Keaton’s Seven Chances – On The Clock

Late for church, during Seven Chances (1925) Buster Keaton must marry by 7:00 p.m. that evening in order to inherit a fortune. But what time is it? Having just lost his pocket watch down a sewer drain, Buster stops in a clock shop for help, only to realize every timepiece in the store tells a unique story. When all seems lost, providence intercedes on Buster’s behalf. A woozy drunkard, enraged by his ringing alarm clock, tosses it out the window, where it conveniently konks Buster on the head, reminding him of the correct time.

You never know what you’ll find just by keeping your eyes open. When I was in SoCal last month to introduce The Great Dictator at the Alex Theater in Glendale, I happened to drive along Franklin Avenue towards Hollywood, when passing the corner of Cheremoya, I noticed what seemed to be a familiar corner. I made a note to remember the spot, and when I returned home, checked my Seven Chances Blu-ray, and ta-dah! It was the correct spot.

Keaton was bonked on the head beside the Cheremoya apartments, completed in 1924 at 5987 Franklin, at the NE corner of Cheremoya. With this discovery I’m close to uncovering nearly every location from the film – many new discoveries are documented in other posts HERE, and in my book Silent Echoes. Thanks Rena Kiehn for the current “now” photo.

My all time favorite location – the late Mrs. Eleanor Keaton on the steps of the Seven Chances church at 2610 La Salle Avenue.

The Cheremoya Apartments at the corner of Franklin.

Advertisements
Posted in Buster Keaton, Seven Chances | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Surviving Sherlock Jr. Bungalow

Click to enlarge – looking south down Lillian Way from the corner of Eleanor. Buster trails Ward Crane in Sherlock Jr.

A bungalow that appears in Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr. (1924), and in his early short film Convict 13 (1920), is still standing today at 4908 McKinley Avenue, when it was moved 11 miles away from Buster’s studio in 1926, the third time the modest home had been moved in less than six years.

Click to enlarge – looking east down Eleanor from the corner of Lillian Way. Buster in Convict 13.

Built prior to 1912, a pair of small bungalows once stood at 6206 and 6200 Eleanor, half a block east from the Keaton Studio front corner office. Remarkably the pair of homes was moved twice, first in 1920, and again in 1921. Even more remarkably, one of the pair survives today after being moved a third time in 1926.

The Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety posts searchable historic building permits and other records online – accessible at  https://www.ladbs.org/services/check-status/online-building-records. The permits tell an incredible story. When the California Laundry purchased the corner of Eleanor and Vine in order to build a large two-story cement laundry building, it moved the pair of Eleanor bungalows a block south under permits issued on October 21, 1920.

Click to enlarge. Step A – the homes are moved in 1920 from Eleanor to Romaine. Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archive.

Above, looking NE with what would become the Buster Keaton Studio in the foreground, 6206 Eleanor is moved to 6207 Romaine; 6200 Eleanor is moved to 6209 Romaine.

Click to enlarge. Step B – the homes are moved in 1921 from Romaine to Lillian Way. HollywoodPhotographs.com.

For some reason, the California Laundry, owner of the bungalows, moved them again just 5 months later from Romaine to Lillian Way. Above, looking SE, 6209 Romaine moved to 1010 Lillian Way; 6207 Romaine moved to 1016 Lillian Way.

Click to enlarge. Step C – the home at 1016 Lillian Way is moved in 1926 to 4908 McKinley Avenue. HollywoodPhotographs.com.

Above, looking south, 1016 Lillian Way was moved again in 1926. Notice the large California Laundry facility facing Eleanor, where the pair of homes originally stood, and the prominent foundations along Romaine where the pair of homes had recently stood.

Three views of the same home.

Click to enlarge – from The Balloonatic (1923) looking north at the bungalows, 1010 Lillian Way at front, 1016 Lillian Way (arrow) at back.

I had always been intrigued by the pair of bungalows appearing so prominently in Keaton’s The Balloonatic (above), and somehow sensed they looked similar to the homes appearing in Convict 13 (further above). But it never occurred to me that they were the same homes, and I always assumed they had long since been demolished. That changed when I recently discovered three small duplexes built across from the Keaton Studio were moved in the 1940s and 1950s, and are still standing (see below). Realizing that homes were once commonly moved, I checked the city permits, and was stunned to learn this incredible story.

