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Tuesday September 27th 2022

Los Angeles for Film Fans: Beverly Hills 1

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Beverly Hills City Hall
Beverly Hills City Hall

Unlike Hollywood, the city of Beverly Hills very much lives up to its image of money and an odd kind of glamour. Santa Monica Boulevard tears recklessly through the city, daring you to stop and park.

To the south, upscale housing and even more upscale shopping. To the north – lawns and bungalows. Period.

Fittingly, the gleaming gilt of the 1932 Spanish-Baroque Beverly Hills City Hall, North Crescent Drive at Santa Monica Boulevard, familiar from the Beverly Hills Cop movies looks a dream against a deep blue sky.

Posh shopping heaven Rodeo Drive runs – well, struts elegantly – south from Santa Monica Boulevard to Wilshire Boulevard.

Cue the inevitable cinematic montage of strutting fashionistas and shopfronts. To close down this high end shopping street for filming is beyond the budget of all but the biggest – and I mean biggest – of projected blockbusters, so the Drive is usually seen in a flurry of snatched, on-the-hoof shots.

Appearance is everything and the Drive is constantly undergoing minor nip’n’tuck surgery to keep it that one vital step ahead of potential competitors, so the names and the look of the stores change regularly. The location for Terminator 3 – one of the films which actually set a scene on Rodeo Drive – has already changed almost beyond recognition since 2003.

Beverly Hills Epicenter
Beverly Hills Epicenter – 2010, so presumably unrecognisable today

The current style is classic white-on-white minimalism, with the occasional touch of designer eccentricity (the Prada Beverly Hills Epicenter at 343 Rodeo Drive has dispensed with a shopfront completely and its ovoid shopwindows are set underfoot in the sidewalk). And as its publicity claims: “The dressing rooms throughout the store are equipped with 'magic mirrors': a plasma screen built into the large mirror allowing customers to see themselves both from the front and the back at the same time. A time delay captures and replays movements.”

But of course, by the time you get to the end of this sentence, the concept will be as dated as the video cassette.

If you don’t have the clout to call ahead and get that fancy boutique to open up specially for you, then you’ll have to settle for window gawping. Rodeo Drive affects a sophisticated European air and, at its southern end, even sprouts a little offshoot, complete with steps and fountain, that thinks it’s La Dolce Vita-era Rome.

By the way, if you’re a Beverly Hills Cop fan, don’t waste time searching for the ‘Beverly Palms Hotel’ in which Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) stays – that was the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Downtown.

The southern end of Rodeo Drive ends abruptly at the Beverly Wilshire, 9500 Wilshire Boulevard, which I remember fondly as the home for Cornelius and Zira in Escape From the Planet of the Apes, but I guess is a bit more famous as the Pretty Woman hotel. You can (if you’re not on a tight budget) stay here, but don’t reveal your naivety by asking for the Pretty Woman suite, which was no more than a set built at the Disney studios.

Beverly Wilshire
Beverly Wilshire – don't ask for the Pretty Woman suite

If you’re intent on the whole Pretty Woman experience, you’ll want to do at least a bit of window shopping at the store in which Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) gets one over on the snotty assistants. It’s not technically on Rodeo Drive. It was Boulmiche Boutique, 9501 Santa Monica Boulevard, on the northwest corner of the famous Drive. I was an outlet for fashion house Badgley Mischka in 2017 but now seems to be vacant.

A little way to the east, Italian restaurant Il Cielo, 9018 Burton Way, prides itself on being one of the most romantic restaurants in LA, though that’s not the way it turns out for poor Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) when she gets dumped here by Warner (Matthew Davis) in Legally Blonde.

Churches are probably not what you immediately think of when Beverly Hills is mentioned, but here they are and – well, OK, the first one is known as ‘Our Lady of the Cadillacs’. Officially, it’s the Church of the Good Shepherd, 505 North Bedford Drive, the site of countless star-studded goodbyes to deceased Hollywoodsters. It’s  where hysterical fans rip the veil from grieving Vicki Lester (Judy Garland) at the memorial service for Norman Maine in George Cukor’s classic 1954 version of A Star Is Born.

Not quite in the same league (but what could be?), the second church is All Saints Episcopal Church, 504 Camden Drive at Santa Monica Boulevard, where George Webber (Dudley Moore) is distracted from spiritual concerns by the worldly form of Jenny Hanley (Bo Derek) in Blake Edwards10.

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