How Charlie Chaplin Filmed The Adventurer

The Jeffrey Vance Collection - David Totheroh

Click to enlarge each view.  Haystack Rock then and now – The Jeffrey Vance Collection (l) – David Totheroh (r)

Here's Charlie

Here’s Charlie

Decades before Bugs Bunny delighted audiences by tunneling into madcap predicaments, escaped convict Charlie Chaplin tunneled to freedom in The Adventurer (1917) on a Malibu beach within the shadow of Castle Rock and Haystack Rock, prominent coastal landmarks that stood near the dusty dirt road that would one day become the Pacific Coast Highway.  The Adventurer, and Chaplin’s other eleven short comedies prepared for the Mutual Film Corporation, have all been lovingly restored on Blu-ray, available from Flicker Alley.

Adventurer_Page_02

Chaplin filmed early scenes near the mouth of Topanga Canyon, and the related swimming scenes in Venice.

When Chaplin filmed here in 1917, most of Malibu remained privately owned by May Rindge, widow of wealthy ranch owner Frederick Ringe. The public coastline road only traveled as far west as Topanga Canyon before it was forced to turn inland. Ms. Rindge battled in court for decades to protect her massive land holdings, bankrupting herself in the process, but in 1923 the US Supreme Court upheld California’s eminent domain powers, leading to the construction of the Roosevelt Highway (later Pacific Coast Highway) along her coastal land, that opened in 1929.  As explained in greater detail in my book Silent Traces, Chaplin filmed the initial beach scenes here, and the later scenes where he rescues Edna Purviance and others from the water in Venice to the south.

Looking east to the Castle Rock filming area.  The Pacific Coast Highway traversing Malibu would not be built for years.

Looking east to the Castle Rock filming site. The Pacific Coast Highway traversing Malibu (see Charlie’s dirt road at left) would not be built for years. Castle Rock towers at center – Haystack Rock appears to the right. USC Digital Library

USC Digital Library

Then and Then – USC Digital Library

Another view of the filming area after the road was paved.  USC Digital Library

Another view of the filming area after the road was paved. This was likely taken before the Pacific Coast Highway opened in 1929. The coast road originally had to turn inland at Topanga Canyon because the Malibu shore was privately owned. USC Digital Library

The Adventurer - then and now.  Jeffrey Castel De Oro

The Adventurer – then and now. Jeffrey Castel De Oro

A side view of Haystack Rock, in Chaplin's Carmen.  Jeffrey Castel De Oro

A side view of Haystack Rock (l) as it appears in Chaplin’s Burlesque on Carmen (1915), and as it appears today (r).  Chaplin’s publicity shot for The Adventurer (center) was staged in front of Haystack Rock.  Current view Jeffrey Castel De Oro.

An opposite view west towards Castle Rock, as it appears in Hearts and Flowers.  USC Digital Library

The Castle Rock beach was an extremely popular place to film. Now looking west, in the opposite direction toward Castle Rock, is a “Bathing Beauty” beach scene from the Mack Sennett comedy Hearts and Flowers (1919) available on the new CineMuseum Blu-ray release The Mack Sennett Collection available from Flicker Alley. USC Digital Library

Looking west where Coastline Drive meets the Pacific Coast Highway.  (C) Microsoft Corporation.

Looking west, Charlie eludes the police likely where Coastline Drive meets the Pacific Coast Highway. (C) Microsoft Corporation.

A modern view showing Coastline Drive (l), Haystack Rock, Castle Rock (leveled in 1945 as a safety measure), and the Chaplin filming site (r).  (C) 2014 Microsoft Corporation

A modern view showing Coastline Drive (l), Haystack Rock (center), the former Castle Rock site (it was leveled in 1945 as a safety measure), and the Chaplin filming site (r). (C) 2014 Google

The action jumps from Malibu to the Abbott Kinney Pier in Venice.  The tower of the Auditorium appears beside Edna Purviance and Eric Campbell.  Marc Wanamaker - Bison Archives

The action jumps from Malibu to the Abbot Kinney Pier in Venice. The tower of the Venice Auditorium (USC Digital Library) appears behind Edna Purviance and Eric Campbell.  Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives

With clever editing, Charlie dumps Eric into the water from the Center Street Pier (lower left), yet Eric hits the water beside the Abbott Kinney Pier (upper left).

Click to enlarge. With clever editing, Charlie dumps Eric into the water from the Center Street Pier (lower left), yet Eric hits the water beside the Abbot Kinney Pier (upper left).

A reverse view of Eric's bifurcated spill into the water.  The Abbot Kinney Pier would burn almost completely a few days after this photo was taken in 1920.  It was quickly rebuilt in 1921.  Marc Wanamaker - Bison Archives

A reverse view of Eric’s bifurcated spill into the water. The Abbot Kinney Pier would burn almost completely a few days after this photo was taken in 1920. It was quickly rebuilt in 1921. Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives

The front of the Venice Auditorium appears in both images, along with a "MUIRAUQA" sign, the back of the illuminated sign for the Venice AQUARIUM.  LAPL

The front of the Venice Auditorium appears in both images, along with a “MUIRAUQA” sign, the back of the illuminated sign for the Venice AQUARIUM. LAPL

This view from Harold Lloyd's 1920 short comedy Number Please? reveals the AQUARIUM sign as it appeared to the public strolling down the pier.  The inset view looks the other way.  LAPL

This view from Harold Lloyd’s 1920 short comedy Number Please? shows the same AQUARIUM sign as it appeared to the public strolling down the pier. The inset view looks the other way. LAPL

The Abbot Kinney Pier burned in late 1920, but was quickly rebuilt in 1921.  The re-built pier appears prominently during Chaplin’s 1928 feature comedy The Circus. Following years of decline, and subsequent fires, the pier was closed and demolished in 1946.  Chaplin also filmed Kid Auto Races at Venice Cal. (1914) (see blog post HERE) and By The Sea (1915) in Venice.  All three films are also discussed in my book Silent Traces.

The Adventurer (1917) from the new Blu-ray release Chaplin’s Mutual Comedies 1916-1917.  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. Hearts and Flowers (1919) from the new Blu-ray release The Mack Sennett Collection Vol. OneNumber Please? (1920) 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.

This entry was posted in Charlie Chaplin and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to How Charlie Chaplin Filmed The Adventurer

  1. Wonderful, addictive post. This is the stuff film history should be made of. Thanks again for your outstanding work, John!

  2. Great stuff as usual. Looking at that early map of Los Angeles, I came to realize how Lankersheim Avenue got its name. It was apparently a farm road originally that led to a now-vanished town of the same name.

  3. Firqi Putra says:

    Jadi teringan masa lalu
    kediribro.blogspot.com

  4. Amrit Gangar says:

    Provides a very significant and rare addition to Chaplin’s historiography.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s