10 May 2012

1930s Lunch Wagon

You know I'm a huge fan of vintage radio drama and comedy. I love it because it's funny, smarter than you might imagine, and filled with all kinds of bits of tid that can be fascinating and informative.

Last week I was listening to a 1937 episode of the Fred Allen Show. On it he interviewed a man named Willie King* about King's lunch wagon concession outside the Warner Brothers lot. Of course, this intrigued me for so many different reasons: the 1930s, Warner Brothers, a lunch wagon where Bette Davis ordered fried potatoes.  Really?  Can anything BE more interesting than that?  Of course not.

In the interview, King mentions that one of his lunch wagons appeared in the 1932 film "I am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang." So, we rented the movie from Netflix, watched it last night (very good, BTW) and found a clip of what we think is King's lunch wagon (see photograph).

In Allen's interview, he mentions patronizing the lunch wagon "in back of this radio studio [where he is doing his show] on the Warner Brothers lot." At first, I thought this referred to the Burbank studio which is near-ish the NBC studio on the corner of Sunset and Vine. However, that fancy Art Deco NBC location did not open until 1938 -- a year after this show.  Hmmm.  That would mean Allen was still broadcasting from the original NBC studio at 5515 Melrose (at Plymouth Blvd) -- which is even further away from Burbank.  However, there was the original Warner Brothers studio at 5800 Sunset Blvd which is much closer to Melrose but that location had basically closed in 1930 -- seven years earlier.  How to explain it?  Well, it turns out that the Warner Brothers Burbank studio had a really bad fire in 1934, and they had to re-open their Sunset Blvd studio for filming. That would seem to confirm it as the location referred to by Allen -- especially as it is only one mile away from the NBC studio. Still not "in back of" but much closer.

You can hear King's interview here (it runs about seven minutes).

*William "Willie" King worked in Hollywood in the silent era as an assistant director. According to this interview, the last film he worked on was the 1925 silent "Wizard of Oz."  He quit the film business in approximately 1927 to run the lunch wagon concession at Warner Brothers.

No comments: