Columbo and the Silent Clowns – Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd

Peter Falk as Columbo in

Peter Falk as Columbo in A Friend in Deed (1974) crosses Rodeo Drive with the Beverly Wilshire Hotel at back, compared with Charlie Chaplin in City Lights (1931). This episode is nearly closer in time to Chaplin’s era than to our own.

I’ve been enjoying watching Peter Falk as Columbo on Netflix, and am transfixed by the time travel elements of this now decades-old series. The population of Los Angeles has nearly doubled since the time of filming, and there’s something quaint, and poignant, about seeing a handful of cars easily traverse the nearly empty stretches of the Pacific Coast Highway or Wilshire Boulevard presented in the show, that are today impossibly clogged with traffic.

The Newport Beach Pavilion appearing with Buster Keaton in College (1927), and with Suzanne Pleshette in

The Newport Beach Pavilion appearing with Buster Keaton in College (1927), and with Suzanne Pleshette in Dead Weight (1971). This episode is now closer in time to Buster’s era than to our own.

Classic film stars like Myrna Loy and Vincent Price play lead roles in the Columbo series, as does Leslie Nielsen in his pre-‘Naked Gun’ days. The homes are stylishly decorated with shag carpets and orange wallpaper, and the men all wear sideburns and extra wide jacket lapels.

Matching views north up Larchmont looking towards Beverly.

Matching views north up Larchmont looking towards Beverly. At left, Harold Lloyd in For Heaven’s Sake (1926), the opening shot of Columbo episode A Stitch in Crime (1973), and Snub Pollard in The Big Shot (1928).

Death Lends a Hand 01Since the Columbo murderers are nearly always snobbish millionaires, a remarkable number of classic Los Angeles mansions 10.0appear in the show. The extant Beverly House owned by William Randolph Hearst (1011 N. Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills), that portrayed the ‘horse-head’ house in The Godfather, appears in ‘Death Lends a Hand’ (see left).

A view of The Enchanted Hill in

A view of the lost Marion and Thomson estate ‘The Enchanted Hill’ in Identity Crisis (1975).

Columbo drove through this arch towards the front door.

Columbo drove through this arch (above) towards the front door.

The former home of silent film screenwriter Frances Marion and her husband Fred Thomson, known as ‘The Enchanted Hill,’ appears prominently both inside and out in the episode ‘Identity Crisis,’ and also in ‘Fade to Murder.’ Tragically, Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen bought the estate and tore it down in 1997, where it remains an empty site to this day. You can read all about The Enchanted Hill at Steve Vaught’s wonderful Paradise Leased blog HERE.

The episode ‘A Case of Immunity’ is a special treat for Harold Lloyd fans, as it was filmed extensively, inside and out, at Lloyd’s ‘Greenacres’ mansion (1740 Green Acres Place Beverly Hills),in 1975, a few years after Lloyd’s death. Here below are a number of frame grabs of the Lloyd estate from this episode. At the time the double room kitchen had the original stoves and giant iceboxes.

Harold Lloyd's Greenacres courtyard entrance - Library of Congress.

Harold Lloyd’s Greenacres courtyard entrance – Library of Congress.

Rear corner of estate - Library of Congress.

Rear corner of estate – Library of Congress.

Views of the entrance courtyard, the interior master staircase, the cascading fountain, and a free-standing pergola.

Click to enlarge – views of the entrance courtyard, the interior master staircase, the cascading fountain, now lost to subdivision, that also appears in the 1973 science fiction thriller Westworld, and a free-standing pergola.

A Case of Immunity 31

The Greenacres living room reached by descending a few steps.

The two kitchen rooms showing the original ice box that can be opened from either room.

The two adjoining kitchen rooms showing the original ice box that can be opened from either room.

During ‘A Friend in Deed’ Columbo crosses Rodeo Drive to visit the Van Cleef and Arpels jewelry store (at top) – it stands today at the same location as in 1974.

 

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How Harold Lloyd Filmed Bumping Into Broadway

Looking north up Weller Street toward the tower of the former Los Angeles County Courthouse (1891-1935).

Looking north up Weller Street toward the tower of the former Los Angeles County Courthouse (1891-1935).

