Saturday, July 18, 2009

Billy Wilder's "The Front Page" Film Locations

The Front Page
Billy Wilder is one of my favorite directors and I haven't seen a film of his I didn't like. That was until just recently, when I finally saw one of his later films, The Front Page. The movie even has some of my favorite actors - Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Carol Burnett and a young Susan Surandon - but that still didn't help my opinion of the film. However, I was very excited to notice that this film which is set in Chicago was actually filmed in Los Angeles!
The film is about competing newspaper men in 1920s Chicago so I thought I would see some iconic Chicago locations. Instead, I found some iconic downtown Los Angeles locations.

The corner of 4th & Main, Los Angeles, as seen in The Front Page
In the film a prisoner who is awaiting execution is believed to have escaped. A circus of police go on a chase around the city in search of the convict. Above is a scene of the squad cars rounding the corner of 4th Street and Main Street as it appears in the film and below is the same corner today.

Hotel Barclay, Los Angeles, California
Right away I knew this film wasn't shot in Chicago because I recognized the above building as being the historic Hotel Barclay. If you look at the building it hasn't really changed too much over time, other than the shop at the bottom.

The Regent Theater, Main Street, Los Angeles

Continuing on the chase, we get a glimpse of the Regent Theater in downtown Los Angeles. The theater is on Main Street, just around the corner from the Hotel Barclay. Below is the present day view showing the Regent Theater.

Regent Theater, Main Street, Los Angeles (7/2009)

5th & Main Street, Los Angeles as seen in The Front Page
The chase continues down Main Street going towards 5th Street. Above is a screenshot of the intersection from the film and below is a photo I took of the intersection showing how it appears today. I'm very happy to see that the old building on the right is still standing. The chicken shop isn't so lucky. As you can see that building has been replaced by another building and a parking lot.

5th & Main Street, Los Angeles (7/2009)

4th Street & Main Street, Los Angeles as seen in The Front Page
In one scene, a doctor who was accidentally shot, is being rushed in an ambulance. The ambulance suddenly stops and the doctor goes flying out the back door on the stretcher which you can see in the screenshot above. This scene gives us another glimpse of the Hotel Barclay on the corner of 4th Street & Main Street. Below is the same location today.

Hotel Barclay, 4th Street & Main Street, LA (7/2009)

Spring Street as seen in The Front Page
Above is another screenshot from the police chase. Here the cops are driving down Spring Street. You can barely make out the Alexandria Hotel in the background. Below is a photo I took recently looking down Spring Street. The Alexandria Hotel can barely be seen in the back to the left. That hotel, which is now an apartment building, is a historic landmark with a rich film history. Everyone from Chaplin and Greta Garbo to Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable have stayed there. Perhaps I'll do a post just on the Alexandria Hotel at another time.

Looking North on Spring Street, Los Angeles
Here's the trailer for The Front Page. (At the end of the trailer is a clip of the ambulance scene.)

Monday, July 13, 2009

City Lights - Film Locations

Charlie "The Tramp" Chaplin in City Lights
Many of the scenes in Charlie Chaplin's film, City Lights, were shot on the backlot and soundstages of the Chaplin Studios located on La Brea Avenue in Hollywood. The screenshot above where Charlie first meets the blind flower girl, as well as the opening scene in the film where Charlie is found sleeping on the city statue were all shot at the Chaplin Studio. However, there were a few scenes shot around the city of Los Angeles.

Chaplin Studios, 1416 N. La Brea Avenue, Hollywood

7th Street & Grand, Los Angeles, CA
Above is a screenshot from the scene where Charlie and the millionaire go for a drunken drive around town after a night out. Below is a photo of how the same area appears today. Notice now there are the addition of trees and many more high-rise buildings, otherwise, the building on the left looks pretty close to the same. This building just happened to be right next door to the parking garage for my jeweler which made finding this building pretty easy.

7th Street & Grand, Los Angeles, CA

7th Street & Olive, Los Angeles, CA

Just a block down from the above location is another location from the same scene. Above Charlie and the drunken millionaire are about to turn right onto Olive. I think it's interesting if you look in the below picture you will see that Olive Avenue is now a one way street. If Charlie and the drunk would have turned down Olive today they would have been heading the wrong way!

7th Street & Olive, Los Angeles, CA

Vintage Postcard, Town House apartment building.

The millionaire's house is actually the Town House apartment building on the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard - not far from the other downtown Los Angeles locations. When Charlie receives a wad of cash from the millionaire he heads outside the building to buy flowers from the blind flower girl.

Charlie races to buy flowers from the blind flower girl.

Town House apartment building. Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles
Above is the same corner of the Town House apartment building as it appears today. The building is no longer used as an apartment building. Now it is available for film location rentals as well as wedding and other special events.

Turning on Berendo from Wilshire - Gaylord Apartments
In the above screenshot Charlie and the millionaire are driving down Wilshire Boulevard and are about to turn onto Berendo. The Gaylord Apartment is the large building in the background and is an easy landmark to spot.

Turning onto Berendo past Immanuel Presbyterian Church

Above is another screenshot that shows Charlie and the millionaire making the turn onto Berendo. Another landmark that can be seen is the Immanuel Presbyterian Church.

Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles
Above is the same intersection as it appears today. The church is still standing and so too is the Gaylord Apartments. You just can't see the apartment from this angle now because of all the trees.

Charlie & Millionaire passing Beverly-Wilshire Hotel, Beverly Hills
Above is a photo of Charlie and the drunken Millionaire now driving pass the Beverly-Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills. Below is a photo looking at the hotel today.

Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Beverly Hills
With the exception of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, all the other locations are in very close proximity to one another. I recommend visiting the downtown locations early on a weekend when traffic isn't so bad and then do a drive to the other locations. Just don't follow Charlie and the Millionaire's example - drive sober!
Here is a short YouTube video showing the Charlie and Millionaire driving around town drunk:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Strangers When Meet Locations Update

If you've already seen my post on Strangers When We Meet film locations you should check out this update. Reader Dr. Bitz has contributed photos of the Kim Novak house as it appears today compared to the film. The shape of the home remains the same but it looks like one of the owners of the home covered the front in brick.
Scroll to the bottom of the post for the update. Click here.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Wee Kirk of the Heather - Chapel for the Stars

Wee Kirk of The Heather at Forrest Lawn Glendale
Above is a vintage postcard I picked up recently of the Wee Kirk O'The Heather chapel located in the vast Forrest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California. The chapel and the grounds around look nearly the same today. This quaint chapel, which is a replica of a European church, has many old Hollywood connections.

Ronald Reagan & Jane Wyman Wedding 1940
The actor turned president, Ronald Reagan, married actress Jane Wyman at this chapel in 1940. The two met while filming the Warner Brothers picture, "Brother Rat."

Clark Gable & Carole Lombard at Jean Harlow Funeral
But there are also funerals at the chapel. Above is a photo from 1937 of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard attending Jean Harlow's funeral. Gable was Harlow's costar on the then unfinished film, Saratoga. Harlow's funeral was a huge event, like one of the big musicals her studio MGM would create. At the funeral MGM stars Jeannette McDonald and Nelson Eddy sang Harlow's favorite song, "Ah Sweet Mystery of Life." Harlow was later buried in the Great Mausoleum also located on the Forrest Lawn grounds.
Five years later Carole Lombard would be back at Forrest Lawn for her own funeral. Her funeral, unlike Harlow's was a small private event. Lombard and Gable are also buried at Forrest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale.
If you haven't been to Forrest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale it is definitely worth visiting. The grounds are beautiful and there are numerous old stars buried here. Some others include Irving Thalberg, Red Skeleton, Walt Disney, George Burns, Gracie Allen, and Errol Flynn to name a few. And if you go soon you can still check out the "Fine Art of Marc Davis" exhibit being held at the Forrest Lawn Museum. The exhibit, featuring artwork by Disney animator Marc Davis, runs until July 26, 2009. See me my post on that here.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Hollywood Canteen - Where Servicemen and Stars Meet

Hollywood Canteen - 1451 Cahuenga Blvd. Hollywood, CA
Above is a vintage postcard of the famous Hollywood Canteen. The Canteen, created by film actors Bette Davis and John Garfield , along with MCA president Jules Stein, was a place where the Hollywood stars fed and entertained United States servicemen, as well as servicemen from allied countries, during World War II. From 1942 until Thanksgiving 1945, servicemen who ventured into Hollywood for a night out could gain access to the Canteen if they were in uniform. Everything was free of charge.
Below are pictures of where the Hollywood Canteen used to stand.

Looking Northwest at Cahuenga Blvd & Sunset Blvd
On the left of the above photo is where the Hollywood Canteen used to stand. Today there is a tower for CNN and a parking garage. Across the street is Amoeba Records, one of the best record shops in the country. And just a block and half north on Cahuenga Blvd are a few film locations from the Buster Keaton film, The Cameraman. Check out my past post on that here.

Looking Southwest at Cahuenga Blvd. & Sunset Blvd.

Cary Grant entertains the troops at Hollywood Canteen
The Andrew Sisters, Jimmy Durante, James Cagney, Betty Hutton, Danny Kaye, Shirley Temple, Ruby Keeler, Ronald Reagan, Dorothy Lamour, Dana Andrews, you name it - if you were a big Hollywood star you volunteered at the Hollywood Canteen. Some served food, others sang and dance, the comedians cracked jokes - the actresses even danced with the servicemen. The one millionth guest to visit the Hollywood Canteen was lucky enough to receive a kiss from Betty Grable! On one night, at the nearby corner of Sunset and Wilcox, a tent was set up where Orson Welles performed magic tricks. One of the tricks was sawing his wife Rita Hayworth in half!
But it wasn't just the stars that volunteered at the Hollywood Canteen. Producers, writers, technicians, costumers, agents, assistants, publicists and many others who worked in Hollywood volunteered as well. Even the murals painted inside the Canteen were the volunteered work of some of Hollywood's cartoonists.
In 1944, Warner Brothers made a film titled Hollywood Canteen. The film was a celebrity circus. Many of the hundreds of stars that volunteered at the Hollywood Canteen appear in the film. Here is a trailer for the movie:
I would love to hear the stories the GIs who attended the Hollywood Canteen must have to share? What it was like chatting with so and so, or dancing with whatever actress, or if the partied continued afterwards at such a place...
Your thoughts?


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