Chaplin’s The Great Dictator – Author Presentation at the Alex

Charlie Chaplin’s brilliant and courageous challenge to tyranny, The Great Dictator (1940), remains sharply relevant today. I will be introducing this classic film at the beautiful Alex Theater in Glendale on Thursday, April 19, 2018, and signing copies of my Chaplin book Silent Traces. David Totheroh, grandson of Chaplin’s long-time cameraman Rollie Totheroh, will also be on hand for a Q&A after the screening.

The refugees cross Trifuno Creek near Peter Strauss Ranch – discovery and photo by Jeff Castel De Oro.

Looking north at the Chaplin Studio backlot.

My intro will address highlights of Chaplin’s career, details of the film’s remarkable history and production, and several then and now locations, some unchanged after nearly 80 years. To the right is a composite image of Chaplin’s backlot, from 16mm home movie footage taken by Charlie’s half-brother Sydney.

Intact globe found by the Russians in Hitler’s ruined office.

The screening is hosted by the Alex Film Society, which presents programs of classic feature films, cartoons, newsreels, and short subjects at the theater.

If you live in the Los Angeles area, I hope you’ll consider supporting the Alex Film Society by attending my talk and book-signing at the Alex Theater on Thursday, April 19.

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. Big Bertha cannon photo the Totheroh Family Collection, courtesy of Frank Underwood.

Posted in Charlie Chaplin | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

From Roach’s to Roaches – Stan & Ollie Meet Starsky & Hutch

Guest blogger Jim Dallape, creator with Robert Winslow of the remarkable Hal Roach Studios Backlot Tour, reports how TV’s Starsky & Hutch and Charlie’s Angles filmed in the same places as Laurel & Hardy and other Roach stars. Take it away, Jim –

Conveniently located within walking distance to Culver City, the Hal Roach Studios would often use the newly constructed downtown area for location shooting. Fans of the studio’s silent comedies will easily recognize Culver’s Main Street, which runs north from Washington Boulevard towards Venice Boulevard, where portions of such films as Laurel and Hardy’s PUTTING PANTS ON PHILIP, LEAVE EM’ LAUGHING and ANGORA LOVE, among others, were shot.

The most prominent landmark in downtown Culver City is the six story triangular Harry Culver Building which opened on September 4, 1924 on Main Street between Washington and Culver Boulevards (it can actually be seen while under construction in Our Gang’s, SUNDOWN LTD.). This “skyscraper” was designed to house Harry Culver’s (the city’s namesake and prominent citizen) headquarters on the lower two floors with the top four floors being designated The Hunt Hotel, later to be the Culver Hotel.

Recognizable across Main Street from the Culver’s front door was the two story Adams Hotel, seen in several Roach films but mostly remembered today for its alleyway made famous in L&H’s LIBERTY.

Downtown Culver City exemplified class and dignity, from its fine hotels and growing number of stores and businesses, to the dozens of oil wells gracing the Baldwin Hills to the south. This entire area offered a freshness and charm that the Roach studio took great advantage of in its excellent comedy shorts.

By the 1970’s, though, the bloom had worn off.  Many of the storefronts were now vacant or boarded.  The Culver Hotel building which had been passed from owner to owner over the years was now known for its frayed carpet and musty smell. The Adams was considered to be more of a flophouse than a respectable hotel. The entire area gave the appearance of a sleazy neighborhood.

Just as Hollywood filmmakers had once used the city for location shooting, TV producers now looked at it as a perfect background to depict the rundown neighborhoods required for their popular detective shows. The team of Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg used the downtown area for episodes of their “Charlie’s Angels” and “Starsky & Hutch” programs. Shows that depicted drugs, prostitution, and assassins were now shot on the same locations where Laurel and Hardy and Charley Chase had once made us all laugh.

Downtown Culver City has seen a revival in recent years. The Culver Hotel has been beautifully restored and the once boarded or empty buildings are again alive with new shops, restaurants, and a theater. They’ve closed Washington Blvd. on the south side of the Culver to create a pedestrian mall with trees, benches and fountains. Fans of old Hollywood can once again experience that same charm and freshness that Hal Roach found so alluring nearly 100 years ago.

Spelling-Goldberg Productions chose to shoot two episodes of their Starsky & Hutch series in the downtown area – “Snowstorm” which originally aired on 10/1/1975 and “Long Walk Down A Short Dirt Road” which aired on 3/12/1977. They also shot the 4th season Charlie’s Angels episode, “Angels On The Street”, there, which debuted 11/7/1979.

Oliver Hardy passes the Loughin Building, the “Liberty” alley entrance, and the Adams Hotel as he runs down Culver Boulevard in the direction of Main Street and the Culver Hotel in DO DETECTIVES THINK (1927). The shot on the right is the same area, looking towards the Culver Hotel, as seen in 1979 in “Angels On The Street”.