017 - chs 35201 BumpHarold Lloyd’s debut two-reel comedy featuring his ‘Glass Character,’ Bumping Into Broadway (1919), appears in a sparkling restoration as part of the new Criterion Collection Blu-ray release of Speedy (1928). Lloyd filmed many scenes in downtown Los Angeles, including Weller Street (see above), and before the Trinity Auditorium, still standing at 851 S. Grand Avenue (see below), as well as on Bunker Hill (for more details see my book Silent Visions). At right, a matching late 1920s view of Weller Street, showing how the newly completed City Hall blocks the old court house from view. USC Digital Library. Part of Japantown, Weller is renamed today ‘Astronaut E.S. Onizuka Street,’ honoring the first Asian-American to reach space, who was among the crew of the Challenger space shuttle disaster.

Harold on Grand Avenue before the Trinity Auditorium.

Harold on Grand Avenue before the Trinity Auditorium, 851 S. Grand Avenue.

Bumping Into Broadway 03 oil derricksDuring an era before zoning laws were passed, you will often see homes adjacent to shops and even factories in the background of silent films. One scene early in Bumping Into Broadway had long captured my attention, as Harold jumps from a stone wall into the back of a limousine convertible. In the background are many homes, a hill, and even oil derricks (left)! I long suspected this scene was filmed to the NW of downtown, perhaps in the hills leading up to Chavez Ravine. Thanks to the remarkable clarity and resolution of the new Blu-ray release, I was finally able to track this down.

Bumping Broadway Cleveland scene_Page_10At back I noticed a portion of a rooftop sign reading “ITO BROS  … NERY.” I searched for ‘wineries’ in the 1918 online city directory provided by the Los Angeles Public Library, and quickly found the Lotito Bros. at the rear of 815 Cleveland. Checking the Sanborn maps, and some vintage aerial photos, I confirmed this was the correct spot.

Harold's corner stone was adjacent to the former Huntington Digital Library.

Harold’s corner stone wall marked the perimeter of the former Los Angeles Orphans Home at Yale and Alpine. Huntington Digital Library.

00019040Harold’s corner stone wall, at Cleveland and Alpine, was up the street from the former Los Angeles Orphans Home that stood at the corner of Yale and Alpine. By 1913 the former orphanage was used as the headquarters to the Partido Liberal Mexicano (PLM), and was called La Casa del Obero Internacional, or International Workers Home, which offered lodging, community services, and cultural activities. The PLM was formed by brothers Ricardo and Enrique Flores Magón, who played an instrumental role in the Mexican Revolution (1910 – 1920), who settled in Los Angeles in 1910. A closer view of the former orphanage, once standing at 807 Yale Street, appears to the right (LAPL). According to the Los Angeles online building permits, the orphanage was demolished in 1917, and by 1919 was replaced with a one story garage. But its stone perimeter wall remained for Harold to play on.

The school appears at back. LAPL.

Behind Harold, the former Castelar Street School appears at back. LAPL.

Cleveland 1914Harold’s orientation at the corner of Alpine and Cleveland also confirms that the back of the former Castelar Street School, that once stood at 851 Castelar, appears behind him in a different shot (above). Looking north, this 1914 map (left) shows the site of the International Workers Home, fronting Yale Street, and its relation to the Castelar Street School to the upper right. Harold filmed at the back corner of the home. The Castelar Elementary School still exists, but the main buildings now face Yale Street, with open grounds where the former school stood.

Looking west, this 1928 view shows Harold's corner at Cleveland and Alpine in relation to the Castellar school. The words "Yale St" appear over the one story garage that replaced the orphanage in 1919. This stretch of Castelar Street is now called N. Hill Street.

Looking west, this 1932 view shows Harold’s corner at Cleveland and Alpine in relation to the Castelar school. The words “Yale St” appear over the one story garage that replaced the orphanage in 1919. This stretch of Castelar Street is now called N. Hill Street.

Below, this circa 1928 aerial view shows Harold’s corner (oval) at Cleveland (red arrow) and Alpine, in relation to the back of the Castelar Street School.

Ca. LAPL.

Another view, looking north up Cleveland (arrow) from the corner of Alpine (oval). LAPL.

Two surviving buildings likely appear as shown.

Two surviving buildings likely appear as shown.

