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Saturday October 16th 2021

Los Angeles for Film Fans: Los Feliz & Silverlake 2

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Vista Theater, Sunset Drive, East Hollywood
Clarence and Alabama in 'Detroit' – the Vista Theater, Sunset Drive

Another groundbreaking residence – this time by architect Richard Neutra – can be found nearby. In fact, the Griffith Observatory is visible on the skyline overlooking the terraced home of high-end pimp Pierce Pratchett (David Strathairn) in L.A. Confidential. Astonishingly, this sleekly airy house was built not in the Sixties, but back in 1929, for vegetarian medic Philip Lovell – and is known as the Lovell Health House, 4616 Dundee Drive. It remains a private home.

There’s more Frank Lloyd Wright, still in concrete Mayan mode, just to the south in Barnsdall Art Park. If you’ve seen Cannibal Women In The Avocado Jungle of Death (and who hasn’t?), you’ll know that the temple of the ferocious Piranha Women, situated ‘deep in the jungle’, turns out to be Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House, Barnsdall Art Park, 4800 Hollywood Boulevard, its design based on stylised flowers as the name suggests. This house is now owned by the city, and offers regular tours. As one of the characters in the film observes, “The architecture of the Piranha Women is surprisingly advanced.”

East of Barnsdall Art Park stands the Vista Theater, 4473 Sunset Drive, in East Hollywood. The florid exterior of the theatre is Spanish Revival, but its 1922 construction coincided with the hysteria surrounding the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, and the interior is Twenties Egyptian, and lusciously restored.

The Vista becomes the ‘Detroit ’ cinema in which Clarence and Alabama (Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette) watch a Sonny Chiba Street Fighter triple bill in Tony Scott’s Tarantino-scripted True Romance. The cinema was also seen in Christopher Guest’s underrated The Big Picture (1989), in L.A. Confidential, and its interior stood in for Pasadena’s Rialto for the premiere of film-within-a-film Stab in Scream 2.

The Vista stands at the intersection of Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards, on the spot where the giant ‘Babylon’ set for DW Griffith’s Intolerance – the inspiration for the Hollywood & Highland Center – once stood.

The Vista’s entrance boasts an ‘alternative’ to Hollywood's Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, with an eclectic collection of more left-field handprints, including those of animator Ray Harryhausen, Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine editor (and the man who coined the term ‘sci-fi’) Forest J Ackerman, and cast members from Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, which premiered here (the real Ed Wood’s office was in the Davidian Building, alongside at 4477 Hollywood Boulevard).

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