Laurel and Hardy attempt to change into their correct pants in the alleyway behind the Adams Hotel in 1929’s LIBERTY. The alley was used again in 1979 for a Charlie’s Angels episode. A prostitute (actress Amy Johnson) is chased into the alley by her pimps. Fifty years later the window nearest Culver Blvd. had been converted to a doorway and the middle window had been made taller.

Stan and Ollie are standing on the Culver Boulevard side of the Adams Hotel, just a little past the alleyway entrance, in WE FAW DOWN from 1928.  Nearly the exact same shot was used again in 1979 for “Angels On The Street.” Main Street and the Culver Hotel are in the background of both scenes. Unfortunately this entire block of buildings, including the Adams, no longer exists and has been replaced by a parking lot.

Main Street between Culver and Washington Boulevards was used many times by the Roach Studios for their location shooting. Above left, Glenn Tryon is seen in 1926’s “45 MINUTES FROM HOLLYWOOD” with the front of the Adams Hotel on the left side of the frame and the Safeway Store in the background. By 1933, the Safeway had become Master Market as seen in Charley Chase’s MIDSUMMER MUSH. Jaclyn Smith and Shelly Hack stand on the sidewalk in front of the Adams Hotel in “Angels On The Street”. The Safeway/Master Market was by then “Mark the Carpetbagger”.

The same area is seen again from the Culver Hotel side of Main Street in the 1928 Max Davidson comedy, THE BOY FRIEND, and again in 1975 from “Snowstorm.”

Below is the same area today.

Stan and Ollie stand to the left of the front door of the Culver Building in 1927 during PUTTING PANTS ON PHILIP. Nearly 50 years later, Starsky & Hutch are about to duck for cover in “Snowstorm”. By 1975 only the mounting holes for the “Harry H. Culver And Company” plaque remained.

Stan and Ollie can’t stop laughing in LEAVE ‘EM LAUGHING in 1928 as they exit the Culver Building. The “Snowstorm” shot on the right shows the hotel’s new entrance and generally rundown appearance just prior to gunshots being fired.

The 1932 Taxi Boys short, HOT SPOT, shows us the Washington Boulevard side of the Culver Building with Main Street and the Adams Hotel in the background. Starsky & Hutch park their Gran Torino in about the same place in 1977.

We can again see the Culver and the Adams Hotels from Washington Boulevard, but from a slightly different angle, in the Taxi Boys film, WRECKETY WRECKS, in 1933.  Starsky & Hutch show us the same view again forty four years later.

Charley Chase’s, THE COUNT TAKES THE COUNT, gives us a nice view looking up Washington Boulevard towards Main Street with the Culver Hotel on the left and the Adams Hotel visible beyond. By the time Starsky & Hutch take a “Long Walk Down A Short Dirt Road” forty one years later, several of the buildings seen on the right in the Chase film (in front of the parked cars) were gone. But the road barricades remained.

Washington Boulevard has now been converted to a beautiful pedestrian mall.

Looking from Van Buren Place towards Washington Boulevard in TAXI BARONS from 1933 and WE FAW DOWN from 1928, we get another view of the south side of the Culver Hotel. Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul give us a similar view in 1977 while Cheryl Ladd and David Doyle attempt to stop a crime in “Angels On The Street” two years later.

The iconic Culver Hotel is now on the register of historic places. Film and TV fans will be able to visit this beautiful building for years to come and experience what filmmakers have always loved about downtown Culver City.

Jim Dallape’s incredible Hal Roach Studios Backlot Tour provides detailed maps, tours, and screenshots of the Roach backlot. Here’s Jim’s Story –

“Born and raised in the Detroit area, I’ve been a lifelong Hal Roach Studio fan.  Even as a kid I was impressed by the sense of nostalgia for a time long ago that the Roach films conveyed. As a teenager I discovered that many of the old films were actually shot on location with real buildings and not on some studio mockup on a sound stage – and that some of those locations still existed.

I owned many books on movie locations and am especially fond of then and now type photo comparisons. I joined the local Sons of the Desert tent (The Dancing Cuckoos) in 1976 because of my fondness for Laurel and Hardy, and currently write and edit the tent’s newsletter.

I conceived and created the Hal Roach Studios Backlot Tour that can be found on the “Another Nice Mess” website ( because I wanted to know the layout of the Roach lot but couldn’t find any information on it.”

Thank you Jim for sharing with us an absolutely fascinating post. The color images add an entirely new dimension. For more 1970’s TV connections to silent movies, be sure to read my post about Peter Falk as Columbo and the Silent Clowns.

