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Sunday June 23rd 2024

Ed Wood | 1994

Ed Wood film location: Boardner’s, North Cherokee Avenue, Hollywood
Ed Wood film location: Ed Wood and his cast read the reviews: Boardner’s, North Cherokee Avenue, Hollywood

Tim Burton's biopic of Edward D Wood Jr, unkindly dubbed the 'Worst Movie Director of All Time’ is a gem and clearly made with a lot of love for its subjects, so it seems churlish to point out that it remains a highly fictionalised version of characters and events.

Martin Landau's embittered and permanently grumpy Bela Lugosi is a magnificent creation (the Oscar was well-deserved) but bears little relation to the polite, affable and self-effacing gentleman in real life. Yes, Lugosi owned dogs – though not snappy little pooches but two imposing Dobermans. OK, I'm nitpicking.

Burton and his team managed to find plenty of period locations (supposedly 68 of them) around Los Angeles, including the suburbs of Torrance; Sierra Madre; Long Beach; Norwalk; Gardena and Eagle Rock, and even discovered unchanged corners among the redeveloped streets of Hollywood itself.

Ed Wood film location: North Cherokee Avenue, Hollywood
Ed Wood film location: Ed Wood sees Bela Lugosi trying out coffins: North Cherokee Avenue, Hollywood

Clunky war drama The Casual Company, written and directed by Ed Wood (Johnny Depp), was filmed at Theatre/Theater, 1713 Cahuenga Boulevard at Hollywood Boulevard. The theatre – which really was the home to the stage production in the 40s – was demolished in 1998 to make way for the Greyhound bus station.

The fledgling director finds encouragement reading the reviews (“‘The soldiers’ costumes are very realistic.’ – that's positive!”) with the rest of his cast at Boardner’s, 1652 North Cherokee Avenue, a traditional old Hollywood hangout since the 1940s, just south of Hollywood Boulevard, seen also in LA Confidential and as the after-work hangout of Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett in Hollywood Homicide.

Ed Wood film location: Boardner’s, North Cherokee Avenue, Hollywood
Ed Wood film location: Ed Wood's local bar in the movie: Boardner’s, North Cherokee Avenue, Hollywood

To the left of Boardner’s you can see the vacant shop premises at 1656 North Cherokee Avenue, dressed as the ‘Hollywood Funeral Home’, where Wood first sees Bela Lugosi testing coffins.

From the coffin showroom, Wood walks up Cherokee with Lugosi toward Musso and Frank's Grill, 6667 Hollywood Boulevard. This venerable Hollywood institution will crop up again later in the film.

Ed Wood film location: West 147th Street, Gardena
Ed Wood film location: Ed Wood drives Bela Lugosi to his bungalow: West 147th Street, Gardena

The starstruck Wood gives Lugosi a lift back to his bungalow which, in the movie, is about 14 miles south of Hollywood, 1933 West 147th Street near Marine Avenue, Gardena down in the South Bay area.

It's nicely photogenic but nothing like the place Lugosi lived in a the time. Although the real home still exists, there's a reason for not using it in this film. It's an apartment complex.

Burton's version of events has Wood filming "the old man" leaving his house for the last time (eventually incorporated into Plan 9 From Outer Space) in front of Lugosi’s home. But in order to match up with Plan 9..., the location needed to be a bungalow.

The reason is that the real Ed Wood Jr had filmed the brief test shot at the home of wrestler-turned-actor Tor Johnson way up north in Sylmar in the San Fernando Valley, which more closely resembles the Plan 9 clip.

You can check out the likeness in our Plan 9 From Outer Space entry.

Ed Wood film location: Harold Way, Hollywood
Ed Wood film location: Bela Lugosi's last home in real life (not seen in the film): Harold Way, Hollywood

Lugosi, in his last years, lived much closer to the studios in a rented apartment just a block north of Sunset Boulevard at 5620 Harold Way, East Hollywood. This is where he died in his sleep on August 16th, 1956. It’s not seen in the film of course, but here it is just for completeness.

Ed Wood film location: North San Fernando Road, Glassell Park
Ed Wood film location: the office of 'Screen Classics': North San Fernando Road, Glassell Park

The office of 'Screen Classics', the little independent studio where Wood makes a pitch to film the sex-change story which went on to become Glen or Glenda? is 2733 North San Fernando Road, in the Glassell Park district east across the Los Angeles River from Los Feliz. Looking like a fortified military bunker, this solid block of a building is, fittingly, the office of Securitech Security.

It's back to Hollywood itself for the filming of the first scene of Wood’s groundbreaking hymn to Angora sweaters.

To the bemusement of his crew, their director – who’s also the lead actor – turns up nonchalantly wearing full drag.

