Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hey, there's a portion of my car on national TV!!!

In the first year of CHEERS, they still edited the show on film (later they would transfer the film to tape and edit digitally). One time my partner, David and I were asked to go over to editing and check something out. We walked across the lot to the building where our editors were located, trudged up the stairs, glanced out the big window that greeted us at the top of the stairs, and we both just stopped dead in our tracks.

It hit us both instantly.

That was the view out of Lucy and Ricky’s hotel room in Hollywood during that famous season of I LOVE LUCY. They must’ve taken the photo for the backdrop from right there.

This is one of the cool things about living in Los Angeles – recognizing locations in TV or movies that I know or have been to.

And it’s especially great when it comes as an unexpected surprise.

Here's another example: I grew up in Woodland Hills, a suburb of the San Fernando Valley. About ten years ago I’m watching a rerun of an old ‘50s action/crime show called HIGHWAY PATROL. This starred Broderick Crawford, an overweight middle-aged balding alcoholic as the head of the CHP. (Imagine getting that guy through network casting today? Now the same part would be played by Elizabeth Mitchell.)

Quick side note: Crawford really was an alcoholic. In fact, he had so many DUI’s that his drivers’ license had been permanently revoked. This caused a big problem because how can the head of the Highway Patrol not be able to drive? So a concession was reached. Crawford was allowed to drive but only when the camera was running. So the director would yell “Action!”, Crawford would drive the car, the director would yell “Cut! Let’s go again!”, and Crawford would have to exit the vehicle so a crew member could drive the car back to the original spot.

Anyway, I’m watching this show (probably on cable channel 863) and Crawford is driving down a street. Suddenly I recognize a storefront. Neider’s Auto Body. Holy shit! It hits me – he’s driving down Ventura Blvd., right where I used to live! I, of course, hadn’t seen that street in a million years. But it all came flooding back to me. He passed Dillaway Realty. I knew instantly what he would pass next – the Pool Supply store, then the Gulf gas station, the freeway underpass, and Love’s BBQ.

Sure enough the tracking shot continued. There was the Pool Supply place, there was the Gulf station, and then… what the fuck!? There was no freeway underpass. This must’ve been filmed a year before the freeway was erected.

I can’t tell you how absolutely weird that was. Truly, like being in a time machine.

And that was just one example. The Bob Hope movie, BACHELOR IN PARADISE was filmed in my neighborhood. The tract house he lived in was the same model as mine. (The interior was different though. Ours didn’t have Lana Turner.) There were scenes in the Woodlake Bowl where I once sprained my thumb! Landmarks popped up throughout the whole movie.

And this was not a rare occurrence.  I was very excited one afternoon to come out of the Woodland Hills library and see that they were filming a scene from THE FBI there. Efrem Zimbelist Jr.(who had his license) pulled his car to a stop right in front. And there, in the shot, for all to see, was the back fin of my Mercury Comet! The night it aired I actually invited friends over.

This is one of the perks of living in a company town. Seeing old neighborhoods and places long since turned into Costcos.  It's a real blast from the past. And it makes up for the horrible downside.

For every nostalgic wistful moment I’ve had, there are an equal or greater number of moments when I’ve been really pissed because traffic is snarled due to location filming of some fucking idiotic movie or TV show. Streets are blocked off.  Temporary "No Parking" signs are everywhere.  Equipment trucks and cable as far as the eye can see.  Giant lights blind you at night.  “Why can’t they film this goddamn thing in Pittsburgh”?! I’ve been known to yell.

But then I see Neider's Auto Body and realize I'm the luckiest guy in the world.  


Mark said...

I have that feeling all the time here in New York. It never ceases to amaze me that I can stand in front of a completely unchanged Tiffany's more than 50 years after Audrey Hepburn did, and yet while the building's unchanged she (and George Pepard) are, sadly, both long gone.

I had the feeling again recently when watching Clint Eastwood land in a helicopter on top of the Pan Am building over 40 years ago in "Coogan's Bluff." Although the heliport there was shut down quite a while ago and the building's name was changed to "Met Life," other than that it looks pretty much identical, (especially when he exits the building to the sidewalk in front of Grand Central Station). Fortunately, of course, Clint is still with us.

It's kind of depressing to think that the concrete and steel will outlive us all... Same set, different actors.

Stephen Gallagher said...

If you stop outside George Barris's Custom Auto shop on the corner of Riverside and Lankershim, you can peek in through the window and see the original 60s Batmobile.

Matthew said...

The James Bond movie Moonraker caused a similar experience for me. I grew up in Orange County, just south of LA. As Bond is flying into the "Evil Guy's" Lair, there is a clear shot of the blimp hangers in Tustin and orange groves in Tustin, Orange and Irvine. The blimp hangers remain, but all of the groves that gave OC its name are long gone.
Also, any film shot at UCLA same deal. I have seen numerous scenes shot around Haines Hall at UCLA, where I had an office,

dgwPhotography said...

When I read the title, I thought you were going to cop to owning that green Ford Granada...

I remember watching parts of "Man on a Swing" filmed in front of our local shopping center before it was remodeled into an indoor mall - Seeing it back then always brings me back to my childhood.

The only redeeming feature of the last Indiana Jones movie was recognizing the streets of New Haven...

Phillip B said...

As you well know, the emotional attachment to these locations may even be stronger the farther you get from Hollywood.

Walking on the upper west side of NYC last week, the sign of Tom's Restaurant on Broadway (now identified as Monk's on Seinfeld) - brought a smile.

For a while there was a statue of Dr. Bob Hartley in front of his Chicago office. Everyone smiled while passing, and I was disappointed when it disappeared from Michigan Avenue.

And otherwise rational people still take others miles out of their way to show them where Mary Tyler Moore's first apartment was supposed to be...

These are all exterior shots, of course, and the actors probably were never ever there. But we get attached.

The DRC Family said...

I get a similar feeling watching Kevin Smith movies. There are so many places I recognized in Dogma. I've played SkeeBall in the same arcade as God.

True Lies filmed a lot of scenes in the Florida Keys not far from my house. For years we could walk the Old Seven Mile Bridge and see the black marks on the surface from the stunt charges they fired off in that chase scene limo and van chase scene. I've parked in the same lot as that helicopter Arnold climbs into to rescue his daughter.

This kind of association is always fun!

danrydell said...

I'm always very disappointed when watching Close Encounters because while set in my hometown, Muncie, IN, the state at that time didn't want to let the filmmakers shoot it there.

So, instead it was shot in Texas. Gagghghghgh.

Janet T said...

My husband grew up in the Valley and we lived there together for 13 years- we see places all the time on TV shows and in movies that we know. I'm glad we have a DVR so we can stop, backup and look again.

Holt said...

Great references - as it turns out, I work at Boston Medical Center and one block away from my offices lives the apartment building that serves as the outside shot for St. Elsewhere's St. Eligius.

(St. Eligius was loosely based on Boston City Hospital; BMC came about from the merger of Boston City Hosp. & BU School of Medicine)

It's always funny walking by it, as I grew up in high school watching St. Elsewhere. to this day, I have not run across a more meta-thatrical, self-referential show that could get away with it.
Here's a pic of the exterior shot:

P.S>: I'm not in medicine, since we're a safety net, I'm in Business Development, cheers.

SebiMeyer said...

I live in Germany now, so things here aren't quite like that.

A few years ago, after having just moved back here, I bought a book about the houses in my street (all built around 1900). I didn't really expect to even find my house in there, but when I did I was quite happy to find an entire chapter on it in there. How awesome is that?

Then I read it and found out that the SS had hid out in my Condo to avoid detection by the Americans who had already taken the town.

VP81955 said...

Speaking of Los Angeles locations (and real estate): The Hollywood Boulevard home once occupied by singer Morrissey, actor Max Showalter and, oh yes, the lady in my avatar, is now on the market for a mere $1.595 million (down from $2.7 million). Learn more at

One can imagine moving in and meeting Carole Lombard's ghost (a la Ann Jillian in "Jennifer Slept Here")...although if one of the current crop of hack screenwriters did buy the home, Carole would probably gleefully haunt them ("You call this crap you write a romantic comedy?").

Blaze Morgan said...

I'm always of mixed feelings. Seeing streets of my home city featured in a movie take me right out of the story. Seeing Clark Kent on a street two blocks from the cinema I was sitting in startles me out of the moment. Then gears clash again as Superman leaps up up and away to an aerial shot of New York.

A different movie had a lengthy chase seen on foot, running thru recognizable neighbourhoods. He comes to a busy street, right up to the camera. A close up of him looking for traffic. Then the camera swivels and we see him from the rear, dodging cars to cross to the train station. The problem was, the chase neighbourhood is about five kilometers from the train station. And their train station was a hotel wearing a sign "train station" like a false moustache. I'm yanked out of the plot like I'm attached to a bungee cord.

Only by the third viewing or so does it become fun.

Tod Hunter said...

As a lifelong resident of Los Angeles, I learned to never worry about what is shooting as I drive by a location shoot. If I can catch sight of a production sign on a dashboard, cool, but otherwise I try to forget about it. It could be a Japanese commercial or a second-unit shot in a TV show I'll never see: To try and find it would be frustrating.

When I was 11 or 12, there was a small parade being shot on the corner of Ventura and Corbin. I climbed up on a phone booth and waved a flag along with a gaggle of other pre-teens who had gravitated toward the crowd and the cameras. I never did find out what it was all about.

Decades later, there was a low-budget-film series at the Nuart. "Robot Monster," "Plan 9 from Outer Space," stuff like that. These things were shot on budgets that made Roger Corman movies like "A Bucket of Blood" look like a Cecil B. deMille spectacle.

One of the movies was a good-hearted ripoff of the '67 "Batman" TV show called "Rat Pfink a Boo Boo." (They had to seriously change the title so as not to get sued by Fox.) At the end there was a parade to celebrate the crime-fighters, and I saw a very familiar face waving a flag on top of the phone booth.

I don't chase them down -- but I do remember.

Bubba Gump said...

Zimbelist? Really? spelled with an 'e'? Well, you did get 'Efrem' correct!

Pamela Jaye said...

