Wednesday, January 27, 2010


True Romance (1993)

I love the build up to the Academy Awards and trying to see all the possible Oscar contenders, especially the best picture films. A couple weeks ago Tom O'Neil wrote a piece on the Los Angeles Times blog, The Envelope, suggesting that Quentin Tarantino's latest film, Inglourious Basterds, will be the big winner. Inglourious Basterds was a great movie, but I wouldn't immediately think of that as being one of the big contenders for best picture. Although, I would have never expected Tarantino to win an Oscar for writing Pulp Fiction in 1994, so I guess we'll see what happens.

Before Inglourious Basterds and Pulp Fiction, Tarantino wrote a less award noteworthy film called True Romance. However, there are a couple noteworthy Los Angeles film locations featured in the film.

At the start of the film, Clarence Worley (Christian Slater), goes to the movies on his birthday at the Vista Theater. At the theater he runs into Alabama (Patricia Arquette), an escort, hired by Clarence's boss to keep him company. Below is a picture of the Vista Theater as seen in the film which is supposed to be located in Michigan in the movie.

Vista Theater, 4473 Sunset Drive, Los Angeles

Vista Theater (January 2010)

Patricia Arquette & Christian Slater outside Vista Theater

Entrance to the Vista Theater

Classic Film buffs will be interested to know that where the Vista Theater stands is once the site of D.W. Griffith's enormous Babylon set for his epic film, Intolerance.

Babylon film set, Intolerance

Clarence and Alabama quickly fall in love, come across some dope, get into trouble with some gangs and go on the run. They leave their place in Michigan and head west for Hollywood. While in Hollywood Clarence and Alabama stay at the Safari Inn motel, which is actually located just north of Hollywood in the city of Burbank.

Christian Slater & Patricia Arquette arrive at Safari Inn Motel

Above Clarence and Alabama arrive at the Safari Inn. Below is a photo of the motel entrance as it appears today.

Safari Inn Motel, Burbank, CA

Safari Inn Motel Pool as seen in True Romance

Safari Inn Motel Pool (January 2010)

Christian Slater leaves Safari Inn Motel

Looking out from Safari Inn

You'll notice that the hot dog restaurant no longer exists. I actually don't know if that restaurant seen in the film was real or not? Does anyone know if that signage and table umbrellas were put up for the film or if there actually was a restaurant across the street from the Safari Inn in Burbank?

In the movie when Christian Slater's character pulls into the Safari Inn driveway he is driving down Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood and then turns into the motel driveway. Of course that was fancy camera cutting, because the Safari Inn is actually located on Olive Ave in Burbank.

The Safari Inn is a pretty neat motel. My family and friends have stayed there a few times. Many of the rooms are suites with full kitchens inside. They're more like apartments. If you're visiting from out of town to visit the studios I definitely recommend the place. Plus, how can you not like the the 1950s design?

Safari Inn Motel Sign, Burbank, CA


Stan Laurel

If you didn't get enough reading materials over the Christmas holiday then make your way over to one of my favorite websites, Letters From Stan. The Stan in referance is Stan Laurel, half of the comedy team, Laurel and Hardy. Throughout Stan's life he was known to be an avid writer of letters. He wrote to friends, business associates, fans and just about anyone. Stan simply liked to write and over at Letters From Stan they have created an archive of many of the letters he wrote over the years.

When you read through the letters you get a real sense of what kind of man Stan was. One of my favorites is one letter he wrote in 1927, replying to a fan:

Dear Miss Neal;-

Just a line to thank you for your very sweet letter, which is greatly appreciated. I am mailing you under seperate cover, a photograph per your request. Trust you will receive same alright. I am returning herewith the Twenty Five Cents you enclosed, as the amount of my Fan Mail does'nt warrant any charges.
 Thanking you for your kind thoughts & good wishes,
 Very Sincerely yours;-
Stan Laurel

I like this letter because it shows how much he appreciated his fans. Not only was Stan nice enough to reply to this particular fan, but he also returned the money she enclosed. This is just a short letter you will find over at Letters From Stan - there are many, many, letters of all lenghts and topics. I especially like seeing where the letters were addressed from - to see where Stan was living or staying at that the time.

