Saturday, July 26, 2014

Bronk (1975-76) - Film Locations: Koontz Hardware



Bronk (1975-1976) is a TV series starring Jack Palance. It would be only one of a couple times that Palance would be the star of his own show, but unfortunately, it only lasted one season. In films Palance frequently played villains or dark characters, but in Bronk, Palance is a sympathetic good guy, although still a tough guy. If you're a fan of 1970s era detective shows like The Rockford Files or Columbo, then Bronk may be worth checking out. However, where Rockford and Columbo have plenty of humor, Bronk has a more serious tone.

In the pilot episode directed by Richard Donnor, one of the locations that shows up is Koontz Hardware in West Hollywood. In the scene below Bronk (Palance) is leaving a pet store and the neighboring building in the background is Koontz, located at 8914 Santa Monica Blvd. Koontz is still in operation on the same site, but in a newer building from the time this show was filmed.

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Palance leaves a pet store next door to Koontz Hardware.

Koontz Hardware, 8914 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood.

As Palance walks back to his car he notices a note on the windshield. In this view we get a glimpse of the business located across the street on the corner of Santa Monica and Hilldale. The corner building is still standing and today is home to Champagne French Bakery & Cafe. Before New Line Cinema was basically absorbed by Warner Bros., New Line used to have production and post production offices in the tall building just behind Champagne. When I used to work at New Line I would pass this intersection daily.

Palance finds a note on his car. The NE corner of Santa Monica and Hilldale can be seen in the background.

Looking towards Champagne French Bakery & Cafe at 8919 Santa Monica Blvd.

Below is another view looking across Santa Monica Boulevard from inside the Pet Store location next to Koontz Hardware.

Looking towards 8921 Santa Monica Blvd.

8921 Santa Monica Blvd is now the site of a Bank of America.

This last view is looking west down Santa Monica Boulevard from in front of the Pet Store location. In the background we can see a Safeway grocery store. Today this building has been replaced be a new modern Pavilions supermarket. Across the street is the Hamburger Haven burger stand on the opposite corner.

Looking west down Santa Monica from out front of the pet store.

Looking west down Santa Monica toward Robertson Blvd.

Bronk is currently available for streaming through Warner Archive Instant.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Life at the Marmont: The Inside Story of Hollywood's Legendary Hotel of the Stars


I first visited the Chateau Marmont, a Gothic European inspired hotel located on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, about eight years ago. A friend of mine was celebrating a birthday and her boss had rented one of the large suites on the upper floor. I had heard some of the stories about the Marmont - how Marilyn Monroe stayed at the hotel or rock stars like Led Zeppelin crashed at the place - so I was excited to experience the hotel for myself. As soon as I entered the hotel I got the feeling I was walking into a mythical place. I remember the hallways being dark and narrow, little European architectural details, seeing some high profile guests hanging out in the lobby and when I got to to the top of the hotel - the amazing view of Los Angeles that looked out from our suite. I could see for myself why so many of Hollywood's biggest stars have chosen to make the Marmont their home. 

The Chateau Marmont on the Sunset Strip.

I've always wanted to learn more about this hotel, so as part of my Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge hosted by Out of the Past - A Classic Movie Blog, I chose to read Life at the Marmont: The Inside Store of Hollywood's Legendary Hotel of the Stars - Chateau Marmont, by Raymond Sarlot and Fred E. Basten. The book is an interesting in-depth look at the hotel's history and filled with stories of the many celebrities that stayed there over the years. The book goes in chronological order, so it begins with some background on how the hotel was founded in the 1920s, in what was at the time a little strip in the middle of nowhere, halfway between Hollywood and Beverly Hills. We then learn about the different guests who have visited and how things changed at the hotel over the passing decades.

Chateau Marmont, 8221 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood.

Some of the guests that have stayed at the Marmont include director Billy Wilder, Jean Harlow, William Holden, Glenn Ford, Howard Hughes, Montgomery Clift, Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, Warren Beatty,  Boris Karloff, Judy Garland, Humphrey Bogart, Roddy McDowall and many, many others. 

