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Sunday September 27th 2020

Los Angeles for Film Fans: South Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Pedro 2

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Sony Pictures Plaza, Culver City
Sony Pictures Plaza, home of the Sony Pictures Studio Tour

Supposedly on ‘Sunset Boulevard’, ‘Winkie’s’, the diner behind which Dan (Patrick Fischler) fears he’s going to find a disturbing figure in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, is actually way down in South Central LA. It’s Caesar’s Restaurant, 1016 West El Segundo Boulevard at South Vermont Avenue, in Gardena, between Hawthorne and Compton. I was both disappointed and mightily relieved to find nobody behind the wall at the back of the diner.

Sadly, Caesar’s seems to be closed at the moment. Let’s hope the period building is retained.

Culver City was home to the old MGM lot, where the 1933 King Kong, Gone With The Wind and The Wizard of Oz were filmed.

The lot is now Sony Pictures, which offers the daily Sony Pictures Studio Tour, Monday to Friday – where you get the chance to see a clutch of real Oscars close-up (and be surprised at how small they really are). Tours leave from Sony Pictures Plaza, Madison Avenue. In the meantime, you can visit the Sony Pictures Museum on-line.

The huge Plaza building itself conveniently served as a film location, providing the glitzy cop station where officers are paired up according to Hollywood’s time-honoured odd-couple principles in John McTiernan's enjoyably crazy Last Action Hero, with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Culver Studios
The Culver Studios – home of King Kong, Gone With The Wind and The Wizard Of Oz

The front of the old Culver Studios Building, 9336 Washington Boulevard at Ince Boulevard, will be familiar with anyone who remembers the old swinging sign used to introduce David O Selznick pictures, and – with a bit of matte painting – was used as the grand approach to the 'big new house', into which Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler move after their marriage, in Gone With The Wind.

The flat-iron shaped Culver Hotel, 9400 Culver Boulevard, just to the east, was where the ‘little people’ who played Munchkins stayed. Once owned by Charlie Chaplin and then by John Wayne, it was the site of a Munchkin reunion in 1997, and was seen in 1981’s Under The Rainbow, with Chevy Chase and Carrie Fisher, the 1981 fictional recreation of the filming of The Wizard of Oz. It's now been renovated and reinvented as a four-star boutique hotel.

Culver Hotel, Culver Boulevard
Culver Hotel, Culver Boulevard

Just across the street, you might recognise Japanese restaurant, Akasha, 9543 Culver Boulevard, as the building which housed ‘Flynn’s arcade’ in both the original 1982 Tron, but was recreated in the studio for the recent Tron Legacy which was made largely in Vancouver, British Columbia.

There’s a new Culver City Hall, 9770 Culver Boulevard, at Duquesne Avenue, but the design incorporates the frontage of the old building, which was used as the hospital in the 1932 Laurel and Hardy comedy, County Hospital.

Two classic Fifties diners: The café, where German nihilists enjoy lingonberry pancakes and pigs in a blanket with the toeless woman in The Big Lebowski, is Dinah’s Family Restaurant, 6521 South Sepulveda, Culver City. Dinah’s appeared more recently as the restaurant in which Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) recruits an assistant in Dan Gilroy's nastily brilliant Nightcrawler. A while ago, the diner claimed to have served 20 million pancakes since it opened in 1959. So we can assume it's quite a few more by now.

Pann's Cafe
Pann's Cafe

A year older, Pann’s Cafe, 6710 La Tijera Boulevard at La Cienega and Centinella, becomes the ‘Las Vegas’ diner where cheesy nightclub magician Cris Johnson (Nicolas Cage) waits for girl of his dreams Liz Cooper (Jessica Biel) in oddball timeshifting thriller Next, and it’s where Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) faces a test from Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L Jackson) in Rob Cohen’s xXx.

Wonderful as it is, Pann’s is not, as many people seem to believe, the diner held up in Pulp Fiction (that was the old – now demolished – Hawthorne Grill, see below).

Randy's Donuts, Inglewood
Classic LA programmatic architecture – Randy's Donuts, Inglewood

Sam Jackson again, this time as Nick Fury in Iron Man 2, discovers a hungover Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) sitting in the iconic giant donut atop Randy’s Donuts, 805 West Manchester Boulevard, just off the San Diego Freeway in Inglewood (though note that Randy’s is purely a takeaway – the interior was created just for the film).

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