It seems as if nearly every square inch of California has appeared somewhere, or at some time, on film. Los Angeles may have the longest resume of film and television appearances, but the entire state of California can be considered a Hollywood “backlot.”
When “talkies” first debuted in 1927 and until about 1960, Hollywood directors usually didn’t pack up and head off to Iceland or Croatia to shoot their latest “masterpiece.” It was California that saw the lion’s share of movie location work.
California has a variety of terrains, cities, beaches, mountains, deserts, farmland, that work as stand-ins for many far-off destinations.
For film buffs, here is a “bucket list” of places you might want to visit, outside of Los Angeles.
Hotel del Coronado, Coronado
Built in 1888 and named a National Historic Landmark in 1977, Coronado’s Hotel del Coronado has appeared in numerous films and television shows including: “Some Like it Hot,” “The Stunt Man,” “Wicked, Wicked,” “$,” “Loving Couples,” “K-9,” “My Blue Heaven,” “Space,” “Ghost Story,” “The Girl, the Gold Watch, and Everything,” “Captains and Kings,” “Rich Man, Poor Man,” “Hunter,” “Hart to Hart,” Simon & Simon” and “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”
In 1995, the movie “Mr. Wrong” was filmed at the hotel, starring Ellen DeGeneres. Other television shows/movies included “Ladies on Sweet Street” with Helen Hayes; “Baywatch” (this two-part episode focused on the hotel’s ghost); “Garth Brooks Live;” and “Silk Stalkings.”
The hotel looks much as it did back when Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis arrived with their all-girl band in 1959, but the history of the Hotel del Coronado in film reaches back to the late 1890s when short, simple, “documentaries” were produced by the Edison Moving Picture Company. These included “Dogs Playing in Surf” and “Ferryboat Entering Coronado Slip.”
“Maiden and Men” is thought to be the first feature film shot at “The Del” sometime in the 1910s.
In 1916, director Harry Pollard, along with actress-wife Margarita Fischer, took a fancy to Coronado, casting the hotel’s garden patio as a South Sea island in “Miss Jackie of the Navy.” That same year, the Pollards filmed “Pearl of Paradise” at The Del.
In 1918, Rudolph Valentino starred in “The Married Virgin.” Available on DVD, this silent film showcases the hotel’s gardens and beaches.
Valentino and Gloria Swanson started in “Beyond the Rocks,” (1922) with Swanson returning to The Del to star in “The Coast of Folly.”
The hotel itself continues to be a popular subject for television programs including “The Today Show,” “Historic Hotels,” “America’s Castles,” “California and the Dream Seekers,” “Weddings of a Lifetime” and “True Mysteries.”
For a selfie related to “Some Like it Hot,” pose by the century-old Dragon Tree next to the resort entrance, which was the backdrop for one scene featuring Jack Lemmon in drag.
Bodega and Bodega Bay
Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic 1963 movie, “The Birds,” which starred Tippi Hedrin, Rod Taylor and thousands of murderous birds, was filmed in Bodega and Bodega Bay.
Bodega Bay is a small fishing town along the Bodega Head peninsula in Northern California, located approximately two hours north of San Francisco. The small village of Bodega is located inland, off the Bodega Highway, about 30 minutes from Bodega Bay.
While much of the area was re-created for filming in a studio, a few physical locations remain. In Bodega, for instance, you can see the two-story Potter Schoolhouse, where the birds first menaced the town’s children (though you can see it only from the outside, it’s now a private residence). To get inside a location from the movie, book a table at The Tides Wharf Restaurant, part of Bodega Bay’s The Inn at the Tides.
Many other films and television programs have filmed in Bodega Bay including “The Goonies,” “The Fog,” “Hart to Hart,” “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” “Bandits,” “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming” and “Finian’s Rainbow.”
The Bay Area and San Francisco
San Francisco, like Los Angeles, is a mecca for film and television productions. How many times have we seen the iconic Golden Gate Bridge destroyed?
San Francisco has starred in more films and television show than can be listed. Some of the appearances include “San Andreas,” “Blue Jasmine,” “Take the Money and Run,” “Dirty Harry,” “Bullitt,” “Escape from Alcatraz,” “The Princess Diaries,” “The Joy Luck Club,” “The Pursuit of Happyness,” “Basic Instinct,” “About a Boy,” “Hulk,” “Ant-Man,” “Big Eyes,” “Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit” and “‘The Wedding Planner.” San Francisco has also appeared in many popular television shows including: “The Streets of San Francisco,” “Monk,” “Alcatraz” and “Nash Bridges.”