When Harry Cohn got a young 21 year old William Holden and a 22 year old Glenn Ford to work at his Columbia studio under contract, he didn't want his business investments getting into trouble, at least not where anyone would find out, so he rented them a room at the Marmont. In the book Ford recounts his time at the Marmont:

"Harry really worried about Bill and me. He had put us under contract at approximately the same time, and we were constantly getting into trouble - going places where we shouldn't have gone and mixing with the wrong people. In his eyes, rather bad company. One day he sent for us and said, 'If you must get into trouble, go to the Marmont.' He made it clear that he had rented the small penthouse there just for us, to protect us. As upset and concerned as he was, he never raised his voice. But he made sure we got his point."

Throughout 1939 Ford and Holden shared the suite with actor David Niven. I like to think that maybe during my stay at the Marmont that I was in the same suite - regardless - I know many old Hollywood stars have.

Nicholas Ray, James Dean, Natalie Wood, Jim Backus and the Rebel Without a Cause cast.

Following his divorce from actress Gloria Grahame, director Nicholas Ray moved into the Chateau Marmont and lived here for a few years off and on. Ray stayed in one of the private bungalows next to the main building. He worked on many of his films from here, including his most famous film, Rebel Without a Cause. During Rebel, Ray held the early script sessions at his bungalow, inviting the cast over for readings, including James Dean, Natalie Wood, Jim Backus, and Dennis Hopper.

Ray was known to be a partier and his Sunday soirees were quite popular at the hotel. He was also a bit of a ladies man, and one of the people seduced by Ray was his young actress, Natalie Wood. Wood became infatuated with Ray, even though he was old enough to be her dad. Wood would always be the first to show up to Ray's bungalow and the last to leave. No one suspected anything at first, but one night, Dennis Hopper, who had dated Wood prior to Rebel, showed up to the bungalow without knocking. Not finding anyone on the first floor he wandered up to the second floor where he spotted the seventeen year old Wood in bed with Ray. Hopper was outraged and made things difficult during the remainder of filming Rebel

Robert Mitchum washes dishes at the Marmont in 1949.

Life at the Marmont is filled with fascinating stories about some of Hollywood's biggest stars and also music stars. I recommend the book for seasoned classic movie fans who would be familiar with all the old stars mentioned in the book or for Los Angeles history buffs.

Visit Out of the Past - A Classic Movie Blog for more summer book challenge reviews.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Big City (1937) - Film Locations

Luise Rainer and Spencer Tracy

When I really like an actor I feel the need to see all of their films. I know not all of them will be great. Some will probably be only so-so or simply bad, but I get some enjoyment from watching the smaller or maybe less appreciated films that my favorite stars appeared in. At times I'm even surprised and a movie that I go into not expecting much turns out to have some qualities I really like. That's what happened when I watched Big City (1937), starring Spencer Tracy and Luise Rainer.

Tracy plays a New York City cab driver married to an immigrant wife (Rainer). The two are madly in love but things are tough in the big city, especially for independent cab drivers trying to make a living like Tracy, who are constantly being harassed by the big unionized cab drivers. Things get out of control, escalating to an all out battle between the independents and the union cabbies. After one person dies in an explosion, Tracy's immigrant wife is threatened to be deported.

The trouble with Big City is the story is all over the place. What starts as a romantic drama evolves into a manic slapstick comedy by the end, when a brawl erupts between the independents, the union cabbies and some famous athletes. The feel of the movie is inconsistent. Nevertheless, Tracy and Rainer make this movie fun to watch. I really enjoyed seeing Tracy and Rainer on screen in the only film they made together. Some other gems include seeing cameo appearances by some famous athletes of the time and something I'm always interested in, real world film locations.

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Jack Dempsey's Restaurant as seen in Big City.

Former site of Jack Dempsey's Restaurant in New York.

