Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Cecile B. Demille

Want to buy the home of legendary Paramount filmmaker Cecile B. Demille? Well, you can! It's for sale at the recently reduced price of $18.95 million. What a bargain right? When Demille purchased the home in 1916 it was priced at $27,893. The home is located in a private community in the Los Angeles neighborhood Los Feliz.

932-935 Vendome Street, Los Angeles
One of my favorite Laurel & Hardy comedy shorts is The Music Box, in which the boys are hired to deliver a piano to a house located at the top of a long flight of stairs. The boys struggle to push the piano up the stairs, becoming trampled by the piano in the process. Not until they reach the top do they realize there was a driveway that lead to the top! The film won an Academy Award for best short comedy subject at the 1931-1932 awards.
932-935 Vendome Street "Music Box" Stairs
The stairs that were used in The Music Box are still standing, located between 932-935 Vendome Street, just south of Sunset Boulevard in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. Above is a picture of how the stairs look today. Not only were the stairs used in The Music Box but they are featured in an earlier Laurel & Hardy film from 1927, Hats Off. In this film the boys were delivering vacuum cleaners.

Plaque located at base of The Music Box stairs.
At the base of the stairs you will find a plaque ackowledging the significance of these steps. The Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Board has made this location a cultural landmark. Not only is their plague but there is now also a street sign for this particular location.

Metro / Buster Keaton Studios, Hollywood, CA
Of the top three silent comedians this is what comes to mind: when I think of Chaplin I think "finesse." When I think of Lloyd I think "Sporty." When I think of Buster Keaton I think "daring." Keaton devised some of the most elaborate and dangerous stunts of any of the silent film actors. Not only did he do all of his own stunts he often played the role of stunt double for his fellow supporting actors. Many times Keaton would injure himself but that rarely kept him from continuing his work and I believe this, along with his well developed gags, made him one of the greatest.
Many of Keaton's most memorable films including Steamboat Bill, Our Hospitality, and The General to name a few, were made at the Buster Keaton Studio in Hollywood, CA. The main entrance to the studio was located at 1325 Eleanor Ave but the structures of this studio are long gone. In the vintage photo at the top you can see part of the Keaton Studios which eventually became the Metro studios. In the two photos below you can see the studio site as it appears today.
* There used to be a Buster Keaton statue that stood at this location but it has been removed. If you go to where the Eleanor street sign is and look at the ground you can see a plaque where the statue used to stand. I need to go back with a towel and clean it off though in order for a photo of it to show up.
Eleanor Ave & Lillian Way, Hollywood

Site of the former Buster Keaton Studio

Why does it seem that so many movie projects come in pairs? Armageddon vs. Deep Impact, Capote vs. Infamous, recently Paul Blart: Mall Cop vs. Observe and Report and I could go on. Now there is two biographical pics in the works on the legendary actor, the "King of Cool," Steve McQueen!

Producer and former McQueen publicist David Foster is working on a film based on the memoir written by Neile McQueen Toffel, McQueens first wife, titled "My Husband, My Friend." The second project has Jesse Wigutow set to write a screenplay based on Marshall Terrill's biography "Steve McQueen: Portrait of an American Rebel." No stars have been named for the projects

These two were an adorable husband and wife dressed in Victorian era clothes. They are tour guides who work at the museum and were very fun and informative.

Valley Knudsen Garden Residence

Hale House

A horeseless carriage

On the right are some of the booths with the many historical and preservation groups who were on hand to promote preservation in Los Angeles.

Old fashion tandem bicycle.

John J. Ford House

The John Ford House was one of the smaller buildings on the property but it has many beautiful hand carved deatails. All throughout the home there are hand carved decorative elements.

Fireplace in the John Ford House

Parva Sed Apta Apartments
The Parva Sed Apta Apartments, located at 1817 Ivar Avenue, just a couple blocks north of Hollywood Boulevard was the home to author Nathanael West while he wrote his screenplays and his most famous novel, The Day of the Locust. While living here West got to know the Hollywood neighborhood as it was during the 1930s, including the many different characters that were also part of this community. Some of the people that West met while living in this building are said to have been inspiration for the characters he created in his novel.

1817 N. Ivar Ave. Parva Sed Apta Apartments
When The Day of the Locust came out in 1939 it was not a commercial success. It wasn't until years later that the book would take off in popularity. Unfortunately, West died a year after the book came out in a car crash. West was driving home from a hunting trip and died the day after his good friend and fellow author F. Scott Fitzgerald who had a heart attack.
I've never been inside the apartment building but I've heard the units were originally small one room spaces with a Murphy wall bed and kitchenette. Apparently now the units have been converted into larger one bedroom apartments.