In 1906 the west side of Cleveland was the site of a brick factory. At some point it shut down, and starting in 1910 several homes were moved from elsewhere to the street, including the 815 Lotito home, now lost, appearing to the far left of the movie frame. Christopher Lotito still owned the home in 1945 when some alteration work was done. The aerial photos and maps show that in 1919 a vacant lot stood between the Lotito home, and the prominent 823-825 duplex, now lost, identified above. Due north of this lost duplex, and thus directly behind it in the movie frame, stands the surviving 827-829 duplex, as likely identified above. The other surviving home, 837, two sites further north of the lost 823-825 duplex, has a peak on the left front of the house, and is also likely identified above.

More Harold news: I am excited to report that I will introducing Safety Last! at the Orpheum Theater on June 25, 2016 as part of the Los Angeles Conservancy’s Last Remaining Seats summer program. I’ve put together a fun program with many new discoveries, including a tie-in between Safety Last! and Clifton’s Cafeteria.

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.

Harold’s corner of Alpine and Cleveland today.

 

 

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Buster in Cops Cruising Santa Monica Boulevard

ca

Big Joe Roberts in Cops – suddenly realizing his wallet is missing.

The Grim Game and Cops_Page_18Buster Keaton’s famous short film Cops (1922) remains his only self-produced movie that was filmed completely out of doors, with no interior scenes. Early in the film Buster helps Big Joe Roberts into a taxi in front of the Pantages estate at 590 N. 02a east down Sunset from DetroitVermont (shown HERE), while the scene where Joe leans out of the taxi window to retrieve his wallet from Buster, but not his cash, was filmed miles away at Sunset and Detroit (shown HERE).

Looking east down Santa Monica Boulevard from Gower. LAPL.

Looking east down Santa Monica Boulevard from Gower. LAPL.

The reaction shots of Joe inside the taxi were filmed driving east along Santa Monica Boulevard, past Gower, just a few blocks from the Keaton Studio.

00011236This Los Angeles Public Library view west down Santa Monica from Gower was taken near the time of filming, revealing the Warren Drug Co. that stood at the NW corner. The details match perfectly.

I discovered this scene when I noticed the prominent word “SODA” go by (see below), as a similarly prominent “SODA” sign appeared during a scene from Harold Lloyd’s 1921 comedy short I Do. The corner turned out to be the Warren Drug Co. on Santa Monica and Gower.

Matching words "SODA" appearing in Cops and in Harold Lloyd's I Do.

Matching words “SODA” appearing in Cops and in Harold Lloyd’s I Do.

True to form, Buster staged this scene just a few blocks away from his studio – see below.

Click to enlarge - the Keaton Studio at right, at Eleanor and Lillian Way, just a few blocks west of the corner of Santa Monica and Gower, at left. Marc Wanamaker - Bison Archives.

Click to enlarge – the Keaton Studio at left (see enclosed barn-like shooting stage), at Eleanor and Lillian Way, just a few blocks west of the corner of Santa Monica and Gower, at left. Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives.

In addition to Lloyd’s comedy I Do, the Warren Drug Co. also appeared during scenes from Larry Semon 1920 short The Suitor, see below. [Note: lacking access to these new photos, I incorrectly reported this corner in my Lloyd book Silent Visions as being one short block further east, at Beachwood, rather than at Gower.]

Lloyd in I Do, Larry Semon's The Suitor, in front of the Warren Drug Co. HollywoodPhotographs.com

Lloyd in I Do, Larry Semon’s The Suitor, in front of the Warren Drug Co. HollywoodPhotographs.com

A 1938 view from the site of the demolished Keaton Studio, left, to Santa Monica and Gower. USC Digital Library.

A 1938 view from the site of the demolished Keaton Studio, left, to Santa Monica and Gower. USC Digital Library.

21I have now identified every location appearing in Cops, including the stock footage of the policeman’s parade filmed in New York, and all but one of the many backlot shots, including the teeter-totter Metro Panfence scene (shown HERE). The single remaining mystery is the studio backlot site for the final scene where Buster locks the gang of police within their own station house (at right). My sense is that it was filmed at the Metro lot due south of the Keaton Studio.

A similar view east in 1929. USC Digital Library.

A similar view west in 1929. USC Digital Library.

You can read more about Cops in my book Silent Echoes, and in my many other posts about the film (see list HERE). A restored print of Cops will be presented this June 4, 2016 in San Francisco, as part of the annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

The corner of Santa Monica and Gower today.

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Chaplin – Keaton Studio Connections – The Fireman and Convict 13

Looking south down Lillian Way from Eleanor - Chaplin in The Fireman and Keaton (inset) eight years later in Sherlock Jr.

