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Stairways in Film

5 movie stairway scenes-Legend-stairs-movies-years
Early film studios were located in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles, then called Edendale, consequently stairway gags were filmed on location using a number of the local Silver Lake stair-streets.  The locations of all of these stairways are on this Google Map entitled:
Stairway Art – SoCal Style

From here down, we show then and now photo comparisons of the stairways, and embedded videos of the films that were shot on these historic stair-streets.

Cove St Stairway featured in, The Pest – 1922

First up is the Cove St Stairway, used in the 1922 silent film, The Pest, starring Stan Laurel before he was paired with Oliver Hardy, portraying the Jimmy character he later formed into the Stanley character he combined with Hardy’s Ollie character to form the Lauren and Hardy duo we know and love. The stairway gag in this film is a stop motion slide he used to zip down the 198 steps on the side encasement of the Cove St stairway. First is a video we made showing a clip of the Cove St Stairway in “The Pest” from 1922 versus a 10X hyperlapse video shot in June of 2021.

Below is a video of the full 1922 silent film, The Pest, however because the video has privacy settings that don’t allow this website to embed and play it, click the blue button reading “Watch on Vimeo” to see the film.

Music Box Steps featured in, Ice Cold Cocos – 1926, Hats Off – 1927, and The Music Box – 1932

The Music Box Steps were named after the 1932 Academy Award winning comedy short talkie, The Music Box, in which Laurel and Hardy had a little trouble hauling an upright piano (AKA music box) up the steps. This is was NOT the first movie to use this stairway, being preceded by at least two other silent films we know of: Ice Cold Cocos from 1926, and Hats Off from 1927. The above photo is a composite of all three films compared to the modern stairway in 2012. The latter two films have children, where the original gag was repeated in the later films. The 1926 silent film, Ice Cold Cocos has ice and then the ice box itself carried up the stairway, and the 1941 Three Stooges film – An Ache in Every Stake, had the same type of gag but on the Edendale Stairway!  Similarly, the 1927 silent film, Hats Off had a washing machine carried up the stairway, and the 1945 film – It’s Your Move, had the same gag but on the Descanso Stairway! The two later films will be covered in separate entries below. Here now are the three films using the Music Box Steps for gags, in chronological order, preceded by the 1925 silent film, Isn’t Life Terrible, that shows the stairway at the 6:14 in the film, as a visual joke about a salesman having a difficult route to walk, but the does not use the stairway in a physical gag like the other three films. Note that the original Hats Off film was lost, so what you will see is a reconstruction using still frames, publicity photos, and surviving clips from the film.

Edendale Steps — An Ache in Every Stake – 1941

In 1941, The Three Stooges put their own spin on a stairway gag, by recreating the ice and ice box carried up the steps, first seen in the 1926 silent film Ice Cold Cocos (shown above). The name of the film is, An Ache in Every Stake, shown in the player below.

Descanso Dr Steps — It’s Your Move – 1945

The same director that created the 1927 silent film Hats Off, recreated the same washing machine carried up the stairs gag in the 1945 comedy short he also directed called, It’s Your Move, and can be seen in the player below.

Pelham Steps-Invasion of the Body Snatchers-1956

In the scene below, from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the actors Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter are chased by the Snatched up the Pelham stairway in Beachwood Canyon, from Westshire up to the fork of Hollyridge and Pelham.

Broadview Terrace and Los Altos Place Stairways,
featured in, The Long Goodbye – 1973

Elliot Gould as Phillip Marlowe runs down the Broadview Terrace and Los Altos Place Stairways to follow gangsters that just left his apartment, who took the High Tower Elevator down to street level. Here is a clip from the movie, followed by a pair of hyperlapse videos clips I shot, the first giving Gould’s view of his run, followed by a reversed clip to better match the camera perspective from the movie. As a side note, the same streamline moderne apartment used by Marlowe’s character was also featured in the 1991 movie, Dead Again, used by Emma Thompson’s character, Grace/Amamda and Kenneth Branagh did stand in front of a flight of steps past the house, but did not climb them; that’s enough for a mention!
To add to the fun, the Broadview Terrace stairway was also used in the Hollywood Heights episode of the 1961 TV series, Naked City. The bad guy is Frank Sutton, the same actor who played Sargeant Carter in the 1960s Gomer Pyle TV series.  Go to 7:12 in this 8:56 excerpt video, to see the stairway! The tower and elevator are shown at the beginning of the video.

Marathon St Stairway featured in, LA Story – 1991

Steve Martin takes a rather unique and very LA-ish kind of shortcut on his work commute by way of the marathon Street stairway as you can see in this 2 minute excerpt from the 1991 movie, LA Story. The bumpy ride down the stairway starts at 1:43 in the video.

Laveta Terrace — Toben falling down steps – 2008

Watch stuntman/video editor Toben do a crazy gag as a mock tourist video. The stairway tumbling is real, the ladder fall and being hit by a car, not so real…

Glendale/Sunset and Lucretia Ave stairways
Featured in the 2019
Netflix Series: YOU

The 2019 Netflix series, YOU, in season 2 episode 6, Farewell my bunny, has the Penn Badgley as the main character Joe Goldberg, first following a key secondary character down the Glendale/Sunset stairway near Echo Park Lake (above), then later in the episode (below), he runs up the Lucretia Ave stairway to avoid a private investigator who he thinks is following him. I have no easy way to capture Netflix video, so these still cell camera photos of my screen are the best I can do for now. If I can find the relevant video clips, I will post then here.

Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd Alley – It still exists in Hollywood! [Bonus Video]

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