“Snowstorm” © 1975, “Long Walk Down a Short Dirt Road” © 1977, “Angels On The Street” © 1979 Spelling-Goldberg Productions

Posted in Charley Chase, Hal Roach Studios, Laurel and Hardy | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Restoration Premiere of Soft Shoes – Crossing Paths with Chaplin, Laurel, and Lloyd

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival 2018 schedule has just been announced! One highlight is the Thursday, May 31 world premiere restoration of Universal’s 1925 Harry Carey action/drama Soft Shoes, in which Carey (right) seeks to rescue a young woman from a life of crime. Purportedly set in San Francisco, the film’s many exteriors were all filmed, unsurprisingly, in Los Angeles instead. But as shown below, the movie intersects remarkably with classic films made by Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and Stan Laurel, while documenting historic LA settings, including its long lost Chinatown. This brief shot at left, looking west towards the Ferry Building, is the lone scene filmed in San Francisco.

The afternoon screening also includes the 1924 Stan Laurel short comedy Detained, recently restored by Lobster Films in collaboration with the Fries Film Archief (Holland), below, where Stan’s prison release matches where Charlie Chaplin was released from prison in Police (1915), both beside the former north gate to the Los Angeles County Hospital – LAPL. Read more about them filming at the north hospital gate, and about Laurel & Hardy filming The Second Hundred Years (1927) and The Hoose-Gow (1929) at the west hospital gate HERE.

To begin, Soft Shoes depicts Harry Carey sneaking in and out of apartment buildings – the first to appear is the Bryson (lower left), still standing at 2701 Wilshire Boulevard near Lafayette Park.

The Bryson portrayed the front of the Mack Sennett Keystone Studios, upper left above, during one of Charlie Chaplin’s earliest movies, A Film Johnnie (completed February 11, 1914, barely his second month on the job). In that film Charlie’s “Little Tramp” pesters Keystone actors as they enter and depart the “studio.” While the true Keystone studio façade actually appears in dozens of other Sennett productions, for some reason the far more impressive Bryson was employed in the Chaplin film. (Upper right –LAPL). The Bryson’s prominent front fire escape appears several times during Soft Shoes, lower left above, along with the distinctive stone lions that still guard the apartment entranceway.

Built in 1913, the Bryson also appears prominently above Chaplin’s head during a scene from his Mutual comedy The Rink (1916), where Charlie meets Edna Purviance on the street at the SE corner of Wilshire Place and Ingraham (now Sunset Place). The Bryson may be best known as a setting described in Raymond Chandler’s 1943 Philip Marlowe detective classic The Lady in the Lake. Color photo Jeffrey Castel De Oro.

Soft Shoes also features the police chasing Harry around another high rise, including the roof, filmed at the Franconia Apartments still standing at 6th and Coronado north of MacArthur Park, pictured above facing 6th Street. The Asbury Apartments mentioned below appears to the far right. USC Digital Library.

This scene of a cop racing towards what turned out to be the Franconia contains two vital clues. At the time J. W. Calder had two corner drug stores, but only his store at 2549 W 6th Street aligned with a tall building at back. As such, this shot above reveals the Asbury Apartments undergoing construction, which opened later in 1925, still standing at 2505 W. 6th Street. (Asbury left – USC Digital Library). By correctly assuming the rooftop scenes (click to enlarge – inset right) also depict the same Asbury Apartments under construction, triangulating back from the Asbury identified the Franconia as the primary shooting site.

The Franconia has a recessed fire escape shaft on each wing facing Coronado Street, put to good use as the cops follow Harry to the roof during Soft Shoes. The color image is the north wing shaft, the movie frame could depict either wing. Vintage photo Don Lynch.

Here Carey peeks north up Coronado, with buildings at back still standing. The Franconia’s decorative rooftop ledges were removed for earthquake safety reasons. Carey crouches on the south ledge of the north wing, while the camera peers across towards him from the south wing.

The view above looking NW from the Franconia roof (left) reveals a stretch of Rampart Boulevard, beginning with the Villa d’Este Apartments at 401 Rampart (A), to the corner of Rampart and W. 3rd Street (D), all appearing in Harold Lloyd’s For Heaven’s Sake (1926) (right, Harold with straw hat). As I explain in my Lloyd book Silent Visions, Harold filmed the drunken groomsmen bus scene, shown here, extensively on Rampart between 6th and 3rd, where nearly every building on the street appears onscreen and remains standing today. The Rampart corner (D) also appears in Lloyd’s Girl Shy (1924).

Below, further action takes place in Ocean Park, the small beach community south of Santa Monica.

Above left, a 1924 view east of Ocean Park, showing Ocean Front, Pier Avenue, and Marine Avenue (Huntington Digital Library). The photo documents the aftermath of the January 6, 1924 fire that destroyed the Pickering and Lick Piers. To the right, a circa 1915 view east down Pier Avenue and Marine Avenue (Huntington Digital Library). Note the church on Marine at back. The front vacant lot is where a billiard parlor (below) would be built.

Click to enlarge. The “Billiards” building far right in the movie frame is newer, built after the photo was taken. The far right photo building says “BRADLEY” at the roof ledge, matching the Hotel Bradley in the movie frame. The J.N. Mooser Dry Goods building appears as Ocean Park Dry Goods in the movie frame. Note the matching sidewalk clock in both images.