This duplex once adjacent to the Keaton Studio is still standing – read more at the link.

Decades later, peripatetic homes that once stood watch over the Keaton Studio can rightfully claim a tangible link to early Hollywood history.

Below, Keaton’s Sherlock Jr. co-star still standing at 4908 McKinley Avenue.

Posted in Keaton Studio, Sherlock Jr. | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Chaplin’s The Great Dictator – Author Presentation at the Alex

Charlie Chaplin’s brilliant and courageous challenge to tyranny, The Great Dictator (1940), remains sharply relevant today. I will be introducing this classic film at the beautiful Alex Theater in Glendale on Thursday, April 19, 2018, and signing copies of my Chaplin book Silent Traces. David Totheroh, grandson of Chaplin’s long-time cameraman Rollie Totheroh, will also be on hand for a Q&A after the screening.

The refugees cross Trifuno Creek near Peter Strauss Ranch – discovery and photo by Jeff Castel De Oro.

Looking north at the Chaplin Studio backlot.

My intro will address highlights of Chaplin’s career, details of the film’s remarkable history and production, and several then and now locations, some unchanged after nearly 80 years. To the right is a composite image of Chaplin’s backlot, from 16mm home movie footage taken by Charlie’s half-brother Sydney.

Intact globe found by the Russians in Hitler’s ruined office.

The screening is hosted by the Alex Film Society, which presents programs of classic feature films, cartoons, newsreels, and short subjects at the theater.

If you live in the Los Angeles area, I hope you’ll consider supporting the Alex Film Society by attending my talk and book-signing at the Alex Theater on Thursday, April 19.

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. Big Bertha cannon photo the Totheroh Family Collection, courtesy of Frank Underwood.

Posted in Charlie Chaplin | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

From Roach’s to Roaches – Stan & Ollie Meet Starsky & Hutch

Guest blogger Jim Dallape, creator with Robert Winslow of the remarkable Hal Roach Studios Backlot Tour, reports how TV’s Starsky & Hutch and Charlie’s Angles filmed in the same places as Laurel & Hardy and other Roach stars. Take it away, Jim –

Conveniently located within walking distance to Culver City, the Hal Roach Studios would often use the newly constructed downtown area for location shooting. Fans of the studio’s silent comedies will easily recognize Culver’s Main Street, which runs north from Washington Boulevard towards Venice Boulevard, where portions of such films as Laurel and Hardy’s PUTTING PANTS ON PHILIP, LEAVE EM’ LAUGHING and ANGORA LOVE, among others, were shot.

The most prominent landmark in downtown Culver City is the six story triangular Harry Culver Building which opened on September 4, 1924 on Main Street between Washington and Culver Boulevards (it can actually be seen while under construction in Our Gang’s, SUNDOWN LTD.). This “skyscraper” was designed to house Harry Culver’s (the city’s namesake and prominent citizen) headquarters on the lower two floors with the top four floors being designated The Hunt Hotel, later to be the Culver Hotel.

Recognizable across Main Street from the Culver’s front door was the two story Adams Hotel, seen in several Roach films but mostly remembered today for its alleyway made famous in L&H’s LIBERTY.

Downtown Culver City exemplified class and dignity, from its fine hotels and growing number of stores and businesses, to the dozens of oil wells gracing the Baldwin Hills to the south. This entire area offered a freshness and charm that the Roach studio took great advantage of in its excellent comedy shorts.

By the 1970’s, though, the bloom had worn off.  Many of the storefronts were now vacant or boarded.  The Culver Hotel building which had been passed from owner to owner over the years was now known for its frayed carpet and musty smell. The Adams was considered to be more of a flophouse than a respectable hotel. The entire area gave the appearance of a sleazy neighborhood.

