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.  Although we’ll be heading over from the Egyptian Theater at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard, the tour starts at 6410 Hollywood Boulevard near the SW corner of Cahuenga, at about 12:15 on Saturday, and about 12:50 on Sunday, and you’re welcome to join us there. 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. HollywoodPhotos.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.

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.

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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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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

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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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