This scene above (cropped) of Carey fleeing by automobile was filmed looking east on Pier Avenue towards Main from what was once called Ocean Front (now Neilson Way), the grand promenade that originally fronted the beach. The “FARROW’S RESTAURANT” appearing at back once stood at 130 Pier Avenue, on the ground floor of the Hotel Bradley at 130 1/2 Pier Avenue. Further back stands the Olga Hotel at 142 1/2 Pier Avenue. None of the buildings captured in this scene remain in the modern view (left).

While none of the Pier Avenue commercial buildings appearing in the movie remain today, the rear of the uphill homes still standing at 3014 and 3018 3rd Street remain visible in the far background – compare above the movie, historic photo, and modern views. (Color image (C) 2018 Microsoft Corporation).

This view looks east down Marine Street, parallel to and a block south from Pier Avenue, towards the former St. Clement’s Church that once stood on the SE corner of Washington Boulevard (now 2nd Street) and Marine. The large building at the center of the movie frame is the side of the former Masonic Temple at 162 Marine.

A closer view of the west side of the former Masonic Temple (center), and at back, the former St. Clement’s Church (LAPL), both long demolished.

Moments later, Carey switches between cars as they pass on a steep hill, filmed just a block further east along Marine between 3rd and 4th. The retaining walls on the south side of Marine appearing in the film remain in place today. This aerial view clearly shows the Masonic Temple (box), the church (oval), and the hilly street with the retaining walls to the right (line) depicted in the film.

Late in the film, Carey and others run along dingy Chinatown alleys and street corners. Built in the 1880s, the original Chinatown grew east of the Plaza de Los Angeles on former grazing land owned by Mexican land baron Juan Apablasa and his son Cayetano. Denied property ownership, and restricted from living elsewhere, the Chinese suffered the neglect of their landlords, who left the privately owned streets of Chinatown unpaved. Crammed among noisy railroad tracks, towering gaswork plants, and the frequently overflowing Los Angeles River, Chinatown was the city’s least desirable address.

(Above, Huntington Digital Library, left, Soft Shoes upper right, Chaplin’s The Kid, lower right). Once the original leases expired, most of Chinatown was sold in 1914 to make way for the future Union Train Station. After years of litigation, the Chinese were evicted in 1934 for construction of the new terminal that opened to great acclaim in 1937. That same year community leaders formulated a master plan to develop a new Chinatown between Hill and Broadway, a mile northwest from its former site, where it remains today. Three identifiable scenes from Soft Shoes were filmed at the same spot, the corner of a narrow alley running from Marchesault Street to Apablasa Street, across from the corner of Cayetano Alley. Remarkably, one shot matches exactly where Charlie Chaplin filmed a critical scene from The Kid (1921). Here above (upper right Soft Shoes, lower right The Kid) are identical views looking south from Cayetano, across Apablasa, towards the narrow alley corner.

Above, Soft Shoes left, looking SW, a composite image from Chaplin’s The Kid, right, looking south. Both views show the same drainspout and corner alley bulletin board.

Upper left (yellow), Harry Carey runs south from Apablasa Street towards Marchesault Street, down a narrow connecting alley – this may be the only surviving image taken within this alley. Lower left (red), Chaplin at the corner of Cayetano and Apablasa. The purple arrow points west down Apablasa, matching Stan Laurel’s view, below. UC Santa Barbara c-2744_3.

A wide view looking west down Apablasa, with The Kid/Soft Shoes alley corner at the left. Stan Laurel appears at right in Mandarin Mixup (1924). Chaplin filmed Caught In A Cabaret (1914) beside the central building at back. You can read more about Chaplin and Laurel filming in Chinatown on Apablasa (below) in this post HERE.

At left, is this a happy ending for Harry Carey? Come to the festival and find out. The 2018 Soft Shoes restoration was completed by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival in partnership with the Czech Republic’s Národní filmový archiv, under the supervision of SFSFF President Rob Byrne, with SFSFF recreating English titles from the original surviving Czech print. Funding for the restoration was generously provided by the National Film Preservation Foundation with additional funding from the San Francisco Silent Film Festival Film Preservation Fund.

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 Kid – Criterion Collection; Chaplin’s Mutual Comedies; The Stan Laurel Slapstick Symposium Collection Volume 2, Eric Lange and Serge Bromberg, Lobster Films; Chaplin at Keystone Collection, Lobster Films for the Chaplin Keystone Project. Except where noted color images (C) 2018 Google.

Below, the Franconia Apartments.

Posted in Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Stan Laurel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Surviving Keaton Studio Neighbors

This duplex once adjacent to the Keaton Studio is still standing – more below.