Just as Hollywood filmmakers had once used the city for location shooting, TV producers now looked at it as a perfect background to depict the rundown neighborhoods required for their popular detective shows. The team of Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg used the downtown area for episodes of their “Charlie’s Angels” and “Starsky & Hutch” programs. Shows that depicted drugs, prostitution, and assassins were now shot on the same locations where Laurel and Hardy and Charley Chase had once made us all laugh.

Downtown Culver City has seen a revival in recent years. The Culver Hotel has been beautifully restored and the once boarded or empty buildings are again alive with new shops, restaurants, and a theater. They’ve closed Washington Blvd. on the south side of the Culver to create a pedestrian mall with trees, benches and fountains. Fans of old Hollywood can once again experience that same charm and freshness that Hal Roach found so alluring nearly 100 years ago.

Spelling-Goldberg Productions chose to shoot two episodes of their Starsky & Hutch series in the downtown area – “Snowstorm” which originally aired on 10/1/1975 and “Long Walk Down A Short Dirt Road” which aired on 3/12/1977. They also shot the 4th season Charlie’s Angels episode, “Angels On The Street”, there, which debuted 11/7/1979.

Oliver Hardy passes the Loughin Building, the “Liberty” alley entrance, and the Adams Hotel as he runs down Culver Boulevard in the direction of Main Street and the Culver Hotel in DO DETECTIVES THINK (1927). The shot on the right is the same area, looking towards the Culver Hotel, as seen in 1979 in “Angels On The Street”.

Laurel and Hardy attempt to change into their correct pants in the alleyway behind the Adams Hotel in 1929’s LIBERTY. The alley was used again in 1979 for a Charlie’s Angels episode. A prostitute (actress Amy Johnson) is chased into the alley by her pimps. Fifty years later the window nearest Culver Blvd. had been converted to a doorway and the middle window had been made taller.

Stan and Ollie are standing on the Culver Boulevard side of the Adams Hotel, just a little past the alleyway entrance, in WE FAW DOWN from 1928.  Nearly the exact same shot was used again in 1979 for “Angels On The Street.” Main Street and the Culver Hotel are in the background of both scenes. Unfortunately this entire block of buildings, including the Adams, no longer exists and has been replaced by a parking lot.

Main Street between Culver and Washington Boulevards was used many times by the Roach Studios for their location shooting. Above left, Glenn Tryon is seen in 1926’s “45 MINUTES FROM HOLLYWOOD” with the front of the Adams Hotel on the left side of the frame and the Safeway Store in the background. By 1933, the Safeway had become Master Market as seen in Charley Chase’s MIDSUMMER MUSH. Jaclyn Smith and Shelly Hack stand on the sidewalk in front of the Adams Hotel in “Angels On The Street”. The Safeway/Master Market was by then “Mark the Carpetbagger”.

The same area is seen again from the Culver Hotel side of Main Street in the 1928 Max Davidson comedy, THE BOY FRIEND, and again in 1975 from “Snowstorm.”

Below is the same area today.

Stan and Ollie stand to the left of the front door of the Culver Building in 1927 during PUTTING PANTS ON PHILIP. Nearly 50 years later, Starsky & Hutch are about to duck for cover in “Snowstorm”. By 1975 only the mounting holes for the “Harry H. Culver And Company” plaque remained.

Stan and Ollie can’t stop laughing in LEAVE ‘EM LAUGHING in 1928 as they exit the Culver Building. The “Snowstorm” shot on the right shows the hotel’s new entrance and generally rundown appearance just prior to gunshots being fired.

The 1932 Taxi Boys short, HOT SPOT, shows us the Washington Boulevard side of the Culver Building with Main Street and the Adams Hotel in the background. Starsky & Hutch park their Gran Torino in about the same place in 1977.

We can again see the Culver and the Adams Hotels from Washington Boulevard, but from a slightly different angle, in the Taxi Boys film, WRECKETY WRECKS, in 1933.  Starsky & Hutch show us the same view again forty four years later.

Charley Chase’s, THE COUNT TAKES THE COUNT, gives us a nice view looking up Washington Boulevard towards Main Street with the Culver Hotel on the left and the Adams Hotel visible beyond. By the time Starsky & Hutch take a “Long Walk Down A Short Dirt Road” forty one years later, several of the buildings seen on the right in the Chase film (in front of the parked cars) were gone. But the road barricades remained.