There is an episode of Spenser for Hire with stock footage of Boston. There are probably many but this one stands out. Why? I saw it sometime in the last decade. It had a stock shot of the Hancock tower under construction. It had a copyright date of, i think, 1988.

The Hancock Tower was completed before 1980 (which is when I started working in the old bldg with the blue spire - look for it in David E Kelley shows).
I believe the tower was completed in 76. or maybe it was started in 76. i used to walk on that date every day... but anyway, it was done when I got there, which was long before they did.

Also, stock footage on a quantum leap ep set in CT has street footage of Boston: Shawmut Bank and the Citgo Sign.
I thought every city had a citgo sign. nope.


I always chortle when shows like 24 have characters fly into Van Nuys in their private jets, having been to a convention at the hotel that adjoins the airport. Strangely, it's not as glamorous in real life...

WV: efrak -if douchebags named cup sizes for bras

Pamela Jaye said...

I thought the St. Eligius bldg had been torn down... guess not. just the Orange line.
I want the rest of my St. E. seasons!! (or at least the ep with Betty White)

Larry said...

When friends are in town, I'm always glad to show them the sights. You know, the Happy Days house, the Brady Bunch house, stately Wayne Manor, the Karate Kid apartment, the Halloween house, etc.

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

I live in Rio. It's been shot on film so many times, it's not even funny anymore.

And they rarely shoot anywhere other than the tourist spots. The stock aerial shots of Copacabana border on cliché.

I've also travelled by boat through the same bay where Stallone shot the plane sequence for The Expendables.

Please Leave Name said...

Everytime I go to CBS Radford and look at the parking structure where the lagoon from Gilligan's Island once was is gone, I lament that so is my chance to sleep with Mary Ann (in her prime).

Mike Doran said...

Living in Chicago, my chances for moments such as you describe are few and far between; for reasons unknown, most movies set in Chicago seem to be filmed in Toronto.

I've got one that stands out, though, for personal reasons: The Fury, the Brian DePalma psychic-splatter flick from (I think) 1975.

Looking at it today, I get a kick out of seeing Kirk Douglas carjacking a couple of off-duty cops (one is a young Dennis Franz) on a stretch of VanBuren street which in those days was all porno shops and flophouses; since then the whole South Loop area has been urban-renewed with a vengeance.

But I think back to when I saw The Fury in its initial release, at the now-defunct theater-plex in Water Tower Place on Michigan Avenue.
There's a scene where Kirk Douglas and Carrie Snodgress have a rendezvous in the atrium of Water Tower Place - just steps away from where we're all watching the movie.

Can anyone here top that for surreality?

TC said...

Just after I got out of college, some station (local or a cable movie channel, I forget which) was showing the movie The Brink's Job with Peter Falk, which was shot in/around Boston. I'm watching it, there's a shot of a guy standing on a rooftop, and suddenly I realize he's on top of my friend's apartment building in the North End.

Mark said...

If any of you are car nuts, you'll appreciate how often car magazines revisit the chase scene route in "Bullitt" and (thanks, I suppose to San Francisco's strict zoning laws) find it virtually unchanged.

If any of you are as obsessed with that movie as I am (primarily because of the complete and utter coolness of Steve McQueen's character), here's a great web site:

Mike Valmike said...

It's definitely very cool to see movie footage filmed in your own stomping grounds.

I grew up in suburban Phoenix, so I LOVED seeing Just One of the Guys and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and playing spot-the-place:

1. In Guys, the Big Surf in Tempe that served for the party scene.

2. In Guys, Papago Park for the "romantic" mountain date night, and Old Town Scottsdale for the ending scenes.

3. In B&T, WATERLOO! It's actually Golfland Sunsplash on US-60 at US-87.

4. In B&T, the "BOWL" Bowling Alley, now an AMF Lanes, is at Rural Road and US-60 and is where I still bowl even today.

5. In B&T, Coronado High School, the Circle-K on Southern & Priest, and of course Metrocenter (the Mall).

On a creepier note, that movie The Kingdom that was filmed a couple years back used parts of east Mesa and the 202 Freeway as stand-ins for Iraq. I had to smile as I watched the movie, knowing they had to frame their shot JUST RIGHT so that the view behind the action wouldn't include a Peter Piper Pizza and a Costco.


Mike Bauman said...

I was fantastically geeked out when I moved to Chicago and discovered that my new job was next door to the building Dr. Hartley walked into at the beginning of The Bob Newhart Show. I was not fantastically geeked out when I discovered that the door of the Walgreens next to Dr. Hartley's building was guarded by a homeless fellow screaming "Help me!"

Also, and please don't be jealous about this connection with television history, the establishing shots of the school on FOX's smash hit The Winner were of my high school on the south side of Buffalo.

Nathan said...

As you alluded to, it cuts both ways. I'm scouting locations right now for a pilot that will shoot some NY exteriors. Every time I approach a property owner about using their building for the establishing shots, they ask me if it's going to be a popular show. When I tell them it's a terrific script, they say, "No, you can't shoot here. We don't need the tourists gawking for the next 30 years."

Anonymous said...


I visit Frederick and Taylor Sts every time I'm in San Francisco, just to pay homage to the greatest movie car chase ever.