Looking south down Lillian Way from Eleanor towards the Vine Street Elementary School – Chaplin in The Fireman and Keaton (inset) in the same spot eight years later in Sherlock Jr. Their common studio stands off camera to the right.

Cleveland Public Library

Cleveland Public Library

Because Charlie Chaplin filmed his Mutual comedy shorts (1916-17) at the same small studio where Buster Keaton later filmed his independent shorts and features (1920-28), many common locations and settings appear in their films (see above).  I explain this in great detail in my books, and in other posts, in part by deconstructing vintage aerial photographs looking south towards the studio that once stood at 1025 Lillian Way in Hollywood at the SW corner of Eleanor.

1920 view east of Metro Studio

A 1920 view east of the Keaton and Metro Studios with Joseph W. Engel, Metro Studio General Manager (inset).

Looking east down Santa Monica Blvd. past Cole.

Looking east down Santa Monica Blvd. past Cole.

Chaplin’s The Fireman (1916) is particularly interesting, as he filmed a racing fire engine on many streets adjacent to the studio, some identified in my book, while others remained elusive, until now. A 1920 Hollywood publicity manual, Who’s Who On The Screen, ed. by Charles Donald Fox and Milton L. Silver, contains at pages 152-153 a rare eastern (not southern) aerial view of the studio, providing a novel vantage point that confirms not only several locations from The Fireman, but from Keaton’s early short comedies Convict 13 (1920), The Scarecrow (1920), and The Playhouse (1921) as well. The HathiTrust uploaded the 1920 manual, containing hundreds of Hollywood star portraits and profiles, which may be viewed directly HERE. With the above overall aerial view looking east as a guide, this post reveals seven new Chaplin and Keaton locations. Click each image to enlarge it for a closer look.

Leo White frantically telephones the fire department standing on Eleanor mid-way between Cahuenga and Lillian Way. A trolley (yellow box) runs east along Santa Monica Blvd., while the distinctive single dormer home at 1062 Vine Street (red box) appears at back

In Chaplin’s The Fireman Leo White frantically telephones the fire department while standing on Eleanor mid-way between Cahuenga and Lillian Way. A trolley (yellow box) runs east along Santa Monica Blvd. (dotted line), while the distinctive single dormer home at 1062 Vine Street (red box) appears at back.

This same general view above also matches scenes from Keaton’s Convict 13, The Scarecrow, and The Playhouse.

The 'rural' cabin Buster and Big Joe Roberts share in The Scarecrow was built on this vacant lot kitty corner from the studio.

The ‘rural’ cabin Buster and Big Joe Roberts share in The Scarecrow was built on this vacant lot kitty corner from the studio. The distinctive single dormer home at 1062 Vine Street again appears at back.

A closer view of 1062 Vine Street appearing in two films; Keaton's The Scarecrow and Chaplin's The Fireman.

A closer view of 1062 Vine Street appearing in two films; Keaton’s The Scarecrow and Chaplin’s The Fireman.

In Keaton's Convict 13 the police question a painter about his paint-striped clothes at the gated entryway into the studio grounds. The back of the market at Santa Monica, east of Vine, appears through the entrance.

In Keaton’s Convict 13 the police question a painter about his paint-striped clothes at the gated entryway into the studio grounds. The back of the market at 6248 Santa Monica, east of Vine (yellow box), appears through the entrance.

In Keaton's The Playhouse Buster invites a group of ditch-diggers to join his vaudeville show, while the market at 6248 Santa Monica Blvd. stands at back - barely two blocks from the studio.

In Keaton’s The Playhouse Buster invites a group of ditch-diggers to join his vaudeville show, while the market at 6248 Santa Monica Blvd. stands at back – barely a block from the studio in the foreground.

Returning to Convict 13, Buster runs down Lillian Way, with the shadow of Leo White's telephone pole (blue), a car driving north up Vine (red box), and the homes at 6200 and 6206 Eleanor (yellow box) at back.

Returning to Convict 13, Buster runs south down Lillian Way by the studio office, with the shadow of Leo White’s telephone pole (blue), a car driving north up Vine (red box), and the homes at 6200 and 6206 Eleanor (yellow box) at back.

My book Silent Traces shows Chaplin filmed fire engine scenes near the studio on Lillian Way coming north towards Eleanor (see top of post), and going south down Cole from Willoughby, while filming other scenes at former Fire Station No. 29 at 158 S. Western Ave. Thanks to the ‘new’ aerial view looking east, and the clarity of the Blu-ray release of Chaplin’s Mutual Comedies, two further fire engine scenes are now evident.

