Sunday, March 23, 2014

TCM Movie Locations Tour Los Angeles

Hello Film Fans!! I got to go on the TCM Movie Locations Los Angeles bus tour this past Friday.  I had a wonderful time and enjoyed seeing Los Angeles through a different lens.  Throughout the tour I kept realizing that I had driven by many of these locations, many times but hadn't taken the time to notice them or was in too much in a rush to stop and appreciate them.  The tour, tour guide, and film clips covered the silent films of the 1910s all the way to the 2010s.

I was very much looking forward to this tour, after having such a great experience on the New York TCM Classic Film Bus Tour and having lived in Los Angeles twice, the first time for 8-ish years and this time for almost 2 years, I thought it would be fun to be a "tourist" here.  I arrived quite early and decided to grab coffee and mosey around the Grauman's area, I was drawn to Jack Lemmon's and Shirley MacLaine's hand and foot prints and couldn't help but enjoy being near the TCM Classic Film Festival headquarters.  There was a pretty decent turn-out, but I spoke to the Starline employees there and they mentioned that they haven't had a full bus yet.  And mentioned that 100 passes had been claimed today, but only 30 people had shown up, quite curious! Although I'm sure that won't be the case when it gets closer to the Festival.

Around 10am, we made our way over to the fancy-shmancy bus.  It looked beautiful, had very large windows.  The gentleman in the hat above warned us not to open or close the windows ourselves because they were quite heavy and that we would certainly lose an arm if we attempted to move them.  I was sure not to touch ANY windows.  There was a large screen at the front of the bus and a seat facing the riders for the tour guide.  Our tour guide was named Michael and he was wonderful.  He continuously asked if we were all doing ok, he really livened up some potentially dry facts (they wouldn't have been dry to me, but ya know) and conducted some fun trivia contests.

After getting situated and meeting our driver, Jose, we were on our way!  Things started off with an introduction video from Ben Mankiewicz welcoming us to the tour.  Michael gave us interesting information about the Roosevelt Hotel and movies that were filmed at the pool, such as Catch Me if You Can.  As we made our way to Sunset Blvd. Michael talked about famous Hollywood High Alum and the cool mural seen above.

We then drove past the former Charlie Chaplin Studio, which is now Jim Henson Studio (which explains the Tramp-esque Kermit atop it) and the Target complex, which I go to frequently, used to be the backlot for United Artists.

Behind the Target is the Formosa Cafe, which was a famous Hollywood hangout and is seen in LA Confidential.  Across the street from the Formosa is an area known as The Lot was owned by Fairbanks and films such as The Best Years of Our Lives, Some Like it Hot and West Side Story were filmed there.  We also drove by a color lab that Howard Hughes bought and used as an editing studio.  It's where he edited Hell's Angels.

On our way over to Cahuenga, we drove by the General Service Studio founded in 1919, which is now known as Hollywood Center Studios.  They filmed many of my Nick at Nite favorites: Get Smart, Mr. Ed and it was the original home of Desilu studios.  We then drove past Red Studios, which was used in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? as Maroon Studios. 

We then made our way down Melrose and drove past Paramount Studios, where we got to see the famous gate, which is most notably seen in Sunset Blvd.  After driving by Paramount we started heading downtown via. Wilshire Blvd.  There was another video with Ben Mankiewicz talking about the infancy of studios and filming in Los Angeles and the desire to 'move west.'

As we made our way downtown, we passed some lovely landmarks like the Wiltern (scenes from LaBamba and Barton Fink were shot there), the Ambassador Hotel (The Graduate, That Thing You Do), The Talmadge Apartments, and the Bryson (picture above).  There was also a beautiful park at Wilshire and Alvarado.

We then got to the heart of downtown where we saw ares like Bunker Hill and the Westin Bonaventure, which used to be the Marriot where scenes from True Lies, Nick of Time (awesome movie) and Rain Man were filmed.  We then went through the 2nd Street Tunnel, which has been used in movies such as, Blade Runner, City of Angels, and Transformers.