In today's world of emails, text messages and tweets, after reading some of Stan's letters, it really makes one want to put pen to paper.

The Monster Squad - Blu-ray
One of my favorite childhood movies has got to be hands down, The Monster Squad. The film was not very successful when it was released in theaters and still many people haven't heard of the film, but for those who have seen it as kids, it has become a cult classic. The film, which was released in 1987, was always hard to find on VHS and it was never released (until recently) on DVD, so my brother and I ended up wearing out a recording that we taped off of Cinemax years ago. Apparently, many fans were doing the same thing - making their own recordings from the few times the film aired on television.
Thankfully, Lionsgate has now released a 20th Anniversary edition of the film, loaded with plenty of extras, including a five part film retrospective featuring cast and crew interviews. The newly remastered film looks better than I have ever seen it. Of course, probably anything would look better than the worn out VHS copy I taped off of TV. I just finished watching a blu-ray version of the film that I got for Christmas and I'm amazed at how well the film holds up.
For those of you who haven't seen The Monster Squad, in short, Co-writer and Director, Fred Dekker wanted to make a film that would be "The Little Rascals" meets the Universal Monsters: Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman, Gillman, and Mummy. It has a similar feel to The Goonies, another 80s kids adventure film, but monster themed rather than pirate themed.
During my recent viewing of the film I noticed that the finale all takes place on the Warner Bros. studio backlot in Burbank, CA, specifically, the small town themed set. Below are some screenshots matched with some photos I have taken during the past year.
Above, the "Scary German Guy" and some of the kids are parked out front of a church. Below is a view of the same church today. It recently was refurbished for the TV show Eastwicke.

Church on WB Backlot

Vampires Attack!
Above is a "Fox Photo Lab" and a Burger King as seen in the film. Below are the same structures today. Unfortunately, my shot doesn't include the Burger King building but I do show it in another picture further down.


Above is a sporting goods store featured in the film. In the shot Rudy is about to shoot the lady vampires with a wooden arrow. The next two photos below show the row of buildings that made up the stores in this scene.
Sportmart Building

Above is a screenshot looking across the central town square towards the City Hall structure. Below is a view looking across the same park as it appears today.

Another shot of the Burger King as seen in the film. Below a better picture of the building used as the Burger King.

Above Dracula arrives for the fight. Below is a view of the same street corner with same house in the background.

Above the Monster Squad are able to open the vortex of time and all the monsters and people are being sucked away. Above is shot of one of the buildings seen in the film and below is a photo of the same building as it appears today.

City Hall building on Warner Bros. Backlot

During the end credits you get a good glimpse of this area of the backlot, looking across the park. Below is one of my photos looking across the same park.


Robby & Zinnia @ Trevi Fountain in Rome (10/2009)

Sorry for you guys who have been checking back here for updates. I've been on a bit of a hiatus. A couple months ago I received a promotion at work and have been extra busy ever since. My computer recently died so I've been trying to recover my photos and videos. I also got married in early October and then went away on my honeymoon to Europe. Of course, being the movie fan I am, I had to make a couple stops at some cinema landmarks, one of which you can see in the photo above. That is my wife Zinnia and I at Trevi Fountain in Rome which you may recognize from the classic Federico Fellini film, La Dolce Vita.
Now that things have settled down a bit I'll try and do some regular posting again. Thanks to all who have been stopping by and for your comments. I hope everyone had a merry Christmas and has a happy New Year!

Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita

James Dean dragged into Police Station
I recently took some new photos for another Rebel Without a Cause film location. This time I got the Police Station which can be seen at the beginning of the film when James Dean is being dragged by two cops. See the screenshot above.
The Police Station was actually a facade located on the the Midwestern Street of the Warner Bros. Studios backlot. Below is a photo showing how the same facade appears today.
Police Station Facade
If you look closely you can see that the facade is now being dressed to look like a high school, more specifically, "Eastwick High School," for the upcoming TV Show, Eastwick, airing this Fall on ABC.

