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Sunday March 3rd 2024

Los Angeles for Film Fans: Midtown 1

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Urban Light, Wilshire Boulevard
Urban Light, Wilshire Boulevard

Midtown is a bit of a mish-mash, so there’s no particular theme to the area’s screen appearances, apart from the classy homes of Hancock Park.

The straight, wide spine of Wilshire Boulevard, linking Downtown to the Beverly Hills and the Westside, was once lined with department stores, the prestigious stretch between Fairfax and La Brea Avenues being dubbed Miracle Mile.

Towering over the eastern end of Wilshire’s Midtown stretch, you can’t miss the massive copper and concrete tower of, what was, one of the biggest department stores, Bullock’s, which stood at 3050 Wilshire Boulevard. Its doors closed many years ago, and the building is now the Southwestern Law School.

Dating from 1928, Bullock’s was one of the first stores to take into account that brand new fad, the motor car, having its main entrance facing, not Wilshire Boulevard, but the car park at the rear.

Walk south down Wilshire Place to take a look at the monumental covered car park entrance, which was stylish enough to have been featured on screen as the ‘Sea Breeze Hotel, Connecticut’ in the 1937 supernatural comedy Topper, with Cary Grant.

Years later, the same porte-cochère stood in for the frontage of the ‘Beverly Hills’ nightclub outside which a furious Faith Domergue rams the car of Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator.

Bullock’s also supplied the interior of the ‘San Francisco’ department store in which George (Bruce Dern) quizzes the Rainbird family chauffeur's daughter in Alfred Hitchcock’s final film, Family Plot.

In 1996, readers of a UK film magazine voted Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon’s snog in the Wachowskis’ debut feature, Bound, the ‘Best Screen Kiss Ever’. Although the film is set in ‘Chicago’, the apartment block where the noirish plot unfolded was here, at the Talmadge Apartments, 3278 Wilshire Boulevard at Berendo Street. This elegant brick tower bears the name of silent film actress Norma Talmadge who, with husband, producer Joseph Schenk, owned the building when it opened in 1924.

Chapman Market Building, West Sixth Street
Bliss! – Chapman Market Building, West Sixth Street

The area just to the south is Koreatown, with all kinds of enticing restaurants and food stores. Cafe Bliss, a nightclub in the old Chapman Market Building, 3465 West Sixth Street at South Kenmore Avenue, supplied the exterior of ‘Fever’, where ice-cold hitman Vincent (Tom Cruise) stops off to take out the Korean gangster in Michael Mann’s Collateral. Prepare for a disappointment if you visit the disco itself, which was recreated in the studio at roughly seven times the size of the real thing.

Prince Restaurant, West 7th Street, Midtown Los Angeles
Prince Restaurant, West 7th Street

Prince Restaurant, 3198 West 7th Street at South Catalina Street, used to be a European-style restaurant called the Windsor. Thankfully, only the name and the cuisine have changed. You’ll still recognise the luxurious red leather interior as the ‘Brown Derby’, where Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) meets up with JJ Gittes (Jack Nicholson) in Roman Polanski's Chinatown.

The Prince pops up again in Crank, as the restaurant in which Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) neatly removes a villainous waiter’s hand with a meat-cleaver and, more recently was seen as 'Bert's', the 'DC' restaurant in which the 'MOD squad' meet up to compare tactics in Jason Reitman's wickedly funny Thank You For Smoking.

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