Seeing Stars: The Movie Studios


(Formerly A&M RECORDS, now HENSON PRODUCTIONS)
1416 N. La Brea Avenue,
Hollywood, CA. / (323) 802-1500



Who can forget the indelible image of Charlie Chaplin, dressed as his "Little Tramp" character, sauntering down the street, cane in hand? Or the famous scene from "The Gold Rush" where a hungry Charlie eats a leather shoe with a knife and fork? Or "The Great Dictator," in which the 5'4" comedian mocks Hitler, dancing with a globe of the world as if he were a bubble dancer?

Chaplin was a Hollywood immortal, perhaps the greatest comic genius of our time. He was the first actor to appear on the cover of Time Magazine (in 1925), and his life story was retold in the 1992 movie "Chaplin" (starring Robert Downey Jr.)

As seen in that biographical film, Hollywood was little more than acres of orange groves when Charlie Chaplin built his own movie studio here in 1917. And it's still here today.

Located at the corner of La Brea and Sunset, the studio Charlie Chaplin built resembles an English village, a series of gray, Colonial clapboard cottages, with a Tudor mansion facade, stylized brick chimneys, and orderly, green landscaping.

The "Little Tramp" kept his movie crew busy over the next two decades, shooting all of his classic silent films at this studio on La Brea Avenue, including "The Gold Rush" (1925), "City Lights" (1931), "Modern Times" (1936), and "The Great Dictator" (1939). Charlie even left his footprints in the once wet cement outside of the studio's Sound Stage 3 (possibly even inspiring Sid Grauman to create his famed Chinese Theatre forecourt).

Along with Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, he founded United Artists studio to distribute the films they made, after which he left this studio for that nearby Sunset lot.

But his original historic studio still stands today, albeit reduced in size from 5 acres down to the present 2.2 acres.. After Chaplin departed the studio in 1953, CBS filmed several well-known TV Series there, including "The Adventures of Superman," The Red Skelton Show," and "Perry Mason."

Until 1999, it was the headquarters of A&M Records, which was created by trumpet player Herb Alpert (the "A" in "A&M") and Jerry Moss. (You'll remember trumpeter Herb Alpert from his days with the Tijuana Brass).

It was here at A&M, in 1985, that an all-star cast of rock/pop legends recorded the song (and video of) "We Are the World" ; included were superstars Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Diana Ross, Kenny Rogers, Stevie Wonder, Willie Nelson, Cyndi Lauper, Ray Charles, Tina Turner and Bruce Springsteen.

25 years later, in 2010, another group of stars met in this same studio to record a new version of "We Are the World", this time to benefit victims of the Haiti earthqake; included were Celine Dion, Usher, Pink, Snoop Dogg, Barbra Streisand, Kanye West, Miley Cyrus, Tony Bennett, The Jonas Brothers, Jamie Foxx, Josh Groban, LL Cool J, Harry Connick Jr., Lil Wayne, Brian Wilson, Natalie Cole, Carlos Santana, Jennifer Hudson, Will.i.am, Toni Braxton, and others.

Peter Frampton recorded the mega-album "Frampton Comes Alive" here.

Other artists A&M has had under contract include Sting and the Police, Amy Grant, the Moody Blues, Eric Clapton, Supertramp, ABBA, Bryan Adams, the Bee Gees, Van Morrison, Oingo Boingo, Styx, Quincy Jones, The Carpenters, Joe CockerBryan Adams, Joe Jackson, Blues Traveler, Sheryl Crow, Dishwalla, The Gin Blossoms, Aaron Neville, Soundgarden, and Janet Jackson.

Recently, the studio was purchased by Jim Henson Productions, the company that gave us Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and the other "Muppets." In fact, they have added a wonderful statue of Kermit, dressed like Chaplin's "Littlke Tramp", standing above the main studio gate! A nice touch. And a literal tip of the hat to the studio's history.

(The Academy of Dramatic Arts has moved right next door, just to the south of the studio.)

The studio (or rather a replica of the studio) also played a featured role in the 1992 film "Chaplin," in an early scene where Charlie arrives to inspect his brand new studio on La Brea, and in a latter scene where an aging Chaplin - finally admitted back into the US after years of exile - stops to take a fond look at his old studio.

Charlie also built his family home on the property, up at the corner of La Brea & Sunset. (In fact, both his mother and his son are buried at the nearby Hollywood Memorial Cemetery). But after he left the country in the early 50's, that part of the property was parcelled off (a shopping center now occupies the spot where his home fronted Sunset Blvd. Fortunately, though, the studio itself has been preserved - a plaque near the entrance notes that the studio has been designated as Historic Monument #58.

Alas, the lone entrance gate to the studio is guarded, and there are no public tours offered. So there is nothing here for the casual visitor to do except read the historical plaque or shoot a photo, and admire the eccentric Peter Pan architecture.

 Getting there: The studio is located on the east side of La Brea Avenue, at the southeast corner of Sunset and La Brea, bordered by De Longpre Avenue on the south, about one half mile north of Hollywood Blvd. / From Hollywood & Vine, take Vine Street south (two blocks) to Sunset Blvd. Turn right (west) on Sunset, and go west (about one mile) to La Brea Avenue. Turn left (south) on La Brea, and the studio will be on your left (east) side. The public is not admitted into the studio.



[For more information on this subject, you can access the Jim Henson Company's
offical website at http://www.henson.com.]



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Copyright  2014-Gary Wayne
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This webpage is not associated with any business described in the article above, and does not constitute an
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