…one may find pretty interesting sites. Can any of you guess where I took this picture and what it means?
This graffiti of Charlie Chaplin marks a landmark from the silent movie era: the studios for the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company that operated in Chicago during the early part of the 20th century. It is best known today for its series of Charlie Chaplin comedies of 1915. The studios were located at 1345 W. Argyle St, in Uptown. The place is now part of St Augustine College campus. I had no idea that besides gangsters there were also movie stars in Chicago during that period.
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During the silent era a lot of famous movie stars made movies in Chicago. Besides Chaplin, Marion Davies and Gloria Swanson, two stars from the silent era made movies here. The South Loop was the home of “film exchanges.” All the major studios had film exchanges where they stored and shipped films for viewing in the downtown (and Uptown theaters). Uptown was the Hollywood of the Midwest and may have continued to be had it not been for the invention of sound. Some of the grand movie architecture in that neighborhood gives one a hint of its former glory.
Interesting… I had no idea Uptown Chicago was the Hollywood of the Midwest. But why did the invention of sound brought this era to an end in Chicago?
There a several factors, but sound changed everything. During the silent era, you could film anywhere. Traffic noise, other people’s voices off the set or on location didn’t interfere with filming. Once sound came in all that changed. Sound required silence from everyone except the actors. Outside filming became impossible. How did you control the noise of a train going by, a car honking its horn, or a plane overhead? That’s when studios decided to move west and build back lots and sound stages where they could control the environment. Even today, if a movie is made on location. the sound is often “overdubbed” because background noise was a problem. And CA had a moderate climate which enabled them to film outside all year round without any problems. A popular TV show like “ER” was filmed almost entirely in Hollywood, on sound stages and on the Warner Bros. back lot. They did some location shooting and took stock footage of Chicago, but the majority of filming wasn’t done here. The hospital and ER entrance for that show was all filmed on a back lot, complete with a reproduction of a Chicago L train station.