Movies, LA and 'The Artist'

Hosted by

The TV ratings don't really show us to be that much more interested in the Golden Globes and SAG awards than the rest of America. But culturally, sure, a lot of people here work in Hollywood or some field connected to the movie and TV business. It might be a cliche, but if you live in LA you probably do know someone who knows someone who worked with somebody who designed the costumes or built the sets or mixed sound for The Descendants or any other movie you want to name. And of course, if you go out enough in LA you'll see a celebrity who you sort of recognize at the market or the Starbucks. Plus, the Hollywood media and promotion machine lives here. That's thousands and thousands of people who owe their living to show business or who just love celebrities.

And everybody has encountered crews on location. It's a fact of life for Angelenos. Especially for those who live Downtown.

When I was researching the history of Wilshire Boulevard, I read a novel that was written in LA in the early 20s. There's a scene in the book around the lake in what was then called Westlake Park -- we now it today as MacArthur Park -- where the park denizens are all upset by the disruption of filming going on in the park. That was in the 1920s -- and LA is still ambivalent about movie crews coming into their neighborhood with their trucks and lights and white-haired ex-cops on motorcycles. By the way, on the edge of MacArthur Park, at the corner of Wilshire and Park View, are a couple of statues that Buster Keaton used to hide from the police in a 1921 movie called Hard Luck.

From Buster Keaton and silent movies, it's an easy segue to The Artist, the French contender for the Oscars that recreated the silent movie era on the streets of LA.

If 500 Days of Summer a couple of years ago was a love letter to Downtown Los Angeles, The Artist is a full on seduction of LA and its role as the backdrop for the world's films. I literally gasped at the beauty of the scene shot in the Bradbury Building, shown like no other filmmaker has - and by the way, 500 Days of Summer also made good use of the Bradbury.

The Artist also has scenes in Cicada, the elegant restaurant in the former hat store in the Oviatt Building downtown, and on the streets of Hollywood and Hancock Park. They filmmakers even used LA locations that showed up in the real silents by Keaton and Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin.

In the movie, the ingenue Peppy Miller moves in to a glamorous mansion -- in real life it's the home in the gated community of Fremont Place where Mary Pickford, probably the greatest silent movie star ever, lived with her mother before she married Douglas Fairbanks and moved to Picfair in the hills above the sleepy little village of Beverly Hills. The house -- it's address is 56 Fremont Place -- shows up Chaplin's great film, The Kid, along with #55 across the street. It's not true that every house in LA has a story behind it, but many do -- and #55 was also the former home of Muhammad Ali when he lived out here.