Washington Boulevard has now been converted to a beautiful pedestrian mall.

Looking from Van Buren Place towards Washington Boulevard in TAXI BARONS from 1933 and WE FAW DOWN from 1928, we get another view of the south side of the Culver Hotel. Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul give us a similar view in 1977 while Cheryl Ladd and David Doyle attempt to stop a crime in “Angels On The Street” two years later.

The iconic Culver Hotel is now on the register of historic places. Film and TV fans will be able to visit this beautiful building for years to come and experience what filmmakers have always loved about downtown Culver City.

Jim Dallape’s incredible Hal Roach Studios Backlot Tour provides detailed maps, tours, and screenshots of the Roach backlot. Here’s Jim’s Story –

“Born and raised in the Detroit area, I’ve been a lifelong Hal Roach Studio fan.  Even as a kid I was impressed by the sense of nostalgia for a time long ago that the Roach films conveyed. As a teenager I discovered that many of the old films were actually shot on location with real buildings and not on some studio mockup on a sound stage – and that some of those locations still existed.

I owned many books on movie locations and am especially fond of then and now type photo comparisons. I joined the local Sons of the Desert tent (The Dancing Cuckoos) in 1976 because of my fondness for Laurel and Hardy, and currently write and edit the tent’s newsletter.

I conceived and created the Hal Roach Studios Backlot Tour that can be found on the “Another Nice Mess” website (lordheath.com) because I wanted to know the layout of the Roach lot but couldn’t find any information on it.”

Thank you Jim for sharing with us an absolutely fascinating post. The color images add an entirely new dimension. For more 1970’s TV connections to silent movies, be sure to read my post about Peter Falk as Columbo and the Silent Clowns.

“Snowstorm” © 1975, “Long Walk Down a Short Dirt Road” © 1977, “Angels On The Street” © 1979 Spelling-Goldberg Productions

Posted in Charley Chase, Hal Roach Studios, Laurel and Hardy | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Restoration Premiere of Soft Shoes – Crossing Paths with Chaplin, Laurel, and Lloyd

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival 2018 schedule has just been announced! One highlight is the Thursday, May 31 world premiere restoration of Universal’s 1925 Harry Carey action/drama Soft Shoes, in which Carey (right) seeks to rescue a young woman from a life of crime. Purportedly set in San Francisco, the film’s many exteriors were all filmed, unsurprisingly, in Los Angeles instead. But as shown below, the movie intersects remarkably with classic films made by Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and Stan Laurel, while documenting historic LA settings, including its long lost Chinatown. This brief shot at left, looking west towards the Ferry Building, is the lone scene filmed in San Francisco.

The afternoon screening also includes the 1924 Stan Laurel short comedy Detained, recently restored by Lobster Films in collaboration with the Fries Film Archief (Holland), below, where Stan’s prison release matches where Charlie Chaplin was released from prison in Police (1915), both beside the former north gate to the Los Angeles County Hospital – LAPL. Read more about them filming at the north hospital gate, and about Laurel & Hardy filming The Second Hundred Years (1927) and The Hoose-Gow (1929) at the west hospital gate HERE.

To begin, Soft Shoes depicts Harry Carey sneaking in and out of apartment buildings – the first to appear is the Bryson (lower left), still standing at 2701 Wilshire Boulevard near Lafayette Park.

The Bryson portrayed the front of the Mack Sennett Keystone Studios, upper left above, during one of Charlie Chaplin’s earliest movies, A Film Johnnie (completed February 11, 1914, barely his second month on the job). In that film Charlie’s “Little Tramp” pesters Keystone actors as they enter and depart the “studio.” While the true Keystone studio façade actually appears in dozens of other Sennett productions, for some reason the far more impressive Bryson was employed in the Chaplin film. (Upper right –LAPL). The Bryson’s prominent front fire escape appears several times during Soft Shoes, lower left above, along with the distinctive stone lions that still guard the apartment entranceway.

