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.

kane-pan-01 kane-pan-02 kane-pan-03 kane-pan-04 kane-pan-05 kane-pan-06 kane-pan-07 kane-pan-08 kane-pan-09 kane-pan-10

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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 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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Saving the Best for (Safety) Last!

On the roof of 908 S Broadway - crop

logoThere is no better way to experience Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last! than in a giant 1920’s movie palace packed with audience members gasping and shrieking at every turn. The Los Angeles Conservancy screens this classic thrill comedy on Saturday, June 25, at the Orpheum slider_1Theater downtown, as the closing act of its Last Remaining Seats film series. Even if you’ve seen it before, the mass hysterics and contagious laughter will sweep over you, making this an edge-of-your-seat cinematic experience you won’t soon forget.

Safety Last 28 Dec 27 1923I’m honored to have been invited back by the Conservancy to introduce the film. During my introduction I will point out many downtown film locations, explain the risks and challenges Harold faced when shooting, and show how the unique topography of early Los Angeles directly inspired the movie.

Clifton'sI’ll also reveal connections between Safety Last! and certain Hollywood tattoo parlors, the post-WWII era’s most famous Santa Claus, and even the landmark Clifton’s Cafeteria that recently re-opened downtown.

04Walking Tours: Prior to the screening I’ll be leading Conservancy walking tours highlighting downtown filming locations used by Harold, as well as by Charlie Chaplin and Roscoe Arbuckle. You can download a shortened PDF version of the tour here. I’ll also be signing my Harold Lloyd film location book Silent Visions.

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Alfonso Campos and fashion designer Tarina Tarantino reenacting the final scene on the roof of 908 S. Broadway, the same site where the clock sequence pictured at top was filmed, and home now to Tarina’s Sparkle Factory. Guests on the walking tours will be invited to visit this historic rooftop in person.

So do yourself a favor, support a worthy cause, and check out the best possible way to see Safety Last!, with the electric energy of a huge, enthusiastic crowd.

PS – if you need a good laugh, or want to raise your spirits, just listen to noted musician and silent film accompanist Michael Mortilla’s audio-only recording of an audience laughing and squealing with delight while watching Safety Last!  It’s great to play as background music – the swells and squeals of laughter just grow and grow.

Audio file of Michael Mortilla accompanying Safety Last! to shrieks and laughter

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.

Posted in Harold Lloyd, Lloyd Tour, Los Angeles Historic Core, Safety Last! | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Reflections on Keaton’s Cops at the SF Silent Film Festival

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival starts next week, with another wide and varied lineup of classic silent films accompanied with live musical performances. Comedy fans will be especially interested in the Saturday morning program, introduced by Leonard Maltin, where renowned scientist/film collector/Lon Chaney expert/musician (in no particular order) Jon Mirsalis will present and accompany a restored version of Laurel & Hardy’s epic pie fight comedy, The Battle of the Century (1927). For decades this fan favorite was known only in truncated form until Jon’s recent discovery of a complete print.

8. Battle of the Century.AGILE

The program also includes a restoration of Buster Keaton’s most famous short film Cops (1922), the only movie in Keaton’s oeuvre filmed completely outdoors. I’ve written frequently about the alley on Cahunega, steps south from Hollywood Boulevard, where Buster grabs a passing car one-handed in Cops, showing that Charlie Chaplin (The Kid (1921)), Harold Lloyd (Safety Last! (1923)), and even Harry Houdini (The Grim Game (1919)), filmed there as well.

output_mgeP9L COPS GIF

But the clarity of the new Kino – Lobster Films Blu-ray Buster Keaton: The Shorts Collection release of Cops invites further reflection. For one thing, you can witness several people watching the filming.

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Witnesses caught on film – upstairs, a young woman wearing a puff sleeve dress (orange oval) rises from her seat to look down at Buster, while a man watches from across the street (blue oval), and another man inside The Tavern (yellow oval) looks through the glass.

Moreover, 1651 Cahuenga, the reflected building with the diagonally cropped corner entrance standing across the street from the Keaton stunt site (see reversed image below), once a rubber and vulcanizing store belonging to Harley H. Andrews, is now a porn shop. Coincidence? Or simply 90 years of retail evolution?

Harley vulcanizing

Harley H. Andrew’s vulcanizing shop now sells Hollywood porn.

A view of the reflected corner building – spin the view around to see Keaton’s alley.

 

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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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