Hollywood, Los Angeles, USA (1927-1932)
Pennies from Heaven
The film's timeline moves from the decadent world of the 1920s—when Hollywood was the place for party people—to the stock market crash of 1929, which changed people's perspectives on pleasure and enjoyment.
As George's celebrity begins to wane, so does his paycheck, and this is made clear in his move from grand mansion to modest apartment, and the auctioning off of all his possessions. Peppy, on the other hand, takes the opposite trajectory, from the girl who takes the bus around town to the girl who lives in a house as luxurious as her fur coats.
Before They Dropped the "Land"
Before it was Hollywood, it was Hollywoodland. The sign, which is featured in the film, was erected in 1923 to advertise a new housing development in the Hollywood hills, but soon came to stand for all things glamorous.
Peppy's house in the movie is another nod to old Hollywood—it was the house of America's first "sweetheart," silent film star Mary Pickford. In fact, when Peppy takes George in after the fire, he sleeps off his smoke inhalation in Pickford's actual bed. (Source)
Much of the movie also takes place in the streets of the city and features shop windows (the rise of consumerism at the turn of the century meant window shopping was the hot new activity), old cars, and, of course, the insides (and outsides) of theaters, from the audience-packed auditorium to the blinding marquis and press-ridden red carpets.
A good chunk of The Artist also takes place on various film sets, mostly at Kinograph Studios. Kinograph is a play on Vitagraph, a silent film production company founded in 1897 and bought by Warner Bros in 1925.
The movie offers a backstage pass into the magic of movies, and all the strategically placed cameras, lights and props that go into constructing the various fantasies that Hollywood rolls out.