Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Lawless (1950) - Film Locations

The Lawless (1950)

In something a little different today, I've gone beyond my Los Angeles borders to track down film locations in two Northern California towns seen in the 1950 Joseph Losey movie, The Lawless. Many of Losey's films analyzed different social issues and in The Lawless, the director shines a light on racism in a small California community. What shocked me when I first saw this film is how contemporary it feels sixty-one years later.

The friction is between the middle class whites that live in the fictional town of Santa Marta and the Mexican fruit pickers that live in the poorer neighboring community, Sleepy Hollow. Not all, but many of the residents in the white community look down at the Mexican immigrants, considering them lazy and troublesome. During one evening, some white teenagers decide to go to Sleepy Hollow for a night of dancing. At the dance, the white teenagers pick a fight and an all out brawl ensues, spiraling out of control. When one of the Latino boys accidentally hits a cop many people in the white community, without knowing all the facts, go on a hunt for the Mexican juvenile, much like the mob in the Fritz Lang film, Fury.

Macdonald Carey, a regular in many 'B' movies, plays Larry Wilder, a newspaper publisher who has left the city life to go live and work in a quieter small town similar to the one he fondly remembers growing up in.  Being new in town, Carey initially doesn't want to make any more waves in the community than there already are. When Carey realizes just how bad the anti-Mexican hatred is he decides to take action, using his newspaper to get out the facts and to be a voice of reason in the community.

Macdonald Carey outside The Union Square Building

Union Square Building, 151 Mill St, Grass Valley, Ca

Above and directly below are screenshots from the film showing Carey's newspaper office building compared with contemporary images of the location. In the film, this building was to be in the fictional town of Santa Marta, but this building is located at 151 Mill Street, in Grass Valley, California. What I think is interesting is that this building, built in 1864, really was a newspaper building according to the Nevada County Association of Realtors website.

Another view of Union Square Building from The Lawless

151 Mill Street, Grass Valley, Ca - Union Square Building

The next few screen comparisons show more locations moving down Mill Street in Grass Valley, going in the direction of the historic Del Oro Theatre. You will see the residents beginning to form a mob and then turning into a chase scene.

Mexicans driving down Mill Street through the white crowd.

Cars driving down Mill Street near the Del Oro Theatre.

The Del Oro Theatre in the background as seen in The Lawless.

Del Oro Theatre, 165 Mill Street, Grass Valley, Ca

According to Cinema Treasures, the Del Oro Theatre was built in 1942, making the theatre only about seven years old during the time The Lawless was being filmed.

The mob races past Casey's Restaurant in Grass Valley.

Casey's Restaurant is now a parking lot.

In the above scene, the crowd formed into a mob and began racing down Mill Street, chasing one of the Mexicans past Casey's restaurant at the intersection of Mill and Neal Streets. As you can see, Casey's Restaurant is now a parking lot.

In the next screenshot comparisons, what is supposed to still be Santa Marta was actually filmed in Marysville, California, about 30 miles away from Grass Valley where the other scenes were filmed.

5th Street at D Street, Marysville, Ca as seen in The Lawless

Looking down D Street at 5th Street, Marysville, Ca

In the screenshot above, if you look in the upper right corner, you can see the pointed circular peak of what was the Western Hotel. I was able to identify this building thanks to some historic images on the Historic Downtown Marysville website. You can check out this informative and interesting site by clicking here. The Historic Downtown Marysville site says this about the hotel:

"Opened on November 1, 1853, the five-star Western Hotel was built for $30,000 by R.J. Murray. It burned in May 1854,  June 1933, and August 1956 [just seven years after The Lawless was filmed]. The hotel had installed the first elevator, steam heaters, and electricity between Sacramento and Portland in 1911; thus, it kept the hotel ranked with its five-star rating. The hotel stood for 95 years and was demolished in 1956."

As you can see, the hotel is not the only building missing since the time of filming. Clearly some of the other buildings that once stood on D Street are now gone.

The next couple comparisons show the old Yuba County Court House in Marysville, which was located at the corner of 6th and D Streets. Like the hotel, the old Court House is no longer standing.

Yuba County Court House as seen in The Lawless.

6th & D Streets, Marysville, Ca - Former site of Court House.

In front of the Court House, looking down D Street.

Looking down D Street where the Court House once stood.

In the next scene comparison we see a park in the center of town that the mob passes through during the chase scene. This park was Cortez Square, located near where the Court House used to stand. The park was situated between B and C Street and 5th and 6th Street. Like the Court House, Cortez Square is also gone.

Cortez Square, Marysville, Ca as seen in The Lawless.

Cortez Sqaure now covered by buildings.

This last comparison shows Ellis Lake, located in Marysville, Ca. The lake can be seen later in the film when a cop drives by the sign reading "Santa Marta - The Friendly City."

A view of Ellis Lake, in Marysville, Ca.

A present day view of Ellis Lake in Marysville, Ca.

The Lawless is an entertaining 'B' movie that has held up well over time. In addition to seeing real life film locations, another great thing about this movie is that Joseph Losey cast actual Latinos, rather than throwing on some dark make-up on white actors to play Latinos. I always grimace a bit when I see that done.

The Lawless is currently available for streaming on Netflix. I don't believe there has been any official studio release of The Lawless on DVD, but it can be found for sale online.

All present day images (c) 2011 Google; (c) 2011 Microsoft Coporation, (c) 2010 Pictometry International Corp (c) 2010 NAVTEQ.

Your thoughts?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) - Film Locations

Theatrical Poster

There are so many movies about war, but not nearly as many that show life after war. One of the few classics on the post-war subject is the 1946 film, The Best Years of Our Lives. This Academy Award winning film tells the story of three veterans returning home from World War II and the challenges each one faces. 

Fredric March plays Al Stephenson, an Army Sergeant who returns to his loving wife Milly (Myrna Loy) and their family. He was a successful bank executive before the war and when Al returns, he is promoted to Vice President. All seems good, except that Al is having trouble adapting back to civilian life and is now struggling with alcoholism. 

Dana Andrews plays good looking Fred Derry, a soda jerk before the war and during the war an Air Force bombardier. After the war, Fred expects to get a better job upon returning home, but finds that he faces tough competition from other returning vets and that he lacks the necessary civilian skills. To make matters worse, Fred's wife has moved on to other men while Fred was away at war. 

Harold Russell plays Homer Parrish, the quarterback of his football team before the war, who married his sweetheart Wilma (Cathy O'Donnell) before leaving to fight. Homer, a sailor in the war, lost both of his hands. When he returns home to his fiance and family, he has trouble adjusting to life with his disability. What troubles Homer most of all is that he feels that he will be a burden on his fiance, so he pushes her away, trying to give her a way out of their relationship. 

The home that Fredric March's character returns to is an apartment building located at the corner of Beverly Boulevard and N. Sycamore Avenue in Los Angeles. It's a pretty nice building about a block from La Brea Avenue that looks like the kind of fancy place where a bank executive might live. Below is a screenshot of the building from the film and an image of the building as it appears today.

Fredric March's apartment building.

Fredric March's apartment on Beverly Blvd (c) 2011 Google

Looking east down Beverly Blvd.

Looking east down Beverly Blvd (c) 2011 Google

Fredric March returns home with Dana Andrews in the car.

The Best Years of Our Lives won seven Academy Awards, including Best Motion Picture, Best Director for William Wyler, and a Best Actor award for Fredric March. This film is currently available on DVD and it sounds like a blu-ray release is still TBA.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

College Coach (1933) - Film Locations

College Coach (1933)

What is college football without a few scandals? It seems like every football season a few more scandals pop up. Just this year eight players for the University of Miami are in trouble for accepting illegal gifts. But this is nothing new. Illegal gifts, phony entrance exams, dirty money and other illegal affairs have long been a part of college sports and this was even the premise for the 1933 film, College Coach.

In College Coach, Pat O'Brien plays the title character, a shady coach willing to do anything to win, even if it means buying players for his team and getting them into classes they can pass. This is a far stretch from the real life coach, Knute Rockne, that O'Brien would play a few years later. As coach Gore, O'Brien is hired by Calvert University,  a school looking to turn their football team into a winning team in order to attract more money for their school. 

The film doesn't mention where the story takes place, but the film was made in and around Los Angeles. Here are a few of the filming locations from College Coach.

For the fictional Calvert University, filming was done at Millspaugh Hall which was once located at 855 N. Vermont Ave. Millspaugh Hall was built in 1914 and was the main administration building for the University of California, Southern Branch which would eventually come to be known as University of California, Los Angeles or UCLA. By 1929, UCLA moved to their new campus in Westwood. Millspaugh Hall has since been demolished.

Calvert University as seen in College Coach (1933)

Millspaugh Hall, 855 N. Vermont Ave
Photo Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

855 N. Vermont Ave. Now the site of Los Angeles City College.

In one scene, after Pat O'Brien has accepted the job at Calvert University, he goes to meet his wife at the train station. O'Brien's wife, played by the attractive Ann Dvorak, is coming to join her husband in the new town where he will be coaching. The train station that was used in the film was the former Santa Fe Depot in South Pasadena. In the film we get a glimpse of the depot as well as the Graham and Mohr Opera House, another historic building that has since been demolished.


O'Brien standing across from the Graham and Mohr Opera House
El Centro Street, South Pasadena

The Graham and Mohr Opera House (demolished)
Photo Credit: South Pasadena Library

Santa Fe Depot on Left. Opera House on Right
El Centro Street, South Pasadena
Photo Credit: "South Pasadena" by Rick Thomas

El Centro Street, South Pasadena as it appears today.

In another scene we see the Calvert University football team arriving in town for a game. Signs welcome the arrival of the Calvert players. The street that we see the team driving down is Broadway and we get a glimpse of the historic United Artists movie palace on the left hand side. The United Artists theatre was built in 1927, just six years prior to the filming of College Coach.

Broadway, Los Angeles as seen in College Coach

933 S. Broadway, United Artists Theatre on left.

Revised December 12, 2013 - I previously posted that the football scenes were filmed at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, but thanks to a tip from silent locations expert John Bengtson, I've learned that the Rose Bowl in Pasadena was also used for the football scenes. In the screenshot below of fans entering the football stadium, that is the entrance to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The screenshots showing the inside of a football stadium are actually of the Rose Bowl stadium.

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as seen in College Coach.

Bing Bird's Eye view of Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum entrance.

Calvert University plays at the Rose Bowl.

An inside look of the Rose Bowl from the January 1, 2013 Rose Bowl game. Source.

Lyle Talbot, Dick Powell race on to the field to see O'Brien.

 
Another view inside the Rose Bowl looking towards the gate that Talbot and Powell would have run out from. Undated image from the Los Angeles Public Library photo collection.

A closeup aerial view of the Rose Bowl's South East gate from 1930. The yellow rectangle marks the shrubbery seen along the wall which is also visible in the screenshot with O'Brien and his team.

Hugh Herbert, Ann Dvorak, Pat O'Brien

College Coach also stars Lyle Talbot, Dick Powell and Nat Pendleton as three of the football players for Calvert University. And if you watch closely, you get a glimpse of a very young John Wayne, as one of the Calvert students.

College Coach is available on home video through the Warner Archive Collection.

All screenshots (c) Warner Bros. Entertainment. Aerial Views: Hall Pictometry Bird's Eye, 2010 (c), 2010 Pictometry International Corp (c) 2011 Microsoft Corporation (c) and (c) 2010 NAVTEQ 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Bigger Than Life (1956) - Film Location


The first Nicholas Ray film I ever saw and I imagine is the case for many people, was Rebel Without a Cause, with James Dean and Natalie Wood. I was just a teenager who at the time was more interested in seeing James Dean. Even as a teen in the early 90s James Dean was still cool. But when I watched Rebel, it wasn't just Dean that sucked me in, it was the dramatic way the film was captured, such as the faraway camera shots and the striking camera angles, like the opening scene where the camera is looking up at James Dean lying on the ground, playing with a toy. It was the Nicholas Ray touch that made this teen drama so engaging.

Ray might not have been a Billy Wilder or a John Ford, but he had his own style that made him great and it was the auteurists who started the French New Wave that first recognized Ray's greatness. Appropriately, in college, when as a student I was expanding my knowledge of classic cinema, I discovered more of Ray's films and began to appreciate him as a director. The more I saw the more I liked Ray as a director. In A Lonely Place and On Dangerous Ground became fast favorites. 

This past August marked the centennial of Nicholas Ray and to celebrate, Tony Dayoub of the blog Cinema Viewfinder is hosting a Nicholas Ray blogathon, starting today and running through September 8, 2011.  To read all the entries, visit Cinema Viewfinder by clicking here.

This is the first blogathon I have chose to participate in. The subject of Ray was just too good to pass up. As my contribution, I'm sticking with the theme of this blog so I am celebrating Ray's centennial with a look at some of the filming locations for three of his classics: Bigger Than Life (1956),  In A Lonely Place (1950), and Rebel Without A Cause (1955).

In Ray's film, Bigger Than Life, James Mason plays a father and school teacher who becomes seriously ill. When it appears that Mason's illness is hopeless, Mason becomes dependent on a miracle drug to cure him. The only problem is the drug causes Mason to go mad and he begins to scare and hurt those around him.

There are not many external film locations in Bigger Than Life, but there is one scene where Mason and his family go to a church service. That church is the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, located on the NE corner of Sixth Street and Commonwealth Avenue in the Wilshire District. The church is the oldest continuous Protestant Church in the city.

First Congregational Church of Los Angeles
as seen in Bigger Than Life (1956)

First Congregational Church of Los Angeles present day.
(c) Google 2011

Bigger Than Life also stars Barbara Rush as Mason's husband and Walter Matthau as Mason's friend.

For more Nicholas Ray film locations check out my previous posts on:




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