In Champagne For Caesar (1950), Vincent Price, the "Master of Horror," shows that not only can he be sinister, but uproariously funny as well. I'm actually quite surprised that after this film that Price didn't do more comedies than he did. He nearly steals every scene in which he appears. But seeing Price in a perfect comedic part is just one of the delightful reasons that make Caesar a fun film to watch.
The story centers on Beauregard Bottomley, a genius (naturally played by Ronald Coleman) who goes on a television quiz show. While Coleman is on the show, he keeps getting all the questions correct and wins more and more money. The show's sponsor, the Milady Soap Co., headed by Price, wants to stop Coleman from winning. His solution is to send the seductive Celeste Holm after Coleman as a distraction. Coleman must resist Holm if he wants to continue winning on the show.
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CBS Columbia Square as seen in Champagne For Caesar.
CBS Columbia Square, 6121 Sunset Boulevard.
The quiz show takes place at CBS Columbia Square, located at 6121 Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. See the comparison above showing how the building appears in the film compared to how the building appears today. This building served as CBS's radio and television operations for the West Coast from 1938 to 2007. Many popular radio programs originated here, including shows for Jack Benny, Jimmy Durante, Donald O. Connor, Burns and Allen, and Steve Allen. When television arrived, shows such as The Ed Wynn Show and the pilot episode for I Love Lucy were produced here. According to the book, James Dean: Dream As If You'll Live Forever, author Karen Clemens Warrick mentions that James Dean was an usher at CBS. She writes of Dean's experience that "Dean enjoyed watching the shows, but he did not like being told what to do and what to wear. He called the uniform a 'monkey suit.' He was fired at the end of the first week."
Art Linkletter and Ronald Colman at CBS.
Art Linkletter stars in the film as the quiz show host. In real life Linkletter was a popular radio and television host including the popular CBS program House Party, which ran for 25 years.
Vincent Price and Celeste Holm.
Red Studios Hollywood located at 846 North Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood was the location used for the Milady Soap Co. headquarters. The independent studio lot, first built in 1915, has had many previous tenants over the years and has been known at various times as the Metro Pictures Back Lot #3, Motion Picture Center Studios, DesiLu Cahuenga Studios, Television Center Studios, and Ren-Mar Studios. Although the main entrance to the studio is on Cahuenga, for Champagne For Caesar the back entrance to the studio located on Lillian Way was used to film the entrance to the Milady Soap Co. Although the studio has been drastically remodeled, there are some details that are still the same, like the power source on the side of the building in the red circle and the sliding wire fence.
Red Studios Hollywood used for the "Milady Soap Co."
The back entrance to Red Studios located on Lillian Way.
During one part in the film we see Celeste Holm take Ronald Colman on a wild ride through Hollywood. They mainly drive down Hollywood Boulevard and then make a turn from Hollywood on to Vine Street heading south. They pass such landmarks as the Egyptian Theatre, the Vogue Theatre, and in the distance of one shot we see radio towers that stand on top of the Warner Hollywood Theatre.
Hollywood Boulevard approaching Las Palmas Ave.
Hollywood Blvd looking towards Las Palmas Ave.
In the comparison above we can see that the Egyptian Theatre is still standing on the right, the Vogue Theatre is still on the left, and in the distance the radio towers are still standing on top of what was formerly the Warner Hollywood Theatre.
Hollywood Boulevard and Cherokee Avenue.
Hollywood Boulevard at Cherokee Avenue.
In the next scene Holm and Colman turn from Hollywood Boulevard on to Vine Street heading south. In the background we get a glimpse of the Melody Lane Restaurant located on the northwest corner of Hollywood and Vine. Before this building was the Melody Lane Restaurant it was Carl Laemmle's Coco Tree Cafe. Laemmle (yes, the Universal Studios mogul) had hired architect Richard Neutra in 1932 to design a modern and fancy lunch spot, but with the idea that there would be billboards above the restaurant advertising Universal pictures. The Coco Tree Cafe was a success but when Carl Laemmle died in 1939, the Pig 'n' Whistle manager Sidney Hoedemaker took over the location and completely remodeled the building, turning it into the Melody Lane Restaurant. After Melody Lane the building would have several other tenants including Hody's, Howard Johnson's, and most recently Basque Nightclub, until a fire destroyed the place in 2008. Today the corner is an empty lot.
Colman and Holm pass the Melody Lane restaurant at Hollywood and Vine.
Looking north on Vine Street across Hollywood Blvd. Vintage postcard view.
The same intersection of Hollywood and Vine as it appears now.
The final round of the quiz show takes place at another Hollywood landmark, the Hollywood Bowl. In the next two comparisons we first see cars arriving at the entrance to the Hollywood Bowl located on Highland Avenue and in the second the interior of the Hollywood Bowl. The Hollywood Bowl, an outdoor amphitheater primarily used for summer concerts, has long been a popular filming location. Other films that feature the Hollywood Bowl include A Star is Born (1937), Hollywood or Bust (1956), Moonlight Murder (1936), Two On A Guillotine (1965), It's A Good Feeling (1949), Anchors Aweigh (1945), and Double Indemnity (1944).
The Hollywood Bowl entrance as seen in the film.
The Hollywood Bowl entrance.
The quiz show moves inside the Hollywood Bowl.
A modern view inside the Hollywood Bowl.
Champagne For Caesar can be rented through ClassicFlix. The film includes a great cast with superb comedic performances. Add this to your queue the next time you're looking for a few laughs or are interested in seeing a few Hollywood landmarks.