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The Charlie Chaplin Studio

History of the Legendary Lot

by J. A. Aberdeen

The unique cottage style Chaplin Studio buildings, which can still be seen on LaBrea Avenue in Hollywood.

The Charlie Chaplin Studio was built by the famous comedian after he signed with First National in 1917, his first independent production deal.

"At the end of the Mutual contract," Chaplin later wrote, "I was anxious to get started with First National, but we had no studio. I decided to buy land in Hollywood and build one. The site was the corner of Sunset and La Brea and had a very  fine ten-room house and five acres of lemon, orange and peach trees. We built a perfect unit, complete with developing plant, cutting room, and offices."

The land was located just south of the mansion owned by Charles Chaplin's brother Sydney, the business head of the Chaplin film company. 

Chaplin built the English cottage-style studio in three months beginning in November 1917, at a reported cost of only $35,000. The property was located just south of the mansion owned by his brother Sydney Chaplin, the business head of the Chaplin film company (Sydney's house has since been torn down to make way for an electronics store). Every independent film he ever produced was made at the studio including the classics The Kid (1921), The Gold Rush (1925), City Lights (1931) and The Great Dictator (1940). His last film shot there was Limelight (1952). Charlie Chaplin's concrete footprints can still be found in front of Sound Stage #3.

The Charlie Chaplin Studio on LaBrea Avenue in Hollywood. Notice the orchard grove next to the property.

He sold the studio in 1953, to a New York real estate firm William Zeckendorf's Webb & Knapp for $650,000. The plan was to tear down the studio, but instead it was leased out to a Chicago television production company. The lot became known as the Kling Studios, and such shows as the George Reeves The Adventures of Superman series, The Red Skelton Show, and the original Perry Mason (CBS) were produced there.

The lot was briefly owned by Red Skelton from 1958 to 1962, then by CBS until 1966 when it became the home of A&M Records and Tijuana Brass Enterprises, Inc. In 1969 , the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Board named the studios a historic cultural monument. The recording studio has been used by many major artists such as Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones. It was also the site of the memorable "We Are the World" recording of which brought together a who's-who of music talent onto the Charlie Chaplin sound stage in 1985.

The Henson family purchases the famous Charlie Chaplin Studio in 2000.

In 1992, A&M Records was acquired by Polygram, Inc., and during the consolidation of the recording industry in the late 1990s, the owners looked the sell the property. In February 2000, the Henson family announced that they bought the property for $12.5 million to become the headquarters of their independent production operation the Jim Henson Company. It subsequently became known as the Henson Recording Studios.



"At the end of the Mutual": Chaplin, Charles, My Autobiography.
See Charles Champlin, "The House That Charlie Built," A&M Recording Studios: <http://www.amstudios.com/ pages/ welcome_history.html>
"Modern Times: Hensons Buy Storied Chaplin Lot," HR, February 11, 2000, pp. 1, 43.
Historical information from Charles Champlin, "The House That Charlie Built," A&M Recording Studios: <http://www.amstudios.com>; "Modern Times: Hensons Buy Storied Chaplin Lot," HR, February 11, 2000, pp. 1, 43.
Chaplin sale of UA stock: see Balio, United Artists: The Company That Changed the Film Industry, p. 82-83.

See Bibliography.


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