If you are a fan of silent movies and of Charlie Chaplin, make it a point to swing by the old historic Charlie Chaplin studios in West Hollywood when you visit Los Angeles. While Chaplin obviously doesn’t own the studios any longer, the property was designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 1969 and it’s well worth a look.
The property is currently owned by the Jim Henson Company, best known for creating the Muppets. While the public is not allowed to tour the studio grounds, you’ll find the exterior fascinating. A mural of Charlie Chaplin graces a wooden door leading into the building from LaBrea Street. On top of the same building is a cool statue of Henson’s creation, Kermit the Frog, dressed as Charlie Chaplins Little Tramp. This is a must see attraction and some pictures of it are a must for your Instagram page.
History of Charlie Chaplin’s Studio’s in LA
Chaplin built the studio in 1917 on the corner of Sunset Blvd and La Brea Ave. The site was previously a five acre orange grove with a large ten room home on the property.
The studios were completed in 1919 and the lot has been described as a fairy tale cottage complex. The “cottages” along La Brea Ave served as offices, a film laboratory and a screening room. There was a swimming pool, stables and tennis courts on the grounds. The backlot was located in the center are of the property.
Chaplin preserved the house on the Sunset end of the property to be his own home. He never lived in it. Instead Chaplin lived in a home in nearby Beachwood Canyon. Various studio personnel lived in the house on the lot over the years. During this time his favorite place to eat was Musso & Frank’s Grill nearby on Hollywood Blvd. He became such a regular that he had his own booth which is still known as the Charlie Chaplin booth to this day.
Chaplin films created at the studios included The Kid, The Gold Rush, City Lights, Modern Times, The Great Dictator, Monsieur Verdoux and Limelight. Significant people that were filmed at the studios included Helen Keller and Winston Churchill.
Over the years the lot shrunk. Widening of La Brea Ave in 1929 forced Chaplin to move the buildings back 15 feet from their original locations. Then in 1942 Chaplin sold the northern end of the property.
Blacklisting and Chaplin’s Exile
During the Cold War through the late 40s and 1950s there was no greater crime than to be suspected of being a communist. The “Red Scare” led to a national witch hunt for suspected communist sympathizers and ultimately to blacklisting.
The witch hunt was primarily directed at Hollywood and hundreds of writers, directors, actors and actresses were prohibited from working due to being suspected communists. Over 300 people were blacklisted in Hollywood. Chaplin was put on the FBI blacklist in 1948.
Chaplin denied any communist inclinations and said he only wanted liberty for all men. However when he was sailing on the Queen Elizabeth to London to attend the opening of his film Limelight, he learned he would be arrested if he ever returned to the United States. Chaplin remained in Europe, living in Switzerland for the remainder of his life.
Sale of the Charlie Chaplin Studios
Chaplin sold the studio in 1953 to a company that then leased it to a television production company known as Kling Studios. It was used to film Adventures of Superman in 1955. In 1960 Red Skelton purchased the studio.
He sold the studio to CBS in 1962 who shot the Perry Mason series there. Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss purchased the studio in 1966 to be the headquarters of A & M Records.
in 2000 the studio was purchased by the Jim Henson Company. Henson’s daughter said the quirky buildings would make the perfect home for the Muppets. The statue of Kermit the Frog dressed as Chaplin’s The Little Tramp was unveiled in June 2000. It also contains the Henson Recording Studios.
The studios are just south of Sunset Blvd at 1416 N La Brea Ave.
More photos after the break…