172 South McCadden Place, Los Angeles
Fridays in March the Silent Movie Theatre in Los Angeles is showing gothic films about Hollywood and not surprising one of the first films they showed was the 1962 classic Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? The story is about former child star Jane Hudson (Bette Davis) and her sister Blanche (Joan Crawford), a movie star forced into retirement due to a crippling accident. Jane takes care of her crippled sister in their old Hollywood mansion but increasingly mistreats her as her mental health begins an aggressive downward spiral.

Yesterday I went around an took some photographs of a few of the locations which can be seen in the film. They are almost all in the Larchmont neighborhood of Los Angeles near Paramount Studios. The first picture up at the top is the home where the characters played by Bette Davis and Joan Crawford live. Below is a screenshot of the house as seen in the film.

170 South McCadden Place, Los Angeles

Bette Davis going to Citizen News building in Hollywood

The above screenshot is of Bette Davis going to the Citizen News building in Hollywood. It's here that Davis pays to put an ad in the paper for a songwriter. Below is a picture looking at the same location as it appears today.

If you look closely you can see that the street lights have not changed. However, the Mercedes Benz dealer is long gone. As for the Citizen News building which was built in 1929 there is little going on here from what I can tell. The beautiful building looks to be vacant.

Citizen News Building 1545 Wilcox Ave. Hollywood

The next screenshot below is of Davis running more errands. The location is the 200 block of Larchmont Blvd, very close to the location of the mansion. Larchmont Blvd is like the main street of this neighborhood. There are many little small shops and the area has a very quaint feel to it. Unfortunately, like many communities, this area is starting to be invaded by larger franchise businesses.
Below is the same street corner as it looks today.

200 N. Larchmont Blvd, Los Angeles

200 N. Larchmont Blvd, Los Angeles

Near the end of the film when Edwin Flagg (Victor Buono) discovers what Davis has done he takes off running from the mansion. We see him running down Clinton Street to the corner of Larchmont Blvd. Below is screenshot of Flag at this intersection and a photo I took recently of the same intersection today.

Larchmont Blvd/Clinton St. Los Angeles

Larchmont Blvd/Clinton St. Los Angeles

650 N. Bronson Avenue, Raleigh Studios

Above is a photo of the Raleigh Studios which is located directly across the street from the more famous Paramount Studios. It was at Raleigh where the interior scenes were filmed for Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? which at the time of the film was known as Producers Studios. If you look to the right of the photo you will see some shorter buildings. It's on the other side of these buildings where we see at the beginning of the movie two Hollywood producers talking about what they're supposed to do with Baby Jane Hudson, who's disgraceful acting has made her worthless to the studio.
It's amazing that this film got made with both Bette Davis and Joan Crawford together. Apparently, there was much hostility between the two star actresses. I love some of the stories about the making of this film. My favorite is the one that during the scene where Davis is kicking Crawford that she actually did kick Crawford in the head forcing her to get stitches. In retaliation, when it came to the scene when Davis was to drag Crawford's body up the stairs, Crawford had put weights under her outfit which resulted in Davis straining her back.

Yours truly at Paramount Studios backlot c. 2006
This is a picture of me taken a few years ago from one of the rooftops of the Paramount Studios backlot. It's one of my favorite pictures because you can see so much. If you look closely in the background you can see the famous Hollywood sign. Where all those palm trees are standing that is the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, the resting place for many old Hollywood stars, including C.B. Demille, Rudolph Valentino, and Douglas Fairbanks. In the left corner you will see a tall building wrapped in what looks like a white trash bag. That building stands on the corner of Sunset & Vine and is one of the towers that is almost destroyed in the 1974 Universal film Earthquake. Just to the right of that you can vaguely see what is the iconic Capital records building. And of course immediately behind me are the fake buildings that have been the backdrop for so many films, TV shows, and commercials. But, you know what I like about this photo most of all? No smog! That is a rare thing in Los Angeles.

Below is an incredible video of pop culture historian Piet Schreuders recreating the area of Los Angeles known as Culver City through the world of Laurel & Hardy during the 1920s. This video has been around for a while now but if you haven't checked it out yet it is certainly worth viewing. Schreuders creates a computer model of Culver City so we can see how the area looked in the 1920s. Mixed in the video are scenes from Laurel & Hardy films for comparison.

Vintage Photograph - Echo Park, Los Angeles
Another great photograph I found while antiquing in Temecula is the above picture taken in Echo Park, Los Angeles. I have no idea who the gentlemen in the picture is but he seems like a pretty stylish guy don't you think? I wonder what his story is - what he was doing in Echo Park at the time? I'm guessing by the clothing that this photo was probably taken some time in the 1950s?
Even if you've never been to Los Angeles before you've likely seen images of Echo Park in the movies. The famous silent film director Mack Sennet built his Keystone Pictures Studio here in 1912 and everyone from Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle, and Gloria Swanson have filmed here. Likely any scenes that take place near water in those silent films were shot at Echo Park lake. But, if you haven't seen any of those early films but the lake in the picture still looks familiar it's a good chance you saw the film Chinatown starring Jack Nicholson. Remember the scene where Jack is in the little rowboat? The below picture is a little closer to how the lake looks in the film. The lake can also be seen in L.A. Confidential and True Confessions as well as other films set in Los Angeles.

Photograph  Stevie Nelson

The Chutes, Los Angeles - Postcard
A couple weeks ago I took a trip down to Temecula, California for some wine tasting and antiquing and in one of the shops I found this great old postcard of The Chutes amusement park in Los Angeles. I have only seen a few images of the park before so I was excited to find an image of this little talked about extinct Los Angeles attraction for my own collection of images.
Chutes Park started as a trolley park in 1887. During the days of trolley cars in urban cities there would usually be some kind of recreational park at the end of the trolley line to attract riders during the weekends. These were places where people could come and picnic, watch concerts, see fireworks shows and other special events. The main attraction at Chutes Park was a flume type ride which dropped riders in boats from a 75 feet tower into a man made lake which you can see in the postcard above.
The Chutes Park was always growing, adding new attractions, including a theatre, miniature railroad, merry-go-round, seal pond, fishing pond, and even hot air balloon rides. In 1900 a baseball diamond was completed and it would be the home of a minor league baseball team called the Los Angeles Angels. Eventually the Angels would move from this location.

One of the first major movie companies, Vitagraph, is one that is hardly remembered today. Vitagraph was started in 1896 by two vaudeville comedians, Albert Smith and Stuart Blackton in Brooklyn, New York. The two comedians created films that they incorporated into their live acts, but when the films became more popular than their acts, the two actors invested themselves fully into the motion picture business. Like most film companies that started on the East coast Vitagraph would open a West coast location. The new Vitagraph Studios was opened in 1915 in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles at the corner of Prospect Avenue and Talmadge Street. The lot can be seen in the forefront of the photo below.
When the Vitagraph Studios first opened there were 2 daylight soundstages, exterior sets and support buildings. Some of the first stars to work at this facility included the silent legends Clara Kimball Young, Wallace Reid, and even a pre-Hardy Stan Laurel. By 1925, Vitagraph was having financial troubles and would eventually be bought by Warner Bros. then a fast growing new motion picture company.
Warner Bros. already had a West coast studio located in Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard so the Vitagraph lot, now known as the Warner East Hollywood Annex, was used for the additional space. Many Warner Bros. films were shot at this lot from the mid-twenties to the late-forties. Some of these include The Jazz Singer (stage 5 is where the shot the interior club scenes), Public Enemy with James Cagney, and The Gold Diggers of 1933 with Ginger Rogers and Joan Blondell.
Mill Building where sets are constructed. Photo Peggy Archer
In 1948, the studio was bought by the American Broadcasting Network and then became known as ABC Television Center. Under the ownership of ABC many popular television programs were filmed here including the game shows Let's Make a Deal and Dating Game, variety shows American Bandstand and the Lawrence Welk Show, as well as the long running soap opera General Hospital.

In 1996, ABC became part of The Walt Disney Company and around 2000 renamed the studio The Prospect Studios. Disney, like Warner Bros. mainly uses this lot as an annex studio. Probably the most popular program being filmed here currently is the TV show Grey's Anatomy. Below is a picture of Seattle Grace Hospital from Grey's Anatomy as seen on the Prospect Studios lot.
Photo  Michael Patrick Breen

The Prospect Studios 4151 Prospect Avenue

This Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 7:30PM the Hollywood Heritage Museum is hosting another "Eveneing @ The Barn." This upcoming event will have Robert S. Birchard doing a presentation on "The Two Greatest Serial Stars on Earth!" Here's more info from the Hollywood Heritage Museum website:

Little remembered today, Francis Ford and Grace Cunard were among the screen's top action stars in the 1910s. Between 1914 and 1917 they appeared in four hair-raising serials for Universal - Lucille Love, the Girl of Mystery; The Broken Coin; Peg o' the Ring and The Purple Mask - and their company served as a training ground for future Oscar-winning director John Ford (Francis Ford's younger brother). Francis Ford began his movie career in 1907, and developed a distinctive visual style that was ahead of its time. Grace Cunard was a poineering woman filmmaker -

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