The first time I drove it I happened to have a Boston Pops Greatest Hits CD playing and as I went down the first hill, pointed at Alcatraz, what should come on but the William Tell Overture. Bullitt and The Lone Ranger together for the first time.

I drove that route 3 times, soundtrack blaring, before my wife told me to knock it off and grow up

Ovenn said...

Mike Doran: I refuse to believe that there was ever "a young Dennis Franz." Just as Walter Brennan was born old, Franz must have been born middle-aged.

Anonymous said...

I remember sitting in the theatre, excited for the advanced showing of White Castle starring Susan Sarandon and James Spader. Living in the St. Louis area, I knew exactly where all of the location shots were taken and it was exciting. What threw the entire audience of locals was the shot of James Spader driving past the Fox Theatre, supposedly driving home to his condo in an affluent suburb. The only problems...he was driving in the wrong direction. Everyone gasped, took a breath and then started laughing hysterically. We all got over it and enjoyed the rest of the movie, but it was very funny.


Jeannie MacDonald said...

A few years ago, I read a book called "Silent Echoes," in which a fellow Buster Keaton fanatic named John Bengtson decided to track down dozens of key locations Keaton used in his shorts & features. Bengtson combed archival pictures, phone books, historic maps, city records and his own "detective" skills to find these vintage locations and show before/after photos. Lucky for me, I sent John a fan letter, thanking him for his hard work, and he sent me back a customized map of locations from my favorite BK films, which my husband and I visited during a trip to L.A.

benson said...

Those who have HD subchannels, look for a service named "This TV" that runs Highway Patrol reruns early in the morning, along with Sea Hunt, and Mr. Ed. (for more locations)

@Mike Doran.. The Me-TV 2 sub- channel service runs M Squad with Lee Marvin, and that's got a lot of old b/w footage of 50's Chicago.

And, of course, John Candy's movie "Only the Lonely" has a great scene filmed (right after the last game) at the late great Comiskey Park.

Wallis Lane said...

When I visit the Valley these days, it's a little sad to see the dwindling list of businesses still around on Ventura Blvd. from my childhood 40 years ago. The Corbin Bowl and the St. George Motor Inn seem to be the only ones left.

@Matthew: I also love when UCLA is filmed in the background. It completely took me out of one film, however. In It's My Turn, Jill Clayburgh is a professor, and she's shown walking around what is clearly the UCLA campus. After she takes a job offer in New York, she begins complaining about people she left behind in Chicago, which she constantly references. I'm thinking, she just moved from LA to NY, what's all this about Chicago? When are they going to get to Chicago in this movie? It took me a ridiculous amount of time to realize that they were just using UCLA as a generic backdrop for an unnamed "Chicago university." Of course, any non-Bruin wouldn't have been so preoccupied.

"The tract house he lived in was the same model as mine. (The interior was different though. Ours didn’t have Lana Turner.)"

You could get Lana Turner as a tract home option? Too bad my parents didn't spend the extra bucks.

D. McEwan said...

As another lifelong LA brat, this is my life experience also. I spent my chldhood in Palos Verdes Estates, a common movie and TV location area in those days. My childhood neighborhood is all over the movies and TV. Columbo solved a murder (George Hamilton dun it) in a house my school bus took me by every day a decade and a half earlier.

For many seasons Knot's Landing ran its closing titles over an aerial shot of "Knot's Landing" that had the school where I went to the 6th Grade in the foreground, and my grandmother's house in the far background (not so far I couldn't easily pick it out in every episode.) I guess I grew up in Knot's Landing.

In the Roger Corman movie of The Pit and the Pendulum, Vincent Price's evil castle was a matte painting placed directly over the school where I went to 1st - 5th grade. I could have told you then that it was a shrine to torture. I was going to that school when the film was shot.

As an 11 year old, I stood and watched the only scene of the Liz Taylor Cleopatra shot in America shot two blocks from my school. There was Martin Landau in a Roman soldiers uniform looking off our bluffs into Lunada Bay gazing at ships that would be added later. Apparently The Battle of Alexandria took place within sight of my elementary school. (On the DVD, Landau or someone says this was shot in Malibu. He misremembered. I was there. I saw it with my own eyes. Lunada Bay in Palos Verdes, 30 miles south of Malibu, one mile from our house.)

The Big W in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World was planted within sight of the school where I went to part of first grade. The big chase in that movie's climax wsa shot all over streets I know well in Long Beach. In one shot, Spencer Tracy runs across a rooftop, aand behind him you can see the Long Beach Civic Auditorium (long since demolished) in which I appreared in Camelot, Kiss Me Kate, and Finian's Rainbow and in another shot they all drive past a glorious shot of the first rollercoaster I ever rode in my life (The Cyclone at Nu-Pike in Long Beach, demolished in 1968. That was the rollercoaster also destroyed by The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. It was supposed to be Coney Island, but the location rollercoaster they shot at was our baby in Long Beach.)

Also in Mad World the two taxis stop, and that star-studded csat piles out, in front of a Santa Monica home a friend of mine lived in 30 years later. I went to parties where they stop to see Tracy is going the wrong way.

