Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Cass Timberlane (1947) - Film Locations

In the film version of Sinclair Lewis's story, Cass Timberlane (1947), Spencer Tracy plays the title character, a judge who falls for a younger woman (Lana Turner) from the "wrong side of the tracks." Although the story for Cass Timberlane is set in a small Minnesotan town, filming actually took place in California, around Los Angeles and the MGM Studios backlot in Culver City. Early in the film, when Tracy first meets Turner, he literally crosses the railroad tracks but they are a long way off from Minnesota. 

In the scene below Tracy sees a baseball roll from underneath a railroad car. Tracy is standing near Myers Street, just north of the 1st Street bridge in downtown Los Angeles. 

Click images to enlarge.

Tracy stands on N. Myers St near the 1st Street bridge.

Looking toward the 1st Street bridge from N. Myers St.

Tracy joins the action of a baseball game taking place in a parcel of land north of the 1st Street Bridge and east of the Los Angeles River. Naturally, being a judge, Tracy acts as the umpire. While Tracy stands next to Turner near the pitching mound, we get a view of the Southern California Gas Company tanks that once stood near Jackson Street and Center Street, just across the LA River. These recognizable structures appeared in quite a few early films before they were razed, and were particularly popular in film noirs.

Tracy and Turner with the The Southern California Gas Company tanks in the background.

Looking across L.A. River towards Jackson Street. The gas tanks have since been razed.

A closer view of the tanks that stood near Jackson St. and Center St.

Spencer Tracy's home in Cass Timberlane was one of the homes originally built for the popular Vincente Minnelli film Meet Me in St. Louis (1945) starring Judy Garland. For Meet Me In St. Louis, Minnelli insisted that MGM construct an entire street of Victorian homes rather than dress an existing set, which would have been much cheaper. The sets remained well after Minnelli's film, getting their fair share of screen time. Tracy would not only work on this St. Louis Street backlot for Cass Timberlane, but also in the film  The Sea of Grass which came out the same year.

Tracy walks home, one of homes on MGM's St. Louis Street backlot.

Cass Timberlane is available on DVD through the Warner Archive Collection, it can be rented through ClassicFlix, and is currently available for streaming on the Warner Archive Instant service.

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