Charlie Chaplin, Ron Swanson, and Parks and Recreation

Charlie Chaplin and Jack Oakie in The Great Dictator

Location filming has been staged in Los Angeles now for well over a century.  It should come as no surprise then that contemporary television shows share exterior settings that once appeared in classic films.  In one prior post I explain how The Office TV show shares a connection to Harold Lloyd and film noir.  In another recent post I show connections between the popular crime procedural Bones and Buster Keaton. Now its time to show the connection between Charlie Chaplin, and the popular mockumentary style sitcom Parks and Recreation.  During Chaplin’s bold political satire The Great Dictator (1940), Charlie’s character Adenoid Hynkel stages an enormous rally to greet Dictator Benzino Napaloni (played by Jack Oakie).  Although filmed inside a soundstage, the Pasadena City Hall appears as a backdrop during the scene.

Pasadena City Hall, in The Great Dictator (left) and in Parks and Recreation (right).

Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson

The same Pasadena City Hall stands in for the City Hall of Pawnee, Indiana, the fictional town portrayed in the Parks and Recreation television show.  Given that Pawnee is supposed to be just an average town, the show rarely (never?) depicts the building’s massive baroque dome, but instead uses tight shots of the entrance arch, flanked by the words “CITY HALL,” giving the building a more modest sense of scale.  One thing in the show that is not modest is popular character Ron Swanson’s mustache.  The meat-eating Libertarian played by Nick Offerman sports a mustache three times larger than Chaplin’s.

Designed in 1925 by John Bakewell, Jr., and Arthur Brown, the Pasadena City Hall building is located at 100 N. Garfield Avenue at Union Street in Pasadena.

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.  Parks and Recreation (C) Universal Television.

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One Response to Charlie Chaplin, Ron Swanson, and Parks and Recreation

  1. Pingback: Punky, Harold, and Harry – nine decades of film location history at Shatto Place | Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more)

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