Buster Keaton unwittingly documented the urbanization of the once agricultural Colegrove region of Hollywood in the background of his films. As reported in my book Silent Echoes, the quaint Cahuenga Valley Lemon Growers Exchange warehouse once stood across the street from Buster’s small studio (see below), appearing in the background during scenes from his early shorts The Scarecrow (1920) and The Goat (1921) (see further below). By 1923, it was gone, replaced by a six story storage warehouse on Santa Monica Boulevard, still standing today, that appears to the upper left during this scene looking north from The Balloonatic (1923) (right). The dark horizontal rectangle near the center of this image is the back of the Keaton Studio sign, with many dressing room windows along Lillian Way to the left, and office bungalow windows at the center.

Looking north at the lemon warehouse across the street – Buster with Big Joe Roberts and Roscoe Arbuckle on the studio lawn.

Below, views of the warehouse, looking north at left, from The Scarecrow, and looking west, from The Scarecrow and The Goat, upper right and lower right. If you click to enlarge the lower right image you can actually read the warehouse sign through the trees above Buster.

While I was vaguely aware that other modern buildings encroached north of Buster’s studio, I never bothered to investigate them until now. It turns out that a very dense cluster of 10 duplexes was crammed into a tiny corner lot directly across from Buster’s bungalow office. Their addresses ranged from 1051-1051 ½ to 1069-1069 ½ Lillian Way. This 1923 view looks south towards the studio –

10 duplexes, 20 units, each tiny 4-room unit barely 500 square feet in size. The building permits for these units were all pulled on Christmas Eve, 1921, with construction completed early in 1922. This 1938 photo looking north (right) shows the duplexes on Eleanor and Lillian Way (box) and the warehouse on Santa Monica Blvd. at the upper left. USC Digital Library. Note in both photos that four duplexes with widely-spaced porch entrances flank a very narrow courtyard, while at the end of each narrow courtyard the fifth duplex in the group has closely-spaced porch entrances.

Despite their tiny size, these units were not later demolished, but were relocated, the southern 5 duplexes moved in 1947, and the remaining 5 units in 1955. Above, a view north from a cropped publicity still (left) for The Balloonatic, showing the side, back porch, and corner of one of the 10 duplexes. Though not the same unit in the vintage photo, the color view of 445 Coronado Terrace (the former 1065 – 1065 ½ Lillian Way unit) shows matching back porch and window pattern details. The color view also shows 441 Coronado Terrace (the former 1061 – 1061 ½ Lillian Way unit) up in back. This unit was built atop a tall, sloping foundation, to allow the other end of the unit to front the uphill street.

445 Coronado Place, left, with widely spaced porches, 441 Coronado Place, right, with closely spaced porches.

Presumably these tiny homes were built to accommodate studio employees, both Keaton’s, and the much larger Metro Studios a block further south. When the Hollywood Metro Studios shut down in 1924 to become part of M-G-M in Culver City, the appeal of these homes may have suffered.

From the Los Angeles Times, September 3, 1926, advertising 1065 ½ Lillian Way for rent. Adjusted for inflation, the $30 monthly rent equates to roughly $425 a month today. The unit advertised here now stands at 445 Coronado Terrace, see above.

The widely spaced porches of 445 Coronado Terrace.

Most of the units were moved from Hollywood to much larger parcels in places such as North Hollywood, Van Nuys, and Sherman Oaks. With more land available, it began to make sense to think big, so not surprisingly seven of the units, once relocated, were ultimately demolished to accommodate larger homes.

Remarkably three units still survive, 441 and 445 Coronado Terrace, west of Echo Park, left and above, and below, behind an existing small home at 3048 Wabash Avenue east of Boyle Heights.

3048 Wabash Avenue – the back unit was moved from the Keaton Studio – note the wide porch entrances. The small home to the left was here originally.

This research was possible thanks to the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety posting searchable historic building records online. You may access these records at

Color images (C) 2018 Google. Below, the Google Street View of 445 Coronado Terrace.


Posted in Buster Keaton, Keaton Studio, The Goat, The Scarecrow | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

The Surviving Chaplin “The Circus” Tree

Paul Ayers, attorney, SoCal historian, and Altadena hiking trail expert and restorer, has shared many remarkable location discoveries over the years, including the finale from Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus (1928). Stemming from Paul’s discoveries, we now know a tree that witnessed Chaplin’s finale still survives (see below).

I met Paul after confessing in the first edition of Silent Echoes that I had no clue where Buster Keaton narrowly passed in front of an oncoming train in Sherlock Jr. (1924). Paul wrote to me with the correct solution, included in later editions of the book, and his methodology was stunning.

First, by noting the engine’s number, Paul excluded all Southern Pacific engines and rail lines. Next, given the design of the station at back, the lesser quality of the road bed, Paul’s sense that secondary rail lines are easier to shut down for filming, the lack of hills or desert terrain in the background, etc., Paul correctly surmised it was likely a secondary Santa Fe line in Orange County. Then, leafing through his train history books, Paul found photos from 1924 confirming the exact spot. Buster filmed riding up Richfield Road, crossing Orangethorpe Avenue in Atwood, in what is now Placentia. The rail line is still in active use today.

