The 1932 Hal Roach Studio comedy Taxi for Two provides a fascinating glimpse of early Washington Blvd., and the mid-city neighborhood that sprung up south of Hollywood halfway between Culver City and downtown Los Angeles. Directed by Del Lord, one of Mack Sennett’s top directors, Taxi for Two re-stages some of the classic visual gags and car stunts Lord had made famous working for the Keystone Studio in the 1920s.
The highlight of the film comes when the Taxi Boys (Billy Gilbert and Ben Blue) run out of gas, and start pushing the rear of their taxicab blindly forward. The men are so intently focused on their task that they don’t notice when they push their cab into the rear of another vehicle, and continue forward pushing both cars. The boys soon push the two cars into a third vehicle, adding it to the chain, and then a fourth car, until finally a stalled trolley car joins the mix. The image of Billy and Ben pushing an undulating train of autos and trolleys down a city street recalls the Sisyphean image of Billy Bevan pushing a similar train of cars (above, right) in the Del Lord-directed Keystone comedy Super-Hooper-Dyne Lizzies (1925) (available as part of The Mack Sennett Collection, Vol. One from Flicker Alley).
I found the many locations from Taxi for Two by first noticing a sign for the Beacon Market appearing in the background, above. Although I couldn’t find such a market in the online City Directories at the Los Angeles Public Library, I did find a newspaper story in the library’s online Los Angeles Times newspaper archive that placed the market at the corner of W. Washington Blvd. and S. Rimpau Blvd.
Once I had my bearings, I poked around the area using Google Street View and found the other filming spots along Washington Blvd.
I found the remaining locations, again, by snooping around adjacent streets on Google Street View. My big break came when I noticed that West View Street (pictured above looking north) seemed to drop off below grade, as if Washington Blvd. ran along a hill. So I searched the steep hills situated north of Washington Blvd. until I found the remaining shots.
The first car stunts, where Billy and Ben chase the cars, were filmed on Pickford Street, a very steep hill just steps from Washington Blvd. where the earlier commercial street scenes were filmed. The later car stunts, where Billy and Ben dodge the cars, were filmed a few blocks further north on W. 17th St. at S. Rimpau Blvd., where the hill was less steep, and presumably safer for the actors. The director helped to disguise the shift in streets by showing only the south side of Pickford and the north side of 17th. The concluding scenes were filmed at 17th and Rimpau as well.
You can read about how three other Taxi Boys shorts solved a Laurel & Hardy filming location mystery at this post HERE.
Taxi for Two (C) 1932 Hal Roach Studios, Inc. Color image 4818 W. Washington Blvd. (C) 2014 Microsoft Corporation, all other color images (C) 2014 Google.