Then we came up to our first stop of the day, we got the chance to go into the Bradbury Building.  It was breathtakingly beautiful.  The way the light came through and the stairs was amazing, even Charlie Chaplin was there!  It was such a treat to get to go inside.  And I just had to make a collage. 
Some movies that filmed scenes inside the Bradbury are Blade Runner and The Artist.

After getting a chance to stretch our legs and enjoy that beautiful building we got back on the bus and drove past Angel's Flight, which was lovely, the spot where the bench was in 500 Days of Summer and the Biltmore Hotel, which is where my father and I stayed when I first moved out to LA go to college.  Some movies that filmed at the Biltmore were Ghostbusters and Beverly Hills Cop.

We then headed for the jewelery district, which used to be home to tons of movie palaces.  They have now been converted into stores, churches, or just rundown nothing-ness.  It's sad to see what the beautiful movie palaces of the past have become.  The diamond in the first picture is where the WB shield once was on the theater.  During this part of the tour I was lucky enough to answer a trivia question correctly and won myself a TCM hat, it was very exciting!

Up next was our second stop to walk around.  This time it was at Union Station.   Some movies that were shot there were, Bugsy, Union Station, Blade Runner and Catch Me If You Can.  I had driven by Union Station a few time, had dropped off a friend there once, but had never actually been inside so that was a treat.  They were doing construction there too, so I couldn't get a nice picture of the main entrance, but inside looked very nice.

 There was beautiful detailing and old-fashioned touches.

 After the short break we got back on the bus and headed towards the Echo Park/Silverlake area.  We were treated to another video with Ben Mankiewicz telling us about how many silent films were shot in the area and that Disney had gotten its start there before moving North to Burbank.  We drove by Bob's Market, which was seen in The Fast and the Furious.

And a house that was used in LA Confidential, but I was on the far side of the bus and couldn't capture the whole house, but I did zoom in on the cute dog on the porch.

As we made our way through the area we drove by where the Music Box steps from the Laurel and Hardy short.  They are now a historical landmark.  It would've been nice to get closer to the steps, but I will be sure to make a trip over there sometime in the future.  We then got onto Hollywood Blvd and drove by the intersection of Hollywood and Western, which is where some scenes in Double Indemnity was shot.

The tour was rapidly coming to an end as we drove down Hollywood Blvd towards Grauman's.  We were able to see the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory from afar.  Michael shared an interesting story about the Hollywood sign.  When they were looking for sponsors to fund the renovation/rebuilding of the sign, apparently Alice Cooper bought one of the Os for his friend (who knew?) Groucho Marx. 

 We also drove by the Pantages Theater, The Egyptian Theater, The El Capitan and saw the Roosevelt Hotel again before returning to where we had started. Personally note, this got me VERY excited for the Film Festival coming up in just 18 short days.

Before getting back to the parking area we got a goodbye video message from Ben Mankiewicz and I took the opportunity to take a picture of the windows on the roof of the bus.

So that just about does it for me.  The tour ended up taking 3 and 1/2 hours total considering traffic and construction (for some reason there was a lot of it), but it was all enjoyable.  All in all, this was a wonderful experience, done very nicely by TCM.  I could have done without some of contemporary movies mentioned, such as Spider-man 3, Transformers and Fast and the Furious, but I guess it's helpful to get the full picture and show that these areas are still being used today.  Speaking of, we actually drove by a couple of films in production, so I guess we should continue to look out for these locations.

I'm so glad that TCM is doing all these wonderful things to help celebrate their 20th anniversary and that the fans get to be the ones to celebrate.  Happy Anniversary and many more!

Other bloggers who had the opportunity to take the tour and their posts:
Laura's Miscellaneous Musings

Lindsay's Movie Musings

Elsie's Ramblings

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