Bugsy | 1991
Biopic of the man who, according to legend, built Las Vegas. The real Bugsy – sorry, Benny – Siegel was gunned down, shot through the eyes (see the tasteful picture in Kenneth Anger’s wickedly pleasurable Hollywood Babylon) at his home in Beverly Hills, 810 Linden Drive.
The 1940s Beverly Hills of the film, though, is largely represented by Los Angeles’ eastern neighbour, Pasadena, where the houses of Jack Dragna and Bugsy himself were filmed. Virginia Hill’s home is in the Wilshire district of Los Angeles, in the Hancock Park area.
Siegel is met on arrival in Los Angeles by George Raft (Joe Mantegna) at the wonderful Spanish-style Union Station, 800 North Alameda Street. There’s impressive attention to detail the famous sign in the hills, glimpsed only briefly in the background during the drive to Hollywood, actually reads ‘HOLLYWOODLAND’, as it did until 1949.
The Flamingo of the movie looks very different to the Las Vegas casino of today, and had to be rebuilt in its original form out in Thermal, south of I-10 between Palm Springs and Salton Sea in the Southern California desert.
The pink neon Flamingo as it’s seen today appears at the end of Bugsy. Bugsy’s rose garden (it was alleged, only half jokingly, that several of his enemies rested beneath it) was finally paved over in 1990, and in 1993 Siegel’s on-site penthouse was demolished to make way for the new water park. See the Flamingo today at 3555 Las Vegas Boulevard South.
The ‘Hotel Nacional de Cuba’, where the gang leaders gather to discuss Bugsy’s future, is a conflation of two buildings. The grandiose lobby is the familiar Park Plaza Hotel, 607 South Park View Street, downtown Los Angeles. The hotel has featured in dozens of films – see its imposing lobby again in The Naked Gun 33 1/3, Less Than Zero and David Lynch’s Wild At Heart. The exterior is the astonishing Castle Green, 99 South Raymond Avenue at East Green Street just south of Colorado Boulevard in central Pasadena.
This Moorish fantasy, which you have to see to believe, was built at the turn of the century as an annexe to an older hotel on the other side of Raymond Avenue. The older hotel was demolished in the Thirties, leaving the stump of the strange connecting bridge straddling the avenue. The interior of Castle Green can be seen in lots of films including The Sting, The Man With Two Brains and The Last Samurai.