Ed Wood film location: Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood
Ed Wood film location: Ed Wood admires his reflection in the dress shop window: Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood

The 'dress shop' where Wood, as Glen, admires his reflection in the storefront window is 5642 Hollywood Boulevard, east of Wilton Place, toward the Hollywood/Western metro station. The premises currently houses Zen Gallery.

By the way, this is only a few doors away from the disused bank building with the imposing tower, that was transformed into the ‘El Cortez' cinema for the 'Movie Premiere Pot Bust' set-up in L.A. Confidential.

Ed Wood film location: North Cherokee Avenue, Hollywood
Ed Wood film location: Wood first sees wrestler Tor Johnson: Olympic Auditorium (since demolished), South Grand Avenue, downtown Los Angeles

Wood begins to assemble his extended family of oddballs after encountering wrestler Tor Johnson at the Olympic Auditorium, which stood on South Grand Avenue at Olympic Boulevard, downtown Los Angeles. The venue, where boxing scenes from the Rocky movies and Raging Bull were filmed, has – like many LA landmarks – since been demolished.

Wood holds a fundraiser for his next production at the famous hat-shaped Brown Derby restaurant. Opened in 1926, it was the first of a chain of movieland hangouts with this name (though the only one actually built in the shape of a hat). Only one, in Los Feliz, remains.

This one stood on the north side of Wilshire Boulevard at Alexandria Avenue, opposite the old Ambassador Hotel. It was rebuilt in 1937 and really was a hangout for Wood and his chums, finally being demolished in 1980.

For the film, the Derby was recreated nearby in the grounds of the Ambassador Hotel, south of Wilshire Boulevard. Now the Ambassador too has gone.

The old ‘hat’ structure is not entirely lost. It was saved during demolition.

Now it sits, almost unnoticed, atop The Boiled Crab seafood restaurant on the third floor of Brown Derby Plaza which now stands on the site.

The night shoot for Bride of the Monster, with Lugosi battling a borrowed rubber octopus, was filmed where the real Ed Wood actually shot his most successful movie in Griffith Park.

The film's less-than-successful premiere is held at the old Pussycat Theatre, 1653 Cravens Avenue at Gramercy Avenue down in Torrance. Opened as the Stadium Theatre in 1949, the picture house suffered a familiar fate, being renamed the Pussycat and showing X-rated movies until it finally closed in 1991. Despite efforts to save it, the Pussycat was demolished in 2002 and condos have been built on the site.

Ed Wood film location: North Ogden Drive, Fairfax, Los Angeles
Ed Wood film location: Ed Wood's first apartment': North Ogden Drive, Fairfax, Los Angeles

Enthusiastic and ambitious, Wood toils on his scripts at an apartment in this rather lovely 1927 building in the central Fairfax District, at 448-450 North Ogden Drive, off North Fairfax Avenue, south of Melrose.

Ed Wood film location: Yucca Street, Hollywood
Ed Wood film location: Ed Wood's cheap digs: Yucca Street, Hollywood

But once his fortunes wane, he moves to lodgings at 6383 Yucca Street, Hollywood, which was Wood's real address in later years. Struggling financially, he was eventually thrown out. It’s now all-but-invisible behind this lush green curtain of ivy.

Ed Wood film location: Wilcox Street, Hollywood
Ed Wood film location: Bela Lugosi recites his big speech: Wilcox Street, Hollywood

Wood walks with Lugosi along Wilcox Street just north of of Hollywood Boulevard where he recites his impassioned "I have no home" speech from Bride of the Monster in front of another survival from 'Old Hollywood', the elaborate arched doorways are the side of the old Pacific Theatre building, the frontage of which you can see around the corner at 6433 Hollywood Boulevard.

Ed Wood film location: Wilcox Street, Hollywood
Ed Wood film location: Ed Wood walks with Bela for the last time: Wilcox Street, Hollywood

It bugs me that the damaged bit of decorative tiling in the background still hasn't been fixed. Maybe it’s damage of some historic significance.

Anyway, this is just north of the 'You Are The Star' mural, made famous to a new generation by La La Land.

These turn out to be Wood’s last moments with Lugosi. The actor dies shortly after, having completed only a couple of brief unscripted tests for a proposed new feature.

Ed Wood: Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City
Ed Wood: the real last resting place of Bela Lugosi: Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City

The scene of Lugosi's funeral, backed by rather undignified 'nodding donkey' oil rigs, places it in Baldwin Hills, which I assume is meant to signify a poor and undignified place of rest. Geographically, it is close but visually Lugosi’s last resting place could hardly be more different.