The only thing better than walking up the steps Laurel & Hardy carried the piano up in The Music Box was seeing it was located less than a mile from where my mother gave birth to me 17 years later.

John said...

Had the same reaction when I was watching the final scene in Humphrey Bogart's final film, 1956’s "The Harder They Fall," 20 years after the fact, and realized Bogie was walking into the apartment building (specifically, 501 E. 20th St., along the FDR Drive in Manhattan) just down the block from where I lived.

RockGolf said...

@MikeDoran: I live in Toronto, so I recognize a lot of the locations that are supposed to be Chicago. (Oddly enough, I've only been to Chicago 3 time and one of those I ran into the filming of Midnight Run.)
Speaking of Toronto, any time they call for an airport scene, they actually film in a walkway that connect our baseball stadium (Rogers Centre, formerly SkyDome) and our railway terminus (Union Station).

gottacook said...

Having never been an LA resident, I have less to report but I've seen a few goodies: When I lived in center-city Philadelphia, I once saw John Lithgow being filmed in a sidewalk phone booth; this turned out to be a scene in Brian DePalma's Blow Out. Later when I lived in the Minneapolis neighborhood called "northeast," two films were in production: the Christian Slater/Marisa Tomei Untamed Heart (which required fake snow on curbsides - in winter!) and Crossing the Bridge, which turned one of the big downtown river bridges into a Canadian border crossing, as well as converting the local, old-brick-building Buick dealer into a 1973 version of the same. (Given how poorly made GM's cars were at the time, I've always wondered how they assembled a showroom's worth of new-looking ones 18 years later.)

gottacook said...

Oh, and (referring back to Anonymous 2's post) the Spader/Sarandon movie was White Palace, not White Castle. The novel it's based on, by Glenn Savan, is FAR superior and also makes use of many St. Louis locales.

Pamela Jaye said...

the two things I remember most from my (second? third?) trip tp L.A. were both courtesy of Zucker/Abrams/Zucker.
It was not till my third trip - this was in 89!) that I made it to LAX baggage claim.*

I'm sure the people outside baggage claim (or was it drop off?) were wondering why I was standing there giggling at the P.A.: The white zone is for loading and unloading...

The other giggle came driving to or from a friends house south of LA when we saw those nuclear(?) plants... the ones that actually did look like breasts. ...everything I saw reminded me of her...

*oops - 4th. first time we drove to LA, 2nd time was Greyhound, 3rd time we drove in from Tucson and flew home.

I was really young when I saw Airplane!** Most of my parodies worked in reverse. Years later I was still seeing and hearing the things the movie was parodying.

**I was 21 but I was still very young when I was 21.

Anonymous said...

The Shrine Auditorium is instantly recognizable at the site of the regionals on last night's "Glee".

txutxi said...

I grew up in Venice, CA in the 70s and I love watching Starsky and Hutch, NOT for the show, but for the nostalgia. Often as kids we would go hang around the shooting, and so I have specific memories of the show, but also many of the scenes are of the canals of my childhood, which since they've been McMansioned, are no more.

The down side to growing up in LA is that my husband is sick of me complaining, "But how did he turn from Lincoln and Venice Boulevard onto Wilshire? It's just not right!

benson said...

Ken, Friday question...your take on this deal between Netflix and Kevin Spacey, et al for "House of Cards". Takes TV networks out of the mix? What of the effect on the creative process? No network wonks, or simply "say hello to the new boss, same as the old boss"?

thomas tucker said...

Holt- I used to walk by that same building every day as I went from Tremont Street down to University Hospital. I always heard the theme song from St. Elsewhere playing in my mind as I went past. I think it was originally a building for an insurance company rather than a hospital.

Scott said...

One time, I was watching a documentary where they interviewed a taxi driver, who was seen parked outside the exact theater where I was watching the movie. That was interesting!

In the late 90's, I lived in Toluca Lake and these days I get a kick out of seeing the Adam-12 episodes that were filmed along Riverside Drive.

On Highway Patrol, they did little to cover up road signs and street numbers. So, it's easy to find and view many of their locations as they are today, via Google Maps.

estiv said...

In 1990 I visited LA, and at one point was driving down Santa Monica Boulevard when I got a weird feeling of deja vu, but it just didn't feel the way deja vu usually does. I couldn't put my finger on it, but something about the palm trees, the grass, the long straight road -- I'd seen it all before. Then it clicks: the opening of the Beverly Hillbillies, where they're riding in the old car with Granny up top. The only thing wrong was that it wasn't in black and white.

Dave Creek said...

In Louisville, we enjoy watching STRIPES, as Bill Murray drives to the airport -- but goes across a bridge in the wrong direction, toward southern Indiana.

At least that movie never actually referenced being in Louisville. Cameron Crowe should have known better in ELIZABETHTOWN, when the camera takes us through a locally well-known tunnel eastbound on I-64 instead of going south on I-65 from Louisville to get to the title city.

Matt said...

They filmed an episode of House Hunters or something in the condo building next to my office here in Kansas City. That's about it for me.

