd in Why Worry?; Mabel Normand, Charlie Chaplin, and Marie Dressler in Tillie’s Punctured Romance; Buster Keaton in Cops; Douglas Fairbanks in Flirting With Fate; and Mary Pickford in 100% American.

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Amazing New Keaton Discoveries – My Wife’s Relations

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Click to enlarge – newly discovered footage from My Wife’s Relations at the Alvarado Arms.

An entirely original stunt - how is it we've never seen this before?

Click to enlarge – an entirely new stunt – who knew this was awaiting discovery for 95 years?

An astonishing new Keaton stunt, Buster’s return visit to a classic apartment house, and yet another surprise appearance of the Cops – The Kid – Safety Last! Hollywood alley – the Lobster Films restoration of My Wife’s Relations (1922), with over a minute of restored footage unseen for decades, is a cornucopia of new discoveries and delights.

On screen Buster is mistakenly married to a harridan, moves in with her caveman brothers, and after a climatic family brawl, the film concludes (in the version we’ve been accustomed to seeing) as Buster flees for a Reno-bound train. In the Lobster restoration, Buster flees the family apartment, is chased back inside by the cops, only to escape from the top apartment floor by swinging diagonally from upper window awning wife 02to lower window awning. Dropping safely to street level, Buster’s triumph is short-lived, as he is hauled into the back of a police wagon (where? – at that Hollywood alley, see below). But when the wagon hits a pothole, Buster escapes in time for the final fadeout, presumably headed for that Reno train.

Buster at the Hollywood alley.

Buster at “the” Hollywood alley. Buster had already filmed here for Neighbors (1920) and Cops (1922), while Chaplin filmed here for The Kid (1921), and Lloyd filmed here for Never Weaken (1921) and Safety Last! (1923). See more below.

The Alvarado Arms stands behind Buster.

The Alvarado Arms stands behind Buster.

Buster appears in the courtyard of the Alvarado Arms apartments, at 847 S. Alvarado (you can see the “A” initials in the doorway and on the sidewalk post, at top). This was familiar territory, as Buster filmed here the year before for an introductory shot of Virginia Fox (below) walking beside the apartment complex during The Goat (1921). You can also see the twin wings of the Alvarado Arms behind Buster’s head in this publicity shot from The Goat (right), staged in front of the extant Weymouth Apartments, 914 S. Alvarado, that portrayed Virginia’s home during that film.

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Deja vu – Virginia Fox appearing in The Goat with the courtyard entrance of the Alvarado Arms behind her.

Although I like to think I would have eventually solved this location mystery, I ‘discovered’ it by what is the most satisfying coincidence I have ever experienced. I viewed this ‘new’ apartment scene for the first time on a Wednesday at my home in the bay area. By that Saturday I had traveled to LA to introduce Safety Last! for the Los Angeles Conservancy’s Last Remaining Seats. Due to downtown crowds, I ended up eating breakfast that day at Langer’s Delicatessen at Alvarado and 7th, and because of where I had parked, decided to take Alvarado to Olympic for my return drive downtown. As I drove past the apartment where Buster filmed Virginia’s introductory shot, I glanced at the interior courtyard. I almost kept going, but something in that brief glimpse caught my eye. Circling the block for a better look, I could clearly see it was the same spot from My Wife’s Relations. So after watching this scene at home in the bay area, there I was, only 3 days later, standing in front of that very spot out of all the spots in Los Angeles! I wish I had this type of luck picking lottery numbers instead, but it sure was fun.

If that wasn’t enough, when I saw that the newly discovered final scene was filmed at the Cops – The Kid – Safety Last! alley, I nearly fell out of my seat.

Similar views from Never Weaken, My Wife's Relations, and Safety Last!, both before and after the Palmer Building was completed at back.

Click to enlarge – similar views from Never Weaken, My Wife’s Relations, and Safety Last!, both before and after the Palmer Building on Cosmo Street (just south of Hollywood Boulevard) was completed at back.

The discovery of Buster’s new stunt also explains the appearance of the unusual Keaton Studio set visible below.

You can easily see the My Wife's Relations stunt set in this aerial view of Buster's studio. Buster used the set later that year for a scene with some police in Day Dreams. These sets appear in other filmed described in my Mr. Keaton's Neighborhood post.

You can easily see the My Wife’s Relations stunt set in this aerial view of Buster’s studio. Buster used the set later that year for a scene with some police in Day Dreams (1922) (inset). These sets appear in other films described in my Mr. Keaton’s Neighborhood post. The open frame tower (standing beneath the stunt set) may have been placed in front of the set to capture Buster’s upper floor antics at eye level. HollywoodPhotographs.com.

6025 aAs a further bonus, the scene where Buster first runs into his future bride, played by Kate Price, was filmed at the corner of N. Beachwood Drive and Santa Monica 6025 Santa Monica Blvd PanBoulevard, across the street from the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. In the scene at right you can read the 6025 address over the doorway. Although the corner has since been 6025 SM pan 02remodeled, it appears in this 1927 McDougall “Alley Kids” comedy Oh Boy, preserved for online viewing HERE by the National Film Preservation Foundation. As shown on the vintage map below, Keaton staged this scene, as many others, just a few blocks away from his small studio.

Another scene in Keaton's oeuvre filmed just blocks from his small studio.

Another scene from Keaton’s oeuvre filmed just blocks from his small studio on Eleanor and Lillian Way.

Looking north from the cemetery towards Buster and Kate's corner (box) on Santa Monica Blvd. HollywoodPhotographs.com

Looking north from the cemetery towards Buster and Kate’s corner (box) on Santa Monica Blvd. HollywoodPhotographs.com

My Wife’s Relations from Buster Keaton: The Shorts Collection 1917 – 1923 (C) 2016 Kino-Lorber, Lobster Films.

The Alvarado Arms, twice appearing in Keaton’s films.

 

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