Sunday, March 29, 2009

Laurel and Hardy - The Music Box

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.
Here is a wonderful video that shows The Music Box stairs as they appear today and also, if you watch through to the end, you will see clips from the short itself. The video does a good job of showing the steps from different angles and comparing to footage from the film.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Buster Keaton Studios

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

Monday, March 23, 2009

Steve McQueen Coming Back to the Big Screen in Pairs

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.

One question for you guys and girls:

Who do you think should play the role of Steve McQueen?

"Golden History of Hollywood"

You've probably already heard that Warner Bros. is offering a new manufacturing on demand service (MOD) where consumers will be able to select from 115 different classic films never before released on DVD for a made-to-order DVD. The system places a DVD in a plastic case with custom artwork and ships the final product within 5 days. The Warner library includes not only Warner Bros. titles but also MGM and RKO, so there are many great classics to choose from. The price of a DVD is $19.95 or for only $14.95 you can opt for a digital download.
Check out the Warner Archive Collection at to see all the films that are available. Each month Warners will be adding 20 new titles for a total of 300 films available by years end. You can even go to the website and vote for the titles you would like to see available next.
In addition to the Warner Archive Collection, Warner Bros. will be doing an iTunes podcast series, Golden History of Hollywood. The podcast will include archival interviews with stars, radio editions of movies, and other material! Apparently, this podcast is supposed to be available in late March but I haven't seen anything on itunes quite yet.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

LA Heritage Day at Heritage Square Museum

Perry House, Heritage Square Museum, Los Angeles
On Sunday, March 22 the Heritage Square Museum hosted the LA Heritage Day festival. The museum is made up of many beautiful Victorian era homes and buildings that have been uplifted from various parts of Los Angeles. These buildings would have either been demolished or left to detoriate and so were relocated to the museum land in an area three miles north of downtown Los Angeles, off the Arroyo Seco Byway. The museum was the perfect location to host the LA Heritage Day festival which featured over 60 historical and preservation groups in attendance.
The museum is open on the weekends for tours and is certainly worth checking out. Check out the museum website to see some of the special events they have coming up, such as the one next weekend which is a Vintage Fashion Show and Tea party. Here are some pictures and a video slideshow of just a few of the buildings located at Heritage Square.
Note* The Perry House pictured above was featured in the hit film Legally Blonde, starring Reese Witherspoon. The house is in the scene where "Elle" shows up to a party dressed as a Playboy bunny after she was told it was a costume party. Of course, if you've seen the film, it wasn't really a costume party.

Inside the Perry House

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

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Day of the Locust

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.

If you're visiting Hollywood Boulevard just walk 2 blocks north up Ivar Ave and you will find this apartment building. Also, neighboring the Parva Sed Apta Apartments are the Alto Nido apartments which can be seen in the film Sunset Boulevard. Check out my previous post on Sunset Boulevard locations here.

Your thoughts?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

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.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hollywood Gothic Film Series at the Silent Movie Theatre

Tonight, as part of the Cinefamily's Hollywood Gothic Film series, the Silent Movie Theatre is showing the classic Humphrey Bogart film, "In a Lonely Place." This was Bogart's first film that he made with his production company after his contract with Warner Bros. expired. Bogart plays a cantankerous screenwriter who hates his work and the people he is working for. When a hatcheck girl he knows shows up murdered Bogart becomes the prime suspect. Like the film Sunset Boulevard, this is another beautifully dark film from the 1950s that focuses on a screenwriter.

Following In a Lonely Place the Silent Film Theatre will be showing the 1980s film Fade to Black. This story follows a fanboy, Dennis Christopher, who is working in a Hollywood prop house. Dennis knows everything about movies but nothing about interacting with people. He eventually snaps and becomes a serial killer who impersonates his favorite films when killing his victims.

Starts: 7:30p.m. Friday, March 13
Where: Silent Movie Theatre - 611 N. Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles, CA
Cost: $10

Make sure to check out the Cinefamily website for other great classic films that are coming up.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The View from Paramount Studios

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.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Laurel & Hardy's Culver City

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.

Note: If you saw my earlier post on the Culver Hotel you will recognize this building in the video.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Echo Park Lake

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 (C) Stevie Nelson
Your thoughts?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Chutes Park - Los Angeles Amusement Park

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.
Over the years the Chutes Park would change owners and change names. It's also been known as Luna Park and Washington Park. I'm not exactly sure when this LA amusement park shutdown completely so if anyone knows I would love to hear your comments. I do know that many of the trolley parks suffered when the automobile gained popularity. Of course, by the 1930s there was also the Depression which didn't help business at amusement parks either.
Your thoughts?


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