The Police Station is now Eastwick High School

Police Station/Eastwick High School on WB Backlot

East of Eden
Much of James Dean's first major film, East of Eden, was filmed on location in central California, but there were a few scenes filmed on the Warner Bros. backlot in Burbank. One scene in particular, the parade scene, was shot on the Midwest Street backlot. Here are some screenshots from the parade scene matched with some of my photos of the Midwest Street backlot.

East of Eden - Parade Scene
Above, the parade goes through town in what is supposed to be the Salinas Valley, but really it is the Warner Bros. Midwest Street backlot. Below is my photo showing the same area as it appears today. Notice one big difference? No dirt in the streets. Yes, dirt was brought in to cover the streets of the backlot in order to establish the time period of when the film takes place - 1917.

Midwest Street, Warner Bros. Studios

Chapel as seen in East of Eden
Above is a screenshot showing a chapel that can be seen during the parade scene. Below is the same chapel as it appears today.

Chapel on Midwest Street, Warner Bros. Studios

Drug Store - East of Eden

Above is a screenshot of the drug store. Julie Harris and Richard Davalos can be seen cutting between the cars.

Drug Store Location - Warner Bros. Studios, Burbank

Watching the Parade from the Park
Above Julie Harris and Richard Davalos watch the parade go by from the middle of the park. Below is a photo showing the park looking further out. That fountain in the middle is actually a set piece for a new TV show called Eastwick, based on the film The Witches of Eastwick. The show will be airing on ABC this fall.

Park in Midwest Street Backlot, Warner Bros. Studios

James Dean Stands Along Parade Route
Below is a photo I took of the buildings that appear behind James Dean when he stands along the parade route. Although the buildings have been repainted and changed slightly you can still make out the patterns on the windows.

Midwest Street, Warner Bros. Studios
If you want to see where James Dean lived when he left New York for California to film East of Eden check out an earlier post

Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra

The 1963 film Cleopatra, starring the always beautiful Elizabeth Taylor in the title role, is the third most expensive film ever made. A lot of money was spent getting this film right. Despite all the money spent and the all star cast which also includes Richard Burton, Rex Harrison and Roddy McDowell, the film was a complete flop. 20th Century Fox almost went bankrupt because of this film!

Although many reviews of Cleopatra were negative, Bosley Crowther of the New York Times called the film "one of the great epic films of our day" in his 1963 review. And Cleopatra would even end up winning four Academy Awards.

To go along with the big budget of the film there was a big movie premiere at the historic Pantages theater in Hollywood, California.

Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood, Blvd, Hollywood, CA
Here is a video of the Cleopatra premiere at the Pantages theater. The video is a bit psychadelic but keep your eyes peeled for some old Hollywood stars:

Chadney's Restaurant in Burbank, CA
Right across the street from NBC Studios in Burbank, CA is a shell of an old restaurant. Once a lunch spot and after hours hangout for NBC staffers, Warner Bros. employees, and workers from the Disney lot, the restaurant has been sitting vacant since 1998. Whenever I drive by the place I think of all the stories that could be told of the restaurant from when the times were good.
Chadney's Restaurant started in 1974 when former Sportsman Lodge pianist, Bill Chadney, joined up with contractor Bob Hoeller to open a steakhouse with live music. During the day the restaurant offered up juicy steak lunches for the nearby studio workers and at night a hoppin' jazz lounge for the after work crowd.

A view of Chadney's looking from NBC Studios, Burbank
Hoeller was quoted in a 1999 Los Angeles Times article saying, "I used to see Johnny Carson, Tom Brokaw, and Bob Hope in here all the time. And I used to watch Milton Berle stink the place up with his cee-gars. He was big on cee-gars." I wish I could have walked in to Chadney's for a nice steak dinner when that was the crowd coming in. I think I could put up with the cigar smoke if it was coming from Milton Berle.