In The Fireman, filmed in 1916, the wagon turns sharply from east on Willoughby to north on Cole (arrow), with 911 Cole (yellow box) standing watch.

In The Fireman, filmed in 1916, the wagon turns sharply from east on Willoughby to north on Cole (arrow), with 911 Cole (yellow box) standing watch.

Looking north at the corner of Willoughby and Cole, towards 911 Cole (right box), and 917 Wilcox (left box), the only structure in this image to survive, apart from Yamashiro's high on the hill at back.

Looking NW at the corner of Willoughby and Cole, with 917 Wilcox (left box), the only structure in this image to survive, apart from Yamashiro’s (inset) high on the hill at back.

917 Wilcox - then and now.

917 Wilcox – now and then – the chimney has been removed. (C) 2016 Google.

A final fire engine scene, this time looking east down Willoughby towards Cahuenga.

Filmed in 1916, this view looks east down Willoughby towards Cahuenga.

Filmed in 1916, this view looks east down Willoughby as the wagon turns south on Cahuenga.

This detailed view matches a 1922 aerial photo with the 1916 movie frame - Vine (red box) stands at back.

This detailed view matches a 1922 aerial photo with the 1916 movie frame – 900 Vine Street (yellow box) stands at back.

I first became aware of the 1920 eastern view aerial photo on the Noirish Los Angeles Skyscraper forum, a remarkable resource for finding vintage images of Los Angeles. The forum not only highlights vintage photos from the Los Angeles Public Library, and the USC Digital Library, but also rare photos posted on eBay and other obscure sources. My thanks to Noirish forum posters ‘GaylordWilshire’ and ‘HossC’ for their assistance with this article.

Looking SW towards the corner of Lillian Way and Eleanor, site of the former Chaplin and Keaton Studios. A sidewalk plaque honoring Keaton, but neglecting to mention Chaplin, stands across the street on the near corner.

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How Mabel Normand filmed her Safety Last! Moment (Before Harold Lloyd Did)

Mable Normand clings to the roof of the Castle Towers Apartment in Mickey.

Hold on – Mabel Normand clings to the roof of the Castle Towers Apartments in Mickey.

Mickey_PosterMabel Normand’s wildly popular 1918 feature Mickey climaxes with a thrilling roof-top rescue staged years before Harold Lloyd stunned audiences with his high-rise climb in Safety Last! (1923). Reportedly the highest grossing film of the year, Mickey was the only film produced by Mabel’s independent studio set up for her by Mack Sennett. As shown in a prior post, Mabel’s early co-star Roscoe Arbuckle also beat Lloyd to the punch filming downtown rooftop stunts.

Mabel plays the lead, Mickey, a nature-loving tomboy forced to live with her cruel, aristocratic aunt. The movie brims with real locations, including the aunt’s formal gardens, filmed at 4 Berkeley Square (Hal Roach’s neighbor), where Lloyd and other Roach Studio stars would film posh garden scenes for later comedies, and the equestrian race track that once stood at Exposition Park (years before the Coliseum opened in 1923). I hope some day to post several more stories about Mickey.

Looks can be deceiving – a seemingly matching wide and close view of Mabel’s rooftop climb?

Looks can be deceiving – seemingly matching wide and close views of Mabel’s rooftop climb?

This rooftop scene fascinated me, but I had no idea where it was located. Seeking help, I posted the above movie frames to share on Flickr, and within minutes Los Angeles historian and OnBunkerHill.org blogger Nathan Marsak contacted me to identify the setting as the former Castle Towers Apartments, once standing atop Bunker Hill at 750 W. 4th Street, on a bluff running parallel to Flower Street.

Mabel filmed using the Castle Towers.

Mabel filmed using the Castle Towers. OnBunkerHill.org. Christina Rice.

Christina Rice, Los Angeles Public Library Senior Librarian, biographer of Ann Dvorak, and fellow OnBunkerHill.org blogger, wrote about the building’s incredible story (see more below), once belonging to prominent resident Mira Hershey. The chocolate family heiress and one-time owner of the famed Hollywood Hotel is perhaps best remembered as the benefactor of UCLA’s first on-campus dormitory Hershey Hall, that still bears her name.

whit-neh-71421

The back of the Castle Towers which faced 4th Street where it ended at a bluff overlooking Flower Street. This detailed image is but a tiny portion of a giant sweeping panoramic image taken in 1930. USC Digital Library whit-neh-71421.

