Sunday, May 16, 2010

Chicago and Movie History

Hollywood in the Midwest?
Before anyone heard of a place called Hollywood, Chicago played an important role in the history of film in America.

Charlie Chaplin and Gloria Swanson Slept (and worked) Here
Before the sound era, Chicago housed Midwest corporate offices for Paramount, Warner Bros., Universal, and the Samuel Goldwyn studios. Most of the offices were in Chicago's South Loop along Wabash Ave. Other film offices were located one block east on Michigan Ave. During this period, major silent movie productions starring screen legends Charlie Chaplin and Gloria Swanson were made in Chicago.

Distribution Hub
Some evidence of this history still exists. The Film Exchange Lofts at 1307 S. Wabash Ave. was once owned by the Warner Bros. studio. They had corporate offices at that location, but its most important use was for storing film for distribution. With Chicago's location and access to train travel, it was the ideal distribution point for Chicago and Illinois theatres.

Ruins From Past Glories
The famous terra cotta archway entrance to the Jesse Lasky Famous-Players (a forerunner of Paramount) building on Wabash near 13th Street was rescued from destruction by Columbia College. It now stands in their Media Production Center at 1600 S. State St.
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