Built in 1913, the Bryson also appears prominently above Chaplin’s head during a scene from his Mutual comedy The Rink (1916), where Charlie meets Edna Purviance on the street at the SE corner of Wilshire Place and Ingraham (now Sunset Place). The Bryson may be best known as a setting described in Raymond Chandler’s 1943 Philip Marlowe detective classic The Lady in the Lake. Color photo Jeffrey Castel De Oro.

Soft Shoes also features the police chasing Harry around another high rise, including the roof, filmed at the Franconia Apartments still standing at 6th and Coronado north of MacArthur Park, pictured above facing 6th Street. The Asbury Apartments mentioned below appears to the far right. USC Digital Library.

This scene of a cop racing towards what turned out to be the Franconia contains two vital clues. At the time J. W. Calder had two corner drug stores, but only his store at 2549 W 6th Street aligned with a tall building at back. As such, this shot above reveals the Asbury Apartments undergoing construction, which opened later in 1925, still standing at 2505 W. 6th Street. (Asbury left – USC Digital Library). By correctly assuming the rooftop scenes (click to enlarge – inset right) also depict the same Asbury Apartments under construction, triangulating back from the Asbury identified the Franconia as the primary shooting site.

The Franconia has a recessed fire escape shaft on each wing facing Coronado Street, put to good use as the cops follow Harry to the roof during Soft Shoes. The color image is the north wing shaft, the movie frame could depict either wing. Vintage photo Don Lynch.

Here Carey peeks north up Coronado, with buildings at back still standing. The Franconia’s decorative rooftop ledges were removed for earthquake safety reasons. Carey crouches on the south ledge of the north wing, while the camera peers across towards him from the south wing.

The view above looking NW from the Franconia roof (left) reveals a stretch of Rampart Boulevard, beginning with the Villa d’Este Apartments at 401 Rampart (A), to the corner of Rampart and W. 3rd Street (D), all appearing in Harold Lloyd’s For Heaven’s Sake (1926) (right, Harold with straw hat). As I explain in my Lloyd book Silent Visions, Harold filmed the drunken groomsmen bus scene, shown here, extensively on Rampart between 6th and 3rd, where nearly every building on the street appears onscreen and remains standing today. The Rampart corner (D) also appears in Lloyd’s Girl Shy (1924).

Below, further action takes place in Ocean Park, the small beach community south of Santa Monica.

Above left, a 1924 view east of Ocean Park, showing Ocean Front, Pier Avenue, and Marine Avenue (Huntington Digital Library). The photo documents the aftermath of the January 6, 1924 fire that destroyed the Pickering and Lick Piers. To the right, a circa 1915 view east down Pier Avenue and Marine Avenue (Huntington Digital Library). Note the church on Marine at back. The front vacant lot is where a billiard parlor (below) would be built.

Click to enlarge. The “Billiards” building far right in the movie frame is newer, built after the photo was taken. The far right photo building says “BRADLEY” at the roof ledge, matching the Hotel Bradley in the movie frame. The J.N. Mooser Dry Goods building appears as Ocean Park Dry Goods in the movie frame. Note the matching sidewalk clock in both images.

This scene above (cropped) of Carey fleeing by automobile was filmed looking east on Pier Avenue towards Main from what was once called Ocean Front (now Neilson Way), the grand promenade that originally fronted the beach. The “FARROW’S RESTAURANT” appearing at back once stood at 130 Pier Avenue, on the ground floor of the Hotel Bradley at 130 1/2 Pier Avenue. Further back stands the Olga Hotel at 142 1/2 Pier Avenue. None of the buildings captured in this scene remain in the modern view (left).

While none of the Pier Avenue commercial buildings appearing in the movie remain today, the rear of the uphill homes still standing at 3014 and 3018 3rd Street remain visible in the far background – compare above the movie, historic photo, and modern views. (Color image (C) 2018 Microsoft Corporation).

This view looks east down Marine Street, parallel to and a block south from Pier Avenue, towards the former St. Clement’s Church that once stood on the SE corner of Washington Boulevard (now 2nd Street) and Marine. The large building at the center of the movie frame is the side of the former Masonic Temple at 162 Marine.

