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Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

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Location Sleuth -- Update

The opening of “The High Sign.”

image Peter Mullan writes in, citing the research of John Bengtson, who suggests that the carousel used in “The High Sign” was at the Pike, a huge amusement park in Long Beach. I’m not sure that’s correct. The merry-go-round at the Pike was destroyed in a July 14, 1943, fire. Although I haven’t been able to find a photo of that carousel, the story about the fire reported that in addition to horses, the merry-go-round had half a dozen camels and a pair of swans, none of which are visible in the segment from “The High Sign.”

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IMDB gives the film location for "The High Sign," which was completed in 1920 but not released until 1921, as "Venice Pier - Ocean Walk Front at Washington Boulevard, Venice, Los Angeles, California, USA." According to Wikipedia,_California the carousel appears to have been on the 1200-foot long Venice of America pleasure pier built by tobacco millionaire Abbot Kinney. The pier opened on July 4, 1905. The carousel was probably added with other rides and game booths in 1910. This original pier burned in December 1920. There is a photo captioned "Windward Ave. in 1913" in which two elements in the clip are visible: the line of columns seen behind Keaton while he sits on the outdoor bench reading the want ads; and the "block long arcaded business street with Venetian architecture" can be seen behind the cop standing at the fruit cart. Further research on Roller Coasters & Carousels indicates this was a Dentzel carousel on the Abbott Kinney Pier in Venice. (There was also Racing Derby carousel but it was under a tent). Both carousels are noted to have burned in a pier fire on December 20, 1920.

Much of what's on the screen seems to match Pacific Ocean Park on the cusp of Santa Monica and Venice. Even one street shot looks suspiciously like Speedway in Venice.

Considering the film was made by Metro in Culver City, it would make sense to shoot in nearby Venice. Going all the way to Long Beach for a few shots, in the pre-freeway era, makes little sense.


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