Once, U2 was in town for a concert, and on the way back to the airport they saw the ridiculously kickass/dumbass sculptures atop Bartle Hall here in town, and they were inspired to film the video of 1 of their songs from Zooropa, I think. They shut down I-35 and clogged up downtown something fierce, and pissed everyone off.

God forbid that we have something cool to talk about in this town.

D. McEwan said...

I forgot to mention I lived IN a famous movie location before it was one. In 1994, when Pulp Fiction came out, I was avoiding it, as I extremely dislike John Travolta, Bruce Willis, and Quenton Tarantino, so having them all work on one movie meant "AVOID!" to me.

But then a friend said: "You have to see it. They shot part of it in your old building."

So I sat through it, and hated, loathed, every frame. But sure enough.

That building Travolta and Samuel Jackson go to at the start, where they get the briefcase, was an apartment building that stood on Van Ness, half a block north of Sunset Boulevard, across the street from the Denny's parking lot. As you exited the Hollywood Freeway southbound for Sunset, you went past it. It was heavily damaged in the January, 1994 earthquake, and by the time Pulp Fiction came out later that year, it had been demolished.

It had one big movie connection even before then. Bette Davis had lived on the first floor back in the early 1930s, when she first came to Hollywood, under contract to Universal.

I lived on the top floor of that building from May 1986 to September 1989.

And they didn't just use it for exterior shots. Every scene in the film that is supposed to be in that building, IS shot inside that building. When they are riding in the elevator, it's the real elevator. When I brought men home at night, I rode up in that same elevator, engaged in naughty behavior on the exact spot where Travolta and Jackson stood years later.

Do you know how odd it is to see a shot in a movie of two bona fide movie stars acting on a spot where you've engaged in behavior that would slap an X-rating on the film if they did it?

Buttermilk Sky said...

Dr. Hartley may be gone, but Ralph Kramden continues to grace the Port Authority Bus Station in New York. When I lived there KOJAK always seemed to be filming in my little enclave of Tudor City. Those buildings were a lot more impressive on the outside.

Ryan Paige said...

I remember watching Robocop and not knowing ahead of time that it was shot in Dallas.

I recall thinking it was weird that Detroit had a "Southland Life" building, too.

There is at least one building in the movie that I'm glad is gone. There was a parking garage across from Old City Hall that makes an appearance in the movie. That garage, along with some abandoned buildings, was replaced by a nice park in the last year or so.

Carson said...

I had that bizarre feeling, but though the show was from my childhood (I was too young to watch when it first came on, but I remember reruns!), I didn't move to LA until I was an adult.

The show was "McMillian and Wife" (Thank you Netflix!) and I recognized a store and staircase, then the entire street, It was Riverside Drive in Toluca Lake, and i had just been to that store and walked pat that staircase the day before.

it's one thing to pick out backlot sets on any sow after working in a studio, but it's always weird when it's on the street.

The original 90210 used to shoot on my street in Studio City all the time (which got annoying), and my car was seen three times in Lethal Weapon 3 because we were shooting a film (a crappy one) at the same time that they were shooting a car chase on Lankershim Blvd.

RyderDA said...

I make it a point to buy every movie shot in my neighborhood, no matter how good or bad. SNOW DOGS, MYSTERY ALASKA, RV, OPEN RANGE, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, SUPERMAN 1-4, PACHENDALE, UNFORGIVEN, LEGENDS OF THE FALL, ASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES and others - because it's a blast to see your home on the big screen. I say "that's not Montana or Wyoming, that's Alberta" - and the movie is better for it. Same thing when I see movies set in far off places that I've been to, like New York or L.A. or London or Paris or Rome. One day I'll visit the filming locations for LADYHAWKE, the most beautiful movie I've ever seen. Knowing where sets are is great.

Pamela Jaye said...

Thomas -

The building seen as St. Elsewhere was actually the Franklin Square House Apartments, a French Second Empire designed structure built in 1868. Although never used as a hospital, it has been the site of the St. James Hotel (its original function), the New England Conservatory of Music, nurses residence and as of late a senior citizen's housing development.
found here
although the text is from wikipedia

Pamela Jaye said...

the building I worked in for years

was, as wikipedia notes, referred to as the Berkeley building (I worked on B-13 and B-14 and was just about to go to C-(2? 6?) in the Clarendon bldg when I left. (the Clarendon bldg is between the Berkeley and the Tower and was remodeled right before that)

I was there when they turned the lights back on in the spire too. There's a poem.

Pamela Jaye said...

additionally, I think the building they were putting up in 86, to block our view of the river (but not the papers from the street flying past the 14th floor windows) was 500 Boylston - the one from Boston Legal.

Another building exterior, used for a courthouse on BL was the Boston Public Library.
I moved away before they finished the big suspension bridge.

cshel said...

I've lived in L.A. my whole life so I've seen tons of filming, see familiar places on the screen all the time, use to work in a couple of non-biz industries where I dealt with various celebrities every day, live in a neighborhood where they film a lot, and have funny celebrity sightings every week at the store or whatever.

But a few years ago even I was somewhat excited when they filmed a movie where I live, and I got to watch an A-list director direct in my own living room, and had the star of the movie change clothes in my bathroom, etc. Then when the movie came out it was so weird seeing the place I live in so many scenes in the movie. The movie was a huge hit and people started showing up to take pictures of where I live. And then there was an "only in Hollywood" bizarro moment one day when I was leaving to go somewhere and saw Sanjaya and his sister taking pictures of where I live, after he had finally been voted off of American Idol.

But the only time I was truly star struck was when I went to see a taping of "Frasier" and I got to meet and pet Moose and his son for like ten whole minutes. I was so excited. If only they had acted like real dogs instead of staring at the trainer like zombie dogs the whole time, it would have been perfect. : )

analee said...

This post is really great something to be proud of.

Joe said...

In The Specialist Stallone molests Sharon Stone in the church where I got married, right next to the pew where my mom & dad always sat. I mean, like, RIGHT THERE.

My mom and dad were not there at the time of the proto-TSA patdown, by the way.

Anonymous said...

Growing up in Miami it was always a thrill to go watch them film SURFSIDE 6. Amazingly, the pilings are still in the water!

K.L. said...

I definitely did a double-take when I realized that the "hospital" on "House" was the student cafeteria where I worked ...

Wes Parker in Iowa said...

Lived in 1000 Oaks in the early 60s. They used to film scenes from Rifleman and Lawman across the street from our house on Arcturus. Subdivision was called Starlight Ranchos. If I remember correctly, some scenes from MadMadWorld were filmed on Moorpark Road north of town.

Dave Arnott said...

Ken (and other Angelinos), if you ever get a chance to see this video documentary called LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF, you really should. It consists entirely of clips from films shots in LA, and will never be able to be released due to rights issues. But it shows up at film festivals and in special presentations by the director every so often. There are probably a few clips on YouTube, as well.

Ah, here's a link to ALL the films included:

Dave Arnott said...

Also, there's a great blog from a professional New York location scout. In addition to posting really cool pictures of NYC locations and stuff (his claim is that you can see the most interesting stuff in any city by just looking UP when you walk around), he occasionally does THEN and NOW location comparisons - where he goes to the current spots from old movies shot in NYC and takes new pictures of them.

Here, for example, is Taxi Driver:

Fun stuff.

Mike Doran said...

I'm well aware of thos M Squad reruns on MEtoo tv in the wee hours here in Chicago.
There's an old TV Guide interview with Lee Marvin in which he says that they couldn't get permission to do location shooting for the episodes, so he'd sneak into town with a second unit a couple of times a year to steal silent shots of Lt. Ballinger walking about all over town, often at night; these were mixed in with the story footage shot at Revue in Hollywood.

To Ovenn:
If you can find it, get the DVD of The Fury and see for yourself:
Dennis Franz is quite a bit thinner (well, less heavy, anyway), then he came to be later on, and his hair is on top of his head rather than his upper lip.
And it was 35 years ago.

And for Ken:
I just read your next post, about seeing Volcano.
You win for surrealism.
Your Rice-a-Roni is on the way.

John said...

Hudson's used to be an Army-Navy Store on Third Avenue and 13th Street in Manhattan. We made jokes about Travis Bickle being their best customer when they used the building across 13th Street as the one where Jody Foster was plying her trades in "Taxi Driver" and where Travis made his assault (despite the carnage in the movie, that was a wonderfully low-keyed seedy area that took about 40 years after they tore the Third Ave. el down to finally gentrify/yuppify, with an old burlesque house/x-rated movie theater across the street, and some 'adult photography' studios on the second floor of the buildings on 14th Street. It was kind of like the pre-Guiliani Times Square porn corridor for beginners).

Lou H. said...

A few months ago, Laura Allen, who was on the canceled FX series TERRIERS - which a lot of people never watched because they thought it was about dogs - wrote that FX was filming a new series in the house across the street from hers...and the new series is about dogs.

Matt Patton said...

A lady I worked with grew up in the L.A. neighborhood called the Hollywood Dells (above the commercial district, apparently, but not at the top of the hills--you had to drive down from the entrance from her street to reach her house).

At any rate, when she was a kid back in the mid-40's, they shot some location shots for Double Indemnity on her street--in fact, her brother was one of the kids seen playing out side the "Deitrichson" house in the scene where Walter Neff first visits. She said folks in the neighborhood were always a bit miffed by the voice-over narration, which sneers at the house rather vigorously.

Back in the spring of 1979, Robert Altman shot the film H.H.A.L.T.H. on location in St. Petersburg, FL. The film involved a health-food convention, and as publicity, several local health-food store owners, including my dad, were used as extras. The film was shooting at a big hotel on St. Pete Beach called the Don Ceasar, and he managed to sneak me into the hotel and then down among the extras. I went back a few times all by myself on the bus (I even skipped a day of school). The film starred Carol Burnett, James Garner, Lauren Bacall, and Glenda Jackson, whom I never saw except at a distance. However, on the first day, a distracted 17th Assistant Director shoved me into a corner with Paul Dooley (who was helping Altman make the film up as he went along--and when Altman was sober)and Alfre Woodard, and I the result was one of the most amusing afternoons of my otherwise unexceptional life.

Katherine said...

