Throughout Hollywood history, Echo Park has been a sometimes gritty, sometimes beautiful, backdrop for filmmakers. Gang members stood outside Magic Gas in Mi Vida Loca (1994). Jack Nicholson's boat skimmed the surface of Echo Park Lake in Chinatown (1974). And of course, there are the scores of locally shot film shorts cranked out at the start of the 20th century by Keystone Studios, Bison Studios and other movie companies on the corridor now known as Glendale Boulevard.
Could there be a gift along these lines for a friend or family member buzzy about local history? Absolutely! In fact, there are quite a few. For today, we will focus on a delightful stocking stuffer: Three Little Beers (1935), a comedy short by the legendary Three Stooges that makes Echo Park's hilly streets a big part of the laughs.
Three Little Beers is directed by Del Lord, who turned to the Stooges after years of making silent comedies in Edendale (now part of Echo Park) with Mack Sennett's Keystone. The comedy short begins at Panther Brewing Co., where the trio is hired as beer barrel deliveryman, then moves to the Rancho Golf Course, where the Stooges offend and appall everyone around them. They are chased off the links in their beer truck, which is when this zippy little short reaches its frenzied finale.
That truck full of beer barrels careers into Echo Park, creating chaos on streets should be instantly recognizable: Echo Park Avenue, Scott Avenue, Delta Street, possibly Cerro Gordo Just before the 16-minute mark, there's a great shot of the Del Mor apartment building at Echo Park and Delta, with awnings on the space now occupied by Chango -- then identified as the Echo Park Drug Co. -- and trolley tracks nearby.
The discovery of that filming location by a Stooges aficionado received a prominent mention in The Three Stooges: Hollywood Filming Locations, a 336-page coffee table book by Jim Pauley that provides the settings for dozens of Stooges films. Pauley, a Stooges expert and contributor to Three Stooges Journal, explains in his introduction that he was trying to find the right public staircase for the 1941 Three Stooges short An Ache in Every Stake:
It was March 2001 and I was at a bookstore on Echo Park Avenue, looking for a book on Los Angeles stairwells, when word spread throughout the Echo Park neighborhood that a guy from Philly was looking for a set of steps used in a Stooges film. Several people, including an Echo Park Historical Society member, started taking an interest in what I was doing. One guy even drove me to a set of stairs he thought was the right one. Back at the bookstore, a woman informed me that I was actually standing on a Three Stooges film location from Three Little Beers! It turns out that the bookstore was on the ground floor of an apartment building that can be clearly seen in the film, when beer barrels roll through an intersection and knock down a police officer directing traffic.
This collection of photographs and tales about the Stooges is $39.95 and makes a dandy gift in itself. Incidentally, Pauley finally found the staircase for An Ache In Every Stake, which has the Stooges delivering not beer but ice, in a horse-drawn wagon. The steps, which he described as the holy Grail of Three Stooges filming locations, were discovered in Silver Lake at 2257 and 2258 North Fair Oak View Terrace.
Pauley suspects the location was picked by Del Lord, who had worked nearby at Keystone Studios and directed the film Ice Cold Cocos, a 1926 film that also features ice and deliverymen.
The Stooges locations book can be ordered from such retailers as Stories in Echo Park, Skylight Books in Los Feliz and Hennessey + Ingalls in Hollywood. Meanwhile, Three Little Beers is just one of 19 shorts found on The Three Stooges Collection Volume One: 1934-1936.