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Sunday January 23rd 2022

Los Angeles for Film Fans: Pasadena 2

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Pasadena City Hall
NOT Beverly Hills City Hall, it's Pasadena City Hall

The curse of Quentin Tarantino, which sees his locations disappear almost as soon as filming is completed, seems finally to have caught up with the Raymond Theatre, 129 North Raymond Avenue.

I find it hard to believe that the site of the ‘Battle of the Giants’ boxing match in Pulp Fiction and of This Is Spinal Tap’s legendary concert scenes couldn’t be kept as a viable entertainment centre, but after years of campaigns and hearings, the overwhelming demand for high-end luxury apartments saw the theatre gutted in 2009.

Take a walk a couple of blocks down South Raymond Avenue from Colorado Boulevard and you can’t miss the extraordinary Castle Green Apartments, 99 South Raymond Avenue at East Green Street. An exotic Moorish-style confection with a strange raised pier that looks like a giant insect about to cross the road (this is the remains of what was once a bridge linking to a long-demolished annexe). The Castle Green can be seen as the ‘Hotel Nacional de Cuba’, where the gang leaders convene in Barry Levinson’s Bugsy, with Warren Beatty as the infamous Benny “Don’t call me Bugsy” Siegel.

It’s the Castle Green’s exotic interior, though, that’s most often seen on screen. Back in 1973, it was a plush ‘New York’ casino in The Sting. It’s since been the ‘Austrian’ hotel, in which Steve Martin honeymoons in The Man With Two Brains; the mansion of Mr Reindeer in David Lynch’s Wild At Heart; the piano teacher’s studio in Joel and Ethan Coen's The Man Who Wasn’t There; the restaurant in which Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) is introduced to the Japanese gentlemen in The Last Samurai; and as the ‘Raleigh-Durham’ tobacco club of ailing Robert Duvall in Thank You For Smoking.

Another extraordinarily adaptable location is Pasadena City Hall, 100 North Garfield Avenue, on screen since it was seen as the palace of Adenoid Hynkel in Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 satire The Great Dictator. It became ‘Mexico’ for Sandra Bullock thriller The Net, and its courtyard provided the ‘Napa Valley’ wine festival for Alfonso Arau's 1995 A Walk In The Clouds, with Keanu Reeves.

Watch Beverly Hills Cop II to see Beverly Hills City Hall transform blatantly into the quite different (and more economical for filming) Pasadena City Hall.

All Saints Episcopal Church, North Euclid Avenue, Pasadena
All Saints Episcopal Church, North Euclid Avenue

Reese Witherspoon fans will want to take a look at All Saints Episcopal Church, 132 North Euclid Avenue, which they will no doubt recognise as the site of the memorial service that concludes Cruel Intentions, the ‘NY’ updating of Les Liaisons Dangereuses (previously filmed by Stephen Frears as Dangerous Liaisons and by Milos Forman as Valmont), while the tree-shaded green space alongside the rector’s house stands in for the  ‘Harvard’ quad of Legally Blonde. All Saints also became the church of crusading priest, Reverend Briegleb (John Malkovich) in Clint Eastwood’s Changeling.

Rialto Theatre, South Fair Oaks Avenue, South Pasadena
Rialto Theatre, South Fair Oaks Avenue, South Pasadena

Down South Fair Oaks Avenue to South Pasadena. The Rialto Theatre, 1023 South Fair Oaks Avenue at Oxley Street, is the cinema where Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) meets the doomed screenwriter (Vincent d’Onofrio) in Robert Altman’s The Player, and its exterior is the site of the premiere of movie-within-a-movie Stab in Wes Craven's Scream 2. It’s the cinema showing See You Next Wednesday (John Landis’ trademark film-within-a-film title) in The Kentucky Fried Movie and of course, more recently, it's where Rebel Without A Cause is conveniently been screened in La La Land.

The Rialto has been closed for several years but has now been leased to the Mosaic church, with assurances that the cinema will be treated respectfully, but its future remains uncertain.

A few blocks southeast, and one of movieland’s most popular streets, the tree-lined Bushnell Avenue. It’s back to Back To The Future, and the Fifties neighbourhood of Marty McFly’s parents-to-be. The house of nerdy young George McFly (Crispin Glover), where Marty pays a nighttime visit as Darth Vader, is 1711 Bushnell Avenue (Michael J Fox must have felt at home here – he lived in the same house in Teen Wolf).

Bushnell Avenue is a popular, all-purpose street – Old School, Ghost Dad, Welcome Home Roxy Carmichael and TV’s thirtysomething all filmed in homes on Bushnell.

Supposedly just across the street (but a few doors along on the same side) is the home of Lorraine (Lea Thompson), outside which Marty gets hit by a car while saving George: 1727 Bushnell Avenue. Biff lived down the road at 1809, while 1803 Bushnell Avenue was the fraternity house – scene of the riotous Mitch-a-Palooza – in Old School.

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