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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Mulholland and Cahuenga, 1945: Old L.A. roads and bridge surface in the Universal cliffhanger "The Master Key" (Off the Beaten Path)

"The Master Key" (Universal, 1945)

This location looked familiar to me when the shot came up in Chapter 2 of the old serial "The Master Key." The site is just off Cahuenga Boulevard between the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood.

Same location in recent years (Google street view)

The road goes up the hill in both directions: Mulholland Drive in the foregound and Woodrow Wilson Drive in the background. Both roads work their way west through the Hollywood Hills. 

The intersection marks the eastern terminus of Mulholland Drive, and a number of major thoroughfares run through the area. You may want to click on the photo to enlarge it to read the road signs.

Mulholland Drive approaching Cahuenga

Pulling back from the previous shot for another Google street view of the area, this shot includes more of Mulholland Drive in the foreground.

A lamppost can be seen in the background, along with the shadow of a similar fixture in the foreground.

A lamppost is also visible in the same position in the 1945 screen shot.

Here's a better look at the lamppost as it appears today. While it is located in the same spot as the lamppost seen in 1945, this post is a newer design.

"The Master Key"

A closer look at the lamppost in the serial confirms that not only the light fixture, but also the post itself, has been updated since 1945.

Only in Hollywood? A production happened to be filming somewhere up Woodrow Wilson Drive at the same time that Google photographed these images for the street view feature on Google Maps.

The Google page indicates that these photos were taken in January of this year. The defective alignment of the sign is due to the process Google uses to piece together its street view images.

In the serial the action moves south on Mulholland and uphill — toward the camera in this shot — arriving at another intersection about a block south of the first one.

This is the same intersection as it appears today.

The intersection includes a bridge heading east over Cahuenga and the 101, connecting Mulholland Drive with Lakeridge Place on the east side of the freeway.

Here's another view of the west end of the bridge in modern times, this time looking south up Mulholland. You may have noticed that the bridge still features the old-fashioned light fixtures.

"The Master Key" (1945)

A similar shot of the bridge entrance looking south up Mulholland appears in the Universal serial. In the serial this bridge is referred to as the "Garvey Overpass."

"Garvey Overpass" — the Mulholland-Lakeridge Bridge in 1945

Here's a view of the bridge in "The Master Key," taken from Lakeridge Place looking west toward Mulholland. Notice the old lampposts lining both sides of the bridge.

The Mulholland-Lakeridge Bridge as it appears today

A recent Google street view, taken from approximately the same spot, again shows the bridge looking west toward Mulholland Drive. The shot reveals that the old lampposts remain in place today.

In the background of the screen shot from "The Master Key" we can see a wall of rock along Mulholland Drive.

The same steep rock wall is easy to identify today, even though it's partially concealed behind foliage. This shot also provides a good look at one of the old lampposts, at the right.

This shot from "The Master Key" shows the rock wall from another angle. I also want to call your attention to the curves along Mulholland Drive seen in the background.

The same steep rock wall and same curves can be seen in this recent Google shot.

A number of utility poles also turn up both in 1945 and in recent shots.

The utility poles have evolved in the 70-plus years since "The Master Key" was filmed, as one would expect, but I found it surprising that they've changed as little as they have.

"The Master Key"

The cliffhanger ending to Chapter 2 has a car going over the side of the bridge — and the same bridge over Cahuenga and the 101 is used in the shot.

The bridge today (Google street view)

It's not possible to duplicate the angle using a Google street view, but we can get a decent look at the same part of the bridge as it appears today.

Mulholland-Lakeridge Bridge (Bing bird's-eye view)

A bird's-eye view of the bridge in modern times shows that it spans the busy Cahuenga Pass, which connects the San Fernando Valley with downtown L.A.

The bridge and roads are identified here.

A wider bird's-eye view shows the Hollywood Freeway through the Cahuenga Pass, with the Mulholland-Lakeridge bridge noted near the center of the frame.
Mulholland Drive winds its way west through the Hollywood Hills from the area where the serial was filmed.

The neighborhood contains a number of well-known attractions, including the Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood Reservoir and Universal Studios Hollywood theme park.

L-R: Milburn Stone, Jan Wiley, Alfred "Lash" LaRue and Sarah Padden in "The Master Key"

"The Master Key" has an interesting cast, including Lash LaRue in his first movie, before he was billed as Lash, and Milburn Stone before he became "Gunsmoke's" Doc Adams.
Milburn Stone as Doc ("Gunsmoke")

Stone, who played the lead role in "The Master Key," already had a 20-year career in the movies by the time "Gunsmoke" came calling in 1955. Then he wound up playing Doc for the next 20 years.

Off the Beaten Path is a series of posts that are not specifically focused on the usual subject matter of this blog, the Iverson Movie Ranch. You can go directly to the Off the Beaten Path posts by looking up the term in the long index of labels at the right of the page, or by clicking here.