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Hollywood as `The Kid's' playground

January 25, 2007|Susan King

Did you know there was a connection between Muhammad Ali and Charlie Chaplin?

The famed former heavyweight boxing champ once owned a 10,000-square-foot home at 55 Fremont Place in Los Angeles. Decades before, Chaplin shot a pivotal scene at the location for his 1921 classic "The Kid."

Preceding a screening tonight of "The Kid" and the 1916 Chaplin short "The Fireman" at the American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theatre, John Bengston, the author of "Silent Traces: Discovering Early Hollywood Through the Films of Charlie Chaplin," will be offering a PowerPoint tour of Chaplin-era Hollywood. (Dan Redfield will supply live musical accompaniment.)

"I picked 'The Kid' because it has so much Los Angeles history in it," says Bengston, who previously wrote "Silent Echoes: Discovering Early Hollywood Through the Films of Buster Keaton."

"So many of the scenes were filmed in the Plaza de Angeles and Chinatown," he says. "Chinatown was a wretched place to live. It was built in the 1870s. It had dirt roads and was next to an active freight train line and these plants. They tore it down to build Union Station. For 'The Kid,' I'm going to have an aerial photograph of Chinatown and zoom in and out [on sites where he shot] and talk about them."

Perhaps Bengston's greatest discovery was locating the building used as the maternity hospital in the film. Though abandoned in 1920, the former Occidental College Hall of Letters is still standing, surrounded by homes and commercial buildings at the northeastern corner of North Avenue Fifty and North Figueroa Street.


-- Susan King

"The Kid," 7:30 tonight at the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd. $7 to $10. Information: Call (323) 466-FILM or go to

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