This weekend is the annual Charlie Chaplin Festival in Niles. They get better and better at this each year. I stopped by Saturday to watch some of the movies they were showing, take the walking tour, and do a little exploring of my own.
The walking tour group met at 11:00 AM in front of the Niles Museum. This was the same building that Chaplin premiered the five movies he made in Niles in 1915.
There were plenty of Charlie Chaplins around to take selfies with. Charlie is the one on the right.
The group headed over to the corner of G Street and Niles Blvd. where the old Essanay Studio used to be. Chaplin filmed a confrontation scene with a cop on this same corner one hundred and three years ago in his silent short ‘The Champion’.
This is an aerial view of the old studio. The houses behind the studio were bungalows built for the stars filming there.
The group stopped on the corner of G and Second Streets where the vintage picture was taken as the tour guide explained the history of the bungalows. Although remodeled, they’re all still there. The two on the far right in both pictures were taken over by “Broncho Billy” Anderson for his office when he was making westerns in Niles.
Long before there was John Wayne or Gary Cooper, there was Gilbert “Bronco Billy” Anderson, the movie’s first cowboy star. Anderson made his westerns in Niles from 1911 until 1915.
A western street was constructed behind the studio to film outdoor scenes like this one in the top photo from ‘Broncho Billy’s Narrow Escape’ from 1912. The bottom picture was where the western street was located.
Bronco Billy’s barn survived until 1980 when it was demolished. A lot of gunfights in his films took place here. The barn was across the alley from the other old barn on the left that’s still there. Broncho Billy’s barn was on the right behind the fence where the violets are.
Besides movie locations the tour visited other sites like the old Niles Court House and the convenient Niles Jail next door to it at I and Second Streets.
The iconic scene where the brokenhearted little tramp wanders off into Niles Canyon at the end of ‘The Tramp’ from 1915 was filmed 1.8 miles into Niles Canyon from Mission Blvd. or so I was told by the historians on hand. It’s too dangerous to stop on the road, so I took my picture from the car. It looks like the same spot to me.