Chadney's Restaurant in Burbank - NBC to the Left
Business was good at Chadney's from the 1970s into the 1980s. The celebrities and workers were coming in. The big names in jazz came to perform - then business started to trickle off. By the late 80s the popularity of the place began to wear away and eventually Chadney's was sold to new owners in 1992. The new owners tried to keep Chadney's going but the big names had stopped coming. In 1998 the roof caved in on the restaurant and the place has been closed ever since.
Currently the building is up for lease and it has been this way for a long time now. I'm hoping somebody comes in, refurbishes the place and opens it as a new restaurant. However, I wouldn't be surprised if someone buys the place and tears the whole building down. Let's hope that someone can breath some life into the old restaurant!

Father of the Bride home - 843 S. El Molino Dr. Pasadena, CA
As many people know, I'm getting married soon and in the same way I get into the spirit for Christmas or Halloween, I've been watching wedding related movies to get into the wedding spirit. What do you expect from a movie lover? My favorite wedding film is Father of the Bride, the 1991 version, starring Steve Martin and Diane Keaton (I was going to say the recent classic as opposed to the old classic but 1991 really isn't that recent anymore!). Last week when driving through Pasadena I decided to stop by the house that was used for the Banks family home and to take some pictures.
Above is a screenshot from the film showing the Banks family home. Below is a photo I took of the actual home a week ago (8/7/2009).

Father of the Bride house in Pasadena
Looks nearly the same doesn't? The only real difference is the flowers on the white picket fence and the fuller foliage on the house.

Steve Martin in the driveway.

A view of the driveway as it appears today (8/7/2009)

One of the touching moments in the film is when Steven Martin is playing basketball with his daughter (played by Kimberly Williams) in the driveway. I've been told that the basketball scenes in the driveway were actually done at another location but I'm not sure where that might have been.

Screenshot of the Father of the Bride House in snow

Above is another screenshot of the Father of the Bride house after it is covered by a surprise snowfall. Now anyone living near Pasadena knows that it doesn't usual snow in this area and I think Steve Martin says something in the film that he was nine years old that last time he remembers it snowing. The above snowfall is pure movie magic. Below is another shot of the house as it appears today.

Father of the Bride house in Pasadena

The Omega Man (1971)

Recently I tracked down the filming locations for the Charlton Heston movie The Omega Man (1971). This apocalyptic thriller based on the 1954 novel, I Am Legend was done once before as a movie for Vincent Price (The Last Man on Earth) and again a couple years ago as a movie for Will Smith (I Am Legend), but it is the Heston version I enjoy most. It is not that the Heston film is a better interpretation of the story - no, what I find most interesting about this version is that it uses Los Angeles as a backdrop.

Olympic Theater, 313 W. Eighth Street, Los Angeles

Charlton Heston is the lone survivor of biological warfare except for a few other humans who have been mutated into flesh eating zombies sensitive to light. During the day, while the zombies hide from the light, Heston scavenges the city trying to track down their hiding place. We see Heston at the start of the film driving around the deserted streets of Los Angeles and one of his stops is at the Olympic Theater located at 313 W. Eighth Street. Above is a screenshot of the theater as seen in the film and below is a photo of how the building appears today.

Olympic Theater, 313 W. Eighth Street

It's inside this theater that Heston watches the movie Woodstock. Because there hasn't been a new movie in the theater since human life was eliminated Heston is stuck watching this same film over again every time he goes to the theater. While watching the film he quotes the movie line for line.

Tower Theater, 802 S. Broadway, Los Angeles

During this early scene we also get a glimpse of the Tower Theater as seen in the screenshot above. I actually found the Olympic Theater because I of recognizing the Tower Theater. Below is a photo I took this morning of the Tower Theater.

Tower Theater, 802 S. Broadway, Los Angeles

Looking down Eighth Street, Los Angeles

Above is a screenshot from the film looking down Eighth Street. Below is a photo I took of the same location today (8/9/2009). Notice the Union Bank building is now the Union Lofts and most of all, the skyscraper in the horizon that did not exist during the time of the film!

