TIME TRAVEL THEATER: A DRIVE DOWN WILSHIRE BLVD. IN 1935
Today's filmed tour of ancient Los Angeles takes us on a drive down Wilshire Blvd. in 1935. Beginning at Canon Drive in Beverly Hills, the car--with camera mounted on the rear looking backwards--heads east all the way to Robertson Blvd. where it makes a slight turn and then stops. The camera cuts and, at two minutes and twenty-five seconds, resumes back at Canon Drive, this time pointing southward (thus giving us the view from the side window) and makes the same drive. You can see the Warner Brothers Beverly Hills Theater, then playing "Oil For The Lamps of China", a lot of gas stations, plenty of open lots and the very interesting free-form style of driving that then existed. Cars sort of float around in a friendly, not-threatening way that's devoid of any rigid pattern i.e staying in lanes.
There are several things to be deduced from the above clues. One is that in 1935 Los Angeles it took under three minutes to drive on Wilshire Blvd.from Canon Drive to Robertson Blvd. That drive--which I do quite frequently--is now at least a fifteen minute affair. (Note that there appear to be no traffic lights at that time). We must certainly deduce from the high quality of the photography that this was not some joyride shot by an amateur but more than likely a photograph 'plate' for purposes of rear projection in a movie scene. (For those who aren't hep to RP screens, basically the actors sat in a dummy car seat on a sound stage and behind them, on a large screen, an image of passing scenery from a car window was projected, thereby giving the impression that they were really driving. Actually setting up a camera in a car--or on a 'process trailer' which is the way it continues to usually be done--didn't start happening until the early 1940s as more movies began shooting on location). The likelihood of this being shot for RP purposes is made even more certain by the fact that they start the whole drive over again, facing out the side window. Thus in the scene where Pat O'Brien is driving and James Cagney is the passenger, Cagney's close-up will utilize the second shot for background.
But what about O'Brien's close-up? This is where things get weird. Because when the camera cuts again at four minutes and twenty seconds, I fully anticipated the next shot being the similar side view facing north. Instead we are treated to footage of something called 'Broken Egg Spring' which apparently is to be found in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Not only does this visual non-sequitar not take place in the same state, it's not even shot as well as the car stuff and is clearly the work of an amateur cameraman. So how did these two disparate pieces of film wind up on the same reel? How the hell should I know? And with that, he hit save, published his Monday blogpost, tweeted it, went to the bathroom and then sat down to get some real work done...
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Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 1:52 PM