One of the most famous images in film history comes from a movie that no one but silent movie nerds ever watches: in 1923's Safety Last!, Harold Lloyd hung from the hands of a clock that hung from a set that sat on top of 908 S. Broadway in Downtown LA, and swung into America's hearts. The movie confirmed Lloyd's star status; he became one of the richest comedians of the silent era and built Los Angeles's most ridiculously lavish movie star estate, Greenacres, in 1929. Safety Last!, released on April 1, 1923, tells the stirring tale of an idiot from Indiana who climbs a building so he doesn't have to tell his girlfriend he's not rich. It was shot mainly in Hollywood and Downtown, and many of the places it features are still around today, incredibly, but Safety Last! is set in an entirely different Los Angeles—in the early '20s, streetcars were packed, Downtown was bustling, Hollywood was dusty, and LAPD officers refrained from shooting drunk guys. And so here we've mapped the filming locations of Safety Last! (with a big debt to John Bengtson's Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more) blog, which includes a handy Downtown walking tour among many other resources); it's on Hulu Plus if you want to see it yourself.Read More
Mapping the 1920s Los Angeles Filming Locations of Harold Lloyd's Silent Film Safety Last!
Department store employee entrance
Lloyd foolishly climbs into a truck to read by the employees' entrance of the De Vore Department Store, in an alley off Cahuenga, just south of Hollywood Boulevard, that also appeared in Charlie Chaplin's The Kid and Buster Keaton's Cops.
That's USC's Bovard Hall in the background, so Lloyd seems to be attempting to ride the K Line, which ran down Trousdale Parkway.
Ride to work
A kindly motorist tries to give Lloyd a ride, only to get a ticket outside a former police/fire station that used to sit on Cahuenga.
Lloyd fakes ... fainting? ... to get a ride back to work in an ambulance, taking the viewer on a scenic ride through a very busy Downtown. Here they are at Seventh and Broadway.
De Vore Department Store
Many of the interiors of the De Vore Department Store, where Lloyd works, were shot at the Ville de Paris Department Store in what's now the LA Jewelry Mart on Seventh Street.
The pal's construction job
Bill Strother is working on the Fifth Street Department Store, which was actually being renovated at the time.
The pal's escape
Strothers escapes an angry cop by climbing the Dresden Apartments.
Beginning of the climb
For the "12-story climb," Lloyd actually scaled sets built on top of buildings. He starts on top of a two-story building that used to sit at Broadway and Olympic.
The Bolton Building
The department store's 12-story Bolton Building was played by the 10-story International Savings & Exchange Bank Building, now gone.
The famous clock scene and some of the final rooftop scene were filmed on top of 908 S. Broadway, now known as the home of Tarina Tarantino's Sparkle Factory (it has a Banksy on the side).
The last bit of the climb and some of the final rooftop scene were staged on the former Merchants National Bank Building, now the SB Lofts.
The big finish
Parts of the final rooftop scene were shot on 908 S. Broadway and on 548 S. Spring, but Lloyd first stumbles onto the rooftop at the Washington Building.