With similar skill and ingenuity, Paul has correctly identified numerous other locations, including one of my favorites, the final scene from The Circus, where the Little Tramp stands alone in a field watching his lady love and the rest of the circus crew leave him behind.

Click to enlarge – looking east towards Verdugo Road, above grade (notice the car within E6). Only the tree west of Verdugo, W2, casts a shadow below the road. The “E” trees stand east of Verdugo, E4-E6 along a side road “R” visible in the 1928 aerial below. Taller, and further east than E1 and E3, E2 appears in the photo below.

Knowing that the studio records mention Chaplin filmed the scene in Glendale, and that no major hills or mountains appear onscreen, Paul correctly surmised it must have been filmed looking south from the mouth of Verdugo Canyon. Triangulating from production stills and other clues in the movie, including auto traffic seen on what turned out to be Verdugo Road, Paul visited the site in person, and by matching ridge lines (a difficult task given all the homes there now), confirmed generally the circus field area as within Glenoaks Blvd., N. Adams Street, and Verdugo Road, north of the Wilson Middle School. I cover this, and Paul’s handiwork, more fully in my Chaplin book Silent Traces.

The circus wagon train departs south down Verdugo Road. Only two trees, W1 and W2 stood west of the road, and only W1 stood next to a telephone pole (see W2 in above photo). The surviving tree E2, the tallest, stands across the road.

When I recently came upon vintage aerial photos of the Glendale shooting site, I realized there might be trees that witnessed the Chaplin production still standing today. (As I write in another post, certain trees at the Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills Memorial Park appear during the battle field scenes from The Birth of A Nation (1916), and in the 1937 Three Stooges short Playing The Ponies ).

Above, both looking east, with Verdugo Road running north-south (left-right) across the images, these 1928 aerial views show the unique W1-W2 pair of trees west of Verdugo across from a cluster of six trees east of the road (E1-E6), and the side road (R) running beside E4-E6. Reckoning from the W1-W2 trees I was able to identify the corresponding trees in the two production stills annotated above. UC Santa Barbara c-300_k-181.

By 1938 (upper left), Verdugo Road had been widened and paved, losing the west W1-W2 trees in the process, as well as E1 and E3, the easterly trees closest to the road. By 1944 (upper right), homes were built west of Verdugo.

By 1952 the area east of Verdugo was also built over, with sidewalks installed along the east side of the street, leaving only one tree, E2, still standing. Visiting the site on Google Street View, it’s apparent why E2 remains. When they graded along the road to install the eastern sidewalk, they created a large square retaining wall to preserve the tree.

Thus, just as there are trees that remain today having witnessed the making of The Birth of A Nation, a giant old oak tree in Glendale, appearing onscreen at left, witnessed the concluding scenes from The Circus.

Note: Paul was also the key to locating the avalanche of beer barrels scene in the Buster Keaton MGM talkie What No Beer? (1933). (Gif file courtesy of Danny Reid’s fascinating early cinema site Pre-code.comWhat No Beer? review).

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.

Aerial photos UC Santa Barbara FrameFinder. Atwood train photo – Rails Through the Orange Groves: (Vol. II) by Stephen E. Donaldson and William A. Myers, Ronald D. Sands and Edward W. Cochens. What No Beer? © 1933 Turner Entertainment Co. Color images (C) 2017 Google.

The surviving tree at 920 N. Verdugo Road in Glendale.

Posted in Charlie Chaplin, Sherlock Jr. | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Charley Chase “Fast Work” Around Hollywood

Comedy fans are cheering the sparkling DVD release of 18 early Charley Chase talkie comedy shorts. Featuring Charley in top form, beautiful prints, and insightful bonus commentary, Charley Chase: At Hal Roach: The Talkies Volume One 1930-31, is simply fantastic. You should buy a copy now to help ensure future volumes will be released.

This post covers Charley in Fast Work (1930), co-starring June Marlowe before she would soon debut in her immortal screen role as Our Gang schoolteacher Miss Crabtree in Teacher’s Pet (1930). June agrees to go out with Charley if he can first get her dad’s permission. Only Charley tries to impress the wrong man, a dapper mental asylum escapee he mistakenly thinks is the father.

The lunatic, played by Dell Henderson, acquires Mr. Marlowe’s identity, portrayed by Charles K. French, when they accidentally knock each other down at a blind corner (above), and exchange business cards as a courtesy (Henderson left, French right, below). The print is so clear you can read Orange Grove Ave. on the street sign. The crash was staged beside the Orange Grove Apartments at 7850 Sunset Boulevard.

Moments later, Charley drops June off at the Guasti Mansion, 3500 West Adams Boulevard (LAPL below right).

The grounds may appear familiar to Laurel and Hardy fans, as it was here the duo filmed Another Fine Mess later that year. The mansion was built in 1910 by Secondo Guasti, 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 mansion appears in numerous films, including Stan Laurel’s early solo silent comedy White Wings (1923) (above left), and again in the Charley Chase DVD set during What A Bozo! (1931) (lower right).