“Mrs. Doubtfire,” 2640 Steiner St., San Francisco, was filmed at this picturesque Victorian, which served as the Doubtfire family home in the 1993 film starring Robin Williams and Sally Field.
The Bay area also includes some very famous cinematic appearances. “Vertigo,” Fort Point, San Francisco is one location. Alfred Hitchcock had a soft spot for Bay Area filming locations. The 1958 Jimmy Stewart-Kim Novak thriller, “Vertigo,” used Fort Point for one of its most famous (and wettest) scenes. Novak’s character attempted suicide by jumping off a casement.
To experience other locations of the film, stroll through the cemetery at Mission Dolores, which figures prominently in the movie, or stay at the Hotel Vertigo (called the Empire when it was used for the film), where Vertigo plays endlessly on the lobby ceiling.
Fern Canyon, a canyon in the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in Humboldt County, has a prehistoric ambience that led to the canyon being used as a filming location for “Jurassic Park, The Lost World,” BBC’s “Walking with Dinosaurs” and IMAX’s “Dinosaurs Alive.”
It offers an easy hike where visitors can see the beautiful scenery that doubled as a tropical island in film.
For a map showing where film and television shows have been shot in Humboldt County visit https://filmhumboldtdelnorte.org/mapofthemovies.
Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown has many claims to fame, but perhaps the most nostalgic is the Sierra No. 3 locomotive that still steams past the “Petticoat Junction” (1963-70, CBS) water tower. There is also a movie prop gallery, and outdoor exhibits include several photo-op spots, so you, too, can play Bobbie Jo, Betty Jo or Billie Jo, petticoats and all.
Take a Walk of Fame stroll from Rocca Park to Railtown. Some 30 brass medallions are embedded in the sidewalk along the way, each one commemorating a movie or series filmed here, from “High Noon” and “Bonanza” to “My Little Chickadee” and “Back to the Future III.”
Jamestown’s 19th century railway was used as a filming location for “Unforgiven,” the 1992 gunslinger flick starring Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman. The movie won four Oscars, including best picture and best director for Eastwood and best film editing for Santa Clarita resident Joel Cox.
Known as “The Movie Railroad,” the first known filming was in 1919, for a silent serial called “The Red Glove.” Railtown 1897 and its historic locomotives and railroad cars have appeared in more than 200 films, television productions and commercials.
Other credits include: “Death Valley Days” (with Ronald Reagan) and “The Lone Ranger.’
The area around Lone Pine, including the Alabama Hills Recreational Area, has some of the most recognizable scenery in the history of cinema. The terrain has provided the settings for hundreds of B westerns and several classic films, such as 1939’s “Gunga Din,” 1957’s “The Tall T” and 1962’s “How the West Was Won.”
The Bureau of Land Management offers a self-guided tour of Alabama Hills movie locations and the website of Lone Pine’s Museum of Western Film History, www.museumofwesternfilmhistory.org, is a great resource for identifying locations of favorite films.
“Hopalong Cassidy” and portions of “Iron Man” were filmed here. The Alabama Hills of Lone Pine, east of Sequoia National Park, has been the setting for “Django Unchained” (2012), “Man of Steel” (2013), “Gladiator” (2000) and the TV sci-fi series “Firefly” (2002-2003).
Big Bear Lake
See the mountain setting that hosted hillbillies, Mounties and Elvis Presley in the verdant San Bernardino Mountains and valleys around Big Bear Lake and its neighbor Cedar Lake. The area frequently stood in for those of the Ozarks, Appalachians and Canadian Rockies in early filmdom.
Examples include 1936’s “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine,” 1941’s “The Shepherd of the Hills” and Presley’s 1964 “Kissin’ Cousins,” all classic stories of mountain feuds and moonshine.
The sawmill featured in the Presley film is still standing, and you can see it at the Cedar Lake Camp, which was part of the area’s “back lot” (some of it originally built for movies) and is now rented out to groups.
Other films include: “Hot Tub Time Machine,” “War Games,” “The Parent Trap,” “Paint Your Wagon” and “City of Angels.” Television shows include: “JAG,” “Hill Street Blues,” “General Hospital,” “MacGyver” and “The Wonder Years.”