Jan 27, 2015

Charlie Chaplin Studios / Jim Henson Company

Located on N. La Brea Avenue in Hollywood, California you'll find the former studio of actor, director, and all around film legend, Charlie Chaplin. It was constructed in 1917 and amazingly has survived all these years. The studio is currently home to A&M Records and the Jim Henson Company - hence Kermit the Frog in Chaplin's tramp costume above the front gate. 

Many of Chaplin's classic films were shot at this location, including The Kid (1921), The Gold Rush (1925), City Lights (1931), Modern Times (1936), and The Great Dictator (1940). Next to the front gate you can see Chaplin's signature and footprints in the cement - dated Jan. 21, 1918, which marked the official opening of the studio. 

Chaplin sold the property in 1953 after permanently leaving the United States in 1952. He only returned once after that to accept his honorary Academy Award in 1972. While in Los Angeles the elderly Chaplin briefly visited his former studio one last time. 

My fascination with Chaplin actually stems back to when I was a teenager. I read biographies about him, and during film school I went out of my way to see his all of his films and early reels. When I learned that his studio was still standing in Hollywood after my last visit to Los Angeles, I added it to my to-do list. It took a few years to get back, but seeing it in person - and subsequently reading up on all of the history surrounding it - was a really inspiring experience.

The fact that it's now home to the Jim Henson Company seems equally fitting. It's like a combination of my childhood and film school selves all merged into one location. Or, another way of looking at it, a real life depiction of what much of the walls in my film school dorms were plastered with - classic films, kitschy childhood nostalgia, and Hollywood themed ambitions. 
Charlie Chaplin's signature at the front gate.

Above is one of Chaplin's early reels from 1918 that shows a brief time lapse of the construction of his studio on La Brea Avenue. The following sequence shows Chaplin get out of his car and walk into his office in the corner building - among other antics around his studio. The reel is actually a great historical document of the location.

Chaplin at the corner of his studio. The same spot today seen below.

Charlie Chaplin Studios ca. 1920s

This is N. La Brea Avenue today. Like the rest of L.A. it's full of traffic.

Chaplin's signature with his footprints on the steps.