I was just watching Orson Welles' Touch of Evil, which features Venice, CA as Mexico (and Charlton Heston heavily made up as a Mexican cop - very weird).

A movie buff friend of mine occasionally runs a bus tour through the locations, playing segments of the movie while driving through or past the locations where they were shot. It's pretty cool watching Heston and Janet Leigh drive down Speedway (which used to be a race track, but that's another story), as the bus drives down that street.

And txutxi, don't worry about those McMansions on the canals. Have you seen the inundation maps? Come the tsunami, they'll all be gone.

Mikey said...

There's at least a few websites which compare stills taken from It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World to the actual locations today. Even when I watched it as a kid, I couldn't help but see it as a beautiful travelogue of a lost Southern California.

Jeffrey Leonard said...

There are quirks to living in the San Fernando Valley. Just this evening I was watching "Parks and Recreation" only to realize they were filming on the corner of Desoto and Victory Blvd. This is where the Pierce College vegetable farm is where I've gone MANY times for their corn maze at Halloween. Jeez, right in my neighborhood of Woodland Hills.

D. McEwan said...

Okay, here's my weirdest. There is a gay porn movie I rented one time, which had a scene of a guy driving, shot inside the car, watching him drive, with what was clearly Lankershim Blvd outside. At one point he drove right past the spot where I was once mugged. You can see the spot on the sidewalk where I was attacked clearly in the shot. A few moments later, he drives past the crossstreet I used to live on, and the apartment building I used to live in can be briefly glimpsed past the Jack-in-the-Box where I often ate. And the movie was shot WHILE I was living there, so it was like the Porn movie just drove through my life.

TC said...

I just thought of one more- I saw Amistad in a theater in Newport, RI. Aside from hearing the murmurs of the audience spotting themselves and friends as extras ("Oh, look- there's Charlie!"), I realized that they must have shot Newport Square from in front of that very movie theater- it's a 1950's-esque marquee, and the only building that couldn't be made to look like it was there in the 1800's.

Mike Doran said...

Just thought of another one ...

I found myself watching Executive Action a while back; that's the one where Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, and Will Geer plot the murder of JFK, along with some Texas oil millionaires/character actors.

I'd seen it before, but imagine my shock in seeing this time that the millionaires were hatching their plot at ...
Stately Wayne Manor from the '60s Batman series!

The joys of stock footage - those were the days.

The Jnow said...

I love that pan shot in The Godfather to establish the "Hollywood Sequence", and how it MUST have been shot from an upper floor of the Roosevelt Hotel, and how it looks COMPLETELY different SANS the garish Hollywood/Highland/Kodak Theatre Complex.

te said...

I was watching "Xanadu," then well past its first run, at the old Oriental on Sunset Blvd. At one climactic point, the exotic new roller disco is unveiled, and someone onscreen asks "What shall we call it?"

A wiseacre in the audience, obviously a local, shouted out "Why don't you call it the Pan Pacific Auditorium?" Which, in fact, it was -- before the real place was torn down.

Darryl Raymaker said...

How about the scenes filmed in that great dowager of a Hotel in the great Canadian capital of Ottawa - the Chateau Laurier - from the movie Captian of the Clouds (Warner Brothers 1942) with James Cagney and Dennis Morgan.

And that other great hotel in Chicago - home of the 'Pump Room' - the Ambassador East Hotel when Cary Grant starts to figure out just who Eva Marie Saint is in 'North By Northwest'.

Those great hostelries have not changed over the years. And that is a very good thing. True icons they are indeed!

Ah, yes. And one more. A little over a year ago I dropped in to P.J. Clarke's Saloon on 3rd Ave and 55 st in New York, and pretended I was Ray Milland in 'The Lost Weekend' . . . for only about 15 minutes.

gravehunter said...

That's interesting. I wonder if I would have noticed the I Love Lucy backdrop had I seen it.
One thing which I did catch years ago was the Puente Hills Mall being used in Back to the Future.
Having grown up in Hacienda Heights, I was quite familiar with the mall. I was living in Turkey and the Greek Islands (I was in the USAF) when the movie was made, so I wasn't aware that it had been shot at the PHM. Suddenly, and I'm still overseas, I'm watching the movie and there's the mall. I was pleasantly surprised to see it and was showing it off to my buddies...but they didn't seem to be as impressed.

VP81955 said...

Ken, since you mentioned "Bachelor In Paradise," you should know the fine blog "Dear Old Hollywood" -- which gives plenty of background on SoCal film locations and such -- recently profiled sites used in the film:

Apparently two of the supermarkets used in footage still exist -- but they now specialize in Hispanic and Filipino groceries. And the young trees seen in the suburban '61 tract have all grown now...just as they have in the postwar Syracuse subdivision where I grew up.

thxdave said...

Ken, I'm sitting here looking at a shot of "Neider's Body Shop" in the Highway Patrol episode you mentioned. If you'd like a still-frame of the shot, I'd be happy to send one along.

Ken Levine said...

I would love a still frame of that! What was the story line in the episode? Would love to track that down.

Mt email address is



Serge said...

I do think that it is quite amusing to see several series or movies shot in a location close to your heart... even more if these were actually shot many years before you were born! You could really see how things have changed a lot since those times.