Above, matching scenes from Another Fine Mess (Thelma Todd and Charles K. Gerrard upper left and Harry Bernard right) and Fast Work with Charley and June lower left and arriving by taxi, center.

This shot of Charley at the mansion front steps matches Laurel and Hardy fleeing the mansion wearing a wildebeest costume during Another Fine Mess.

Above, overjoyed when June agrees to give him a chance, Charley spies a statue of Venus on the front lawn of the mansion, and runs to caress the lovely figure.

When Charley spies the Venus statue, the historic Wilfandel house at 3425 W. Adams across the street appears in view. Now home to The Wilfandel Club, the home was built in 1922 by silent film star Ramon Novarro for his brother.

A suspicious cop (Pat Harmon) checks out Charley and then chases after him. Looking NW, these homes at back along 6th Avenue north of Adams are still standing.

Fleeing the cop, Charley and the lunatic also accidentally knock each other down, this time beside the Havenhurst Apartments at the corner of Whitley Avenue and Franklin Avenue. This classic Hollywood apartment stands nearly 12 miles away from the Guasti mansion on Adams appearing in the immediately prior scene.

The escapee offers Mr. Marlowe’s card to Charley as his own. Delighted to meet June’s “father,” Charley takes the lunatic to lunch with hilarious consequences.

Last, a brief traveling shot of Charles French as Mr. Marlowe walking beside the Orange Grove Apartments, on the way to meet his daughter.

You can read all about the Los Angeles hills and tunnels appearing in the concluding scenes from Another Fine Mess (above) at this post HERE.

Fast Work © 1930 Sonar Entertainment, LLC. Produced by Richard M. Roberts and Kit Parker.

Charley Chase: At Hal Roach: The Talkies Volume One 1930-31, titles include The Real McCoy, Whispering Whoopee, All Teed Up, Fifty Million Husbands, Fast Work, Girl Shock, Dollar Dizzy, Looser Than Loose, High C’s, Thundering Tenors, The Pip from Pittsburg, Rough Seas, One of the Smiths, The Panic Is On, Skip the Maloo!, What a Bozo!, and The Hasty Marriage, with bonus comedy “La Señorita de Chicago” (Spanish version of “The Pip from Pittsburg”).

The Gausti Mansion at 3500 West Adams Boulevard today – the formal front lawn and garden is now a parking lot.

Posted in Charley Chase, Hal Roach Studios | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

The “Never Give A Sucker An Even Break” Car Chase – Part 2

Universal’s 1941 production Never Give A Sucker An Even Break features W.C. Fields in his final starring role. The film ends with a Keystone Kops-style car chase when Fields frantically drives a matron to the maternity hospital, mistaking her to be pregnant and in labor. (The chase wasn’t part of Fields’ original script – Universal imposed it on him). As shown in Part One, the early scenes were filmed in a produce/warehouse district SE of downtown (see below), where a remarkable number of old buildings and street corners remain unchanged.

Above, the intersection of Santa Fe and E. 7th Street. For Part Tw0, Fields leaves the gritty warehouse district behind for the open expanses of Cahuenga Pass, Glendale, and along Riverside Drive near Universal.

First, looking SE, Fields races right to left (north) along Cahuenga Blvd. West beside the recently opened Cahuenga Pass Freeway. Note the trolley tracks in the center. The eight lane artery, built at a cost of $1,500,000, was dedicated June 15, 1940. Some later stunt scenes were filmed on the freeway, meaning they were somehow able to briefly shut the pass down during the July-August 1941 production.

The panning shot continues from right to left, north, showing the Barham Blvd. overpass across the freeway.

The car veers left sharply up Bennett Drive.

The first home on Bennett Drive still peeks down on Cahuenga.

This view north also reveals a gas station (prices 14¢, 13¢, and 12¢/gallon), still a gas station today, and the side of 3201 Cahuenga, the present home of Valhalla Motion Pictures.

The action jumps south from Barham towards the former Cahuenga underpass near the Pilgrimage Bridge. Fields first circles the modest onramp/offramp north of the bridge (top), then travels south towards the Pilgrimage Bridge spanning the freeway (middle), and then heads into the Cahuenga underpass beyond the bridge (bottom). The freeway was configured so that the main traffic would head south at ground level onto Highland Avenue, while traffic heading south to Cahuenga, a few blocks to the east, was diverted through an underpass. The aerial view looks north, so the onramp is above the bridge, and the underpass entrance is below. If you clink the following URL link, you’ll see in the full photo that the Hollywood Bowl appears to the left of the freeway – Hollywood Bowl.

While I was stumped, eagle-eyed reader Scott Charles correctly identified this One Way Tunnel shot as looking west on Cahuenga towards the eastbound traffic emerging from the underpass. The arrow (right) shows the camera’s point of view. You can read Scott’s full analysis in the comments section below, and HERE.

A closer view, the red box marks the former home at 2313 Fairfield Avenue, the yellow box the last, eastern-most light fixture at the end of the guard rail.

Looking north, not much of an offramp or onramp  – LAPL.

Another view north, the onramp lies just behind the bridge – California State Library.

Matching views south towards the Pilgrimage Bridge.

Looking south at the former Cahuenga underpass entrance – Department of Water and Power.

A final view north of the Cahuenga underpass – LAPL

Fields leaves Cahuenga Pass momentarily, jumping over to the Atwater Village neighborhood of southern Glendale.

Here they race past the Superior Carpet Works building (notice the folded-design facade still present above the windows), still standing at 3058 Glendale Boulevard. The Safeway is now lost to a corner gas station.

Note: this earlier scene above, appearing in the prior post, shows the former Atwater Market (center white building) at 3158 Glendale Boulevard, looking west, with the Pacific Electric trolley tracks to the right. In the far distance stands the Safeway noted above, and the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge, discussed later below.

Looking NE, Fields and his motorcycle escorts join up with a fire engine. Together they pull a U turn along Glendale Blvd. at the intersection of Glenhurst Ave. Reader David Sadowski reports a brand new Pacific Electric double-ended PCC appears stopped at the intersection (left). These cars were put into service in November 1940, and were the pride of the interurban railroad. They ran on what would now be called a “light rail” line between Glendale-Burbank and a subway terminal in downtown LA. There are some great views of these same railcars and the PE subway in Down Three Dark Streets (1954) reports David. The Glendale-Burbank line was abandoned in 1955. Above, completing the U-turn, as the crew returns down Glendale past the corner of Glenfeliz Blvd. some matching homes appear at back.

Next, the fire engine’s extension ladder slips loose, hooking its tail end through the roof of Fields’ car. These views above of Fields’ ensnared vehicle looks SW while traveling across the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge. Completed in 1929, the bridge spans over 400 feet of the Atwater section of the Los Angeles River. The lower right image on the bridge shows the trolley line power poles heading across the river. This brief insert shot (left) of Fields spinning 360 degrees was filmed at the intersection of Riverside Drive and Forman Avenue, discussed further below.

The upper view east looks down on the bridge from the Waverly Drive overpass, while the lower view looks east from the bridge itself. At right is a vintage view (LAPL) looking east across the bridge and up Glendale Blvd. You can see the trolley tracks along the middle of the street, and how they veer right, south, across the river, on a separate trestle. The white letters on the back hillside say “Forest Lawn Memorial Park.” The chase now resumes at Cahuenga Pass – below.

Here the camera pans right to left as Fields’ ensnared car travels north along the original, now-shuttered Barham offramp. The road beside the upper railing is Cahuenga Blvd. East. A new stretch of this road, extending further north beyond Barham, is now called W.C. Fields Drive.

Notice the diamond shaped shadow of the four-cornered rig suspended from a crane actually lifting the car. The chimney of 3137 Hollycrest Drive appears at back, now missing its ornamental ironwork.

Still looking south, Fields’ car slams onto the ground beside the former Barham offramp. The matching 1952 color view from the Pacific Electric Historical Society looks south from the Barham overpass towards streetcar #5111 and the southbound Barham passenger station. Alan Weeks Photo, Alan Weeks Collection.

A final view (LAPL) looking north towards the Barham overpass and offramp. The gas station, upper right frame, appears to the left, the back of 3137 Hollycrest Drive, lower right frame, appears to the right. The street on the right edge of the primary photo was later extended past Barham – this new section is now called W.C. Fields Drive.

The full crew pull a couple of 360 degree turns beside the former Lakeside Market looking south down Mariota at the intersection with Riverside Drive, a few blocks due north from Universal.

This tight view 360 turn appears for the second time. These matching views look east down Riverside Drive from Forman Ave., two blocks west from the Lakeside Market.

This detail from the 360 degree spin shows 4432 Forman at back.

The same 360 degree spin – the blurry tower at back belongs to the Lakeside Market, two blocks east.

The Kentucky fried chicken dinner restaurant on the NE corner of Forman is now a Japanese restaurant.

A final spin past the Lakeside Market and a gas station (now a Wells Fargo Bank branch) at the intersection of Riverside and Mariota lands Fields, of all places, at the long sought-after maternity hospital. Asked if he’s OK while gingerly stepping from his wrecked vehicle, Fields quips “Lucky I didn’t have an accident – I’d have never gotten here.”

The End – fade to black. While Fields’ drinking and prominent nose were always ripe for caricature, given his poor health and evident nasal rosacea during the film, it seems a bit tone-deaf for Universal to portray him this way for the credits of what proved to be his final starring role.

Be certain to check out all of the downtown warehouses and street corners in Part One of this post.

Never Give A Sucker An Even Break (C) 1941 Universal Pictures Company, Inc. Color images (C) 2017 Google.

Below, Riverside Drive and Mariota, just north of Universal Studios.




Posted in W.C. Fields | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments