Three of the greatest silent comedies of all time, Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid (1921), Buster Keaton’s Cops (1922), and Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last! (1923), were each filmed at a small Hollywood alley you can still visit today. Running east-west between Cahuenga and Cosmo just south of Hollywood Boulevard, the unnamed alley was conveniently located to the studios, providing a secluded spot to shoot. Each film has been inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress as a work of enduring importance to American culture.
It was here Charlie’s Little Tramp discovers the abandoned infant he will raise as his son (portrayed as a child by Jackie Coogan) during the opening scenes from The Kid. This main view looks south, where a patio dining area blocks some of the view today. A reverse view (right) shows Charlie running north towards the same spot. As posted HERE, Charlie and Jackie Coogan reunite emotionally later in the film at Olvera Street downtown.
The west end of the alley on Cahuenga appears in Keaton’s most famous short film Cops. Chased by a mob of angry police, Buster stops in the street and grabs a passing car one-handed that whisks him out of frame to safety (left – click to enlarge). At back appears the extant Palmer Building on Cosmo, still under construction at the time, that would become the future home of the now defunct Hollywood Citizen newspaper. The art deco building on Cahuenga now standing to the left of the alley was completed in 1935 (designed by noted LA architects Morgan, Walls & Clements), making the alley slightly more narrow today.
Lloyd is best remembered for hanging from a skyscraper clock in the stunt climbing thrill comedy Safety Last! Harold plays a department store salesman in this film, shown above calculating how to sneak in late to work. The east end of the alley portrayed the back of Harold’s store, where Lloyd filmed many scenes, with the Palmer Building on Cosmo forming a backdrop.
You can read more details about Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd filming at the alley HERE, how the alley appears in Harry Houdini’s 1919 feature The Grim Game HERE, how the site appears in the 1994 Johnny Depp/Tim Burton movie Ed Wood HERE, and how it appears in the newly discovered closing shot from Keaton’s 1922 short My Wife’s Relations HERE.
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.
Cops (1922) licensed by Douris UK, Ltd. 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 link provides a comprehensive PDF tour of Hollywood silent movie filming locations. Hollywood’s Silent Echoes Tour – Cinecon 2016 – John Bengtson.