Modern Times

Modern Times premiered on February 5, 1936 at the Rivoli Theatre in New York.   Probably the most watched Chaplin film in recent times, Modern Times is an outstanding mix of comedy and social comment. One of my favorite scenes is when The Tramp accidentally gets high on nose power when temporally incarcerated.  Also, the song & dance routine, The Tramp so skillfully delivers at the Red Moon, gets very high marks too.

Paddy Wagon
Site Located & Shot by David Sameth with assistance from David Totheroh & Bonnie McCourt
Charlie and Paulette running from  cop and making their way to the Dream  House

Massachusetts Ave. at Sawtelle Blvd. Los Angeles, Ca.

Dream House
Site Located & Shot by David Sameth

Production still of  the actual filming of the Dream House Scene in Modern Times. (1935)
Is that  Rollie behind the camera? Photo provided by David Totheroh. 

 Charlie and Paulette looking at the happy couple - 1935 compared to 1998. 

Riverton Ave & Bluffside Dr   Studio City, Ca. 


E-Mail from David Sameth telling me about 
his little dream house adventure. (7/30/98) 


What a morning. I held off taking David and Bonnie to the site till today because I wanted to go on the day when parking was prohibited on the street so we could get the shots. We arrived to find a large van illegally parked, right in front of the tree. We moaned and waited, but nobody showed up to move it. 

Meanwhile, David, who was not yet convinced I had correctly identified the street, discovered something I had missed: behind some dense foliage, on this street that is now all apartments, sat a house which, if I was right, would be THE house. Half of the house looked right, but it was missing the whole right side (the low stucco structure on the right side of the house in the film). We thought of knocking, but signs on the door which read "do not disturb" and Pissoff" stopped us. Then, the door opened, and an older man came out. We asked him if he knew any history of the house. He told us that he had been there about forty years, and that before he lived there a fire had destroyed the right side of the house, and that part was rebuilt differently. It had originally had a low stucco structure to the right. We showed him a picture, and he said "Yes, that's how it was described to me". Also, someone told him long ago that "Charlie Chaplin owned the house".

Now, David was convinced. 

But the Van still blocked the way. We were about to give up, when a woman came out to move the car. Now we could get our shots.





Panoramic View of the Dream House Scene - 1935 compared to 1998.


Department Store
Site Located & Shot by David Sameth with assistance from David Totheroh & Bonnie McCourt

Charlie looking for a job -1935 compared to 1998.

  Hollywood Blvd & Vine St.   Los Angeles, Ca.


Site Located & Shot by Gerald Smith with assistance from David Totheroh & Bonnie McCourt

Charlie & Paulette walking into better times - 1935 compared to 1998.

  Sierra Hwy & Penman Rd   Santa Clarita, Ca.
E-Mail from David Totheroh to David Sameth
Telling him about our little adventure. (6/19/98) 


The Modern Times adventure was really fun. Gerald was coming down to LA and called to ask if we'd like to go on the hunt with him. The only clue we had, other than the 1938 roadmap Gerald had, was my recollection that Grandpop had mentioned that the scene had been shot somewhere "out toward Lancaster, the old Pear blossom Highway(sic, it turned out)." So, with that information and a fool's optimism, off we went.

We drove up on Hwy.14, and as we went through the town of Acton, we all felt we were in the right area. At the Pear blossom turnoff it became pretty obvious that we were on the wrongtrack, the terrain was too "deserty" and none of the foothills looked right. So we headed back toward LA, but this time, instead of taking Hwy.14, we stayed on the old Sierra Hwy. That is, until it looked like it was going to go through the same pass as the new road, so I turned off on Soledad Cyn. 

We had the feeling we were close again, but nothing matched. With enough daylight left, we decided to head up into Lancaster itself to see if anything a little north of Pear blossom might be right, again nothing. But somebody thought to check to see if there was an Historical Society or something that might have a lead for us. There was a city museum listed so off we went. As we got out of the car, realizing this was a lot more an art rather than history museum, I said, "This is a long shot for sure." Gerald's only comment was, "You never know."

As I walked through the door ahead of them, Bonnie and Gerald saw me double up in laughter. The bulletin board had a picture of Charlie and Rollie shooting The Gold Rush, advertising the screening for their summer film series. Unfortunately, they had no information, no leads for us and we came back home unsuccessful.

Gerald was not that easily deterred, and after getting some stuff for The Circus and Kid Auto Races in Venice the next morning, he was back on the road. This time he stayed on Sierra Hwy. at Soledad and found out that instead of being replaced by Hwy.14, it went through an underpass and continued on the north side of the road. A few miles later, and he was looking west at unmistakably the same horizon line as that final scene from Modern Times. And as a bonus for his perserverence, a mile or so later he even found the location for the penultimate scene of Charlie and Paulette sitting on the side of the road, when she says, "What's the use?" and he cheers her up.

He was so excited that he called me right on the spot on his cell phone, sounding like a kid with a new puppy.


My little bonus

Chaplin Film Locations THEN & NOW
© 1998 JerRe