A closer view of the west side of the former Masonic Temple (center), and at back, the former St. Clement’s Church (LAPL), both long demolished.

Moments later, Carey switches between cars as they pass on a steep hill, filmed just a block further east along Marine between 3rd and 4th. The retaining walls on the south side of Marine appearing in the film remain in place today. This aerial view clearly shows the Masonic Temple (box), the church (oval), and the hilly street with the retaining walls to the right (line) depicted in the film.

Late in the film, Carey and others run along dingy Chinatown alleys and street corners. Built in the 1880s, the original Chinatown grew east of the Plaza de Los Angeles on former grazing land owned by Mexican land baron Juan Apablasa and his son Cayetano. Denied property ownership, and restricted from living elsewhere, the Chinese suffered the neglect of their landlords, who left the privately owned streets of Chinatown unpaved. Crammed among noisy railroad tracks, towering gaswork plants, and the frequently overflowing Los Angeles River, Chinatown was the city’s least desirable address.

(Above, Huntington Digital Library, left, Soft Shoes upper right, Chaplin’s The Kid, lower right). Once the original leases expired, most of Chinatown was sold in 1914 to make way for the future Union Train Station. After years of litigation, the Chinese were evicted in 1934 for construction of the new terminal that opened to great acclaim in 1937. That same year community leaders formulated a master plan to develop a new Chinatown between Hill and Broadway, a mile northwest from its former site, where it remains today. Three identifiable scenes from Soft Shoes were filmed at the same spot, the corner of a narrow alley running from Marchesault Street to Apablasa Street, across from the corner of Cayetano Alley. Remarkably, one shot matches exactly where Charlie Chaplin filmed a critical scene from The Kid (1921). Here above (upper right Soft Shoes, lower right The Kid) are identical views looking south from Cayetano, across Apablasa, towards the narrow alley corner.

Above, Soft Shoes left, looking SW, a composite image from Chaplin’s The Kid, right, looking south. Both views show the same drainspout and corner alley bulletin board.

Upper left (yellow), Harry Carey runs south from Apablasa Street towards Marchesault Street, down a narrow connecting alley – this may be the only surviving image taken within this alley. Lower left (red), Chaplin at the corner of Cayetano and Apablasa. The purple arrow points west down Apablasa, matching Stan Laurel’s view, below. UC Santa Barbara c-2744_3.

A wide view looking west down Apablasa, with The Kid/Soft Shoes alley corner at the left. Stan Laurel appears at right in Mandarin Mixup (1924). Chaplin filmed Caught In A Cabaret (1914) beside the central building at back. You can read more about Chaplin and Laurel filming in Chinatown on Apablasa (below) in this post HERE.

At left, is this a happy ending for Harry Carey? Come to the festival and find out. The 2018 Soft Shoes restoration was completed by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival in partnership with the Czech Republic’s Národní filmový archiv, under the supervision of SFSFF President Rob Byrne, with SFSFF recreating English titles from the original surviving Czech print. Funding for the restoration was generously provided by the National Film Preservation Foundation with additional funding from the San Francisco Silent Film Festival Film Preservation Fund.

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. 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. The Kid – Criterion Collection; Chaplin’s Mutual Comedies; The Stan Laurel Slapstick Symposium Collection Volume 2, Eric Lange and Serge Bromberg, Lobster Films; Chaplin at Keystone Collection, Lobster Films for the Chaplin Keystone Project. Except where noted color images (C) 2018 Google.

Below, the Franconia Apartments.

Posted in Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Stan Laurel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Surviving Keaton Studio Neighbors

This duplex once adjacent to the Keaton Studio is still standing – more below.

Buster Keaton unwittingly documented the urbanization of the once agricultural Colegrove region of Hollywood in the background of his films. As reported in my book Silent Echoes, the quaint Cahuenga Valley Lemon Growers Exchange warehouse once stood across the street from Buster’s small studio (see below), appearing in the background during scenes from his early shorts The Scarecrow (1920) and The Goat (1921) (see further below). By 1923, it was gone, replaced by a six story storage warehouse on Santa Monica Boulevard, still standing today, that appears to the upper left during this scene looking north from The Balloonatic (1923) (right). The dark horizontal rectangle near the center of this image is the back of the Keaton Studio sign, with many dressing room windows along Lillian Way to the left, and office bungalow windows at the center.