Given the off-kilter orientation of downtown (the streets run NW-SE and NE-SW, 45 degrees from true north), the orientation of the building along the Flower Street bluff means that the wide view (right below) runs SE towards the flat area of the LA basin. Since the wide view and close-up view of Mabel seem to match, the close-up view should also look to the SE where it is flat. Yet the close-up shot seems to look north to the Hollywood hills instead – how could this be?

caption.

I wondered – if the opposite corners of the building were identical, Mabel could have filmed her wide view to the right, and her close-up at the safer position to the left.

As Christina reports, the Castle Towers was originally the private home of Mira Hershey, facing Grand at the NE corner of 4th Street as shown below.  Incredibly, in order to transform her home into an apartment building, Ms. Hershey had the home cut in two, rotated clockwise 90 degrees, moved two blocks west along 4th Street to beside the dead-end bluff above Flower Street, and extended by adding a new middle section with two further dormers along each side. At its new location and orientation, a view of its front left corner would look nearly due north towards Hollywood.

So what does this all mean? The answer is elegantly simple. As shown below, Mabel found a building with identical, opposite corner towers, one strikingly high off the ground, the other low to the ground, and presented the two towers as one and the same. In this way Mabel convincingly presented herself as in great danger while filming in relative safety.

The drop from the front left window was only one story. LAPL.

When Mabel climbed from the roof to the window, she filmed at the front left corner that was only one story above the ground. This view shows the Hershey home at its original location at 4th and Grand before it was cut in half, moved two blocks, and expanded with two further dormers along each side. LAPL.

This rare side view of the apartment was taken in 1951 during the construction of the Harbor Freeway towards downtown. After the house was sliced in two sections, rotated, and moved to this location, it was converted into an apartment house with a new, extended middle section, marked by the yellow box. Behind it stands the former Barbara Worth Apartments.

The left image was taken in 1923. A portion of the hillside along Flower Street was excavated, making way for a new building, gas station, and parking lot. LAPL.

Comparing a 1923 image of the hillside (left) – LAPL – to the 1930 photo, showing how the hillside along Flower Street was excavated, making way for a new building, gas station, and parking lot.

As part of the Bunker Hill redevelopment, a ramp along W 4th Street was built in 1955, swooping up from Figueroa, across Flower, excavated to pass below grade beneath Hope Street, and reaching the top of the hill at Grand, finally making W 4th Street a through street. By this point the Castle Towers was lost, but its neighbor, the Barbara Worth Apartments building (far right below), is still standing.

The history of Los Angeles and of the movies are inexorably intertwined.  Thanks to Mabel, we now have further views of a Bunker Hill landmark to enjoy, while thanks to the archivists who make historic photos available, we can appreciate nearly 100 years later how remarkably clever Mabel and the other early filmmakers were. We are also indebted to Paul Gierucki, Brittany Valente, and CineMuseum, LLC for restoring Mickey, and to TCM for broadcasting it for eager viewers to enjoy.

A modern view looking up from Flower Street towards the former site of the Castle Towers Apartments, with the 4th Street ramp flying up the hill to Hope Street at back.

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Mostly Lost – Keaton Found (Stan Laurel too) at Hollywood and Western

The Goat.

From The Goat – Buster is about to push one cop to flatten another. Can you make out the number over the doorway? Neither could I. It’s 5501.

This fun discovery from Buster Keaton’s The Goat (1921) was made possible thanks to Mostly Lost, the Library of Congress crowd-sourcing workshop to screen and identify orphan silent and early sound films, held at the Packard Campus in Culpeper Virginia. Each year cinema experts from around the world gather to view rare film clips and pool

The friendly crowd of experts attending Mostly Lost 3.

The friendly film experts at Mostly Lost 3.

their expertise with the hope of identifying them. The Goat, obviously, is an identified film, but the setting for the above scene, where Buster rounds a corner chased by one cop, and pushes another cop into his path, had eluded me for years.  When released on Blu-ray, I was delighted (and frustrated) to see the hint of the numbers above the doorway where Buster stood. They were still undecipherable, but the four digit address meant it was likely filmed in Hollywood, and the sun implied it was a NW corner.