Ed Wood: Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City
Ed Wood: the real last resting place of Bela Lugosi: Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City

There are no oil rigs overlooking the spacious hilly lawns of the prestigious Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery, Culver City. Lugosi lies only a few yards from Bing Crosby, and in the company of such Hollywood greats as director John Ford, Rita Hayworth, Louis Jourdan, Rosalind Russell and the tragic Sharon Tate, with her unborn son Paul Richard Polanski.

You can visit, respectfully, at 5835 West Slauson Avenue, Culver City.

Ed Wood film location: Toluca Lake First United Methodist Church, Cahuenga Boulevard, Burbank
Ed Wood film location: the cast of Plan 9 From Outer Space attend church: Toluca Lake First United Methodist Church, Cahuenga Boulevard, Burbank

Seeking funding from unorthodox sources for what turned out to be his undoubted masterpiece, Plan 9 From Outer Space, Wood’s unlikely backers are the good folk of the ‘Methodist Church of Beverly Hills’. The movie cast dutifully turns up for a service at the church, which in reality is up in the Valley. It’s Toluca Lake First United Methodist Church, 4301 Cahuenga Boulevard in Burbank.

Ed Wood: Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood
Ed Wood: the real soundstages for 'Plan 9': Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood

Both of Wood’s most famous movies, Plan 9 From Outer Space and Glen or Glenda?, were filmed in the optimistically named Quality Studios, 5628 1/2 Santa Monica Boulevard, East Hollywood, about eight blocks south of Lugosi’s apartment. The entrance to the studios was via a narrow alleyway which used to be gated but is now hidden behind a forbidding black doorway.

Otherwise, on the outside the buildings remain pretty much unchanged on the outside. The old soundstage is now used as a recording studio. Alongside and part of the same complex, is Gold Diggers, once the 'girlie' bar patronised enthusiastically by Ed Wood. With the old 'Gold Diggers' sign being retained, you'd hardly guess that the interior has been redeveloped into a smart boutique hotel.

This isn't the studio seen in the film though. Ed Wood the movie uses a building on Cosmo Street just south of Hollywood Boulevard.

Ed Wood film location: Cosmo Street, Hollywood
Ed Wood film location: Ed Wood films 'Plan 9' at the 'Quality Studios': Cosmo Street, Hollywood

The rear entrance to 'Quality Studios' used by Vampira (Lisa Marie), arriving in costume by bus, isn't generally accessible but the front entrance from which Wood makes a furious exit, in drag, as his Evangelical backers finally prove too much for him, is 1633 Cosmo Street, Hollywood.

It really is a small studio space, now the offices of Directors Bureau, run by Roman Coppola – nephew of a director who achieved a little more conventional success than Ed Wood. BTW, if you’re in the area, don’t forget to check out the Museum of Death just south on Selma Avenue.

Ed Wood film location: North Cherokee Avenue, Hollywood
Ed Wood film location: Ed Wood meets his idol, Orson Welles: Musso & Frank Grill, Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood

Hailing a cab to the nearest bar, Wood is obligingly taken to Musso and Frank's Grill, 6667 Hollywood Boulevard (which we saw earlier, across Hollywood Boulevard from Boardner’s and the funeral home). The Grill has been seen in Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven, Charlie's Angel's: Full Throttle and in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time In Hollywood.

But there's a bit of a cheat here. The exterior of Musso and Frank's is seen but the interior, where Wood has an unexpected but inspirational chat with his idol Orson Welles (Vincent D’Onofrio), was filmed in a re-dressed corner of Boardner’s Bar.

Ed Wood film location: North Cherokee Avenue, Hollywood
Ed Wood film location: The cast arrives for the premiere of ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space’: Pantages Theatre, Hollywood Boulevard, , Hollywood

When Plan 9 is is finally completed, against all the odds, the director and his cast turn up for a triumphant premiere at the entrance to the wonderful Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Boulevard at El Centro in Hollywood.

The Pantages frontage is all we see of it, though, in this stunning interior, its dazzling lobby appears in Batman Forever (as ‘Gotham Casino’), in 1995 sci-fi Species (as the ‘Id’ nightclub) and its auditorium in The Bodyguard (as the Oscar venue).

Once inside the cinema, the auditorium we see is that of the beautifully-restored if slightly less grandiose Orpheum Theatre, 842 South Broadway, away from Hollywood, Downtown Los Angeles.

It’s understandably become a screen favourite, appearing in in Kenneth Branagh's Dead Again, Oliver Stone's The Doors, the underrated Arnold Schwarzenegger fantasy Last Action Hero and used for the movie premiere upstaged by Jack the terrier in Michael Hazanavicius' Oscar-winning The Artist.