At the 84th Academy Awards, The Artist took home three of the biggest awards of the night, including Best Picture, Best Director (Michel Hazanavicius) and Best Actor (Jean Dujardin). The Artist also won for Costume Design and Original Score. The Artist, which was nominated for 10 Oscars, is a black and white silent movie about Hollywood’s transition from the silent era to “talkies.” The Artist made history with its multiple awards: it’s the first French film to win Best Picture, and the first silent film to win the top prize since Wings, which won Best Picture at the very first Academy Awards in 1929. Hazanavicius and Dujardin are the first Frenchmen to win the top awards for director and actor, respectively.
The Artist focuses on the lives of silent film star George Valentin (played by Dujardin), and chorus girl Peppy Miller, portrayed by Berenice Bejo. With the arrival of talkies, George’s career descends into oblivion while “It girl” Peppy Miller soars to leading lady status. Fans of the film from around the world can use the following guide to visit some of the Los Angeles locations featured in the movie. (Mild spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen the movie yet!)
Eagle Rock Substation, 7888 N. Figueroa Street – Used as the opening scene in the movie, when a masked George rescues a modern-day flapper from a torture chamber.
Bradbury Building, 304 S. Broadway – The director uses foreshadowing effectively as George and Peppy pass each other on the ornate stairway belonging to the fictional Kinograph Studios. She is ascending the staircase as he is making his way down the steps, both physically and professionally. The Bradbury Building has appeared in numerous movies, TV episodes and music videos, including the 1982 film Blade Runner.
104 and 56 Fremont Place, Hancock Park - Located in a gated area of Hancock Park are the homes of George Valentin, where he resided during his movie star heyday at 104 Fremont Place, and of Peppy Miller’s manse, which was purposely chosen for its connection to the era. It was the former home of America’s silent movie sweetheart Mary Pickford during the late teens.
Cicada Restaurant, 617 S. Olive Street – This former Art Deco haberdashery, now a swank downtown restaurant located on the ground floor of the historic Oviatt Building, is where George and Peppy dine separately on the eve of their movie premieres. This is also where Julia Roberts dined with Richard Gere in the film Pretty Woman.
Los Angeles Theatre, 615 S. Broadway – Built in 1931 this historic Baroque-style theatre played host to the premiere of City Lights, starring Charlie Chaplin. In The Artist, the theatre is where George premieres his last silent film Tears of Love, which he produced and financed with the last of his money.
American Film Institute, 2021 N. Western Avenue – The exterior of the AFI campus near Griffith Park was cast as a hospital where George is taken after he purposely starts a fire inside his barren apartment. Peppy can be seen racing to the front of the hospital to be by George’s side.
Wilshire Ebell Theatre, 4401 W. 8th Street – This classic 1927 building is used both as the interior of the hospital where George is treated after being rescued from a house fire, and as the place where George’s belongings are auctioned off to the highest bidder.
Hancock Park, Oakwood Avenue between Beverly and Melrose Avenues; Hudson Avenue from 3rd Street to Beverly Avenue – Hancock Park, a leafy midtown neighborhood developed during the 1920s, is the setting for a portion of the film’s exteriors. George’s Jack Russell terrier, played by Golden Collar winner Uggie, can be seen running down Oakwood Avenue in an effort to alert a beat police officer that George’s apartment is on fire. In another scene Peppy puts the pedal to the metal as she races down Hudson Avenue to see George.
The Artist has created an interest in a bygone film era among an entirely new generation. Before actors’ unions and directors’ guilds existed, would-be filmmakers could simply set up shop and have their cameras rolling wherever they pleased. Many of the locations used during the silent film era, which lasted from about 1910-1929, still exist throughout Los Angeles, including the large clock atop the building at 908 S. Broadway where comedic actor Harold Lloyd dangled in the 1923 film Safety Last! The staircase used in the Laurel and Hardy 1927 silent film Hats Off was used again in the duo’s unforgettable 1932 talkie The Music Box, featuring the unlikely pair attempting to push a piano down a terraced outdoor staircase. The staircase, which is still in existence, is situated next to 923-935 Vendome Street in Silver Lake.
Charlie Chaplin Studios, where the legendary actor/director made many films, still stands at 1416 N. La Brea Avenue. The Tudor-style architecture pays homage to Chaplin’s native England and is where he shot some of his greatest movies, including Gold Rush and The Great Dictator. Greta Garbo shot her final screen test at Chaplin Studios in 1949, and eight years later Chaplin sold his studios. Subsequent owners continued to use it as a television and movie studio before it was acquired by The Jim Henson Company of Muppets fame.
The only silent movie theater in North America can be found at 611 North Fairfax. Its name says it all: the Silent Movie Theatre hosts weekly old-time movies, sometimes accompanied by a live organist. Opened in 1942 by a silent film enthusiast who wanted to showcase his personal collection for others who shared his passion, the Silent Movie Theater remained the only full-time silent movie cinema in the world through the mid-1990s. While it still showcases silent movie classics, the 182-velvet seat theater now offers a more eclectic showing of films that include cult favorites, foreign films and small screen revival festivals.