Wednesday, August 3, 2016


It's curious that in Richard Attenborough's "Chaplin" (Carolco Pictures, 1993) we visit the Los Angeles Theatre twice for premieres that didn't happen there. And get no mention of the premiere there for "City Lights," which opened the theatre in January 1931.

The film's characters discuss "Modern Times" (1936) and we see several shots from the film. But we don't get to a premiere for it.  Our first visit is to see "The Great Dictator" (1940), Chaplin's first talkie. In this shot we get the Los Angeles Theatre's majestic act curtain slowly rising to reveal the empty screen.  Note they've dressed the stage with palm trees -- not an unusual touch in early theatres.

They don't tell us we're at the Los Angeles and this is the only time in the film we see the auditorium. Well, they had to shoot it somewhere. The film actually had its premiere October 11, 1940 at the Carthay Circle, a theatre no longer with us.

A title card announcing the patriotism of United Artists,  a company in which Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, D.W. Griffith and Mary Pickford were major shareholders.

A moment later we get Chaplin (Robert Downey Jr.) and Oona O'Neil Chaplin (Moira Kelly) on the house right side of the theatre's first balcony. Kelly also played Chaplin's first love Hetty Kelly much earlier in the film.

Others featured in the lengthy but terrific film include Paul Rhys as brother Sydney, Geraldine Chaplin as crazy mother Hannah, Dan Ackroyd as Mack Sennett, Diane Lane as Paulette Goddard, Marisa Tomei as Mabel Normand and Anthony Hopkins as a fictional book editor. See it!

We're back at the Los Angeles in 1952 for the premiere of "Limelight," Chaplin's last Hollywood film -- and another film that didn't premiere there.  This time an announcer tells specifically we're at the Los Angeles. In the shot above Chaplin and his wife Oona are arriving outside -- note the "Limelight" poster.

Fox West Coast had booked the film for a Los Angeles engagement in January 1953 at one of their theatres. And then cancelled. Public protests about Chaplin were mounting.  Which we see some of in this scene of the film: "Are you a communist, Charlie?" and so forth.

Inside the entrance doors.

Making their way through the lobby.


Heading up the stairs to the landing for the faux "Limelight" premiere.

Not only did "Limelight" not get a Los Angeles premiere at the Los Angeles Theatre but it didn't play L.A. at all -- until 1972.  Fox West Coast didn't want to deal with the protests -- and nobody else would touch it either. There was an east coast premiere at the Astor in New York City on October 23, 1952 that went off evidently without a hitch. The film shows Chaplin and his wife sailing for the London premiere (which also happened). Immigration authorities (and Chaplin's enemy J. Edgar Hoover) made sure he couldn't get back into the country.  He didn't return until 1972.

The website has a page with information on some of the other locations used for the film.

The sixteen web pages about the Los Angeles Theatre on the Los Angeles Theatres site feature several hundred photos of all areas of the theatre.

On IMDb: "Chaplin"

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