Looking north at the lemon warehouse across the street – Buster with Big Joe Roberts and Roscoe Arbuckle on the studio lawn.

Below, views of the warehouse, looking north at left, from The Scarecrow, and looking west, from The Scarecrow and The Goat, upper right and lower right. If you click to enlarge the lower right image you can actually read the warehouse sign through the trees above Buster.

While I was vaguely aware that other modern buildings encroached north of Buster’s studio, I never bothered to investigate them until now. It turns out that a very dense cluster of 10 duplexes was crammed into a tiny corner lot directly across from Buster’s bungalow office. Their addresses ranged from 1051-1051 ½ to 1069-1069 ½ Lillian Way. This 1923 view looks south towards the studio – HollywoodPhotographs.com.

10 duplexes, 20 units, each tiny 4-room unit barely 500 square feet in size. The building permits for these units were all pulled on Christmas Eve, 1921, with construction completed early in 1922. This 1938 photo looking north (right) shows the duplexes on Eleanor and Lillian Way (box) and the warehouse on Santa Monica Blvd. at the upper left. USC Digital Library. Note in both photos that four duplexes with widely-spaced porch entrances flank a very narrow courtyard, while at the end of each narrow courtyard the fifth duplex in the group has closely-spaced porch entrances.

Despite their tiny size, these units were not later demolished, but were relocated, the southern 5 duplexes moved in 1947, and the remaining 5 units in 1955. Above, a view north from a cropped publicity still (left) for The Balloonatic, showing the side, back porch, and corner of one of the 10 duplexes. Though not the same unit in the vintage photo, the color view of 445 Coronado Terrace (the former 1065 – 1065 ½ Lillian Way unit) shows matching back porch and window pattern details. The color view also shows 441 Coronado Terrace (the former 1061 – 1061 ½ Lillian Way unit) up in back. This unit was built atop a tall, sloping foundation, to allow the other end of the unit to front the uphill street.

445 Coronado Place, left, with widely spaced porches, 441 Coronado Place, right, with closely spaced porches.

Presumably these tiny homes were built to accommodate studio employees, both Keaton’s, and the much larger Metro Studios a block further south. When the Hollywood Metro Studios shut down in 1924 to become part of M-G-M in Culver City, the appeal of these homes may have suffered.

From the Los Angeles Times, September 3, 1926, advertising 1065 ½ Lillian Way for rent. Adjusted for inflation, the $30 monthly rent equates to roughly $425 a month today. The unit advertised here now stands at 445 Coronado Terrace, see above.

The widely spaced porches of 445 Coronado Terrace.

Most of the units were moved from Hollywood to much larger parcels in places such as North Hollywood, Van Nuys, and Sherman Oaks. With more land available, it began to make sense to think big, so not surprisingly seven of the units, once relocated, were ultimately demolished to accommodate larger homes.

Remarkably three units still survive, 441 and 445 Coronado Terrace, west of Echo Park, left and above, and below, behind an existing small home at 3048 Wabash Avenue east of Boyle Heights.

3048 Wabash Avenue – the back unit was moved from the Keaton Studio – note the wide porch entrances. The small home to the left was here originally.

This research was possible thanks to the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety posting searchable historic building records online. You may access these records at https://www.ladbs.org/services/check-status/online-building-records

Color images (C) 2018 Google. Below, the Google Street View of 445 Coronado Terrace.

 

Posted in Buster Keaton, Keaton Studio, The Goat, The Scarecrow | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

The Surviving Chaplin “The Circus” Tree

Paul Ayers, attorney, SoCal historian, and Altadena hiking trail expert and restorer, has shared many remarkable location discoveries over the years, including the finale from Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus (1928). Stemming from Paul’s discoveries, we now know a tree that witnessed Chaplin’s finale still survives (see below).

I met Paul after confessing in the first edition of Silent Echoes that I had no clue where Buster Keaton narrowly passed in front of an oncoming train in Sherlock Jr. (1924). Paul wrote to me with the correct solution, included in later editions of the book, and his methodology was stunning.