Near the end of the film, Tracy barges into a dinner meeting taking place inside Jack Dempsey's Restaurant. Tracy's wife is about to be deported and he pleads with the mayor, who is speaking at the dinner to help him, that if anyone could save his wife, it would be the mayor. The restaurant was a real location,  located at 8th Avenue and West 50th Street in New York and owned by heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey, who has a cameo appearance. The place opened in 1935, just a couple years before Big City was filmed.  Above is an image of Jack Dempsey's Restaurant as it appears in the film and below that is a vintage postcard image of how the restaurant looked over the top of a Google Street View of the present day location. Below is the present day location without the postcard.

Jack Dempsey Restaurant site, 8th Ave at 50th St.

The mayor decides to help Tracy. Escorted by some of the other dinner patrons (more famous athletes including Jim Thorpe, Jim Jeffries and Maxie Rosenbloom) the group races to the docks in a few cars to stop the ship that is about to deport Rainer. We see the cars race down two more real New York streets and then suddenly, for someone looking closely, one will notice the cars are racing down the streets of Hollywood! Below are two more views of New York and then the jump to Hollywood.

The first view is of Broadway, near the Jack Dempsey Restaurant location. In this view we see the Trans-Lux Theatre, located at 1619 Broadway. This theatre, which opened in 1931, was struggling by 1937 when this film was made. What's interesting is that in 1937, Jack Dempsey and his business partner Jack Amiel purchased the Trans-Lux property and converted the site into Jack Dempsey's Broadway Bar and Cocktail Lounge.

Trans-Lux Theatre, 1619 Broadway, New York

Contemporary view of the Trans-Lux Theatre site.

The next New York view seen in the film shows us the corner of West 47th Street and Broadway in Times Square. The most prominent building that can be seen in the screenshot is the Florsheim Shoe store. It's amazing how different Times Square looks today compared to 1937.

W. 47th Street and Broadway, New York

W. 47th Street and Broadway, New York

Now we jump to the Hollywood locations. As Tracy races down the New York City streets to reach his wife before she is deported we suddenly see the cars driving down Hollywood Boulevard and also down Ivar Avenue. Some of the buildings that can be seen are the Hollywood Citizen Stationary Store, a Schwab's store, Nancy's, Delphene's, a Thrifty Drug Store, a Colombia building, the Guaranty Building and the Broadway Hollywood Building.


Looking west down Hollywood Blvd from Cosmo St.
Looking west down Hollywood Blvd from Cosmo St.

Above is the first shot of Hollywood. This view is looking west down Hollywood Boulevard from Cosmo Street. The building with the neon "Dentist" sign is part of the Julian Medical Building, a former drug store with medical offices on top.

Hollywood Blvd at Cosmo St.

Corner of Hollywood Blvd and Cosmo St.

Corner of Hollywood Blvd and Cosmo St.

Former site of Schwabs and Hollywood Citizen Stationary.

Tracy's car races past Schwabs.

Thrifty Drug Store, SW corner of Hollywood Blvd at Ivar Ave.


Former site of Thrifty Drug Store, Hollywood Blvd at Ivar Ave.

Guaranty Building 6331 Hollywood Boulevard.

Guaranty Building 6331 Hollywood Boulevard.

Looking east down Hollywood Blvd from Ivar Ave.

Looking east down Hollywood Blvd from Ivar Ave.

Above is a view looking east down Hollywood Boulevard. The "Columbia" building is now hidden behind some trees. Below you can see a closeup image of this building to see how this building looks now. In the background of the screenshot the signs from the Broadway Hollywood Building and the Taft building can be seen - both buildings are still standing at the corner of Hollywood and Vine.

The former Colombia Building 6324-32 Hollywood Blvd.

Big City (1937) is available for rent through ClassicFlix. The film was directed by Frank Borzage and also stars Charley Grapewin, Janet Beecher, Eddie Quillan, Victor Varconi, Oscar O'Shea, Helen Troy, William Demarest, John Arledge, Irving Bacon, Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams, Regis Toomey, Edgar Dearing, and Paul Harvey.

All screenshots (c) Warner Home Video. All contemporary images (c) 2013 Google.

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