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Wednesday October 27th 2021

Los Angeles for Film Fans: Westside & Malibu 2

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Starbucks, Weyburn Avenue
Starbucks, Weyburn Avenue – I Am Sam

Just to the south, Westwood’s third cinema is a much plainer affair. Jean and Rick Cabot (Sandra Bullock and Brendan Fraser) stroll away from the Landmark Regent Theatre, 1045 Broxton Avenue (where It’s A Wonderful Life is showing), before they’re carjacked in front of 1008 Broxton Avenue in Paul Haggis’ controversially Oscar-winning Crash.

Back to Weyburn and more American Gigolo: in the shadow of the Regency Village’s tower, Tomodachi Sushi, 10975 Weyburn Avenue, was the diner in which Kaye is questioned by Detective Sunday (Hector Elizondo).

If you’re fancying a coffee, try the Starbucks on Weyburn Avenue opposite, which is where Sean Penn worked in I Am Sam, if you can find a table among the UCLA bods beavering away on their laptops.

If you’re a fan of American Gigolo, don’t go searching for Julian Kaye’s ‘Westwood Hotel Apartments’. The apartment complex in the film was the Sunset Plaza Apartments at 1220 Sunset Plaza Drive, which overlooked The Strip in West Hollywood. It was demolished in 1987.

Away from the main shopping district, to the south, across Wilshire Boulevard, you’ll need to look hard for Westwood Village Memorial Park, 1218 Glendon Avenue. Not a film location, but worth a mention as it’s tough to find, and the last resting place of many of the biggest names in Hollywood. Unlike the city’s other huge cemeteries, this one is not only tiny but tucked away down a narrow alley off a side street behind – fittingly – a multiplex cinema.

Westwood Village Memorial Park, Westside, Los Angeles
Marilyn's crypt in Westwood Village Memorial Park

By far the most famous resident here is Marilyn Monroe, interred in a crypt on the northern wall. Hugh Hefner, somewhat creepily, booked the next crypt in advance. Coincidentally, Monroe's co-star from Some Like It Hot, Jack Lemmon, and the director, Billy Wilder, are also interred here. “I’m a writer but then nobody’s perfect”, runs Wilder’s typically wry memorial. The best inscription in this select enclave, though, has to be Rodney Dangerfield's "There goes the neighborhood".

You can pay your respects to Lemmon’s long-time screen partner Walter Matthau; maverick director John Cassavetes; stars Burt Lancaster, Natalie Wood and singers Roy Orbison (whose grave is completely unmarked) and Dean Martin.

The strangest marker is the gravestone of Richard Conte (Don Barzini in The Godfather), who demonstrates his faith in some future existence with a design of pyramids and the inscription: “1910 – 1975 – ?”.

Westwood Village turned out not to be the final resting place for Rat Packer Peter Lawford, whose ashes were unceremoniously turfed out after the upkeep on his niche wasn’t paid. In Hollywood, fame is fickle even after death.

Do remember that Westwood Village Memorial Park is a cemetery and not a tourist attraction. Visit, by all means, but be respectful of mourners and behave appropriately. The owners will not tolerate crass behaviour.

To the west of Westwood Village, and larger than Westwood though less star-studded, is Los Angeles National Cemetery, 950 South Sepulveda Boulevard. Dating from 1889, this is largely a war veterans cemetery, but being Los Angeles, there are at least a few familiar names, though from lower down the cast list than Westwood.

There’s Royal Dano, the tall, gaunt character actor who falls into the ‘familiar face but I don’t know his name’ category; along with two noteworthy names from the heyday of 50s sci-fi: Richard Carlson, who faced off against The Creature From the Black Lagoon in 1954; and Grant Williams who, in 1957, found fame fending off giant pussycats and spiders as The Incredible Shrinking Man. And though the National Cemetery is not the last resting place for A-listers, it has appeared on screen, in John MiliusBig Wednesday and it’s where Duke Hauser (Channing Tatum) watches the funeral of Rex Lewis (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

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