Buster and Stan at Hollywood and Western_Page_1For some reason, when glancing through the Mostly Lost Nitrate Film Interest Group on Flickr, I came upon the above image of Bynunski Hymen and Ethlyn Gibson (identified by film author Steve Massa) from a Billy West comedy. While the film remains unidentified, I noticed the background corner doorway looked suspiciously like Buster’s (see inset). The image provided two essential clues – the corner was on a trolley line and stood east of a white three-story building.

NW brick corners on Hollywood Blvd.

At right the NW corner of Hollywood and Western.

I studied many NW corners along trolley car lines but grew tired and had no luck. My breakthrough came when I realized the 1921 Baist color atlas for Los Angeles identified brick buildings in red and wooden structures in yellow. I traced the trolley lines along such maps looking only for red NW corners, and finding a limited number of candidates soon had my match.

LAPL.

Click to enlarge – looking west down Hollywood Blvd towards the corner of Western. LAPL.

When Buster filmed at the NW corner of Hollywood and Western, the New Hollywood Apartments, a white three story unit built in 1913 stood to the west (red arrow above), now replaced by a modern building. The five story building (crossed out in yellow, above), not present in the movie frame, was built in 1926 and still stands at 5531 Hollywood Blvd. Below, a closer look at the NW corner at 5501.

Looking north up Western towards 5501 Hollywood Blvd. LAPL.

Click to enlarge – looking north up Western towards 5501 Hollywood Blvd. LAPL.

While Buster had his NW corner, it turns out Stan Laurel filmed the SE corner here in 1923 for one of his early Hal Roach Studios solo comedies, Mother’s Joy, looking east down Hollywood Blvd. from Western. The intersecting trolley tracks below, a rarity in Hollywood, helped to solve this location. The distinctive buildings behind Stan appear at the left edge of this matching photo looking west down Hollywood Blvd.

Looking east down Hollywood Blvd. from Western. Stan Laurel in Mother's Joy. LAPL.

Looking east down Hollywood Blvd. from Western. Stan Laurel in Mother’s Joy. LAPL.

For better or worse, the intersection of Hollywood and Western has been completely redeveloped, so nothing remains today from Buster and Stan’s films. But thanks to Mostly Lost they are ‘somewhat’ found.

A Google maps view of Buster’s NW corner on Western.

 

A Google Maps view of Stan’s SE corner on Western.

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The Kid – Charlie Chaplin’s Onscreen Fans

Click to enlarge. A delighted girl peeks through a screen door during The Kid.

Click to enlarge. A delighted girl peeks through a screen door during The Kid.

While Chaplin fans packed theaters worldwide to watch his onscreen antics, during several scenes in The Kid you can see fans watching him onscreen as well.  Here are several surprise fan cameos, thanks to the remarkable image quality of the new Criterion Collection Blu-ray release of The Kid. My recent post HERE shows how Chaplin made The Kid, which I explain in full detail in my book Silent Traces.

This neighbor suddenly peeks over the fence as the orphanage truck travels west down Labory Lane.

This neighbor suddenly peeks over the fence as the orphanage truck travels west down Labory Lane.

This real-like waif watches Jackie Coogan in the orphanage truck as it turns from the east end of Labory Lane onto Hewitt.

Shielding his eyes from the sun, this real-life waif watches Jackie Coogan in the orphanage truck as it turns from the east end of Labory Lane onto Hewitt.

Two girls are seen here as Dan Dillon returns the foundling baby to Minnie Stearns' stroller.

Two girls are seen here as Dan Dillon returns the foundling baby to Minnie Stearns’ stroller.

Fans made cameos in other early Chaplin films.  Thanks to the Blu-ray quality of the Flicker Alley release of Chaplin’s Essanay comedies, here below you can see a bystander through the window (notice his hat) during the opening scene from The Bank (1915), and further below a seaside crowd from By The Sea (1915).

We're watching Charlie, and so is the man in the hat, watching him through the window in The Bank.

We’re watching Charlie, and so is the man in the hat, watching him through the window in The Bank.

A large crowd gathers to watch Charlie - anticipating what will happen with the banana in By The Sea (1915). Filmed in Venice

A large crowd gathers to watch Charlie – anticipating what will happen with the banana in By The Sea. Filmed beside the Venice Diamond Cafe at the north corner of the former Venice Plunge (indoor pool).

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