First, by noting the engine’s number, Paul excluded all Southern Pacific engines and rail lines. Next, given the design of the station at back, the lesser quality of the road bed, Paul’s sense that secondary rail lines are easier to shut down for filming, the lack of hills or desert terrain in the background, etc., Paul correctly surmised it was likely a secondary Santa Fe line in Orange County. Then, leafing through his train history books, Paul found photos from 1924 confirming the exact spot. Buster filmed riding up Richfield Road, crossing Orangethorpe Avenue in Atwood, in what is now Placentia. The rail line is still in active use today.

With similar skill and ingenuity, Paul has correctly identified numerous other locations, including one of my favorites, the final scene from The Circus, where the Little Tramp stands alone in a field watching his lady love and the rest of the circus crew leave him behind.

Click to enlarge – looking east towards Verdugo Road, above grade (notice the car within E6). Only the tree west of Verdugo, W2, casts a shadow below the road. The “E” trees stand east of Verdugo, E4-E6 along a side road “R” visible in the 1928 aerial below. Taller, and further east than E1 and E3, E2 appears in the photo below.

Knowing that the studio records mention Chaplin filmed the scene in Glendale, and that no major hills or mountains appear onscreen, Paul correctly surmised it must have been filmed looking south from the mouth of Verdugo Canyon. Triangulating from production stills and other clues in the movie, including auto traffic seen on what turned out to be Verdugo Road, Paul visited the site in person, and by matching ridge lines (a difficult task given all the homes there now), confirmed generally the circus field area as within Glenoaks Blvd., N. Adams Street, and Verdugo Road, north of the Wilson Middle School. I cover this, and Paul’s handiwork, more fully in my Chaplin book Silent Traces.

The circus wagon train departs south down Verdugo Road. Only two trees, W1 and W2 stood west of the road, and only W1 stood next to a telephone pole (see W2 in above photo). The surviving tree E2, the tallest, stands across the road.

When I recently came upon vintage aerial photos of the Glendale shooting site, I realized there might be trees that witnessed the Chaplin production still standing today. (As I write in another post, certain trees at the Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills Memorial Park appear during the battle field scenes from The Birth of A Nation (1916), and in the 1937 Three Stooges short Playing The Ponies ).

Above, both looking east, with Verdugo Road running north-south (left-right) across the images, these 1928 aerial views show the unique W1-W2 pair of trees west of Verdugo across from a cluster of six trees east of the road (E1-E6), and the side road (R) running beside E4-E6. Reckoning from the W1-W2 trees I was able to identify the corresponding trees in the two production stills annotated above. UC Santa Barbara c-300_k-181.

By 1938 (upper left), Verdugo Road had been widened and paved, losing the west W1-W2 trees in the process, as well as E1 and E3, the easterly trees closest to the road. By 1944 (upper right), homes were built west of Verdugo.

By 1952 the area east of Verdugo was also built over, with sidewalks installed along the east side of the street, leaving only one tree, E2, still standing. Visiting the site on Google Street View, it’s apparent why E2 remains. When they graded along the road to install the eastern sidewalk, they created a large square retaining wall to preserve the tree.

Thus, just as there are trees that remain today having witnessed the making of The Birth of A Nation, a giant old oak tree in Glendale, appearing onscreen at left, witnessed the concluding scenes from The Circus.

Note: Paul was also the key to locating the avalanche of beer barrels scene in the Buster Keaton MGM talkie What No Beer? (1933). (Gif file courtesy of Danny Reid’s fascinating early cinema site Pre-code.comWhat No Beer? review).

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.

Aerial photos UC Santa Barbara FrameFinder. Atwood train photo – Rails Through the Orange Groves: (Vol. II) by Stephen E. Donaldson and William A. Myers, Ronald D. Sands and Edward W. Cochens. What No Beer? © 1933 Turner Entertainment Co. Color images (C) 2017 Google.

The surviving tree at 920 N. Verdugo Road in Glendale.

Posted in Charlie Chaplin, Sherlock Jr. | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments