Sunday, February 26, 2012

Harry and Tonto (1974) - Film Locations


Art Carney was primarily a television star for most of his career, but at the age of fifty-five, Carney would win that award most coveted by film stars, the Oscar. The year was 1974, a year that included stiff competition in the Best Actor category: Albert Finney in Murder on the Orient Express, Dustin Hoffman in Lenny, Jack Nicholson in Chinatown, and Al Pacino in The Godfather, Part II were the other nominees. But Carney, best remembered as Ed Norton on The Honeymooners, would be the victor that year for his endearing performance as the 72 year-old widower Harry Coombs in a little film called Harry and Tonto. Carney was only 55 years-old when he played the part of Harry, but Carney whitened his hair, grew his mustache and used make-up to make himself appear older than he really was. 

In the film, Harry is a retired teacher who has lived in New York his whole life. At the age of 72, the proud New Yorker is evicted from his Upper West Side apartment building to make way for the development of a parking garage. With nowhere else to go, Harry moves in with his son's family on Long Island, but that situation just doesn't work out. Harry doesn't feel like he belongs there so he decides to hit the road with his cat Tonto as his travel companion. Harry and Tonto hitchhike across the country, befriending many interesting characters along the way, and end up in Los Angeles.

When Harry arrives in Los Angeles he is dropped off by bus in the center of Hollywood near the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and McCadden Place, just outside a hotel that used to be the Christie Hotel. Built in 1922, the Christie Hotel was the first luxury hotel in Hollywood. The tall brick building is now owned by the Church of Scientology.

Harry gets dropped off in Hollywood near
6724 Hollywood Boulevard.

Looking towards 6724 Hollywood Boulevard. The
former Christie Hotel is now owned by the Scientology Church.

Harry gets picked up at the bus stop by one of his sons who is living in California. Across the street from the bus stop is the former Pickwick Bookshop located at 6743 Hollywood Boulevard. Pickwick opened in 1938 and was in operation until 1995 when it finally closed due to a lack of shopping in the area.

Harry and his son hugging at the bus stop across from
Pickwick Bookshop on Hollywood Boulevard.

6743 Hollywood Boulevard, the former home of
Pickwick Bookshop.

Another view of Pickwick Books ca. 1955
Photo Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

Looking at what used to be Pickwick Bookshop.

On the other corner of Hollywood Boulevard and opposite Pickwick Bookshop we see what was once a Diamond Jim's Restaurant. That corner is now the home of the lingerie shop Fredrick's of Hollywood.

Behind Harry (Carney) and his son is a Diamond
Jim's Restaurant, 6753 Hollywood Boulevard.

6753 Hollywood Boulevard is now Fredrick's of Hollywood.

Looking east down Hollywood Boulevard from
McCadden Place.

Looking east down Hollywood Boulevard from
McCadden Place.

When Harry and his son leave the bus stop we see them driving down Cahuenga Boulevard where it parallels the 101 freeway. In the shot below we see Cahuenga Blvd East at Lakeridge Place.

Looking down Cahuenga Blvd. East at Lakeridge Pl.

Cahuenga Blvd East at Lakeridge Pl.

Harry traveling past the intersection of 
N. Cahuenga Blvd at Cahuenga Terrace.

N. Cahuenga Blvd at Cahuenga Terrace.

The view of Cahuenga Blvd from near the Barham Boulevard bridge.

Looking down Cahuenga Blvd near Barham Blvd bridge.

Harry spends a lot of time near the end of the film in Santa Monica and Venice. The next comparisons are all from these beach communities.

Harry walks along the path near Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica.

Looking down the railing of the walking path in Santa Monica.

Another view of the walking path near Ocean Ave.
The Santa Monica Pier is in the background.

Looking down the walking path towards the Santa 
Monica Pier.

Harry sits at a bench in Venice across from 
401 Ocean Front Walk.

The benches on Ocean Front Walk in Venice as they
appear today.

Harry stands near 401 Ocean Front Walk, Venice.

Looking at 401 Ocean Front Walk.

The building at 401 Ocean Front Walk also appears in another 1970s film I recently blogged about, The Big Fix, starring Richard Dreyfuss.

Harry spots what he thinks is his cat Tonto.

Looking down Ocean Front Walk in Venice.

Another view of 401 Ocean Front Walk.

Looking towards 401 Ocean Front Walk.

A Tonto look-a-like cat on Ocean Front Walk in Venice.

If those are the same palm trees, look at how much they've grown!

Harry running towards the Pacific Ocean.

Looking towards the ocean from 401 Ocean Front Walk.

The view behind Harry is of Ocean Front Walk in Venice.

The view of Ocean Front Walk in Venice as it appears today.
Most of the same buildings seen in the screenshot can still be spotted.

Harry and Tonto has had a DVD release and is also currently available as a Watch Instantly title from Netflix.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Who's Got the Action? (1962) - Film Locations


Dean Martin and Lana Turner headline this story about a man with a gambling addiction (Martin) and his wife (Turner) who does what she can to make sure her husband doesn't lose all of their money. The setup is quite a stretch. Turner has Martin's law partner (Eddie Albert) lead Martin to believe that Albert has found the best bookie in town, that bookie, being Martin's wife. The idea is if Martin loses then the money will stay in the household, but unfortunately, Martin goes on a winning streak, forcing Turner to sell their possessions to cover the winnings. Meanwhile, a real bookie in town (Walter Matthau ) is wondering who it is that is getting all the action? 

Despite the tagline claiming to be "the most riotous bedtime story ever!" Who's Got the Action? (1962), really isn't that riotous at all. Even at an hour and a half the movie feels long. Most of the gags just are not that funny and the plot struggles to unfold. I think a more appropriate tagline would be "a mildly amusing bedtime story,"because the film does have some merits.

My favorite part of Who's Got the Action? is seeing Matthau in one of his early film roles. He's the most fun to watch and steals every scene he is in. I also liked the 1960s set designs, particularly the interior of the apartment where Martin and Turner live.

The apartment building where Martin and Turner live is the Talmadge apartments located at 3278 Wilshire Boulevard. This building was built by Joseph M. Schenck in 1922 for his wife, the silent screen actress, Norma Talmadge. 

The Talmadge apartments as seen in the film.

The Talmadge building as it appears today.

The screenshot below shows Martin and Turner leaving the Talmadge apartments and driving down Wilshire Boulevard. They're in the red car, passing Immanuel Presbyterian Church.

Immanuel Presbyterian Church, 3300 Wilshire Blvd

Immanuel Presbyterian Church as it appears now.

Below is a side view of Immanuel Presbyterian Church looking across South Berendo Street from the Talmadge apartment building.

Martin about to enter the Talmadge building. Immanuel 
Presbyterian Church is in the background.

Side view of the church looking across S. Berendo St.

Each day Turner walks to the newsstand outside of the Thrifty drug store to read the paper and see the results of the horse races. The Thrifty drug store was located at 3333 Wilshire Boulevard, just a couple blocks down from the Talmadge apartment building. The Thrifty drug store is gone and now a modern office building, completed in 1983, stands in its place.

Turner visits the Thrifty Drug Store at
3333 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles

A glass and steel skyscraper now stands at
3333 Wilshire Boulevard.

Turner fainted when she saw the results of the races. Eddie Albert helps Turner back to her apartment. In the screenshot below we can see the Talmadage apartment building a couple blocks up in the background. The building in the foreground is a bank and that building is still being used as a bank today.

Eddie Albert helps Turner back to the Talmadge apartment.

Looking up Wilshire at the corner of S. Catalina Street.

A year later, in 1963, Dean Martin made another "bedtime story" comedy called Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? That film isn't a knee jerker either, but it is closer to the "riotous" tagline that this film claims. You can see some of the film locations from Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? here.

Who's Got the Action? is currently available as a Watch Instantly title on Netflix and will be released on DVD on March  27, 2012.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Havana Widows (1933) - Film Locations


In the pre-code film Havana Widows (1933) Joan Blondell and Glenda Farrell play a couple of hardworking and underpaid burlesque girls who, after losing their jobs, find their next move as gold diggers. After learning that a former fellow showgirl struck it rich in Havana, Blondell and Farrell set sail for Cuba where they hope to find a rich gentlemen of their own. The film's cast is filled with many of the great Warner Bros. players of the period, including Frank McHugh (a crooked lawyer who helps Blondell and Farrell to set up a millionaire), Guy Kibbee (the millionaire), Allen Jenkins, Lyle Talbot, and Ruth Donnelly, but even all this talent can't help out the poor story. There are some funny lines and comical slapstick moments, but the film wanders aimlessly from one gag to the next.

Despite the Havana setting in the story, the film was shot on the soundstages at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California. A few scenes of the film were shot on the Warner Bros. backlot, including the scene below where Allen Jenkins is running around New York trying to track down Blondell and Farrell, not knowing yet that they have hustled him out of some dough in order to go to Havana. In the scene below, Jenkins is walking down Brownstone Street.

Allen Jenkins walking down Brownstone Street.

Brownstone Street on the Warner Bros. lot as it appears today.

Jenkins on the Warner Bros. Brownstone Street.

Brownstone Street was built in 1929 and is the oldest backlot set at Warner Bros. The facades have changed over the years but still have kept the same general appearance.

Although Havana Widows may not have the greatest story, it's worth watching for the cast. The film is currently available from the Warner Bros. Archive Collection as a made to order DVD.  The DVD includes a double feature of Joan Blondell pre-code films, the other film being I've Got Your Number (1934).

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