Looking down Eighth Street, downtown Los Angeles

Looking down Santee Street, downtown Los Angeles
Above is a screenshot from the film looking down Santee Street in downtown Los Angeles. I wish I would have taken a photo of this location while I was walking around this part of town but I didn't recognize the location at the time. When I got home and looked at a larger version of the screenshot I noticed that the building on the lower left had an address painted on the side. I typed the address into Google maps and check it out - below a screenshot of the Google streetview. If you look at the windows of the building on the left and the far right you will notice that the same buildings are still standing. However, the two buildings in the near right appear to be torn down. Pretty cool what you can do with Google streetview huh?

Looking down Santee Street, downtown Los Angeles (C) Google
Heston's Penthouse
Above is a screenshot of Heston's penthouse apartment building. This is actually a facade located on the Warner Bros. Ranch in Burbank. Below is a great photograph from the website How The Ranch Was Weathered showing the same facade as it appeared in 2008. I just went by the ranch yesterday and it still looks the same.

Heston's Penthouse - a Facade at the Warner Bros. Ranch in Burbank

The Balcony of Heston's Penthouse as seen in The Omega Man

Ritchie finds the Zombie's Hideout
Later in the film Heston finds that there are a few other humans that have survived the biological warfare. One of these survivors is a teenage boy named Ritchie. Above is a screenshot of Ritchie driving his scooter to the hideout of the Zombies. Below is a photo I took of the same building a couple days ago (8/7/2009). The building is actually another facade, this one located at the main Warner Bros. Studio lot in Burbank.

Zombie Hideout from The Omega Man, Warner Bros. Burbank

I walk by this facade about once a week. I've even taken my lunch break on those steps - so when I came to this scene in the movie I immediately recognized the location. This was probably one of my most exciting finds because it shows part of the Warner Bros. backlot almost completely unchanged after the nearly 4 decades since the film came out!

Car Chase from The Omega Man located on WB Backlot
Above is another screenshot of the Warner Bros. studio backlot in Burbank. This location can be seen during the end of the film when the Zombies begin marching down the street and Heston starts shooting up the place. Below is a photo I took of the same area of the backlot as it appears today. For a long time this street was used as Chicago for filming of the hit TV show ER.

Warner Bros. Studio Backlot, Burbank, CA

WB Backlot as seen in The Omega Man
Above is one more screenshot of another section of the Warner Bros. studio backlot in Burbank as it appears in The Omega Man. Below are the same facades as they appear today.

Warner Bros. Backlot, Burbank, CA
Howard Smit on set of Alfred Hitchcock's, The Birds - Photo from hitchwiki
Legendary make-up artist and member of the Local 706 union passed away on August 1, in Los Angeles, at the age of 98. Services were held today at Mt. Sinai Mortuary in Los Angeles.
Smit began working in make-up as a way to help pay for law school. He would end up working freelance for such notable companies as MGM, Max Factor, and Republic Studios on such projects as The Wizard of Oz and The Birds. As a union member he helped make-up artists gain greater benefits for their trade. Make-up Artist magazine has more info on Smit with a link to a great video of Smit discussing the developments of make-up in the motion picture business

Jarvis Cocker

On Monday, July 27, 2009 I went to see British singer and former frontman of the band Pulp, perform at the historic Wiltern theater in Los Angeles. The Wiltern is a beautiful art deco building that opened in 1931 as a movie theater and was originally intended to be the flagship of the Warner Bros. chain of theaters. However, the Wiltern failed to get business and was forced to close after a couple years.

Over the years the Wiltern went through many different changes but nothing seemed to keep the place full of life. In 1980, the Wiltern theater was even threatened to be demolished until preservation groups stepped in and saved the building. Today the theater is primarily used as a concert venue. Movie lovers will be interested to know that the lobby of the theater was used as a hotel lobby in the Coehn brothers film, Barton Fink.

Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles - Photo by Musely from Flickr
And do you know why the Wiltern theater is called the Wiltern? Because it sits at the corner of Wilshire and Western. Cocker joked during the concert that the theater could have easily been called the Weshire.
I am a regular concert goer and out of the many shows I've seen, Jarvis definitely goes to the top of the list as far as great performers go. The way he swaggers around the stage and interacts with the audience is completely engaging. Although video does not do Jarvis justice for the experience one gets from seeing him live

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