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carole lombard 07

A classic Culver City capture

Posted by vp19 on 2011.01.09 at 08:19
Current mood: accomplishedaccomplished

Many movie buffs probably recognize the rooster on Carole Lombard's sweater, but just in case you don't, it stands for Pathe Films, the studio Lombard worked for in the late 1920s (when her first name in movies was actually "Carol"). Pathe was located in Culver City, headquartered in the same building where Lombard would star in a pair of Selznick International films nearly a decade later:

That building remains on Washington Boulevard, and it still fronts an active film and TV studio.

Several other studios called Culver City home. The building that housed Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for many years is probably the best known site (although both it and the Pathe studio site were originally built by silent film pioneer Thomas Ince), but a third also existed, and like the other two was on Washington Boulevard:

This was the home of Hal Roach Studios, whose employees included the beloved comedy team of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. (The studio operated through 1960, and was torn down three years later.) Laurel and Hardy's work will be spotlighted from 8 p.m. (Eastern) Tuesday through 8 p.m. Wednesday on Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. as part of its January salute to the Roach studios...and through incredible work from one of their many devoted fans, we can get an idea of what Culver City was like in the late 1920s (when Roach used its streets to film scenes for many of Stan and Ollie's silent shorts).

Piet Schreuders, a Dutch pop culture historian, painstakingly researched Culver City maps of the time to recreate the streets of its downtown during that era. The video below, from a 1999 Dutch documentary (most of the segment is in English), shows how he did it and part of the finished result:

Brief clips are shown from a 1929 Laurel and Hardy silent, "Angora Love" (a quarter-century before Ed Wood, though this has nothing to do with sweaters!), where we see a goat follow Stan and Ollie down a street as well as Schreuders' computer-generated model of the location. Really remarkable.

You can learn more about Culver City in this era, how Roach and his technicians made a one-block area seem much larger, and the work to capture these images, at http://www.donbrockway.com/The%20Shortest%20Main%20Street%20in%20the%20World.pdf. Until a time machine that can actually take us there is developed, this is the best way to experience Culver City in the 1920s.


cinemafan2 at 2011-01-09 22:16 (UTC) (Link)

Interesting. I didn't know that the building that housed Selznick International headquarters was originally built by silent film pioneer Thomas Ince.

Driving around this area today is still fascinating. I can see why the Dutch historian spent so much time trying to recreate what was there. I wish Culver City officials were as concerned with its preservation.
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